In response to a letter published about the term “mullered” (Letters, WSC 228) and the origins of the word, at the risk of turning WSC into an episode of Balderdash & Piffle, I always felt it appropriate for the term to be linked to fabled West Germany forward Gerd Müller and the team of the early 1970s. Despite being too young to recall “Der Bomber” in his heyday, checking out old videos of him in action (hardly ever leaving the penalty area in a fashion Gary Lineker could only dream of) and a check of his goalscoring feats – 68 goals in only 62 international matches – it seems to tally with my favoured definition of “mullered”, to be comprehensively beaten in a surprising and unimaginative manner. The only other time I have heard of the term “mullered” is in relation to drinking too much alcohol which, sadly, may be linked to the end of Gerd’s career.
Jonathan Paxton, via email
It seems to be widely accepted among a decent percentage of football fans that the Brazil squad of 1970, Holland’s “total football” team or Real Madrid’s all-conquering 1960 European Cup final winners played arguably the best football the planet has witnessed. Could I therefore suggest to the fans of Darlington, Chester City, Rushden & Diamonds and a number of teams who have visited Meadow Lane this season that they actually aren’t by far the greatest team the world has ever seen. Honestly.
Martin Naylor, Nottingham
Reading through the article about Eyal Berkovic’s messianic return to Israeli football (WSC 228) and the fact that he admits to wanting the team to lose when he is not playing made me think. Surely, even the most dedicated team player, loyal to their club and wanting nothing but victory for their comrades, but whose arse is warming the bench week in, week out, must inwardly feel their heart leap with joy at the sight of a team-mate, playing in a similar position to theirs, go down under a crunching tackle? How can they not secretly feel joy at the unwanted pain of another, at the prospect of entering the fray to ply their trade at their theatre of dreams? Surely they would want to feel that they had contributed to the outcome of the match other than by running up and down the sidelines taunting the away fans. It must be even harder for goalkeepers, only ever to be substituted in one position and for one other player, not to leap up and scream “Yes!!” when viewing the first-choice keeper flat on his face, or clutching at an arm or leg after a last ditch save, or, worse, giving away a penalty and being sent off. If we are to believe that players do it for anything more than their £50k per week, then there must be substitutes up and down the land, nay all over the world, wishing and praying for a serious injury to befall their fellow professionals.
Andy Marriot, Leigh on Sea
The review of Ian St John’s autobiography in WSC 228 reminded me of a quote from the man in Three Sides of the Mersey: Oral History of Everton, Liverpool and Tranmere (Taylor and Ward), in which he recalls his time at Tranmere, towards the twilight of his career. Knowing his age, he requested that his team-mates play the ball to his feet, so he didn’t have to chase balls all over the pitch. After the first couple of games, he had to beg them to stop as almost every ball was being played to him and he was having to work harder than he ever had before. Little surprise he was happy to let Greavsie do all the donkey work on their show.
John Rooney, via email
“Get your hooligans out of our game!” is an instruction that’s long overdue in correspondence between Soho Square and Downing Street. What is Richard Caborn on? Tony Blair’s administration delights in portraying any mishap to befall an idiot as a gross violation of that idiot’s rights. From fruit machine addicts to the obese, from junkies to football fans who set off for Newcastle in the snow, all are seen as victims of injustice. Bullshit. In recent years I’ve pitched up at a September game that was off due to waterlogging and an April fixture that fell foul of the wind. This term I’ve been to a Championship match abandoned at half-time due to rain and my brother-in-law has been to a match called off because of fog. As a season-ticket holder at a club 250 miles from my home, I reckon any Charlton fan who set off for Tyneside without considering the possibility of a late postponement is an idiot. Though not as big an idiot as Caborn, who now uses football to get his name in the press on a weekly basis. It is not possible to make a binding decision on whether a game can go ahead seven hours before kick-off just to please fans who have a seven-hour trip to the ground. If Charlton can’t accept that, they can play in the Kent County League. Caborn should confine his concern for football to picking up a hod and helping out at Wembley.
Paul Davis, Kenton
“Newcastle fans are on their usual soapbox of wanting to get rid of their manager,” says Patrick Brannigan (Letters, WSC 228). The “usual soapbox” must have required a good dusting on both of the occasions that it has been used in the past 17 years, in 1999 for Ruud Gullit (who had lost the plot, never mind the dressing room) and then recently for Graeme Souness. In between, we have seen Kevin Keegan quit and Sir Bobby Robson sacked while still massively popular. We realised that Ossie Ardiles was making the most of an impossible situation, we enjoyed the fact that his side was packed with young Geordies (Lee Clark, Steve Watson, Robbie Elliott, Alan Thompson et al). There were slight murmurings against Kenny Dalglish, granted, but he was sacked after only two games of a season – we hadn’t got the soapbox out of the loft by then. This isn’t meant to be a statement of how supportive Newcastle fans are of the man in the hot seat. It is more a reaction to the method of Mr Brannigan’s letter-writing: “All football fans are impatient, Newcastle fans want their manager sacked... so to prove my point I’ll say Newcastle fans always want their manager sacked.” Facts, Mr Brannigan, facts.
Alex Stokoe, Camden Town
I agreed with most of this month’s editorial, on the undesirability of video replays and how they would remove authority from the referee and, in all likelihood, hand it to Sky. However, there is one law of the game where I don’t think your arguments hold up. The question of whether the whole of a ball has crossed a goalline and, therefore, whether a goal has been scored is not a subjective matter of opinion in the way that fouls are, or even (thanks to ambiguities in the law) offside. Either the whole of the ball is over the line or it isn’t. It’s not a matter for debate. And though, as you say, many offside decisions, sendings-off or whatever are used by managers and fans as excuses to cover up a poor performance, judging whether a goal has been scored or not by definition changes a result, or at least the scoreline. There’s no more fundamental decision in the sport. This issue can be addressed without demanding video replays. I’m no electronics expert, but I’m sure some kind of detection system could be rigged up at all games, linked to a wristband bleeper worn by the referee. At, I don’t know, a hundred quid a set I don’t think this’d be out of the reach of any club right down to County League level. Even if my own technical knowledge is lacking here, surely it’s not beyond FIFA [They’re thinking about it – Ed], the clubs and the media to detach this question from the trickier decisions such as offside and apply some of their vast resources to solving it in ways that don’t involve TV coverage.
Drew Whitworth, Hebden Bridge
Your report of the Donovan Ricketts “racial abuse” incident (WSC 228) is riddled with infelicities. I was at the match – my first at Southend for many years – sat in the immediate vicinity of where the supposed racist abuse originated. There was no such abuse directed at Ricketts. I’m surprised you state that “home fans were split over whether anything racist was shouted at Ricketts”. I know of none who heard any racial abuse. You describe Ricketts’ abusive gesture as “alleged”. Well, I saw it, about 4,000 others saw it and the assistant referee saw it. Yet later on in the article, you refer to “the racial abuse” as if it was a proven fact – when there were no witnesses of it, apart from Ricketts. It seemed to me that the person who was arrested after the sending-off was lifted because of persistent standing – I certainly didn’t hear him use racist language. The background of the incident – omitted from your article – is as follows. Immediately before the incident Ricketts had made a meal of a challenge from Freddy Eastwood, feigning injury. This caused most of the crowd to heckle him, but none of that heckling was racist or contained racist comments. When Bradford scored some minutes later, Ricketts then gloated at the crowd and made the obscene gesture. I believe that Ricketts then tried to excuse his actions by claiming that he was racially abused. Thus the person who should examine his conscience in this affair is Ricketts. He has brought the anti-racism movement (which I fervently support) into disrepute by making false allegations – playing the “race card” in the most dishonourable fashion.
Dr Malcolm Ostermeyer, Lancaster
I was interested to read Robbie Meredith’s piece in WSC 228 on a potential new stadium for Northern Ireland and, while I love Windsor Park dearly, I realise that we have to move with the times. However, I am one of the 86 per cent he mentioned that opposes the proposed new “Terrordrome” on the site of the old Maze prison and I feel that he could perhaps have explored some of the reasons for this widespread opposition. The stadium should be built in Belfast, the capital, where road/rail links and hotel spaces are best, not on some cheap politically motivated out-of-town option. There are viable alternatives in Belfast, although, admittedly, they are more expensive. Belfast is easily accessible to the whole country, the Maze is not. It has no junction off the motorway to facilitate travelling fans and no rail halt. The idea of a national stadium sharing a site with a terrorist museum is complete anathema to me (and to many others). I have my own political views but I leave them at home when attending football and I believe that if there are to be museums/memorials then let them be built in the Republican and Loyalist hinterlands, not at a sporting venue. At 42,000 the stadium is too large for the vast majority of internationals and, while a bigger ground could help pull in more fans, I doubt that we can attract that many. Staging Irish Cup finals in a cavernous 42,000-capacity stadium will look ridiculous; we need something built for purpose, not a vast white elephant with maintenance costs that could cripple the IFA, a small governing body. I am also opposed when it comes to sharing with Ulster Rugby and the GAA. This is partly based on my selfish belief that we should have a football-specific stadium, but there are other reasons. Plans are very nebulous and the URFU are looking at redeveloping their headquarters at Ravenhill, hardly the move of a body seeking to share a new venue. The IRFU are talking about staging a minor international in here every two years, hardly a major commitment from rugby. Gaelic football is played on a much larger pitch and this would result in the fans being further away from the action (and the atmosphere diminished) when football is played. Furthermore, many would argue, rightly or wrongly, that the GAA is an inherently sectarian body: it has named venues and clubs after terrorists, causing great offence to one side of our fractured community. As for the nonsense that we could get a UEFA final if we build this white elephant, haven’t those spinning this tosh checked the pre-requisite for hotel rooms? England, Scotland and Wales have had purpose-built national football stadiums built, or rebuilt, in their capitals, so why can funds not be made available for Northern Ireland to do likewise?
Colin Dunn, Falkirk
While watching the Burton Albion v Man Utd FA Cup match on TV, I couldn’t help but notice that some enterprising individual had sold the Burton fans a shedload of those giant foam hands that used to be all the rage when Gladiators was on a few years back. They seemed to be far more eye-catching than the linesmen’s flags, which set me thinking – rather than piddle about with the size of goals, or outlawing tackling, or breaking games into quarters, why don’t FIFA declare that linos must use giant foam hands rather than flags? Even the most boring of games would be enlivened by a linesman indicating the direction of a throw-in with a massive pointy finger rather than a boring old flag. And the hands would be far easier to hold than flags, meaning the linesmen could concentrate on getting bloody offsides right.
Dave Espley, via email
From WSC 229 March 2006. What was happening this month