While listening to Alan Green’s Five Live commentary on Chelsea’s game with Barcelona I was struck by the big Ulsterman’s remarkable similarity to the voice of Shaggy from Scooby Doo at excitable moments. Have any other readers noticed similarities between commentators and their cartoon characters? I’ll certainly be keeping an ear open for it in future.
Steve Morgan, Kingston
I’m sure I won’t be the only West London anorak to point out that Reading were not, as stated in Season in Brief (WSC 218) the first side to win the championship of the Second, Third, Third (South) and Fourth Divisions. This quadruple had already been achieved by Brentford, who were champions of the Third (South) in 1932-33; of the Second (proper) in 1934-35; of the Fourth in 1962-63; and then the last champions of the Third (proper) in 1991-92. Heading may well have been the first side to be champions of the Fourth, Third, Third (South) and Second (1992-2004, but really the Third) Divisions – but somehow that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?
Stephen Dale, Cambridge
At the end of his article Natural Born Footballers (WSC 218), author Michael Dunne dramatically argues that “it is only a matter of time before a major international tournament is won by the contribution of a footballer playing against the country of his birth”. I hate to be the one to rain on his parade, but his conclusion is at least 30 years out of date. Step forward midfielder Rainer Bonhof, the Dutchman who became a German citizen in 1969 and went on to play his part in West Germany’s World Cup victory over Holland in 1974, setting up Gerd Müller’s winning goal.
Neil Andrews, Great Oakley
I fear that Paul Armstrong, the editor, of BBC’s Match of the Day, has missed the point (Letters WSC 218). I, too, thought MOTD regularly dubbed the commentaries on afterwards. Rather than “reassuring” us that commentators actually go to the games, Mr Armstrong would do better to address the fact that their delivery is so lacking in its transmission of atmosphere and enthusiasm, that we don’t believe they were actually there. MOTD is losing the battle to Sky and will continue to do so while the programme also persists with predictable old-pals presenters and cringeworthy one-liners. What next, Stuart Hall?
Dave Green, St Albans
If Man Utd et al expect to be paid for allowing “their” players to play in the 2006 World Cup, I suppose they will donate to the relevant Football Association a proportion of the profit they make selling Rooney or Ronaldo on the back of their performances for their country? Or perhaps not...
Jon Nott, London N7
In WSC 218, Round and White and a number of other football weblogs came up for some fairly damning criticism from Ian Plenderleith. “Bland”, “unremarkable”, “lacking a certain punch”, “long-winded” were some of the aimed at the weblogs he reviewed. But I feel he somehow missed the point of the football weblog. There are certain similarities between the weblogs currently popping up all over the internet and the fanzine culture of the Eighties from which WSC itself was born. Much like those fanzines, some of the football weblogs around at the moment are not as well written (I’ll hold my hand up here) or as entertaining as others. Some are more professional, while others are more amateurish. However, I wasn’t aware that weblogs (football or otherwise) have to subscribe to any rules regarding their content, design and wit. Therefore, it becomes slightly hard to compare one weblog with another one objectively. As they all offer different styles of writing and content it would have perhaps been more interesting to look at the football weblog “community” as a whole, rather than picking on the failings of individual blogs. He also suggested that those authors worried about the lack of response to their posts should keep them short and witty. Most of us don’t really care about that anyway, but in any case, a flippant remark isn’t always so appropriate when you’re trying to explain why a nominal fine for racism is pointless. However, all criticism should be regarded constructively and even bad publicity is useful, so thanks for the reviews, Ian. Still, I was surprised to see that you failed to mention Arseblog (www.arseblog.com) though, as it’s one of the best and (apparently) most popular football sites around.
Pete Gordon-Smith, roundandwhite.blogspot.com
Re your correspondent Martin Jackson’s observation on Charlton robbing Gillingham of their fan base and the knock on effect for Gravesend and Northfleet (Letters WSC 218). Back in the early Eighties I was working on the retaining wall for the Thames barrier at Northfleet. On our particular site there were fans ranging from Albion Rovers to Swansea, all with one thing in common, a lack of football on a Saturday afternoon. As the Northfleet stadium was right beside our local pub, we decided to go and see the Fleet in action. While not really understanding the reason for the animosity between the fans of Gravesend and Weymouth, just being part of that special club all football supporters share made up for many a homesick moment especially sharing a beer with the players in the club lounge after. Even now almost a quarter of a century later, I still look out for the Fleet’s results, even though my mind has been corrupted by all things Premiership. Charlton may well mop up some floating Kent support from Gillingham when they have a high profile Premiership game on and Gillingham’s mooted move may well do the same to Gravesend, but once you have been seduced by a club, chances are you stay loyal to them, once-in-a-lifetime trips to Wembley notwithstanding. If Paul Scally is so incensed by what he perceives to be underhand tactics, then perhaps he should run a Kent express in the opposite direction starting at Victoria, and picking up those supporters who are fed up or priced out of Stamford Bridge, Highbury et al.
Alistair W S Murray, Newcastle upon Tyne
I tried letting it go for a month but I had to respond. To describe Joe Jordan’s autobiography (book reviews WSC 217) an “account of an honest footballing life” without correction brings the veracity of anything else you publish into question. I will state here and now (and fund the libel defence if required) that his actions against Wales at Anfield were those of a cheat. Furthermore, my brother refused to go to Ninian Park after Cardiff City signed his son Andy, a signing that immediately made me question the Hammam revolution. And I’m right about that as well.
“Skoda Fan”, via email
I feel that you are doing Barnet an injustice by neglecting to mention the circumstances surrounding their brief stay in Division Two in 1994-95 (Season In Brief (WSC 218). Due to owner Stan Flashman’s reluctance to fill players’ wage packets with anything other than third-row seats for Hale & Pace at the Hammersmith Apollo, the FA kindly negated all the contracts of the players, thus allowing them to leave for nothing. That it was bad enough that the club’s most vital assets should go for nothing (with many of them joining Barry Fry at Southend), Bees fans were further aggrieved at Nottingham Forest’s refusal to part with any brass for picking up the club’s prized asset, Gary Bull. That he went on to produce the lowest strike rate per game in the history of the Premiership was at least some form of revenge. Three weeks before the start of the season Barnet had four contracted players (including two goalkeepers) and had to beg, steal and borrow players just to fulfil friendly fixtures. That the club managed to survive the season, let alone force a draw against Chelsea in the FA Cup, is a miracle in itself and the work of player-manager Gary Phillips that season can never be overlooked. The fans remained resolute in their backing of both club and team, by far the most memorable game of the season in my opinion being away at Port Vale where, despite losing 6-0 to ten men, the fans kept singing Phillips’ and the team’s praises throughout the entire second half. Should Barnet return to the Football League at the end of this season, with Phillips now the club’s goalkeeping coach, I for one will not object to “Sumo” sharing the plaudits for all he did to keep the club alive.
James Castle, via email
I feel I must register a complaint against your recent coverage of my beloved team Sheffield Wednesday. First of all in WSC 214 for the Shot! Archive you included a picture of the hallowed turf of Hillsborough with absolutely no mention of the teams playing or indeed the final score. Having studied the photo with my magnifying glass I reckon that the game in question is one between SWFC and THFC that we lost 4-2. Second, in WSC 217 while discussing the merits of Peter Reid, the statement “this was an era when Sheffield Wednesday” finished third appears. Anyone who watched the Owls in the early Nineties will have seen some of the best football ever seen in Yorkshire and, barring a last-minute goal against Crystal Palace in our penultimate game we would have gone into our last match with a chance of winning the league. Also in the same edition, the Season in Brief mocks the Owls for playing a “dour style”; a quick look at the league table will show that we won more games than anyone else and only two teams scored more goals than us. The author’s ignorance is further highlighted by the statement “Imre Varadi partnered Tony Cunningham up front”. I would be willing to bet Mr Baker any money he likes that the aforementioned partnership started fewer than 10 games that season. He may recall a certain Gary Bannister, who scored 22 goals in 48 games for the Owls that season.
James Speed, Sheffield
It strikes me that Chelsea’s success is deserved. They’ve played some great football and held their nerve, but most of all they’ve done everyone a favour by blatantly showing that you can buy success. After all, that is what Man Utd and Arsenal have been doing for these past few years with their pre-season marketing tours in the USA and the Far East and their legions of gullible fans buying new replica kits every ten minutes. Chelsea might have done it without a million glory-hunting social inadequates, but it’s the same principle. Sir Alex’s comment that Man United are “global” and “bigger then football” is enough proof of his club’s priorities. It doesn’t matter if you don’t win anything, as long as your market share doesn’t diminish. Here’s hoping that Chelsea’s team strip sells out next year. Maybe then the other big clubs will realise how annoying “global brands” are to other football supporters.
Jon Matthias, via email
I don’t wish to be pedantic, but in your article on Northwich Victoria (WSC 218), you state that their Drill Field ground used to be the oldest continually used football ground in the world. You would have been correct if you had added “claimed” to the front of that statement. The actual oldest continually used senior football ground is of course York Road, the home of Maidenhead United of the Football Conference South, since the club’s founding in 1870.
Craig McDowall, via email
I was pleased to hear Martin Tyler, commentating on Sky during Chelsea’s game with West Brom, say: “Let’s make sure referees are respected.” Alas, any positive fallout from such a comment was sabotaged by Chris Kamara elsewhere on Sky that evening, sitting in front of a TV screen in the studio. “We’ve got another referee who doesn’t know the rules,” whinged Chris with strangulated pomposity. A player had been booked after the award of a free-kick and Chris wanted the kick forward ten yards. “Not going back ten yards must be dissent, but the ref’s not moved the kick forward,” said Chris who seems to take alleged incompetence from referees as a personal insult. Here’s the rule, Chris. If the player is booked for dissent, the kick is moved forward ten yards. If the booking is for not retreating or delaying the start of play, the kick is taken from its original point. It seems likely that the offence was not dissent, otherwise the ref would have moved the kick forward. The idea of a referee – any referee, let alone one in charge of a Championship match – not knowing the rules is preposterous. For someone to say this on television is offensively dumb. And another thing – you can’t say “He’s took” or “He’s give” as Chris Kamara regularly does. Perhaps we could dispense with the non-issue of referees who don’t know the rules and focus on commentators who can’t speak the language.
Nicholas Haywood, Sheffield
From WSC 219 May 2005. What was happening this month