The Spurs “yids” thing (WSC 230) is indeed well and truly weird. This derogatory term emanated from Arsenal, a club with a proud tradition of support from the large north London Jewish community. As an eight- or nine-year-old, sitting high in the Highbury east stand with my uncle at my first ever game, even my pre-pubescent jewdar was sufficiently sensitive to know I was among my own. These days it’s a London thing. The term is seldom heard from northern fans, whereas one Chelsea fan website, presumably popular as it is on Google’s first page, proudly lists the lyrics to more than 25 (I stopped counting) anti-Semitic songs. In the mid-1970s, some Spurs fans created an incomprehensibly bizarre variant on terrace youth sub-culture by wearing skinhead uniform, skullcaps and Israeli flags. There’s one for all the sociologists out there. I sit in a different east stand now and for years optimistically clung to the notion that, in reclaiming the word, Spurs fans displayed rudimentary class consciousness and solidarity with discriminated groups in our society. This forlorn hope has been shattered in the face of vicious, sustained homophobic chanting, ostensibly related to Sol Campbell’s predicaments. The lip service paid by most clubs to kick out racism seems positively enlightened by comparison, and if we can’t learn anything from all this then the future’s bleak for football.
Alan Fisher, Tonbridge
Seeing Steve Bruce’s pudgy countenance on TV after Birmingham’s 7-0 FA Cup humiliation by Liverpool reminded me of the observation (Letters, WSC 228) that he looks distinctly like a dinner lady. The resemblance is becoming more marked as the weeks go by – his face is getting rounder and softer and he has the distinct air of someone who’s just noticed, with ten minutes to go before lunch-time, that the crinkle-cut chips haven’t defrosted properly. This leads me to wonder if he could in fact gradually be turning into a woman through some sort of hormonal imbalance and that this may be a root cause of his team’s poor performances. The players can sense that something is not quite right with the gaffer and it’s unsettling them. Some players, possibly led by captain Kenny Cunningham, may even have taken to flicking through medical textbooks in search of answers. Not that there is anything wrong with being a woman, of course, just that it is not usually a state attained by a strapping ex- centre-half with a broken nose. Steve needs understanding at this difficult, possibly pivotal, moment in his life.
Ken Monro, via email
I thought I was witnessing something historic on Match of the Day II the other week. Messrs Hansen et al were replaying an incident from several angles and explaining how, in their opinion, the referee and linesman must have been unsighted and therefore couldn’t possibly have seen a handball in the build-up to a goal. Just as I was thinking how refreshing it was to see these esteemed panellists take the side of the officials for once in their lives, I came down to earth with a bang. I had turned on the programme during the post-match analysis of Fulham against Chelsea. The thing is, it was handball and the “goal” had been correctly disallowed. But I was still watching a denouncement of the officials (“They got lucky” was one expression used).But if Didier Drogba’s “goal” had been allowed because Mike Dean and his linesman (I’m a traditionalist) had genuinely been unsighted, would we have been treated to half-a-dozen camera angles to illustrate this fact, or would Alan Hansen and company have taken the easy way out and described it as another example of bad officiating? I know which my money would be on. As far as Hansen would be concerned, a case of “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. In his post-match interview, even José himself commented on this issue. Coming from someone so often unsighted himself, I’m surprised he noticed.
Alun Thomas, Leatherhead
Following on from WSC 230’s Letter From Belgium about the country’s match-fixing crisis, I was at the recent friendly between Luxembourg and Belgium. Speaking to Belgian work colleagues before the match, many were worried that they would not even manage a goal against their minnow neighbours, such was the inexperience in the team. The murky betting issue has cast such a cloud that the new national manager, René Vandereycken, was forced to start with at least two players who had not even made their domestic club debuts, such was the desire to field a “clean” team. Ironic, then, that around the hour mark, and with Belgium holding a respectable 2‑0 lead, a complete blizzard caused the game to be abandoned. You couldn’t see the pitch markings, the referee, the opposite end of the field, not even the orange ball. Sightings of a shady character running away with a hundred betting slips and a large snow-making machine under his arm are yet to be confirmed…
Tristan Browning, via email
Ged Naughton (Letters, WSC 230) suggests changing the offside rule to allow a forward to be in an offside position for six seconds without infringing the law, and offers to give his name to the rule. Bringing in this rule change would create absolute chaos. “Naughton’s Rule” immediately brought to mind the “M’Naghten’s Rules”, which have governed the law on criminal insanity since 1843. Some coincidence that.
Nigel Power, via email
Has anyone else noticed the ongoing conspiracy among television football commentators regarding the use of the word “volley”? In my days a volley was where a ball is played from another player and you kicked it before it has touched the ground. Nowadays commentators seem to have decided that a volley is simply where the ball is quite high up when it is kicked. Just to confuse the issue more, Robbie Keane’s goal for Spurs against Blackburn in early March was described by one commentator as a half-volley! Now don’t get me going on that one.
Philip Ball, Wycombe
When did English goalkeepers first start going up for corners? It’s a habitual sight in cup ties and even important league matches here now, but it was once something that happened only on the continent. Saint and Greavsie would roar with laughter at a clip, usually from Holland or the German lower divisions, of a keeper heading in, or missing and rushing back to his own half. But at some point it spread here too. It might be because goalkeepers are fitter now and so can comfortably sprint up to the other end of the pitch in a matter of seconds. Or it could be a product of the desperation brought on by the huge financial disparity between success and failure these days – that is, points are so important that it’s worth risking an even bigger defeat. And is anyone keeping stats on the effectiveness of the ploy? Are German second-division keepers still more likely to nod one in at the far post having had a couple of decades’ more practice at it? Jimmy Glass, Carlisle’s saviour in 1999, ought to offers lessons as a specialist keeper-coming-up-in-the-last-minute coach.
Eddie Kernaghan, via email
While watching the not terribly exciting Barcelona v Chelsea Champions League match, I noticed that five of the Chelsea team were wearing black armbands, presumably in memory of the late, great Peter Osgood. But why only five? None of the subs wore them either. Four of the five were wearing short sleeves (the other was Cech, the goalie) but Lampard wasn’t wearing an armband and he had a short-sleeved shirt. Terry had a black captain’s armband. All the English players bar Lampard wore them. As you can see I was enthralled by the match. I can’t see a pattern, so have I missed something in the media or ITV’s pre-match warm-up to explain the haves and have-nots?
Martin Campbell, via email
It always makes me smile when I read England’s chances of winning this year’s World Cup being talked up in the media. The facts of the matter are quite simple: England don’t stand a chance of winning. This is because greedy club chairmen and lily-livered Premier League executives conspire to flog our players into the ground in the name of profit. What, for example, were Germany’s players doing while our England-based players were slogging their way through the preposterous Christmas and New Year fixture list? They were putting their feet up and recharging their batteries during their six-week “winter break”. Getting a bit of sun on their backs in their Spanish or Portuguese training camps and enjoying the occasional five-a-side tournament. On the odd occasion that German teams have to play (shock! horror!) two games a week, do you know what they call it? “Englische Woche” – “English week”. I think that says it all.
Malcolm Shuttleworth, Leverkusen
At the risk of sounding like an anorak, I felt I must comment on the Shot Archive picture in WSC 230, with Malcolm Allison being as understated as ever at Selhurst Park, “circa 1973”. Look closer – in the row in front of Mal is a programme held aloft with “1974-75” clearly visible on the cover. I think I deserve a prize for being this month’s most boring reader...
Andy Babington, Arundel
Yet again re: Southend v Bradford and Wayne Sutcliffe’s letter in WSC 230 complaining about inserting your ticket at Roots Hall into an “automatic turnstile gate thing”. Three immediate thoughts:
1. I first had to do this six years ago, attending a Sevilla match. Result, no queues at the turnstiles for a lowly second-division match (ahem... attendance 42,000). Amazing how British football is always at the forefront of innovation...
2. You only had to do it once, I do it every other week. But it speeds up my entrance to the ground to the extent I now leave the pub ten minutes later (ie at 2.56pm). That’s progress, surely?
3. At least you won’t have to do it again next season.
“What is the world coming to?” asks Wayne. Well, Seville is in Andalucia, in Spain. There’s a lot more of the world, literally just outside of Shipley. And much of it is way ahead of us in the UK. Do they have cash machines in Shipley? But in all seriousness, the racism incident was all but ignored by the media because it simply didn’t happen. Ricketts should be ashamed of himself for “playing the race card” and I detest the slurs made against our supporters. I look forward to not playing Bradford City again next year. And remember what they say about people who live in glass houses.
Steve Lowes, Mistley, Essex
Overheard on the 00.11 train from Finsbury Park, after Arsenal’s 2-0 demolition of Juventus at Highbury a couple of hours earlier: Arsenal Fan #1 (while eating bag of chips): “I think Thierry Henry could have done more.” Arsenal Fan #2 (also eating chips): “What… on top of making one and scoring one?” AF1: “Yeah!” AF2: “What more should he have done?” AF1: “Demonstrate desire.” AF2: “You mean run around more?” AF1: “Yeah. Run around more… and shout more too.” AF2: “So we should let him go to Barcelona then… because he doesn’t demonstrate desire by running around a lot and shouting?” AF1: “Well… yeah… no… but if he does go we should sign someone who plays with more passion.” Do you think the FA is having a similar debate over the credentials of potential England managers?
Patrick Brannigan, Hertford
I approve fully of Rob Weston’s suggestion (Letters, WSC 230) that there should be a range of accepted gestures at football matches. I would question his assertion, however, that the arms-wide gesture is acceptable when the ball has ballooned over the bar. As a result of just such an incident at a Plymouth Argyle game recently, my 12-year-old daughter stood up and put her arms wide, but vertically – a nice touch of pedantry I think. Which then leads us to what would be acceptable for when the ball misses high and wide: perhaps some sort of diagonal gesture. Anyway, perhaps Rob could advise soon, as opposition fans require the full range at Home Park.
Richard Martin, Ivybridge, Devon
As if Sunderland fans like myself have not had it tough enough this season, we have also had to put up with all and sundry banging on about Alan Shearer catching, equalling, breaking and extending Newcastle United’s leading goalscorer of all-time record. But is it any wonder that Shearer has scored so many goals when he gets two balls to shoot with, as shown on page eight of WSC 230? If Newcastle insist on using two balls, maybe Sunderland can try playing without one to see if they can add to their paltry points total.
Keith Watson, Cam, Gloucestershire
From WSC 231 May 2006. What was happening this month