I am writing in defence of “Super”Chrissy Sutton, who was bracketed along with Collymore and Anelka as a “take the money and run” football pirate by Patrick Brannigan in his musings on the Sol Campbell affair (Letters, WSC 176). Maybe I’m missing something, but as far as I am aware Sutton has played for only four clubs in a ten-year plus career – which seems about an average ratio, I would suggest. At none of them did he make outrageous wage demands, nor has he ever refused to play – in any position, as Norwich fans will remember. Why is he equated with Anelka or Collymore? What’s the problem here? “Super” Chrissy, as us country folk in Norfolk remember him, seems to attract much opprobrium among general football folk, which confuses me. Yet, apart from a dodgy season with Chelsea, he has invariably played well and always with all his heart. Two championship medals and a bag of goals either side of the border would suggest he’s worth the cash. But then, I’m just a simple country lad who knows nowt but tractors.
Jez Booker, via email
As a primary school teacher, my initial reaction to Cameron Carter’s comments that “the gradual unravelling of Gabby’s late night personality was... like watching a respected primary school teacher on two pints of snakebite” (Early Warning, WSC 176) was to take offence. On reflection, though, I feel that it’s probably quite perceptive.
Robin Halls, Gillingham
As Joni Mitchell wisely wrote: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone” – a line of which the numerous half-wits at ITV should take heed. The basic fabric of English social life for the last 37 years – sad though this may be – has been all but determined by the Saturday evening presence of Match of the Day, so why dismantle it? The programme’s comforting, almost atavistic presence was part of what attracted me back to England every August – but now I’ll have to think twice. I am clearly not alone. Roger Titford’s survey in WSC 176 leaves the issue in no doubt, with four out of five respondees lamenting the passing of the late night institution. And for all the amusing truths articulated in Cam-eron Carter’s piece last month, he rather missed the main point – which is that ITV has always promoted personality over content, something that the BBC, for all its other sins, has rarely fallen foul of. Leaving aside the arguments regarding schedule times, the marketing of The Premiership in early August left one in no doubt – a moody shot of Des, Tel, Ally and Gabby looking for all the world like the line-up for Reservoir Dogs 2 set the alarm bells ringing. And it’s not that Brooking, Hansen and Lawrenson did it much better, but that they were always presented as subservient to the institution, which is how it should be. What the punter wants is basically no-frills football, with a bit of decent analysis thrown in – and preferably from journalists. Instead, McCoist and chums desperately attempt to live up to a hype that their personalities cannot sustain. Gabby – probably the best of them all – is both articulate and knowledgeable about the game, but I am not really interested in how confident she is about herself. I’m interested in seeing the highlights. As for the Monday programme, I have rarely witnessed such an excruciating piece of fuckwittage in my life. That people are actually paid for coming up with such a formula defies all civilised belief. Surely, even the poor planners at ITV know that fans and players do not mix? Even worse, to be obliged to hear middle-aged men in their nylon replicas pontificating to the cameras as if they were really involved in a world summit is truly unnerving. The poor presenters – their limelight suddenly stolen – clearly feel the same. By all means give supporters a voice, but limit it to the written word. Can’t someone get up a petition and take it to No 10? I’ll bet Tony misses MOTD too.
Phil Ball, San Sebastián, Spain
The best thing about the ITV Premiership highlights show is the Coke adverts, as they give us the opportunity to see how well certain footballers have treated their family members. Or not. Lee Clark, for example, has refused to fork out for a multi-gym for his brother, so the poor sod has to run along the streets of Newcastle carrying a log. My office is holding a sweepstake for the first Footballer’s Mum to appear in a shellsuit made of Gucci luggage lining.
Graham Kaye, Wrexham
I was interested to read Mick Blakeman’s comments (Letters, WSC 176) about discovering the joys of eavesdropping on an irate managers half-time rantings at non-League grounds. Over the years watching my team, Sutton United, I have encountered many examples of this phenomenon and in certain circumstances it can become an es- sential part of the matchday experience. A cracking example occurred during our visit to Slough Town last season, when a 3-1 half time deficit earned our lads a bollocking that would have made Peter Reid blush. The only two words used consecutively that weren’t expletives were “Mickey” and “Mouse”. I’m sure selling tickets for a special enclosure to listen in on such motivational talks would boost both revenue and attendances. As a bonus, what about a guest slot every so often? I’m sure many neutrals would find Sutton v Maidenhead very appealing if the two sides received their half-time rollicking from a top Premiership bawler like Sir Alex Ferguson, or even Glenn Hoddle, explaining to the lads in that dull, patronising tone of his that the reason they’re 4-0 down to the bottom team at home is that their “Karma is all wrong”. In fact if this could be implemented immediately at Sutton and other clubs, I’d be tempted to trade in my season ticket for the “shouty manager” equivalent and sod the football altogether. It’d certainly be a damn sight more entertaining than the current displays on the pitch.
Dan Taylor, via email
Admission to the Premiership should be on the grounds of merit, not money. If Celtic and Rangers wish to play in England they should apply to the Unibond League and try to work their way up. Automatic promotion to the top rung would be at the expense of two Nationwide teams, which would be scandalously unfair (unless one of those was Wolves, in which case we’d all laugh our socks off).
Alan Davis, St Austell
I didn’t much care for John Williams’s article (WSC 176) in which he patted football on the back for 15 years of fighting hooliganism and sneered at police for talking up the problem and giving the media new and newsworthy angles about hooligans each year. You can indeed take police statistics about hooliganism with a pinch of salt but only because you can take all recorded crime figures with said pinch. Fact is, why bother telling the police about louts, drunks, urinators and low-level vandals in a pub or on a train platform on a Saturday afternoon? Hundreds of fans smashed up Burnley town centre after the Burnley v Blackburn derby in December; the police arrested 20. We’re far too quick to assume that something isn’t such a problem because we don’t experience it, or it doesn’t make the TV news. Lower division fans cause trouble in a pub on Saturday night – not news. All the media have left their snug press boxes and are long gone home. A previous letter writer criticised an article of mine in WSC for singling out Rotherham. He forgot to mention that a Swansea fan was killed in a collision with a police horse outside Millmoor at the end of the 1999-2000 season. In sum, away from the nice televised Premiership, hooligans are alive and kicking, admittedly in places too unfashionable to be reported on.
Chip Rowe, Burton-upon-Trent
I read the results of your Football on TV survey (WSC 176) on the day of the tribute to Brian Moore before the England v Albania game at St James’ Park. I’m sure I’m not the only reader who remembers the days before we were allowed to stay up to watch Match of the Day, and therefore Sunday afternoon highlights were the only televised football available bar the Cup final. How we would have laughed at the prospect of “watching more football than is good for me” or “resenting the amount of time I spend watching”. For anyone growing up in the London Weekend Television area, Sunday afternoon was The Big Match and therefore Moore was both our presenter and commentator on the main match. It was his style that we all imitated when kicking a ball around afterwards. When I discovered that I watched Gillingham from the same terrace where he used to stand at my age, and that he’d been BBC radio commentator for the 1966 World Cup final (which seemed to me at the time like an event from a bygone age, when everything happened in black and white), my loyalty was assured. There was never any doubt that we’d watch Moore’s version of the Cup final every year (turning over during the adverts at half-time, of course). All the obituaries that I’ve read seem to bear out what came across on screen – that Brian Moore was a nice bloke who really enjoyed his football. Whatever else is wrong with football on television at the moment, it really isn’t the same without him.
David Emanuel, via email
As a shallow person who likes nothing better than to laugh at football clubs other than my own, I was disappointed to see that the Moonies’ bid to take control of QPR has been knocked back. The Scientologists would have been even better, with those creepy questionnaires printed in every programme and their celebrity followers roped in to boost gates: John Travolta and Nicole Kidman taking the half-time penalties while Tom Cruise commentates (“Ooh, unlucky again, Nicole... give her a cheer”). It might start a general trend. The Druids could take over at Wrexham; Odinists in Newcastle; followers of Aleister Crowley in... dunno, where was he from? Southend? And imagine if there were two teams in the same city who were dominated by rival fundamentalist faiths. Somewhere like, say, Glasgow. No, you’re right, too far-fetched.
Tim Bassett, Bicester
At half-time during the Channel 5 coverage of Maritimo v Leeds, presenter Steve Scott remarked: “If I were a Leeds supporter watching this at home – and I’m not saying I’m not...” (followed by some drivel too inane to repeat here). I don’t know where Mr Scott’s football allegiances lie, but seeing as he’s from the south west, I doubt they are with Leeds United. And I’m pretty sure he was watching the game from the Channel 5 studios in west London (which is fair enough, considering that’s his job). So why is he pretending to be Brian from Harehills? Are Channel 5 attempting to win the football broadcasting war by “keeping it real”? Will Des Lynam now be ousted from the airwaves until Brighton reach the Premiership? Next week – the return leg, presented by Chris Moyles from Armley prison.
Joe Williams, Leeds (inhabitant, not supporter)
Quite a scoop for the Observer on September 23: apparently Paul Gascoigne is an alcoholic. It was big news, spread over two pages. I never would have guessed it from any of Gascoigne’s past behaviour or the 1,001 articles written about him over the last 15 years. Still, nice to see one of the broadsheets doing some investigative reporting about football for once. What next for the Observer – Man Invents Wheel?
Paul Tarpey, Rochester
Having read the article entitled Broadband of Gold (WSC 176) I can only conclude that Bob Roberts does not follow his team around Europe. If he did, he, like so many of us, would have discovered that the internet is actually very useful for football fans in tracking down alternative travel arrangements above and beyond those “excellent-value, not-to-be-missed” deals called Official Travel Packages available from your club. Without wishing to labour the point, I have found budget hotels, budget flights and travel information on the web which are just not available from your traditional high street travel agent. It has made following your club far easier and gives you the choice to decide whether to just watch the game and fly home immediately afterwards – does anyone honestly want to do this any more ? – or (shock horror) see something of the locale and spend a few days looking around. The web isn’t just about video streaming and official club sites, it’s about providing a greater source of information, which football fans require too.
Andy Hurley, Wiltshire
It strikes me that the 1966 World Cup final is becoming like the Crucifixion. The further away in time we get from it the more mythologised the events become. Those who witnessed it feel compelled to travel the world telling the story of the momentous day. Already the ball that was used (or was it?) has become something of a religious icon, passed reverently from hand to hand and fought over across international borders. How long before genuine splinters from the crossbar start showing up on ebay? Every month a different person comes forward to claim that Jackie Charlton and his mate Jimmy slept on their kitchen floor on the night of the final. In time different sects will spring up each clinging fervently to their particular intepretation of the event. There will be some who’ll insist that Martin Peters really scored the goal that won the World Cup because the German equaliser should have been disallowed; others will argue that the real Jimmy Greaves, dejected by his exclusion, disppeared directly after the final, arranging to have himself replaced by a doppelganger who went on to grow a moustache and sully his reputation by spouting half-arsed opinions on television. Eventually some will claim that it never happened at all or that Germany in fact won the game and the surviving footage was doctored to make it seem as though England triumphed. It doesn’t bear thinking about what sort of myths will develop around the 11 members of the squad who didn’t play.
Brian Hopwood, The Terry Paine Appreciation Society, Folkestone
From WSC 177 November 2001. What was happening this month