I found the article on the relative fortunes of football and rugby league in WSC 162 fascinating, as personally I feel these two codes are the two sports in the UK with most in common – and by the way the performance of Doncaster Dragons is much improved, and they should be the ones feeling prosperous and loved. However, it might have been an idea to illustrate the piece with a photo of an actual rugby league match. It’s not the “Giants” playing at the McAlpine, but a rugby union world cup qualifier between England and the mighty Dutch. There are probably still a few RL fans who would happily lynch you for this!
Stuart Bromwich, Sittingbourne
Ex-Wimbledon supremo Sam Hammam has recently taken over my home team, Cardiff City. He has suggested changing the colour of the strip from blue to green, incorporating a cedar tree, among other things, into the badge, and changing the team name to Cardiff Celts. I was discussing this with colleagues in my workplace. We came to the conclusion that since the cedar tree is a symbol of Lebanon and green is the colour of Islam, a more appropriate name might be Cardiff Shi’ites. Sadly, with the team’s recent form people might think it was just a misspelt headline in our local paper, the South Wales Echo.
Ron Edwards, via email
Two years ago, Cris Freddi wrote a jaundiced, negative review of France 98, so how surprising was it that he found the glass half-empty at Euro 2000? In WSC 162 Freddi claims that: “The deal is that two teams try to beat each other” but then praises the semi-finals in which Italy and Portugal were patently playing for draws, ie. penalties. He has a good point about football sliding towards “basketball” in its 4-3 scenarios, but the solution to this is to try to create an equal balance of power between defence and attack (eg by booking divers and not giving penalties to Abelardo et al for tumbling swan-like) rather than pining for catenaccio. Moreover, Freddi’s appraisal of individuals would make Keegan look like a great judge of talent. Would any Serie A club choose Totti over Zidane to run its midfield? Is Freddi’s “star of the tournament”, Toldo, the same keeper who gifted Turkey a goal? Finally, to add to Freddi’s follies, Peter Schimkat pops up with the assertion that Germany were a better team than Denmark. On what evidence? Denmark lost to three quality teams who would have won any other group. Germany lost to Portugal’s B team and England’s clueless cloggers. Had Denmark been in Germany’s group, it is perfectly conceivable that they would have finished second to Portugal. Their opponents in the quarter-final would then have been Italy, who they had already beaten in the qualifiers. England and Germany were the two worst teams at Euro 2000 because, like Cris Freddi, they haven’t adapted to the changing nature of international football.
Jon Harrison, York
Mr Shakespeare’s letter in WSC 162 coincided with some similar thinking I’ve been doing. I remember that guff the FA promised about the England national team being the pinnacle of their soccer pyramid. The truth is that the pyramid benefits the strongest team in the Premiership, which has been Manchester United and will continue to be as success continues to breed success. The biggest clubs are more important than the biggest countries in world football now – they have no restrictions on who plays at all – so England has to compete with Man U and the rest, and if the best clubs in the country aren’t doing anything to develop young English players, the England set-up should be focused on that. Everyone’s got their own story of some Sunday league player who had a cold, or missed the bus on the day of his trial match, and was never asked back. And how often do we hear about young players told they were too small, who have succeeded elsewhere, but had to do it the hard way? Let Keegan use the next two tournaments to give young players experience, and concentrate on trawling the soccer networks of this country for talent that can be trained up and we might win something by 2006. Failing that, I’m left-footed and although I’ll be 35 during the next World Cup, I’m prepared to spend the next two years practising crossing the ball from the left, if that will help.
Ged Naughton, via email
Did anyone else notice David Beckham raise his arm, as if appealing for offside, when Michael Owen ran through to score against Romania? Please can we have an explanation of this action?
PT Timpson, Nottingham
I’m not too unhappy we didn’t get the World Cup. What does really piss me off is the fact that the £10 million spent on entertaining FIFA officials should have been spent on grassroots football. Each year it costs my club at least £500 before we start kicking a ball: £350 for a pitch, £220 league entry fees and and an extra £300 for kit if needed. The fines and entry fees paid by thousands of little clubs help fund the FA, so a little bit of wealth distribution now and then wouldn’t go amiss. Or is that being too socialist at a time when they are saying football isn’t a political issue?
Gary Crowe, Watford
I have been a subscriber to your magazine for some years, but have never felt moved to write until now. I refer to the heinous omission in WSC 162. Richard Darn states that the only media exposure Rotherham have had in recent years is the nutter in The League of Gentlemen. He mysteriously omits the Millers’ most famous fans, kids TV stalwarts and all round creepy guys, the Chuckle Brothers. These shining stars of the showbiz firmament have even, I think, recorded an episode of their fabled Chucklevision at Millmoor before a (relatively) packed house. I wonder why they were overlooked in the article? It’s also nice to read of the comforts in which Barnsley fans can pee, as visitors to Oakwell still piss against a wall with no washing facilities of any kind. Or cover.
Adrian Ward, via email
I spent the whole of June in France in a house without television and a very dodgy radio. Consequently, my contact with Euro 2000 was entirely reliant on L’Equipe. While I share some of the reservations about that paper expressed by Neil McCarthy (WSC 161), technically it still piddles over most of the sports writing in the British press. In the run-up to the England v Romania decider, L’Equipe quoted Alan Shearer as saying the Romanians were much the same as the Portuguese, an opinion they described as “naive”. At the time I thought that as a technical and tactical insight, naive was generous, but bearing in mind the identical outcomes of the two games, I take my hat off to Mr Shearer. If there is to be a successor to Kevin Keegan (who should remain England manager forever, if only to keep him off the telly as much as possible), I know to whom my vote goes. Apparently, his father was a sheet-metal worker.
Paul Smith, via email
As well as name, number and totally inappropriate brand name, there is a further item that could usefully be added to footballers’ shirts. Space should be found for their weekly income. The next time your star forward hoofs the ball into the stand when faced with a open goal, the “25k” on his shirt will tell everyone exactly how much he’s being paid to achieve this.
David Smallwood, Sheffield
Can I add to Keith Davidson’s letter (WSC 162) about the Scottish Cup final? Both sets of fans deserve credit for their good behaviour and humour, not just the Aberdeen contingent. I fully understand the objections to it, but the Rangers supporters’ Dutch tribute was a genuine recognition of what Dick Advocaat in particular has done for the club. And it was a spectacular sight, just as at Euro 2000. Those who predicted it would be accompanied by an orgy of sectarian violence were disappointed. As for the ticket allocation, it was Rangers fans who lost out. Aberdeen received thousands more tickets than their average attendance, Rangers about half theirs. Every regular at Pittodrie, and many more, could get a ticket; about 20,000 Ibrox regulars couldn’t.
Ross Nilsson, Glasgow
In the article on the Football League TV deal in WSC 162 I mistakenly interpreted the ITV element as offering virtually no national live coverage. In fact, as the FL have pointed out, the deal covers 15 live matches to be shown nationally (not regionally) on Sundays during the season. This clearly makes it a better deal than was reported, with all viewers now getting a chance to see Football League action more or less every other weekend through the season. Apologies to the League’s negotiators for giving a negative impression on this that they did not deserve.
Roger Titford, Newbury
While a lack of world class players and Keegan’s tactical naivety were undoubtedly contributory factors in England’s exit from Euro 2000, the one factor many commentators have failed to pick up on is the length of David Seaman’s hair. No longer does it snugly cover the nape of the neck but is fast encroaching on the back of his shirt, which must be a distraction. There appears to be a correlation between the length of big Dave’s hair and his decline in form. Contrast the short and tidy hairstyle of Euro 96 when Seaman was at the height of his powers and the unruly bouffant that he now sports. It is the Samson phenomenon in reverse. Even Keegan saw what was going on by bringing in Nigel Martyn against the Romanians. Seaman must go for a short back and sides or see his international career draw to a close. The ’tache can stay but the hair must go.
Steffan Russon, Bruseley
Harry Pearson’s reflections on Euro 2000 were, as ever, thoroughly entertaining. However, I was intrigued by his reference to pictures of “footballers hanging from lamp-posts in Fenham” at Euro 96. If he’s still got any of these pictures I’d really like to see them.
Colin Blakey, Gosforth
From WSC 163 September 2000. What was happening this month