Bear with us, this month’s issue isn’t entirely about Tottenham. But the current state of the club does raise some intriguing questions about where English football has come from and where it’s going to. When WSC started in 1986, the three men in charge at White Hart Lane were Irving Scholar (chairman), David Pleat (manager) and Glenn Hoddle (lead artiste). Strange, then, to see them all together again, even if it was at Highbury in an atmosphere that was both sombre because of David Rocastle’s death and frosty because of the long-standing differences between Pleat and Hoddle.
The past month has seen two games which gave a tantalising hint of how things might have been if football had not got into such a mind-boggling mess over the reconstruction of Wembley.
Is football a law unto itself? Perhaps the realisation is dawning that whatever practices have gone on in the past, it will be increasingly difficult for football clubs and associations to operate as if the law and normal rules of behaviour did not apply to them.
There used to be a sign over the stairs leading out of the away end at Upton Park urging supporters to “Remember Ibrox” and leave without pushing. It seemed pretty rich, back in the Eighties, when spectators would struggle to get out of that tangle of unforgiving fences and barriers in one piece.
Against all the odds, the Premiership looks as though it may turn out to be interesting, enjoyable even, this season. Not the title “race”, of course, unless Sir Alex’s gambolling hares stop for an uncharacteristic snooze by the river in the middle. But the advent of the Champions League, paradoxically, has made the lure of a place in Europe so enticing that it threatens the well-being of some of the clubs fluttering around its flame.
So many names have been mentioned in connection with the England job since Kevin Keegan resigned that it seems absurd (and in fact it is) to talk about there being an “obvious candidate”. Among them are: Fabio Capello, Alan Curbishley, Sven-Goran Eriksson, John Gregory, Gérard Houllier, Alex Ferguson, Roy Hodgson, Aimé Jacquet, David O’Leary, Egil Olsen, Peter Reid, Bobby Robson, Bryan Robson, Arrigo Sacchi, Alan Shearer (no, really), Berti Vogts, Arsène Wenger and Howard Wilkinson. And that list doesn’t include the two men now squeezing into the hot seat, Peter Taylor and Steve McLaren.
At a time when the Olympics, the Champions League and World Cup qualifying matches are all taking place in quick succession, the conflicting demands of clubs and national associations are making headlines once again.
Was that really the first week of the Premiership season, or was it an “ironic” imitation? All the familiar elements that we have come to take for granted from the shoutiest league in the world were present: refereeing controversy, managers up in arms, foreign players as victims and/or villains, and everything monitored in excruciating slow-motion by Sky.
Here are some opinions that you might have read in the papers recently. There are too many foreigners playing football in Britain at the moment. There aren’t enough foreigners playing football in Britain at the moment. There are too many of the wrong kind of foreigners playing football in Britain at the moment.
There is a peculiar tendency in Britain (maybe just in England) which insists that nothing but the best is good enough. The government wants the NHS to be “the best in the world”. Our millennium celebrations were supposed to be “the envy of the world”.