THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Dear WSC
Although I thoroughly enjoyed the article on footballing statues (Striking a pose, WSC 294) it did miss out one rather infamous example – the Ted Bates horror show of a few years back. This short-lived “tribute” to the former Saints player, manager, director and president was astonishingly inept, with legs roughly half the length they should have been. To add to the indignity, more than once a resemblance to dignity-phobic Portsmouth owner/asset-stripper Milan Mandaric was pointed out. The overall effect was of a top-heavy, inebriated and besuited dwarf waving at passers-by. Not really the ideal summing up a lifetime’s service to a club.
Keith Wright, Cheltenham

Dear WSC
The return of the football phone-ins to the airwaves also means a return of one of my pet hates – current or former players rubbishing the views of callers by asking what level of football they played at.
This came up on the 6.06 show the day after the Joey Barton-Gervinho incident. When Barton phoned up to “give his side of the story”, chummy hosts Mark Chapman and Robbie Savage failed to challenge him on why he simulated injury get a fellow player sent off. They also allowed him to play the “I’m not being funny mate, but have you ever played professional football?” line to the caller who suggested that perhaps this wasn’t the sort of thing that footballers should do. I think that this should work both ways. If Barton, Savage or any other footballer decides to comment on any subject other than football, whether it’s law and order, the economy or the arts, they should be asked what level they reached in local politics or whether they have ever been a theatre critic on one of the national broadsheets. In an ideal world that would shut them up. I would complain to Radio 5 but no doubt I’d just be asked what level of football I played at (not particularly high, as it happens).
David Williams, Mortlake

Dear WSC
I would like to make a formal complaint about your usually excellent preview of the forthcoming season (with WSC 295). Every year I eagerly await the fall of your magazine on the doormat at this time of year so that I can enjoy the comments and mirth found within. But imagine my horror this season when I find there’s something very wrong. As a Leeds fan I have become accustomed to every team in whichever league we are languishing in to dislike us intensely. In fact, normally there will only be one or two teams that grudgingly accept that we might have played OK under the circumstances (usually because we threw away a four-goal lead) but the rest have nothing good to say. But not this season! Only Leicester thought we were too big for our boots. Even Millwall seemed to think that we were jolly good chaps! What is the world coming to? What’s next I wonder, tea and buns at Old Trafford? It really isn’t good enough.
Paul Aldam, Harrogate

Dear WSC
One of the joys of being a real fan is the licence to hold completely illogical views and prejudices, and when my beloved team are on the receiving end I can, usually, take it on the chin. However I must take exception to Kevin Clarke’s comment in the WSC 2011-12 season guide that “…teams such as Leicester… who seem not to have been touched by administration” and are “throwing money around”. Leicester were briefly in administration in 2002 – a full nine years ago. How long does Kevin feel that penalisation should continue? You get less than nine years for manslaughter. When we were in administration one of our penalties was a complete transfer embargo. This seemed fair enough until our manager Micky Adams found a player who was on the dole and willing to play for no wages, but then we were not even allowed to sign him. So to suggest that we suffered no consequences is just plain wrong. We certainly have spent a lot of dosh this summer, courtesy of our new Thai owners who bought the club from the odious Milan Mandaric, who bought it from the previous board who had bought it from the consortium that bought us out of administration. So four changes of ownership and nine years of space. Come on Kevin, it’s surely time to let it go?
Simon Betts, Leicester

Dear WSC
I’m sure I’m not the only fan who reads your season guide curious to see what fans of other clubs thought of my own team over the previous 12 months. As my side, QPR, led the Championship table for all but about three weeks of the season, I thought there might be some acknowledgement of the one-man Goal of the Season contest Adel Taraabt provided us with, or of the sheer stubbornness of a side that never knew when it was beaten. But no. In fact the Watford correspondent hated almost everything about us. I can’t help thinking Neil Warnock is still paying for past crimes. He was smiling all season and hardly had a cross word with anyone (well, all right, apart from a few fourth officials). Maybe it was because after 15 years out of the top flight, our fans won promotion and dared to celebrate at their place. Well, it’s rare enough a QPR team even turn up at Vicarage Road, so it was a double celebration. As for Bristol City’s pundit, well, he found everything unpleasant about us. I agree about the owners though – but you don’t dislike them half as much as we do, if that’s any consolation. The only exception was Al Needham, your Forest man, a confessed pre-school QPR fan. I often wonder when I read his pieces, could he be related to late 1970s bubble-permed Forest and QPR centre-half David Needham? This only adds weight to my curiosity. We may not play the total football of South Wales’ version of Brazil, but at least we won’t be so hated in the Premier League. And it could be worse – we could be Crawley.
Jamie Sellers, Brighton

Dear WSC
Your proposed ruling on goal celebrations (Editorial, WSC 295) could be improved by one small tweak. “All goal celebrations should be legal,” should have the caveat: “but the team who have just conceded are not obliged to wait for the celebration to finish before kicking off.”  It would surely only take one instance of an easy, tap-in equaliser, against a team too busy forming a human pyramid to prevent it, before we saw a permanent end to all this over-choreographed nonsense.
Jon Cudby, East Dulwich

Dear WSC
While I was relieved and delighted to see that the excellent Shot! Archive feature has been replaced by what looks to be an equally engaging successor (Focus on, WSC 295), I couldn’t help but notice Doug Cheeseman’s assertion that Alex Ferguson had received a red card while playing for Falkirk in 1969. On consideration, this explains some aspects of the future Sir Ferguson’s subsequent behaviour. Given that red cards were first used in the 1970 World Cup and not at all in domestic British league games until the mid-1970s, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that his future distrust of referees may have been germinated by a match official reaching several years into the future in order to visually reinforce his dismissal. One can see how that might engender some kind of paranoid siege mentality. Additionally, there may be some kind of Stockholm Syndrome at work here, which has caused Ferguson to develop an affinity to the colour red that has endured throughout his association with Aberdeen, Manchester United and his often florid choice of facial skin tone.
Dick Porter, Gwinear

Dear WSC
I realise that Si Hawkins was not intending to provide an exhaustive list of footballer/cricketers (Over the boundary, WSC 295) but he did miss three players who he could have built his feature around. Ted Hemsley played 500 League games in a career spanning from 1960 through to 1979 with Shrewsbury, then his main club Sheffield United, finishing up with a brief spell at Doncaster Rovers. He also managed 240 first class games for Worcestershire during which he scored nearly 10,000 runs and took a fair few useful wickets with his right arm medium pacers. Ted also had the unique distinction of playing cricket at his home football ground, against Yorkshire at Bramall Lane. Another Worcestershire cricketer was Jim Standen who made over 250 appearances for West Ham and was in the team that won the European Cup-Winners Cup in 1965. For Worcestershire, Standen was a top-class pace bowler, topping the national averages in their 1964 championship winning season with 65 wickets at 13 runs apiece. However, perhaps the greatest omission was Chris Balderstone who during the 1970s played over 400 League games for Huddersfield and Carlisle and nearly 400 first-class cricket matches for Leicestershire and Yorkshire. A fine all-rounder, he scored over 19,000 career runs and took over 300 first-class wickets. He made two Test appearances for England against a very strong West Indies side. I remember a news story of Chris having to leave a cricket match in which he was playing before the scheduled 6.30 pm finish so that he could turn out in an early season game for, I think, Carlisle. On retirement from playing Chris became a cricket umpire and again made it to test match level.
Paul Collins, Glasgow

Dear WSC
I enjoyed Si Hawkins’ article in WSC 295 about sportsmen who played both football and cricket. Mention is rightly given to my schoolboy hero, the incomparable Denis Compton, but I was surprised at the omission of his brother Leslie, who, along with Denis, played for Arsenal and Middlesex, and achieved the distinction of being the oldest player to get his first England cap at football, at the age of 38. Then there was Willie Watson, Sunderland and Yorkshire, also Arthur Milton, Arsenal and Gloucestershire. Both of these dual sportsmen played football and cricket at international level for England. I am old enough to remember when all three of the above were capped in the early 1950s, and it seems they were the last of a breed who starred at both sports. (Ian Botham, although a cricketing giant, came short of achieving the heights at football.) It seems the prohibitive nature of modern-day football contracts now makes the likelihood of players achieving stardom at the highest level in both fields remote, if not impossible. A shame really, as I’m sure the talent is still out there, but the players are not being given the scope to express it.
William Patience, Bicester

Dear WSC
Nigel Clough’s walking the Derby team into Elland Road as depicted in the film The Damned United seems to have struck a raw nerve with your Leeds United correspondent in the season preview.
As he pointed out it’s difficult to understand how the young Clough could have known about this old Revie custom as he has said that he’s never seen the film. I certainly can’t think of any other source that Nigel might have picked it up from.
Peter Gutteridge, Brailsford

Dear WSC
As a Linfield fan who has always had a soft spot for Crusaders (I bought my first house quite close to their ground and often watched them when Linfield played away), I was delighted at the coverage of the recent Europa League game against Fulham (Match of the month, WSC 295), apart from one little thing. The article itself was entertaining and well written but, as always with Robbie Meredith and Irish League articles, it contained inaccuracies. He correctly identifies Crusaders as being from “north Belfast, one of the most troubled and deprived areas of Northern Ireland” and, having grown up there, I cannot argue with this, but he then goes on to display startling geographical inaccuracy by claiming the new joint ground project will be shared by “Crusaders, who draw the majority of their support from the Unionist Shore Road area, and an amateur side from the Nationalist Ardoyne area nearby”. Ardoyne is very much nationalist, but it is not nearby, nor are the relevant amateur side from Ardoyne. Perhaps had he checked the name of the amateur side who will share the new stadium, Newington, he would have received a clue as to their whereabouts. They hail from the Newington area, which is, admittedly, fairly nearby. Pedantic maybe, but I cherish all coverage of local football and hope for it to be portrayed accurately and in as positive a light as possible.
Colin Dunn, Falkirk

Dear WSC
Drew Whitworth (Letters, WSC 295) argues against the success of automatic promotion to the Football League. As a fan of Maidstone United, I have suffered heartbreak at seeing my team denied access to the League under the re-election system and have never really forgiven Hartlepool for their escape. Then I experienced elation as the Stones won automatic promotion, followed a year later by disappointment in that other opinion-dividing system – the play-offs. As other clubs have done before and since, Maidstone overstretched in order to move up the system and, after three years in the Fourth Division, took their place at the very bottom of a pyramid that allowed them a route back up to the Ryman League, where they now are. I don’t know if recent champions of Scottish Junior Leagues or the Highland League experience any frustration at having to await another Scottish League restructuring before they can achieve promotion. But I am sure that Maidstone United, along with many other teams in the English system, would have had a much duller recent history if the re-election system had continued. If you publish this letter you will of course by law have to include a letter from a Dartford fan in WSC 297. DFC’s loss of their Watling Street ground (that they were sharing with Maidstone) in 1992 and demotion to the Kent League is blamed on Maidstone by many of their supporters. Mind you, if I had to bet on teams stepping up to the Football League for the first time over the next ten years, Dartford (top of the Conference South at time of writing) would be on the shortlist.
Huw Egginton, Oxford

Dear WSC
I enjoyed reading about the North Korean squad spreading its wings (Exit strategy, WSC 295) but in highlighting Jong Tae-se as the only player willing to speak to the media John Duerden missed an interesting point. That is to say that Jong is from Japan. A third-generation Korean with permanent residency in Japan, he was not brought up in the closed society of North Korea and, along with An Yong-hak among others, has chosen to represent the Democratic People’s Republic over the Republic of Korea or Japan for ideological reasons. There are hundreds of thousands of ethnic Koreans that have been in Japan for generations without taking citizenship (a situation that was complicated somewhat by the splitting of their homeland into two politically opposed nations). As far as I know, only one Zainichi Korean, as this group of ethnic Koreans are known, has chosen to represent Japan at football. Lee Chung-sung of Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a fourth-generation Japanese-Korean, has been naturalised, his name changing to Tadanari Lee, in order to represent the country of his birth. To think that over the years the Japanese football team has had several players who were born and brought up in Brazil only goes to underline Lee’s trailblazing status for a large section of Japanese society.
Natalia Sollohub, Crockenhill

Dear WSC
In his piece War of the Words in WSC 295, David Stubbs cites “shaker” as a word used in tabloid football reports but never in real life. In its role as perhaps the most beautifully unique nickname in the country, I can assure him that Bury fans have cause to use the word quite a lot.
James Bentley, Bury

From WSC 296 October 2011

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