After “sick as a parrot” and “early doors”, it seem we must now brace ourselves as another football cliche takes root. Apparently, no one in the game can now refer to the patently obvious without reach- ing for a little spurious gravitas by des- cribing it as “well documented”. In case it is not yet well documented just how irritating this affectation has become, I thought I’d get the ball rolling.
Jeffrey Prest, via email
There is still much missionary work to be done if this recent experience is any- thing to go by. I was watching Bolton against Birmingham in the corner of a pub, surprisingly mostly in solitude until a bloke well into middle age paused nearby and watched for a couple of minutes. As an attack built up, I started shouting: “He’s offside, he’s offside.” Moments later the offside striker volleyed spectacularly into the net and the bwima applauded enthusiastically. “He’s offside,” I repeated for the umpteenth time. “Oh,” said the bloke. “How did you know?” I was rendered speechless by the realisation that despite the billions being spent on trying to give people a good basic education, there are still male adults out there who don’t understand the offside rule. The bloke left and was soon replaced by two small boys whose dad was at the bar. They sat down obviously enthralled by the superb display in front of them and as soon as dad joined them they asked him who was playing. Dad looked at the screen but the score banner was just off its edge so all he could see was one team all in blue and the other all in white.However, just at that moment the commentator uttered one of those seldom-heard phrases “Good football by Birmingham”. Dad was thus quickly able to reply: “Chelsea and Birmingham.”The boys wanted to know which was which and again Dad was again able to help them: “Chelsea are blue and Birmingham are white.” But just then came a score confirmation showing the true identity of the teams playing so dad had to correct himself. “Sorry, it must be Bolton in blue.”What astonished me, though. is that when I asked them, social services stated that even cruelly deceiving your own children on such vitally important matters is insufficient grounds for them to be taken into care. What do you think?
Mick Blakeman, Wolverhampton
If I had known ten years ago that football was going to be responsible for the moral decline of society and the collapse of civilisation, I needn’t have bothered reading all those dull sociology textbooks when I was a student.
Gavin Barber, via email
I feel that Man Utd let themselves and the fans down when they limply concluded that they had no alternative but to “out” Rio over his omission from the England squad.
Surely the club that in recent years has turned withdrawing its stars from national squads into an art form could have come up with something better? Don’t forget, we’re talking here about a player who has already missed games as a result of hurting his leg when lifting it off a coffee table...With his mind in turmoil over his house move, nobody would have batted an eyelid if Rio had dropped out, citing a strain caused by carrying that heavy Harvey Nicks bag or claiming that in the course of trying to loosen the felt underlay, one of those nasty tacks had given him a little prick.
Chris Bickley, via email
In Doug Stenhouse’s Five Minute Berwick Rangers (WSC 201) he states that Clyde have done well in the First Division with part-timers. Clyde have actually been predominantly full-time for some years now and last season had only one part-timer in their first-team squad. This season eight of the ten teams are full-time, the exceptions being high flyers Queen of the South and strugglers Brechin City.In the Second Division only Morton and Airdrie United are full-time and a big “well done” to Doug’s Berwick for becoming the first team to inflict defeat on the former this season.
Scott Harrison, Hamilton
Your article on Mick Ferguson (WSC 201) relegating himself while on loan was interesting given the situation this season. but two years ago Nicola Amoruso cost his club the Scudetto.Juventus did what they often do and sent him out to Perugia on loan in 2000. Conveniently Perugia v Juve was the final fixture of the season. Juventus had to win, otherwise Lazio would take the title with a victory. After a hold-up for torrential rain, Amoruso’s goal gave Perugia a 1-0 win and Lazio the title. Surprisingly, he was playing for Napoli next season.
George Young, via email
I’ve always taken Tony Blair’s claims to be a member of the Toon Army with a rather large handful of salt. However, when I looked at the photograph in WSC 201 of Tino Asprilla scoring for Newcastle against Barcelona, there, a couple of rows back, wearing a blue coat with red collar, appeared to be none other than the PM himself. Surely I wouldn’t have to take it all back?Then again, if this is New Labour spin, an attempt to pump up Tony’s image as a “Man of the people” in the aftermath of the war in Iraq and the Hutton Inquiry, we must be told. This is too important an issue to brush under the carpet.
Alun Thomas, Leatherhead
In an otherwise excellent article on Herbert Chapman (WSC 201), the achievement of Huddersfield Town in winning the Championship three times in succession has been mentioned in a “by the way” manner.If you bear in mind that they were the first team to achieve this, surely more than a passing mention is due, even if Town are never likely to win it again. Not even the invention of “Premiership” football can take that record from Huddersfield – and those clubs who have achieved the same feat since (Arsenal, Liverpool and some johnny-come-latelys from Man-chester) will just have to console themselves by winning the title more often.In other words, Rothmans have presented winning the Premiership as a greater accomplishment than winning Division One was prior to 1992, whereas post-1992 Division One is regarded in the same way as pre-1992 Division One. All of which backs up Sky’s revisionist view of history – so exactly when did they first become involved in the Rothmans record pages? I think we should be told.
Ian Roche, Liverpool
Alan Chambers’ letter in WSC 201 in which he berates Aberdeen fans as “habitual offenders” is disappointing to say the least in terms of both factual accuracy and conclusions drawn.He bases this assertion on two incidents at Aberdeen v Rangers games in recent times (two constituting a habit, obviously) and asserts that the Pittodrie club and their fans should face some punishment. I’ll leave the first game to the side as it has been well documented in WSC’s pages, but I think it is certainly fair to say that both clubs’ fans were at fault on that occasion.As to the second incident referred to in the game at Pittodrie in August this year, the SFA were clearly left with no choice but to clear Aberdeen since this one-man pitch invasion was perpetrated by an individual who has been detained by the judicial system since that fateful day, unable to be sentenced, as he is mentally ill.But this is not the only match in the SPL this season marred by a supporter running onto the pitch. Dunfermline’s first game on their new artificial pitch was interrupted by a streaker. The invader had removed all of his clothes, but not the Glasgow Rangers medallion around his neck.Can you spot a pattern here? Even if he had taken his necklace off we would have known he was an Old Firm fan – only one of them would attempt a Klinsmann-esque dive, naked, on an artificial pitch. Ouch.
Martin Black, via email
Being a Man City supporter I am used to having the piss taken out of me and my team, but Ronan Munro’s letter in WSC 200 brought a painful low point back to me. You can sort of take it from Arsenal, Liverpool and Newcastle fans. Even Wolves, Bolton and West Ham fans are not too bad. When we dropped into the First Division I even had mates who supported Preston, Burnley and Lincoln. Guess what? They had the opportunity to laugh at my club and took it.However, the low spot came when I was at a service station on the M1. I was travelling down to London for a night out after another low-key Second Division affair at Maine Road (yes, even Macclesfield fans chuckled) when a youngish lad in what I assumed was a rugby shirt leaned over to take a look at what I was wearing. He then started laughing.So not only did I have the humiliation of being laughed at in the gents toilet but then I had to run the gauntlet across the service-station car park as a coach-load of Wycombe fans sang songs about doing the “double” over us that season and other non-complimentary verses. I couldn’t even sing: “Non-League and you know you are.” No offence, Ronan, but it doesn’t get any lower than being laughed at by Wycombe Wanderers.
Richard Lane, via email
In similar circumstances to Mike Ferguson in Loan Stars in a State (WSC 201), Peter Withe contributed significantly to Sheffield Utd’s relegation in the 1987-88 season. Having played fairly regularly for United during the course of the previous two years, Withe only played intermittently in this season and went out on loan to Birmingham City. With five games to go and both sides struggling near the foot of the old Second Division, they met at St Andrew’s. The proverbial six-pointer finished Birmingham 1 Sheffield Utd 0, scorer Peter Withe.Soon after, Birmingham allowed Withe to return to Bramall Lane where he had apparently been promised a coaching job. Three games, no goals. End result: United went into the play-offs and subsequent relegation. Birmingham stayed up – by three points.From that point, I have always lived by the motto “Better Withe than Withe-out”. Oh dear, I am sorry.
Matthew Dixon, Sheffield
A recent interview with Sir David Frost in the Guardian included the surprising information that he had been good enough as a footballer to be offered a contract by Nottingham Forest but turned them down in order to go to Cambridge University. Can this be true? I once saw Frost play in a celebrity match and, even allowing for his expanded girth, there were no visible hints of a natural footballer lurking within, other than a tendency to clap and shout a lot. So has someone tinkered with the Frost CV to make it look a bit more earthy? In other words, is he a Des O’Connor (genuinely on the books of Northampton Town as a teenager) or a Rod Stewart (often said to have been an apprentice at Brentford, but in fact just went for a trial once)?
Robert Weston, via email
From WSC 202 December 2003. What was happening this month