Given that Tranmere finished in seventh position last season, one point off the play-offs, I have to say that I am slightly relieved that Stephen Constantine was not given the chance to help us out of a relegation scrap (WSC 198.) Using football fan logic, does it now follow that our very own Ray Matthias could go one step further than Stephen if he were to take charge of the Nepalese national side, and not just reach the final of the South Asian Federation Cup, but win it too?
John Rooney, via email
I think it’s a crying shame that Eric Djemba-Djemba signed for Manchester United before AFC Wimbledon could think about bidding for his signature, thus depriving them of the joy at being able to sing Djemba You’re a Womble as he takes to the pitch...
James Castle, via email
Is it just me or is anyone else getting fed up with the now prevalent two sticks behind the goals holding up the goal nets? My problem with this practice is that the nets are now strung so tightly that when a ball hits the back of the net it immediately comes straight back out. The old British tradition of stanchions, or those very Seventies hoop like supports (as at Man City, Everton etc), meant that the ball usually nestled very satisfyingly in the back of the net when a goal was scored. The point is this: unless you are sitting near the goal, the realisation that a goal has been scored is when the net ripples. I have watched matches recently when those people sitting furthest away from the goals only know someone has scored when the players start celebrating, instead of joining in at the same time. The only exception to this is the Millennium Stadium, where the nets hang limply down and gratefully gather the ball into their clutches, rather than springing it straight back out to startle nearby defenders. It just looks so much better to see the net billow. Or should I have a nice lie down?
Stuart Flemming, Telford
Seeing Jermaine Jenas’s inept attempt at a clever penalty for Newcastle in Malaysia set me thinking about novelty spot-kicks. Has anyone ever missed with one of those kicks taken with no run up? And who was the first person to try this approach? I have a vague memory of Socrates scoring for Brazil in the early 1980s by standing sideways on to the ball then just swiping it into the top corner, but I suppose there may have been a successful precedent set on a cold winter’s afternoon in the old Fourth Division, possibly at Barrow or Bradford Park Avenue, by a player who ended up owning a carpet warehouse in the Pennines (just a guess, this).
Martin Wilson, via email
The photograph of a near-empty Selhurst Park stand accompanying Ian Pollock’s article on Wimbledon FC (WSC 198) could go a long way to explaining the record low attendances seen there last season. How are WFC’s few remaining supporters expected to find their way to their allocated seats when there are arranged in such a random manner? Even in the small section of the stand shown in your photograph, the second row has seat number 39 next to 83 and the fourth has 140 next to 85. While not denying that a substantial number of WFC supporters have switched their allegiance to AFC Wimbledon, just how many others are permanently wandering around the Arthur Wait Stand in search of the elusive seat number 82?
Andrew Brown, Teddington
Good to see that Harry Kewell is as lazy and half-hearted off the field as he is on it. The Australian’s comments that he knew Liverpool were the right club as he’d been “talking to them for six months” must have been met with surprise at Elland Road as “permission to talk” had neither been sought nor given and the player still has a year to run on his contract (so Bosman rules about being free to negotiate do not apply). Of course what Harry meant was that his agent Bernie Mandic had been talking to Liverpool for six months. Doubtless the slip of the tongue will have been noted with interest by Steve Gibson at Middlesbrough as he pursues his (entirely justified) case against Liverpool over the Christian Ziege transfer, where both Gérard Houllier and Rick Parry have given sworn statements admitting meeting with Ziege when he was still a Boro player, without any permission whatsoever. Good to see some consistency and tradition at last breaking out at Anfield once again... even if it only relates to rule-breaking.
Phil Greaves, Newcastle upon Tyne
Philip Cornwall’s article on free-kicks (WSC 198) raised some interesting points. However, I always thought that the FA had banned Coventry’s “donkey kick” routine, not because it was taken with two feet, but because as the ball moved only vertically, it had failed to travel its own circumference, as was the requirement. Perhaps a referee could write in and clarify this. Or perhaps someone from the FA? Perhaps not?
Martin Callaghan, via e-mail
Apparently the new Chelsea supremo was dragged up on some grim Siberian council estate. If he ever suffers a bout of homesickness, can I suggest he gets himself down to the visitors’ enclosure at Stamford Bridge where he can sit and stare at the concrete overhang for 90 minutes. It’ll cost him £48 for the privilege, but that’s nothing to a man of his means.
Dave Smith, via email
Discussing West Ham’s potential new signing David Connolly, Glenn Roeder suggested that the player has exact mental recall of all the goals scored in his career, “like Tony Cottee, who I believe has a book in which he recorded all his goals”. This was an intruiging revelation, I thought. Are they just written descriptions (“Cross from Ray Stewart... Bang! 2-0!”) or did Tony do drawings, too, with a stick-figure keeper flapping despairingly as the ball sails past him and word balloons in the crowd say things like “It’s another one for the youngster!”? The British Museum buys manuscripts on behalf of the nation, so I hope they will be alerted to the existence of this valuable historical record. Though I bet Steve Bull’s is even better.
Nick Bowers, via email
The picture of Fergie’s Fledglings (WSC 198) warrants very close neckwear scrutiny. The boys are wearing three variations of club tie which seem to predict their futures. One for those who will become United first-teamers (Beckham, Butt, Scholes, Gary Neville), another for those who will do OK, but elsewhere (Savage, Thornley, Gillespie, O’Kane) and one for those we will never hear of again (short lad, tall lad, spotty lad). However, the third category of tie is also worn by Phil Neville. Spooky.
Tim Manns, via email
I see that three out of the first four SPL fixtures to be shown live on BBC1 Scotland next season feature one side of the Old Firm. So it appears Scottish football fans are expected to endure another season of coverage geared towards ensuring Rangers and Celtic fans don’t have to get off their bar stools (or pay at the gates of the other clubs) to see their team play. It was much the same in the days when Sky TV had the SPL rights, but at least Sky had the excuse that they were a commercial outfit which had to maximise advertising revenue. Under Sky, too, decent highlights of all SPL games were screened by both the BBC and ITV – these days all we get are quickie goalflashes squeezed in between pundits fawning over Henrik Larsson. What excuse does a public service broadcaster have for reducing the coverage of a nationwide league to a show about two Glasgow clubs? Would English fans be told to accept coverage that featured Arsenal and Man Utd virtually to the exclusion of all others? It’s almost enough to make you wish SPL TV had got off the ground.
Dianne Millen, via email
I feel it is a little unfair to list Chris Casper’s name as appearing on the current PFA roster of out-of-work footballers (Summer of ’93, WSC 198). Chris signed for Reading in September 1998 and was shaping a very promising career when a dangerous and vicious two-footed tackle by Richard Car- penter left Chris with broken fibula, tibia and severe ankle ligament damage. This was in a match against Cardiff City on Boxing Day 1999 and, despite lengthy treatment, rehabilitation and intensive physiotherapy at Reading, Chris has had to hang up his playing boots at the age of 26. Fortunately he has recently secured the position of Youth Team boss at Bury. You will be glad to hear that proceedings due to start recently against Carpenter and Cardiff’s insurers have resulted in a settlement out of court. The amount of compensation Chris will receive may not be decided until next year. How strange that such an assault, had it taken place off the football field, may well have resulted in a prison sentence. Why should participation in a “sport” protect a person from criminal prosecution? Just think of the possibilities such a route could provide, not just for assault but for fraud, deception or even a new charge of ruining people’s dreams!
Eddie Renwick, Shrewsbury
At last, the football season is nearly here, rescuing me from from those long weekends of summer weddings, dreary afternoons spent watching Saturday matinees, and half-hearted attempts at “doing something”. I’m once again looking forward to those 90 minutes of unexpected twists and turns. However, I’ve noticed that not everyone shares this view, even when they’ve paid to do so. It’s 1-1 at The Valley. The home side are pushing for a winner but it could go either way. Cue the fat bloke and clone son sitting to my left. They’re leaving, for Christ’s sake and theres still ten minutes to go.Presumably, fat Dad wants to miss the traffic, be first in the queue for a quick burger meal at Maccy D’s and get home to catch that crap programme hosted by Ulrika at six o’clock. It’s not only them though. Others are leaving too. You wouldn’t leave a murder mystery at the theatre would you before finding out who did it, especially after forking out 25 quid for the ticket. Yet with each new football season more and more people seem intent on getting to the car park ahead of the rush, and they’re getting up to go earlier every year. At this rate they’ll be gone by half-time soon. Who are these people and what is wrong with them?
Roy Courtney, via email
From WSC 199 September 2003. What was happening this month