York City’s announcement, after a new sponsorship deal with Nestle Rowntree, that their stadium will be known as KitKat Crescent for two years makes it clear who now runs the game. Yes, it’s the journalists. For years this gallant profession have struggled to build any workable puns around us. At Sunderland, say, sub- editors could claim that The Team Shone Brightly At the Stadium of Light or The Black Cats Needed All Their Luck Tonight. But York play at Bootham Crescent and are nicknamed The Minster Men and there’s nothing much you can do with either of those. But all is different now, thankfully. Now when we are getting stuffed at home to someone like Gravesend, await the deluge of remarks that York Took A Break At The KitKat...
Andrew Traynor, York
Roger Titford’s article on “Wiggy” Mihailov (WSC 216) brought back a few dormant nightmares for this Reading supporter. Perhaps it also removed my sense of irony, but are photos of Mihailov in Reading kit so rare that your picture editor had to make do with Jimmy Quinn in the keeper’s shirt? Admittedly I think Jimmy was the only Royals keeper not to concede a goal that season, playing when he stood in for the injured Bulgarian during a match. Let’s hope that whoever is responsible doesn’t advise Paolo Hewitt on the movie of his book The Best Player You Never Saw (about Reading legend Robin Friday) although I for one would welcome some belated recognition for Dick Habbin or Steve Death.
Michael Baker, Great Brickhill
Despite the criticism it has received since rejoining our screens, I have to admit to a sneaking fondness for Match of the Day, even the editions with Mark Lawrenson appearing. However, something has been bothering me of late: the horrible suspicion that the commentaries on some lesser games have actually been dubbed on afterwards by a B-lister, sat in an editing suite in London watching the highlights and trying to sound surprised by what he sees. Commentaries on games preceded by the “satellite zoom” down to the stadium usually seem to start with some reference to how many minutes have elapsed, or how one of the featured teams has performed this season – hardly something you’d otherwise expect. “And now, in the 12th minute of this lunchtime kick-off at the Riverside, it’s Viduka, and wow, he’s scored! How fortunate of me to set the scene just before a clear goalscoring opportunity, the programme editor will love me for that...” Can anyone confirm whether post-match commentary actually does happen? It would have made sense on ITV’s The Premiership (where most games got around 45 seconds of coverage, so that half the programme could be dedicated to that week’s league leaders), but surely the BBC has higher moral standards? I do hope I’m wrong about the post-dub commentary theory – it’d be rather like finding out your partner’s been faking orgasms for the last 18 months. I would imagine.
Neil Cumins, East Kilbride
Re: Roy Carroll and Video Replays. Call me naïve for asking, but whatever happened to good, honest sportsmanship? The only person who really had a good view of ball in the Roy Carroll incident was Roy Carroll (and a couple of thousand United supporters, but I don’t expect them to tell the truth). Why didn’t he own up and tell the referee that the ball was clearly in? We don’t need video replays. We need the players to play the game fairly and honestly.
Gary Wilson, via email
A couple of years ago, before a kick-off at Tranmere, the bloke beside me said that he had come to watch his nephew playing for the visitors. He then said, in all seriousness: “He played for Liverpool for ten years, but they let him go last summer.” This surprised me, because a) I hadn’t heard of the player, and b) he looked about 20 years old. As indeed he was. But the programme did say that he’d been released by Liverpool. Since then, I’ve noticed it a few times: football people do seem to leave out the words “youth teams” where a pedant like myself might leave them in. So Gareth Dale (WSC 216) appears typical; it sounds like he’s one of the many rejected youth players who will forever, without dishonesty, tell people that “I used to play for Plymouth Argyle”. And then a TV producer gets the wrong end of the stick and refers to him as a former professional footballer, which may be just technically true, or may be not true at all.
Pete Ridges, via email
Far be it for me to defend Juventus, but Matt Barker’s piece in WSC 215 is a little bit skewed. Nowhere does he mention that the 281 drugs found on Juve’s premises were all legal. Every single one of them. Just as creatine is legal and the “drips” that he mentions Marcello Lippi seeing might very well have been legal as well. In fact, the whole point of the trial was whether or not Juventus had been abusing legal drugs over those four years. Can you break the law by taking excessive amounts of a legal substance? Not in the eyes of the footballing authorities, which is why Juve’s trial was run on the basis that they had committed “sporting fraud”, by violating the spirit of the law, rather than the letter. That’s the most interesting point of the debate. Should footballers be given different medical treatment from non-athletes? If a butcher or a cab driver twists his ankle, he probably won’t get painkilling injections and will hobble around for a month. If Alan Shearer or Alessandro Del Piero twist an ankle, they will get a whole different level of treatment and be back on the pitch the following week. Is this right? To what degree are we going to allow this? And how are we going to police it? Beyond that, it’s too easy to mock players for not remembering what specific pill they might have been given on a specific date eight or ten years earlier. When you’re getting pills all the time – as Juve were – it’s entirely possible that you don’t remember. The EPO readings are a different story, of course. Just two Juve players, of the 60-odd who were at the club in those four years, registered hematocrite levels consistent with EPO use. All the others did not. Which seems rather incongruous: why would you slip some players EPO, but not others? Also, not a single Juve player tested positive for any banned substance in those years, both when tested in Serie A and when tested in UEFA and FIFA competitions. Matt Barker does have a good point when he describes as “daft” the idea that the team doctor, Riccardo Agricola, could have been operating independently from club officials. That was Juve’s defence, and it’s both silly and shameful, as they’re effectively hanging him out to dry. Either they’re both innocent or they’re both guilty. A final point on Louis Van Gaal’s statement that Juventus should return the 1996 European Cup. I’m all for it (and, while they’re at it, 1985 as well), but only if France returns the 1998 World Cup, too. After all, the midfield partnership of Didier Deschamps and Zinedine Zidane enjoyed Juve’s medical treatment for several seasons...
Gabriele Marcotti, via email
I have been instructed by my client to respond to Mr John Andrews’ query over the ownership of bragging rights arising (Letters, WSC 216) from the results of English professional soccer matches. My client, Sportsboast Holdings UK, is the sole holder of all bragging rights relating to English Premiership matches and in addition holds first option on all taunting arising from Championship, League One and League Two fixtures. Non-rights holders may therefore not brag, vaunt or otherwise show off except with the express prior permission of my client; and then only for a total of 60 seconds within a 24-hour period following any designated “needle match”, after which time such secondary rights revert to the holder. Should Mr Andrews, or indeed his postman, be held in contravention of my client’s exclusive contractual entitlement, we are instructed to advise him that both he and the said postman are liable, jointly and severally, to be transported home in a High Court ambulance.
Damon Green, East Dulwich
In reply to Sarah Hogben’s letter about being an alienated Chelsea fan (Letters, WSC 215), I’m sorry she feel that way about her football, but if its 65th-minute lunges, yellow cards, roughing it, emotional fans, consistent inconsistency and cheaper prices she want – a pin badge will only set you back about £3.50 – then may I suggest a short trip on the tube to Shepherds Bush, where she will find Queens Park Rangers. Remember them? We used to have some good old rivalry with Chelsea before they got all good, I think we miss you. We had Fulham for a couple of seasons and Brentford for the past three, but its just not the same, is it? Anyway, if Sarah just doesn’t like her club anymore we welcome her with open arms – she won’t even have to change the colour of her scarf.
James Osborne, Shepherds Bush
From WSC 217 March 2005. What was happening this month