So Adam Powley thinks Chelsea have “obscene ticket prices” (WSC 151). He’s right, obviously, but having paid £29 to watch Tottenham play Chelsea from a seat situated behind the police control room at White Hart Lane last season, I hardly think Spurs fans are in a position to take the moral high ground. As for Chelsea’s “contrived glamour image”, I can only wonder at how he sees the image of his own club. “Real” glamour perhaps?
Colin Maitland, Ascot
I’m glad Simon Knott (Letters, WSC 151) enjoyed my Division Three article in WSC 150. Ask me to write about the Premiership and I could cobble together a few second-hand opinions without supporting a team and never seeing a match. To do likewise about Division Three causes problems as I have a sad tendency to draw 90 per cent of my conclusions from watching my own team. Answering some of Simon’s points, I was naturally delighted to provide him with the platform to comment on Peterborough’s continued underachievement, a team I suspect feature in his thoughts rather more than mine. WSC invited me to identify promising new talent, which I took to mean players under 21, possibly someone like Trevor Benjamin, rather than the likes of Martin Butler (25 in September). As I willingly confess to being clueless about Leyton Orient’s or Southend’s young bucks my response was to say how young players are being promoted in every nook and cranny. Some are genuine prospects, others not. In observing the West Country media’s hyping of the named players I deliberately presented a restricted view. Simon is right about me being a cautious punter. No doubt a modest profit would have been made on top v bottom forecasts. By my reckoning games between the eventual top three and bottom three saw ten wins for the top dogs (seven by the odd goal), five draws and three victories for the strugglers. Worth a quid each time, but possibly not the mortgage.
Nick House, Taunton
I’ve never thought there’s much we can learn from our pointy-balled cousins, but I can’t help feeling that football would benefit enormously by adapting a practice followed in international rugby union for years, namely the referee wearing the colours to which he owes his allegiance (eg in an England v Wales game the referee would often be seen decked out in full Scotland kit). Adapting this to league football would have two obvious benefits. Firstly, fans of all clubs would be able to tell at a glance whether a referee was cheating (eg a ref in a Villa shirt refusing blatant penalties at St Andrews) or merely incompetent (eg David Elleray, Graham Poll etc). Secondly, a whole host of inexplicable decisions given at Maine Road over the years would be explained by the sight of the man in the middle in his red, or blue, or black, or green-and-yellow Manchester United top. (Given that all referees to visit Manchester City come from anywhere but Manchester there must be at least a 50-50 chance of them supporting The World’s Richest Club TM.)
R Moussalli, Altrincham
The Monday after the opening weekend of football I picked up WSC 151 to read that Cardiff City fans felt that they should have a dislike towards Brentford for not having the ground capacity to take “2,500” more of their pissed-up fans (my phrase, not the writer’s). I feel I must apologise on behalf of my club for upsetting the poor little sweeties so much that they felt the only way to get across their point was to smash up all the pubs around the ground. This doesn’t quite make up for them not having seen the game, especially those who did manage to get in, but unfortunately our seats have not been fitted with the latest technology to keep drunken people upright. I realise that our club is ruining other people’s enjoyment of the game through such oversights and can only suggest that we drop out of the League.
James Walker, via email
I have scoured your Millennium Season Calendar but I find no mention of the March 3rd 1934 FA Cup tie between Manchester City and Stoke City at Maine Road when a record crowd at a Football League ground of 84,569 was registered. I did, sadly, however, spot the old chestnut of the 83,260 crowd at Maine Road in 1948 for the game between Man Utd and Arsenal, which should be expunged from all records. Why? Because there were a reputed 47,673 Man City supporters present at this game, who’d popped along to cheer on Arsenal. Good! Incidentally, whilst on this fascinating subject, it is worth pointing out that Man Utd have in fact never managed to fill their ground. Surprised? Well, the record attendance at Old Trafford is 76,962 for the Wolves v Grimsby FA Cup semi-final of 1939. The biggest United have managed was 70,000. Pathetic! So in fact Grimsby Town have attracted more to Old Trafford than United. Not a lot of people know this and it’s time they did. Thank you!
Dave Wallace, Editor, King of the Kippax
Barry Worthington’s contention (WSC 151) that it is Rangers’ policy not to fly the Republic of Ireland flag is false. For example, that flag flew over Ibrox at a European tie with Dundalk. As for removing bigots from Ibrox, literally hundreds indulging in sectarian abuse have had their season tickets confiscated. Sadly, many people (I do not necessarily mean Mr Worthington) will give Rangers no credit, no matter what the club does. Instead, such people distort facts, disseminate myths and question Rangers’ motives. These individuals probably believe they are opposing sectarianism; in fact, they are demonstrating their own bigoted attitude and contributing to a climate of hostility.
Ian McLean, Glasgow
Could I add a candidate for Cris Freddi’s Worst Misses of the Century (WSC 151)? Anyone in the midlands who remembers the opening credits to Star Soccer from a few centuries ago may be able to picture Derek Dougan falling over the ball in front of a wide open goal. What should have been a simple side-foot tap-in turned into a horrific scene of carnage fit to grace any wildlife documentary, as Derek fell like a giraffe receiving a single shot to the brain from some heartless big game hunter. Now as I reminisce about Sunday afternoons watching derbies between Walsall and Shrewsbury Town (the policy of covering all the midlands teams at least once a season seems a far cry from Sky TV and pay-per-view games) this image of Derek Dougan, legs flailing as he topples to the turf, always bring a tear to my eye.
Barry Tench, Shrewsbury
Believe it or not I don’t think Sheffield Wednesday will win the Premiership this year. In fact I haven’t for a few years now; probably not since Ray Stubbs and Trevor Brooking tipped us in 1993-94. Every season without fail I would be disappointed around October time when I finally had to admit that the points difference between Wednesday and the league leaders was beyond our ability... but still I had the enthusiasm that next year might be a different story. This, however, is no longer the case. At the moment the Premiership can only be won by either Arsenal, Chelsea or Man United (Man seemingly these days standing for Mankind rather than Manchester) and that is something of a shame. Clubs like Wednesday, Coventry, Leicester etc can hope at best for nothing more than an outside shot at Europe, at worst a relegation fight. The harsh reality is that we can only tread water in the Premiership. In fact I have even wondered whether relegation to Division One might be beneficial. At least it would give us the opportunity of going for a league title once more. Surely it would be better for all concerned if our “Big Three” leave the Premiership altogether to partake in a European League. Let Chelsea win the Premiership this season to get it out of their system and then let all three of them play against Juventus, Real Madrid and Sparta Prague to their hearts content. Who then would be favourites to win the Premiership... Leeds? Villa? Liverpool? The big difference would be that the rest of us might once again start to believe that we can actually win it again.
Graham Lightfoot, Sheffield
About ten years ago, I was interviewed on the BBC regional programme, Midlands Today. The studio was hot and cramped, so the charming anchor woman Kay Alexander asked whether I had been offered a drink. I suggested in jest that a Pimm’s No 1 Cup would be nice. Kay took this pathetic attempt at humour in good sport but her co-presenter leaned back and boomed, with not a trace of irony: “We had Frank Sinatra in here last week and even he didn’t ask for a drink.” That co-presenter? None other than the most important man in world football, David Davies.
Patrick Saunders, Birmingham
On behalf of all fans of what everyone is calling “The Man Utd of Wales”, how dare you! In your diary entry for Wednesday July 21st in WSC 151, you claim “Wales’ Champions League hopes are thwarted again, with Barry Town bowing out in the first qualifying round, 3-2 on aggregate to Floriana of Malta.” No we didn’t! We bowed out 3-2 on aggregate to the mighty FC Valletta. (Floriana played in the Intertoto, where they were knocked out by Jokerit, eventual near-conquerors of West Ham.) And anyway, the previous two years, Barry were knocked out by Dinamo Kiev, who went on to do rather well for themselves. Doesn’t seem so funny now! Er, does it?
Simon Price, London N19
When was the last time a goalkeeper didn’t wear gloves in a top division match?
David Wangerin, via email
I believe there must be more people pleased about Manchester United’s exclusion from this year’s FA Cup than are being heard. Their absence from the Third Round will surely mean one more smaller club in the Third Round draw than normal. Meaning a much-needed cash injection for that club. Still not impressed? Well, how about the fact there will also be two extra places available for the Second Round matches, four for the First Round and... I’ve run out of fingers now, but 16, 32, 64? Somewhere out there will be quite a few people involved in the first stages of the FA Cup for the first (and possibly only) time. People who come next May will possibly have qualified for a valued Cup final ticket (instead of the hierarchy at Man Utd). Something tells me I’m living in cloud cuckoo land and I wish I could see a flaw in this theory but I can’t. Can anyone explain what is wrong with this theory, or better still, let’s hear from some of those who are gaining from this situation. Blimey, I’m confused.
Keith Chapman, London
I was intrigued by Tom Locke’s rosy view of Newcastle’s Leazes End (WSC 151) during which he states that in 1983 the End was given to away fans and asks the question: “God knows how long the poor buggers had to stay there after the final whistle.” Well, seeing as you asked Tom, it was one hour! Having had our minibus bricked on the way in to the car park behind the End and bricked again on a hasty exit after the steward kindly assured us that if we parked here the vehicle would not be there after the game, we finally got into the Leazes End intact (just). As the game commenced, we were “offered out” by four Geordies who had entered our section, despite it being an all-ticket game. After we were let out (though many, including myself, were quite happy to stay longer) the police led us to the front coach and, despite our concerns, refused to move a large group congregated at the far end of the coaches, leaving us and our vehicles to face further attacks, as did those making their way to the station. (Two friends ran across railway lines to escape a beating and were subsequently fined £50 for trespassing.) Thankfully, Manchester City generously lost 5-0 – I hate to think what would have happened had we drawn, never mind won. I have seen City on 85 of the current League grounds, and St James’ Park is the only one I swore never to return to. Yes, memories indeed of the Leazes End, but you will not find many away fans shedding any tears.
Phill Gatenby, Moston
From WSC 152 October 1999. What was happening this month