The theme of recent letters regarding the playing of ironic music after games reminds me of when Brentford started playing Suicide is Painless at the end of home defeats a couple of years ago. I can’t remember if it was the original Mandel/Altman version or the Manics’ cover, but the experiment ended as the team set about achieving a humiliating relegation to the bottom division.
The assertion in WSC 261 that the academy system worked for Millwall is one that is best viewed through rose-tinted glasses. Yes, the Lions have produced the likes of Teddy Sheringham and Steven Reid down the years, but for every player we produced who went on to make a name for themselves in the top flight we’ve produced hundreds in the vein of striker Kevin Braniff, now with Portadown in Ireland. All of whom cost the club money and most of whom ended up playing in the lower leagues or not at all. As for Paul Casella’s claim that the club may never produce players of the calibre of Tim Cahill (signed as a 16-year-old from Sydney United), Lucas Neill (signed from the Australian Institute of Sport, aged 17, before making his debut six months later) and Kenny Cunningham (don’t get me started), perhaps he should check his facts a little more closely before claiming them as a product of Millwall’s youth system. The Lions did used to produce home-grown talent that brought varying degrees of success, but since the turn of the century the only player produced of any real note is defender Paul Robinson – one of only two current first-teamers who progressed through the ranks. This, rather more than the fees the club received for players when they found a mug stupid enough to buy them, is what prompted the new chairman to stop pissing his cash away. Sadly, the players Millwall’s youth academy were producing simply weren’t good enough to forge a professional career and, apart from the odd exception, that has been the case for a long time. It’s also the reason why players will opt to go elsewhere if given the choice. When you take that into consideration, shutting down such a costly operation that produces very little in relation to its investment seems like a sound business move to me.
William Black, Blackheath, London
I recall Joe Kinnear saying that he would “drink a bucket of Guinness in the centre circle” if he kept Forest in Division One when he became their caretaker manager during 2003-04. They duly stayed up after a long unbeaten run, but did he ever follow through with his offer? It’s possible that the police disapproved of the idea, although it’s exactly the sort of thing that may have attracted Mike Ashley to him.
Ian Chadwick, Corbridge
Your article All Played Out (WSC 260) referred to Slade’s appeal to the football fan. As a teenager I went to their gig at Bridlington Spa theatre circa 1972. Unfortunately a large number of Hull City fans also attended. The support band was a three-piece called Snake Eye and it soon became clear that the Hull fans were not interested in listening to overlong guitar breaks. A classic bit of 1970s “bovver” duly ensued on the dance floor, which I was able to view from my balcony seat. Despite requests from the stage and the threat to cancel Slade’s appearance if the fighting didn’t stop, order was only restored when police dog handlers entered the fray. Noddy and friends duly performed a memorable live show, while a number of presumably bemused German shepherds looked on.
Howard Kilby, Worksop
With regard to Ross Andrew’s letter about tattooed lips (WSC 261), this was not an unusual practice 20-odd years ago. I can recall knowing at least three people who opted for this particular means of showing their loyalty (they were Arsenal or Chelsea supporters, fans of Queens Park Rangers or Crystal Palace presumably requiring mouths put together like Mick Jagger’s in order to legibly demonstrate their support). I don’t know whether it was due to the composition of the flesh on the inner lip, but these tattoos didn’t seem to wear particularly well; within a couple of years the letters would merge into an inky smudge. Additionally, I once encountered a Luton skinhead who’d taken this adornment a little further by having “fuck off” tattooed on his upper lip and a complimentary “you cunt” inked on the lower. I suppose he’s in PR these days.
Dick Porter, South Norwood, London
I saw live satellite coverage of the bizarre incident in Uruguay you referred to last month (Slow Starters, WSC 261). Twice the dressing-room door was shut in the face of the fourth official trying to get the Nacional side on to the pitch and, when eventually they did drift casually into the tunnel, the players went into the time-honoured huddle before coming out. It was while they were in the midst of this activity that the referee stormed off. I think that was about referees in Uruguay setting down a marker to warn teams about not respecting the officials. In South America in general, home teams often push the refs’ patience by appearing late, a tactic I think is also aimed at spooking the visiting team, who are left on the pitch in front of a hostile crowd. I was at a match in Montevideo in February that was due to start at 10.10, but it was only when the sides emerged, five minutes after the scheduled kick-off time, that the officials noticed that heavy rain the night before had washed all the lines away. The elderly gentleman with his pail and brush would have taken all day to paint the whole pitch. Eventually, at 10.35, El Tanque Sisley v Racing kicked off with only vague bits of lines painted. Not once did a player dispute any official’s call.
Jim Rendall, Edinburgh
In his article about the Showbiz XI (WSC 260), John Harding made the understandable mistake of misspelling the first name of Walley Barnes throughout the article. Walley, who was an excellent full-back for both Arsenal and Wales, refers to how he got the unusual spelling of his first name in his (still) highly readable book Captain of Wales. Walley’s dad was a sergeant in the army and naturally Walley’s birth was an occasion for his dad and his mates to celebrate heavily in the sergeant’s mess. For reasons not explained, they eventually moved directly from the mess to the registrar’s office, where an attempt was made to register the birth; an attempt that quickly foundered against the considerable barrier of not having a name for the baby. Various names were suggested by those present – who were all presumably fairly “relaxed”. Sergeant Barnes eventually decided on “Wally” – but the registrar, understandably confused, proceeded to add an “e” to Walley’s christian name on the birth certificate – a misspelling that haunted Walley for the rest of his life. Somehow you can’t imagine the Beckhams having the same problem.
Neil Hardwick, West Wickham
I was sorry to read of Harry Pearson’s recent fantasy chairman problems (Local Hero, WSC 261), which have oddly enough come at a time when my own such daydreamings are not only going from strength to strength (helps to support a Scottish team, Harry), but have also enabled me to resurrect my fantasy rock star. Last heard of in blissful retirement in my secluded castle on the Aberdeenshire coast, I triumphantly re-emerged last summer to sink my remaining royalties into wiping out the club’s debts, and have recently released the oft-rumoured-but-never-confirmed solo album in order to raise funds to mount a serious challenge to the Old Firm. Sales are going fine, since you ask, although I may have to add a couple of dates to the Japanese tour if I’m to be certain of securing James McFadden’s signature come January.
Graham Davidson, London
I was looking forward to seeing how WSC would view the ruling on Sheffield United’s claim for £30m compensation from West Ham, as I think the ramifications for football in this country could be far-reaching and fairly destructive. As a West Ham fan, I’m inevitably drawn to the gaping holes in the ruling’s logic, but that’s another story. What compelled me to write to you was the statement (Newswatch, WSC 261) that “a draw at Bramall Lane would have sent West Ham down unless they won at Old Trafford”. This is a point which has consistently been made from all manner of pundits and analysts over the past 17 months. The problem is, as was very well publicised at the time, we only required a draw to ensure safety, whatever happened at Bramall Lane. Had both games been drawn, Wigan would have been relegated. I’d argue it would be far more accurate to say that Yossi Benayoun’s goalline clearance “kept us up” (if we’re in the business of reducing entire seasons into single moments) than Tevez’s goal. I’ve come to expect such ignorant reporting from the national press. I had hoped WSC would be more informed as it usually is.
David Tandy, Warwickshire
From WSC 262 December 2008