THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Some of WSC's regular contributors give their views on 1999 and their hopes for football in the new millennium

Harry Pearson
Ups
The return of Juninho.
Des Lynam’s move to ITV. The adverts mean we get less of his banter.
Alan Shearer’s public persona. A comedic tour de force combining the best of Victor Meldrew and Harry Enfield’s teenager. Every time I see his face I just crease up.

Downs
Paul Gas­coigne’s appearance as a sub v Chelsea. Sad and ­irritating in equal measure. And that was just his hairstyle. Continued ranting about foreign players and the pernicious effect their presence is having on our national team. As if England have never been useless before now. The media’s barrel-scraping attempts to fill hours of airtime and acres of newsprint with England v Scotland build-up. Sending a reporter to Hampden Park, Eastbourne.

Hope for 2000
Someone high up at the FA to slap his forehead one morning and say, “I’ve got it! Why don’t we stop the Premiership wages spiral by putting a cap on admission prices!”

Cris Freddi
Ups
Slovenia (capacity of national stadium: 18,000) qualifying for Euro 2000. Watch out for Zlatko Zahovic in the finals.
Chelsea, my pet hate since childhood, not becoming the only team ever to retain the Cup- Winners Cup.
The crowd of 100 who watched Azerbaijan draw 2-2 with Estonia. True lovers of the game, every one of them. It was played in Cyprus.

Downs

Inter spending £31 million on Christian Vieri just to continue last ­season’s form.
Bayern hitting the woodwork twice in the European Cup final. At the end of it, the face of Lothar Matthäus, a greater footballer than any of the United players are ever going to be.
Scotland 0 England 2, which kept Keegan in the job.

Hope for 2000
That the OFT and DTI will do something about Sky’s 9.9 per cent stake in both Leeds Utd and Man City, a fraction below the need for Premier League consent (they also own 11.1 per cent of Man Utd). I’m holding my breath.


Richard Mason

Ups
The promotion to Serie B of tiny Alzano, a model club and proof that not all ­players are in it for the money – Padova, with a wage bill four times that of Alzano, went down.
The retention, yet again, of their Serie A status by all-Italian Piacenza, while “glamorous” Sampdoria went down.
Milan’s elimination from Europe by November 1. The word hubris comes into it somewhere.

Downs
The fragmentation of the traditional Italian football weekend to suit TV – now there are games on each evening from Friday to Monday plus Saturday and Sunday ­afternoons.
Viterbese owner and Perugia president Luciano Gaucci for his abominable treatment of female coach Carolina Morace at Viterbese, sacked after two matches. Clearly he used her to get the club talked about, something that would never have happened otherwise.
The appalling state of many Italian pitches.

Hope for 2000

That Italy will produce at least one watchable performance in 2000.


John Williams
Ups
David Beckham shoving all the Posh Spice rubbish back down the throats of the fans who think this kind of thing is just part and parcel of “reasonable partisanship” at football. Get a life. The man may be a berk, but he can play and he has got guts.
Cissy, the great Brazilian No 10 at the women’s World Cup in the US. If she was English we would probably have to look at including her in our Euro 2000 squad. Half the US squad would definitely have a shout.
The Liverpool fans who brought the “Cosmopolitanisme Vaincra” (Cosmopolitanism will triumph) banner to the Liverpool match at Leeds United, where the great Titi Camara strutted his stuff. Smicer also hints at being the new (Czech) Kenny D. Houllier is already exploring what he calls the “Liverpool imaginary”.

Downs
The new England management/coaching set-up: Keegan, Cox, Beardsley? Excuse me? We now have a manager who seems to think that playing international football at the highest levels is about “team spirit” and not filling players heads with “tactics”. No danger of that with our boys... as you can already see.
The new European club set-up, of course. European football is important to us, but this endless trail of matches on the dreadful ITV is the pits and it messes up ­fixtures here. Thursday? It must be Molde v Chelsea, with Bob Wilson. Am I yawning alone?
The apredictable Brian Kidd fiasco at Blackburn Rovers. Maybe it will eventually produce some good; that is, chairmen might learn that just because someone is a “nice guy” who players “get on with” it doesn’t mean he’s a great manager, or a reasonable judge of a player. The League Managers Association needs to look seriously at ­professionalising what its members are doing.

Hope for 2000
Maybe those clubs in which BSkyB has a shareholders’ interest (Leeds, Man Utd and Man City) could “rationalise” and merge to establish a new TV “superclub” in the north west of England. They could then play in a very large TV studio and organise their own “international” football circuit, including, of course, the much sought-after fixtures against the Melbourne Sharks and Shanghai Tea. Who would spare a moment, then, to worry about seeing our own little FA Cup?


Ken Gall

Ups
Billy Dodds, Dundee Utd and Scotland. A refreshingly genuine presence in our world of Anelka, Carbone and Becks ’n’ Posh.
Barcelona. For Rivaldo, Luis Figo and their steadfast refusal to sell out a historic jersey to flog CD equipment or lager.
Wanderley Luxemburgo. In all my life I have never heard a finer name for a man.

Downs
Dick Advocaat. A surprisingly graceless man who, for all his supposed expertise, achieved precisely the same Champions League results for Rangers as Walter Smith – out before Christmas.
Fowler v Le Saux. Dispiriting and depressing in ways too varied to describe.
The UEFA Champions League draw – one part algebra to two parts dishonesty.

Hope for 2000
That players, agents, chairmen and administrators will cease to resemble those ­cartoons in which a laughing Scrooge McDuck pours buckets of gold coins over his own head.


Ian Plenderleith

Ups
The new expanded Champions League with its big names and big games, week after week. This is football as it should be, the richest always winning and no chance for undeserving clubs from poor nations.
Rangers winning the treble. God, that was exciting, and how refreshing to see Scotland’s two biggest clubs nurture so much homegrown talent for a future world-beating national side.
The poise, flair, grace and precision passing of the Premiership, reflected in the electrifying performances of the England national team. What value for money!

Downs
FIFA’s failure to award the 2006 World Cup to England ahead of time. What can they be thinking of?
FIFA’s failure to push through its idea of a World Cup every two years. In England. With 64 teams. Hell, why not make it every year?
The night after Scotland’s Euro 2000 play-off against England at Wembley I dreamt they scored a second goal. I was there, yelling wildly in front of thousands of mute English fans. I woke up.

Hope for 2000
I follow Lincoln City FC and Scotland. There is no such thing as hope.


Uli Hesse-Lichtenberger
Ups
Too predictable, perhaps, but what the heck: injury-time you-know-where and you-know-when. Finally we could stop drooling over Madjer’s back-heel for Porto against Bayern in the 1987 European Cup final. (“Madjer’s back-heel” is the German ­equivalent of “Nayim’s lob”.)
Following the Bundesliga relegation drama on the last day of the season via radio. In the final 20 minutes of the three games in question, ten goals are scored, and the buck is passed five times (eventually stopping with Nuremberg).
Stepping through the door to Borussia Dortmund’s press room for the first time ever and immediately hearing the words: “Three more pints, please!”

Downs
Taking over the job of coaching my son’s youth team and finding all prejudices confirmed. Our opponents are usually coached by grouchy grown-ups who only care about winning and have the kids running laps until they pant.
Dortmund’s fans being warned not to ­follow the team to Rotterdam because “their security could not be guaranteed”.
Stepping through the door to Borussia Dortmund’s press room for the first time ever and immediately hearing the words: “Three more pints, please!”

Hope for 2000

At Dortmund, we no longer hope. We just wait and watch.


Dave Robinson
Ups
The uplifting sight of Juninho back in ­a Boro shirt, slaloming mischievously through the Premiership like Bart Simpson on his skateboard.
Des Lynam leaving the Beeb for ITV. Sandwiched between the adverts we should see precious little of him now, thank God. He should have been pensioned off to char the grannies on daytime TV years ago.
The more we see of impressive professionals like Hadji, Kanu and Camara, the less likely we are to patronise and underestimate football in their countries. Would you back Scotland or England to beat Nigeria or Morocco over two legs? Thought not.

Downs
England qualifying for Euro 2000. How the hell are we going to enjoy it now?
The elevation of mascots such as Cyril the Swan to celebrity status. Ban fox hunting but let them have a go at mascots instead.
We’re saturated with football. I mean, if you had 90 minutes of pulsating sex every night of the week with superstars from around the world, you’d soon get bored, wouldn’t you? All right, bad example.

Hope for 2000
That referees become professional and get paid £20,000 per match. Possessing flashier cars, bigger houses and better clobber is the only way they are going to win the respect of today’s players.

 
Joyce Woolridge
Ups
Being able to begin virtually every sentence with, “Well, when I was in Barcelona at the European Cup final...”
The statue of Duncan Edwards unveiled in Dudley in October. Let’s have more footballers commemorated like this.
Arsenal, Chelsea et al confirming post-Euro tie exhaustion does exist after all and was not just something invented by Manchester United as an excuse for all manner of bad behaviour.

Downs
Brian Kidd’s sacking being used to prove that you can’t be a nice man and a successful manager – a bastard’s charter, in effect.
Craig Brown ­struggling free from Keegan’s prolonged hysterical embrace at the end of the Wembley play-off – it’s a toss-up as to who needed sympathy more.
Watching the draw for the third round of the FA Cup only to appreciate the orange hue of Big Ron’s tan and the effortless tact of comments like, “Lucky Arsenal again” when they drew Blackpool, rather than to find out Manchester United’s opponents.

Hope for 2000
That a club will adopt a female mascot – preferably one without 36GG breasts.

 
Gary Oliver
Ups
The overdue removal of Raith manager Jimmy Nicholl, messiah turned mug.
Arrogant Celtic – only one title and two cups during the 1990s – humbled once more in Europe, soon after the management had again claimed the club is now too big for Scotland. Rangers at least have the silverware to bolster their argument.
Hearts’ talisman Colin Cameron – Kirkcaldy-born, ex-Raith – finally capped. Now, Mr Brown, how about him starting?

Downs
Roger Mitchell, chief executive of the Scottish Premier League, describing relegated Dunfermline as “still one of us”.
The repellent antics of Lothar Matthäus and his Bayern team-mates in the Champions League. Worryingly, I almost rooted for Rangers.
Grampian Television no longer showing the nocturnal Nationwide League Extra.

Hope for 2000
That when the Scottish Premier League expands to 12, the additional teams are ­promoted on merit and not through ­gerrymandering.

 
Phil Ball
Ups
John Toshack – poet. When asked to ­comment on Real Madrid’s chances for the second leg after their 1-1 home draw with Dinamo Kiev, Toshack replied, “There are many ways to kill a cat.”
Gullit’s desperate attempt not to look upset during the Newcastle v Sunderland derby.
Keegan’s refreshing sense of humour – “We can go on to win it now”.

Downs
For English expatriates, England’s qualification for Euro 2000 will mean another summer of merciless ribbing, misplaced patriotism and endless attempts to explain to befuddled foreign friends why Tony Adams is still an international.
Fulham’s promotion to the First Division. And they call it sport.
Jesus Gil making such a rapid recovery from his heart attack.

Hope for 2000
Relegation for Chelsea and Man Utd, ­promotion for Grimsby and, er, Slovenia for the cup.

From WSC 155 January 2000. What was happening this month

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