I must take issue with Huw Richards’ recent comments on Cardiffians’ alleged indifference to John Charles (WSC 196). Cardiff City have always taken great pride in the fact that John Charles played for the club with such distinction at the end of his career. The only player that seems to dominate our history more is John Toshack. Meanwhile, the likes of Hughie Ferguson, Stan Richards and Brian Clarke, who played equally large roles in our (fleeting) moments of glory, rarely get a look in. I could have suggested that Mr Richards’ attachment to a certain West Walian football club might have coloured his judgement, but that would be cynical.
Richard Gowen, Cardiff
In his entertaining article on radio punditry (WSC 196) Jon Driscoll mentioned Malcolm Allison’s parental-supervisorysticker summaries for Middlesbrough’s games on Century FM. The full story of what happened is even more bizarre than Jon’s version. According to one former-Century FM employee, after Big Mal’s initial tirade he was given a hand-held device with a button on it. He had to press the button to make his microphone live. His producers reckoned this would mean that any expletives the former Boro boss uttered in his frustration at the team’s ineptitude wouldn’t be broadcast across the North- East. It might have worked, too, but unfortunately when he did want to say something Allison tended to start talking and then press the button. As a result, as far as listeners were concerned most of his sentences started in the middle (admittedly this doesn’t seem to have harmed the career of Graham Taylor, but even so). Eventually Big Mal came up with a simple solution to this problem – he sat on the button. Result – the infamous outburst during the derby match with Newcastle.
Tony Christie, via email
Why have Yeovil Town got two doubledecker buses on their victory parade (The Bigger Picture, WSC 196)? There’s plenty of space to accommodate everyone on the first bus. In fact, some of people on the second bus look a bit confused, as if they had just hopped on a number 16 to go into town for some shopping, only for it to be hijacked by a bunch of nutters waving giant green hands. As they prepare to enter the Third Division, Yeovil would do well to remember that it is this sort of wild overspending which has been the undoing of many Nationwide League clubs in recent years.
Gavin Barber, Abingdon
Further to Roy Kaye’s query (Letters, WSC 196) I can confirm that it is the real Boncho Genchev who owns Strikers cafe in West Kensington. The night I visited with a couple of fellow Luton fans, he was wearing his Carshalton tracksuit, having been due to play for them that night but subsequently injuring himself in the warm-up. He was happy to talk at length about his memories of his time at the club and his opinions of the players he played with (examples: “Tony Thorpe, the striker, he very good player”; “Marvin Johnson, he still playing, he not kit man?”) and other players he admires, in particular Steve McManaman. The cafe is decorated with mementoes from his playing career and the food is good as well (I had Bulgarian meatballs and chips). All in complete contrast to the postfootball career of our only other highprofile foreign striker of recent times, record-signing Lars Elstrup, who joined a religious sect called the Wild Goose Company and changed his name to Darando. He was subsequently arrested for public flashing in Copenhagen, although he has now changed his name back to Lars Elstrup and, according to his official website, “works with healing the Self, personal development, obtaining higher levels of consciousness, and sees man as being an energy”. All a far cry from his time at Luton, when, according to a interview with Lars on Futbol Mundial,he made do with “playing snooker with Mark Pembridge, or going out with Alec Chamberlain to pubs and having curries”.
Mark Stephenson, via email
A parochial point to most readers, I know, but Arindam Rej’s suggestion that Hull City’s biggest rivals are the city’s one and a half rugby league clubs (WSC 196) deserves to be challenged. In the absence of any proper derby rival, some of the various Tigers fanzine producers have made lame clutches at the RL straw over the years. This attitude has never actually spread far beyond their circles as there are plenty of us in Hull with attention spans that extend to being able to follow two sports. Since the move back to the Circle site, the Tigers’ gates have on average been just a few thousand more than their cohabitees Hull FC alone, not double both clubs combined. Reasonable enough given the disparity in media hype between football and rugby league, and the admirable range of free/cheap ticket schemes City’s administrators have offered to counteract the sterling efforts of the players to put people off. Can’t say I recommend watching both, though. The passion, professionalism and skill shown by the Airlie Birds at the moment just makes the gutless flounderings of City’s ever-changing cast of overpaid wasters even harder to bear.
Paul Knott, via email
In the olden days, when both BBC and ITV showed the Cup final, the grass was always darker green on ITV. Why was that?
Ged Naughton, via email
The headline on UEFA.com for the Juventus v Real Madrid match reads “Madrid Fall To Brilliant Nedved”. And they’re right. He was a joy to watch. So step forward Urs Meier and take a bow for depriving us of an exciting and creative midfield player for the Champions League final. And it’s not the first time he’s stuck his oar in, either. Cast your minds back to Man Utd against, coincidentally, Juventus in 1999’s Champions League semi-final. Not one but two influential, hard-working, exciting midfield players forced to miss the zenith of their club careers by the same referee. For Nedved, read Keane and Scholes. Each player received a yellow card for challenges that only merited a free-kick and a bit of compassionate common sense. It just reminds me of the school geek victim eventually finding a way to get back at “the hard lads” or “the cool lads” and wiping his hands in glee at the prospect of taking away the best night of their lives. Would he have done the same to Roberto Carlos, Zidane, Raúl et al? I find it amazing that he couldn’t just blow for a free-kick rather than take away the greatest night in Nedved’s career for a foul that wasn’t even a blatant yellow. And this is the crux. It was at best a free-kick, but Meier has exacted the ultimate punishment when it clearly didn’t merit it. What does this say for the mind set of this man? What does this say for his character? Take him round the back of the sheds and let Pavel, Scholesy and Keano give him a proper kicking. At least they’d have missed the final for a real foul then.
Alun Rogers, via email
I blame Roger Milla. Maybe his little celebratory corner-flag shimmy seemed harmlessly amusing at the time, but it did herald the beginning of the “let’s spend a few minutes looking at me doing something clever” school of goal celebrations, a trend which has led to the ludicrous excesses of Porto in Seville, quite rightly decried by Martin O’Neill. It’s a bad enough experience to concede a goal, but to then have to stand around like spare parts for three or four minutes while your opponents stage a mini version of a West End extravaganza must be exceedingly galling. Added time can’t begin to compensate for the indignity, let alone the time wasted. Solution? Simple. Referees should be able to allow the team which has conceded the goal to restart the game when they are ready. That way there would be time for brief celebration, but we might just be spared much of the torso-baring, ear-cupping, corner-flag-shagging and other generally irritating post-goal posing that currently exists. The game’s authorities have taken action to eliminate most forms of timewasting. Why not this?
Charlie Adamson, via email
A couple of mistakes in your editorial in WSC 196 fortunately did not lure you down the popular road of endorsing points deductions for clubs in administration. No offers were “turned down” by Leicester City for any players. Several chose to stay, presumably happy with their Premiership contracts granted in more successful times. Also, the club will write off 60 per cent (not 90 per cent) of some of their debts and the new stadium, the biggest single debt, will eventually be fully paid for. It must be emphasised that the crisis was caused by a particular set of circumstance. Sure, the club was caught with Premiership costs while playing in the First Division. The usual remedy, followed by Coventry, for example, of selling players to reduce wages and raise capital was cut off when the transfer market collapsed. A new stadium had been committed to and Filbert Street sold. On top of this, the ITV deal collapsed. Efforts to restructure credit with the six or so main creditors foundered when one refused to deal. Despite the goodwill of the players, who accepted deferral of payment, administration was therefore the only option. Sanctions would have spooked most creditors into early flight, and a similar plug-pulling exercise would have affected every club flirting with relegation from the Premiership. The crux of the problem is that the gulf between the Premiership and the rest is financially catastrophic. This can lead to a “West Brom” situation, where clubs feel afraid to compete in case they fail, directly benefiting the rich but underperforming middle-order Premiership clubs. We Leicester City fans never cried “foul” when Messrs Walker, Al Fayed, Gibson, Hayward and others poured their wealth into clubs, some of whom now adopt “moral” positions. How about a points deduction for this form of unfairness?
Chris Lymn, Oadby
I must air my concerns about Birmingham City’s recent bid to sign David Dunn from Blackburn Rovers. My concerns have nothing to do with the possible impact on Steve Bruce’s midfield or Graeme Souness’s bank balance, but on the integrity of the Premier League itself. (Now you’re interested, aren’t you?) Just to quickly recap, the deal proposed by Birmingham went something like this: £3 million up front for Dunn, the other £2.5m in two years’ time if Birmingham are still in the Premier League. At first glance a reasonable offer (given the current financial climate) and a particularly shrewd move by Mr Bruce. However, the deal conjures up a particularly unsavoury possibility. Imagine if you will that it is the final day of the season, May 2005. Birmingham find themselves in the same position as my beloved Bolton Wanderers did this year, ie a win and they are safe. Their opponents on this fateful afternoon happen to be comfortable, midtable Blackburn Rovers, whose finishing position will be unaffected whatevertheir result happens to be against the Blues. However, Rovers stand to gain £2.5m if Birmingham win. Result? Rovers lie down, Brum stay up and some other poor bugger faces the mother of all relegations. I realise that this is a somewhat convoluted set of circumstances but it is clearly a possibility and that should be enough to warrant some kind of intervention by the Premier League. At the time of writing, the Dunn transfer has not happened. Alarmingly, this is not because some Premier League committee has stepped in to rule it unethical or illegal but because Graeme Souness wants more money for Dunn. It does make you wonder how many such deals will go through this summer and, more intriguingly, how many have already been done in the past.
Mark Ellis, Morecambe
At the Chelsea v Liverpool match in early May, an away fan ran on to the pitch to congratulate Sami Hyypia for his goal with a rolled up copy of WSC clearly visible in his back pocket. Has WSC been subliminally advertised on other important footballing occasions, and are people paid to do this? If so, I could flash a copy at the BBC cameras when they pan towards my seat during dull moments in Liverpool’s UEFA Cup run next season (and there ought to be plenty of opportunities).
Tim Foley, via email
When did the phrase “banks of four” come into common use? I ask because we hear it trotted out by pundits, notably Andy Townsend, every time a club’s results improve after the appointment of a new manager. The old boss, it seems, was too addled and worn out by the pressures of his job to even consider this revolutionary tactical approach. Yet, as soon as it is set up, it’s nigh on impregnable. An earlier equivalent, delegating a man to “sit in the hole”, seems to have fallen into disuse. Too unsophisticated for the modern footballer, I imagine.
DavidHird, via email
Reading Simon Inglis’s article (WSC 196) I remembered, as an occasional visitor to Villa Park in the late Seventies, that the floodlights were arranged on the pylon in an “A” shape at one corner of the ground and a “V” at the other corner of the same end, thereby showing a brightly lit “AV” in the night sky from some distance away. I presume that this is no longer the case, following ground restructuring, but does anyone know of any such arrangement at other grounds, home or abroad, past or present?
Huw Williams, Mordiford
From WSC 197 July 2003. What was happening this month