Trevor Fisher (Letters, WSC 301) is nearly right. When Alex Ferguson was accused of driving on the hard shoulder in 1999, he hired Nick "Mr Loophole" Freeman as his lawyer. They argued successfully that he should not be punished as he was
suffering from an upset stomach and needed to get to the training ground quickly to use the toilet. I have always slightly suspected he got away with it because nobody in the courtroom wanted to spend a moment longer than necessary with that gruesome, messy mental image in their head. Which is now in your head. No need to thank me.
Jim Caris, Prague
Does anyone else find Keith Watson's letter about players refraining from celebrating against former clubs ridiculous (Letters, WSC 301)? We have seen in recent weeks just how low some footballers can stoop – most notably Luis Suárez. It is a refreshing change when some choose to decline celebrating against a former club they hold particularly dear. Does it not occur to Keith that Scott Sinclair may cherish his five years at Chelsea as a crucial stage in his development as a footballer, even if he rarely made an impact on the pitch. Sebastian Larsson made fewer appearances for Arsenal during his stay there, but still chose not to celebrate his goal at the Emirates earlier in the season, probably due to the respect he has for the club, fans and coaching he received during his time there.I must also take exception to some of the comments in the editorial regarding my team. Although I accept that Arsenal's fairweather fans boo at the first misplaced pass or the sight of Sébastien Squillaci warming up, there are a great deal more concerned with the direction of the club. Our esteemed manager failed to replace both Cesc Fàbregas and Samir Nasri in the summer, something most Arsenal fans knew was going to happen in light of his team selection towards the end of last season. Arsène Wenger claimed they would not be sold, then left the club inadequately prepared for the new season. This came after season ticket prices were put up by six per cent. He then hurriedly bought the sort of players who would have been first out of the door a few seasons back. Arsenal have been in decline for some years due to their failure to replace players sold with signings of comparable quality. I'm not anti-Wenger, but as the arguments against him building the become more difficult counter. This "crisis" may not appear like much compared to the likes of Portsmouth and Coventry, the board appear to be loath to change.
Tom Kingsbury, Coventry
I enjoyed Keith Watson's letter about players deciding whether or not to celebrate goals scored against their old clubs. While not condoning Emmanuel Adebayor's actions at all, he did have some motivation courtesy of dog's abuse from the Arsenal fans in attendance and the unkind words in the press about his attitude at his old club. You could not say the same about Leon Cort. Cort ruled the Hull City defence from 2004 to 2006, scoring a good number of goals for a centre-back and generally proving watertight, reliable and disciplined at the back. He also gave polite and articulate interviews after matches. So when Peter Taylor, the man who had brought him to Hull on a free transfer, left for Crystal Palace and took Cort with him, we waved a fond farewell to a fine defender and a good guy.When Palace visited the following September, Cort was given an excellent reception before the game. Early in the second half, Palace won a corner. Cort wandered up, hung around the edge of the area but didn't make his familiar late run as the kick was taken. It was cleared to him and he thumped a long, low shot past Boaz Myhill, with the aid of a very slight deflection.Now, this was quite a goal, deflection or otherwise. Cort wasn't prone to scoring with his feet; he only ever passed to full-backs or his goalkeeper when forced to take possession of the ball in his natural position. Even though he had scored a stunning, deeply un-Leon Cort like goal, his reaction of slowly jogging down the touchline in front of the East Stand, full of the fans who had chanted his name for two seasons solid, laughing at his achievement, was deeply uncalled for. The supporters were apoplectic. Cort was booed for the remainder of the match. There were cheers when Tigers striker Jon Parkin trod on him later in the game. Cort later went on to a local radio station to talk about his Tigers career and offered the most profuse, heartfelt apology I have ever heard. But the damage was done. He has been, at best, ignored on the subsequent occasions he has played against the Tigers. Had Cort gone to the cheering Palace fans behind the goal and done 30 somersaults and a striptease, it would have been acceptable. What he did was not, and it is unlikely he will ever be forgiven.
Matthew Rudd, East Yorkshire
With England's batting collapses against Pakistan coinciding with the demise of defending in the Premier League, it can only be a matter of time before Test Match Special listeners hear that Andrew Strauss's men could be facing a football score.
Chris Bickley, Basingstoke
The myth that Denis Law relegated Manchester United refuses to die (Letters, WSC 301). United would still have gone down that day if they had beaten City, because of results elsewhere. The men who relegated Manchester United are Trevor Brooking, who equalised for West Ham against Liverpool, and Kenny Burns, who scored the winner for Birmingham against Norwich. These results ensured United would be condemned to a bottom-three finish, no matter how they fared in the derby.
Jess Cully, Gosport
I was delighted to read of Subbuteo's relaunch (Table toppers, WSC 301). I was a great fan of the game in my youth and probably still have the scars from kneeling on stray wingers all those years ago. I seem to recall there was a section at the back of the Subbuteo rulebook (that would probably be called "FAQs" nowadays) dealing with the tricky subject of how to make Subbuteo more like the "real" game of football. For example, how to recreate the perceived notion of "home advantage" (give the "home" side a 1-0 lead). One of these scenarios dealt with what should happen if you took a shot and the ball rebounded off your opponent's crossbar or post, travelled the length of the pitch and ended up in your own goal – the inference being that this was a highly unlikely occurrence in a real game of football. I cannot recall what the Subbuteo people suggest you do if such a thing occurred, but it always struck me as something that was as unlikely to happen in Subbuteo as in the real world of football. I probably spent more hours trying to create this feat than I did playing a proper game of Subbuteo and I don't recall ever managing it. Could anyone who still has their Subbuteo gear, or who is intending to buy a set on its relaunch, please see if you can manage to fire the ball into your own net via your opponent's woodwork, just to reassure me that I wasn't a particularly unskilled flick-to-kicker. Oh, and maybe you could suggest what should be done if this happens during the course of a match.
Dave Winter, Paris
I would like to add a few personal recollections to Tom Hocking's Subbuteo article. In the 1978 Wembley World Cup described by Alan Collins, I was Scotland. Overcoming perennial national under-achievement on the world stage, I made it through to the knock-out stages, albeit by dint of getting less of a humping against Andrea Piccaluga of Italy, the eventual winner, than Greece, the other also-ran in the group, with whom I ground out a dour 1-1 draw. No Archie Gemmill magic could be conjured against Holland in the quarter-finals, and the dream was over. Despite being 13 years old, I proudly maintained a Scottish footballing tradition of wayward social behaviour by neglecting to attend the official function – a corporate box at a Harlem Globetrotters game – in favour of a night out "sightseeing" in Soho with the Irish lads. Sadly, my subsequent domestic and international career was blighted by recurring bouts of the Subbuteo equivalent of dartitis, or "stiff finger" as it was known then. Keep on flicking.
John Robb, Edinburgh
Amid all the furore over February's "fractious" encounter between Manchester United and Liverpool, no one seems to have considered that (admittedly with the benefit of hindsight) it was always more likely that Luis Suárez would feel unable to shake Patrice Evra's hand, rather than vice-versa. In Suárez's mind, he had done nothing wrong. Why, therefore, would he shake the hand of a man he felt was responsible for him receiving what he considered to be an unjustified eight-match suspension? This is not to condone Suárez's actions, merely an attempt to understand his mindset. For once, I find myself agreeing with Mark Hughes, who has suggested that the ritual of pre-match handshakes should be scrapped. Even if the two men had shaken hands, it would have been insincere. So what's the point? Much has been made of Evra's exuberant celebrations at the final whistle. Considering he had just helped to defeat a club who had stood by their man even after he had been convicted of racially abusing him, I find his actions understandable. Both incidents received coverage way out of proportion to their significance. As for the suggestion that such incidents could have caused a riot. Frankly, this was only likely among the kind of morons who need little excuse to pick a fight in the first place. It may be that such morons are over-represented in football crowds, but as a regular attender of matches, I like to think most of us have a little more common sense and self-control than that.
Shane Roberts, Bristol
Great article by Janice Allen-Brade on Liverpool fans' reaction to Luis Suárez (Black and white issue, WSC 301). One quibble from me, though. The accompanying picture caption says "Kenny Dalglish – wrong to support Luis Suárez?"
That question mark gives the impression that the article is only the opinion of the author, and that WSC is remaining neutral on the issue. Dalglish was absolutely, utterly wrong to support Suárez – for all the reasons cited in Janice's article. As soon as Suárez admitted using language that was clearly racist the question should have moved on to what was suitable punishment.
In the last few decades there have been many laudable initiatives against racism in football, which have been regularly reported and supported by WSC. The dubious T-shirt display by Dalglish and his team was a small step back to more reactionary times. It is great that WSC printed such a useful article. It would have been even better had you made it crystal clear that you support the author in everything she was trying to say.
Phil Butland, Berlin
The question mark does not imply WSC was remaining neutral – that we commissioned the article ought to indicate that. The question was simply what the author asked her interviewees.
I am moved to ask whether fellow readers agree that Blackburn Rovers' Formica would be better placed with a top of the table side?
Andrew Foster, Reading
I had to rub my eyes before realising Ian Plenderleith's article (Penalty goals, WSC 301) had been written in all seriousness.
The penalty kick was introduced in 1891 as a result of teams resorting to increasingly illegal means to prevent goals being scored. They were prepared to do precisely what Plenderleith is now suggesting – give away a free-kick on the six-yard line and then defend it by filling the goal with players. Apart from the silliness of it all, who these days is going to intentionally welly the ball against eight players lined up in the goal from that range? There has to be a limit to the condign punishment; that is the 18-yard line. There has to be an arbiter of whether or not a handball is deliberate and what constitutes a trip; that is the referee. Why not leave him to it and accept the decisions made in good faith from his view. The idea of referees award goals if a hand stops the ball entering the goal sounds like a recipe for chaos to me.
Paul Collins, Glasgow
I wholly subscribe to Ian Plenderleith's brave attack on penalties (Penalty goals, WSC 301). But why not go one better than abolishing them in open play and get rid of them all together? How many big tournaments have not been won by the best team but the team best at getting through 120 minutes of dull defensive keep-ball then keeping their cool for five shots on goal? The last round of the group stage has been the most exciting part of Champions League and World Cup for too long. How would this work in practice? Not a return to flipped coins or dribbles from the halfway line. If a game ends in a draw, both teams go out. If you are not good enough to defeat your opponent, you go no further. This should apply even more to a final. How can you be the best team in the world if you cannot beat the second best team in the world in two hours? Defensive football is killing big tournaments because the fear of elimination makes teams forgo attack and hope for a quick break. Imagine the free-flowing football we would get if both teams knew they are about to get knocked out anyway and might as well go for it?
Thomas Coombes, Berlin
Peter Bateman's article on amateur footballers (Sporting lives, WSC 301) reminded me that, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Blackpool had a distinguished amateur on their books: Bill Slater OBE. To mark his amateur status, he appeared in the Blackpool programme as "WJ Slater". Bill played inside-left. He appeared in the losing Blackpool Cup final team of 1951 and went on to have a long, illustrious career with Wolves and England. I believe he retained his amateur status on a part-time basis throughout his playing years.
Doug Hall, Huntingdon
I must take issue with a point raised by Michael Whalley in his article about Macclesfield Town (As Good As It Got, WSC 301). He suggests that in the game with Lincoln City, Macc's goalkeeper "Price was pelted with coins during the first half'. I was stood behind the goal that day and have spoken to plenty of others who where there too and nobody remembers any coin throwing. We all remember the brawl and, most importantly, what set it off. Michael would have us believe that "Barry Richardson collided with Martin McDonald and stamped" on him. Barry certainly clashed with Martin, but only after taking offence at an alleged racist remark aimed at City's Kevin Austin. City fans were not slow to inform the police officers in the away end (the same officers who, if Michael is to be believed, missed the coin pelting of Price). Barry's sending off left us with an outfield player in goal and allowed Macclesfield to pinch a late winner. Most City fans felt the defeat was less important than the stand City players took that day. For a good while after that game, most encounters between the two sides included the chant "racist scum" aimed at Macclesfield by City fans. Today the shared grief at the loss of manager Keith Alexander and player Richard Butcher seems to have healed that rift for City fans.
James Bride, Lincoln
From WSC 302 April 2012