I thoroughly enjoyed your blow-by-blow review of Euro 2008, noting with some reassurance that I’m not the only one driven to distraction by the so-called expert input of BBC and ITV pundits. However your assessment of the Holland-Italy game surprised me somewhat. The furious and defiant ignorance of the laws of the game displayed by Clive Tyldesley and David Pleat with respect to Ruud van Nistelrooy’s goal were surely worthy of comment, indeed arguably the most damning condemnation of their failure in their roles in providing insight and explanation. Instead, you bafflingly seem to support their case and argue, in effect, that an official ought to base an offside call on whether he believes a player is faking an injury or not. Actually he’d already made that call by not stopping the game to permit treatment to the Italian defender in question, who had in effect left the field without permission and thus had to be playing the Dutch striker onside. One shudders to imagine the Machiavellian tricks that some domestic managers would concoct were it possible to play an opponent offside by tumbling off the pitch in a writhing heap. Next you’ll be condemning cliched and inappropriate English attitudes to the German team alongside an anglicised spelling of “dummkopf”...
Matt Rowson, Watford
I was heartened to see your photo (Letters, WSC 258) of Steven McClaren sporting a pair of brown suede winkle pickers that would have been the envy of the 1965 vintage Byrds. Gents outfitting enthusiasts will of course remember his previous sterling efforts in promoting male wet-weather accessories. The evidence strongly suggests that the FC Twente boss follows Rio Ferdinand’s philosophy that, in addition to the day job, the fashion, the music and the TV all go to make up the true renaissance football man. Perhaps this requires a reassessment of the mottled one’s tenure as England manager. Was the entire episode an ambitious attempt to equal Rio’s achievements in the field of the intricately planned but ultimately unamusing practical joke?
Ben Moore, Chiswick
Any scientist will tell you that it is just as good a result for the advancement of knowledge to have a theory disproved as it is proved. So in light of recent revelations in this pages from correspondents in Kent and Wrexham, I would like to amend my original theory of Tranmere’s Les Parry being the only physio in the world to have his own terrace chant. I now suggest that he is the only physio in the League with his own chant, a theory that is in no way a cheap shot regarding the recent demise of our local rivals from over the border.
John Rooney, Bristol
Am I the only person exasperated by TV pundits’ views on the rule that if a player requires attention from the physio on the pitch then the player has to leave the pitch before the game resumes? To Mark Lawrenson the ruling is “nuts” and John Motson constantly bemoans that a free-kick has to be defended with a man off the pitch. Well, tough. This often happened when a player was injured anyway. The game has been speeded up immeasurably by this initiative and there are not nearly so many incursions on to the pitch by the physio. This is because every time a player goes down you can see the referee saying something like “Do I call the trainer on and you have to go off or are you going to be all right?” Nine times out of ten the player gets up, whereas previously ten times out of ten the trainer came on. Credit where it is due and hats off to FIFA. The next thing that they should do something about is to ban substitutions during the last five minutes of games – excluding the goalkeeper – and allow any substitutions at the start of any added time. What goes on right now is just silly gamesmanship, cannot be justified and is very annoying for spectators. And the game is supposed to be about us, isn’t it ?
Paul Collins, Glasgow
I’m writing in response to Olly Wicken’s letter in WSC 257 re: touching the ball as a spectator. I have done this around ten times, largely as a result of having watched Gravesend & Northfleet (now Ebbsfleet Utd) play in front of some small crowds. Anyone familiar with the Recreation Ground, Aldershot, will know that there is a sparsely populated section behind one goal. Once I found myself almost alone there and retrieved the ball twice. On the second occasion I realised that I was totally out of sight of everyone, so ran out of the ground with the ball. I got about ten yards before being overcome with guilt – so ran back in and hoofed it on to the pitch. I’m sorry this story doesn’t have a great punchline, but then neither do most matches in lower-league football.
Mark Lindop, Gravesend
Matthew Rudd’s letter (WSC 257) about Steve Bruce’s clothing mix-up reminded me of a similar incident regarding a certain Mr T Butcher during his spectacular period as Sunderland manager. There I was sprawled on my parent’s sofa watching the “highlights” (I use the term loosely) of the most recent humiliating home defeat when the camera lingered intrusively on the despondent bench. I spotted that Butcher’s training top sported the initial “SS” and instantly realised that for reasons best known to himself (maybe thinking that he wouldn’t be recognised?) he was in fact wearing a top belonging to physio Steve Smelt. Just then my dad entered the room, looked at the TV and asked what “SS” meant. Quick as a flash (I’m still proud to say) I replied “Sacked Soon”. Sure enough three days later Butcher increased the list of ex-Sunderland managers by one. OK, you had to be there, but I thought it was funny.
Adrian Finn via email
I had a great time at Euro 2008, but reading the extended whinge of Barney Ronay and others, you would have thought a vast dark cloud of ugly commerce had engulfed the Alps in June. However, this is mostly a blinkered view from the press bubble. When he writes “we”, he surely speaks for journalists rather than supporters, whose experiences are not the same. I don’t like “modern football” either, but felt less exploited than in Germany in 2006. At no point did you mention that UEFA’s ticket allocation to national associations was twice that of FIFA’s, making for swathes of real fans in grounds and a visible dearth of sponsored slugs, who were two-a-penny at the World Cup. Yes, every corporate seat is one too many, and we don’t need a crap official beer for €4.50 when there are better ones outside for less, but to imply commercialism spoilt a tournament millions enjoyed is inaccurate. When I did not have match tickets, I mostly went to the fan zones, which were free to enter and great fun. Coming from London, I didn’t find the food and drink prices exorbitant, either. If they really were “bland and synthetic”, were they any worse than being inside the grounds, where you could not stand and were subjected to the mascots’ and gymnasts’ pre-match ordeal? I also watched games on screens set up in squares, in bars and once in my hotel room, all free of the hard sell. When you can’t fit a million people in-to 30,000 seats, the fan zones made sense and thousands agreed, yet there still seems to be an unwillingness in some parts of our media to accept the new supporter experience they have created, devoid of hooliganism and welcoming to women and children, who have as much right to enjoy football as anyone else, because it’s such a far cry from our beloved terraces and tabloid jingoism. Why choose a photo of the quiet end of the Vienna fan zone during the tournament’s most meaningless match, for instance, when you could have shown 100,000 jammed in there to watch one of the bigger games? It sounds like UEFA went overboard in provision for journalists, but who cares about them? Too many privileged hacks drone on about their personal experiences as if they matter while what the fans see and do is far more important.
Sean O’Conor, London
From WSC 259 September 2008