A disgraceful and embarrassing recent football scene. I refer of course to the UEFA Champions League draw on August 27. They managed to stretch the whole process into a tedious one hour plus show, surely beating last year’s record. It was volume off after 15 minutes. John Terry’s “Primark UEFA” suit was one button too tight, and he had to be shown where to go as he walked off stage. It was like he couldn’t remember as he was too dazzled by the whole occasion. The two guys in charge had a height difference between them of about five feet, which again must be a record for a televised draw. The main mystery is why Kenny Dalglish et al deemed it necessary to write down who they would be playing? Must be a bit like Sudoku, the only way to keep yourself awake while on holiday. Or are they all incapable of remembering the names of three other teams?
Mark Lindop, Gravesend
Re the ongoing discussion of the origins of the WBA nickname, the Baggies. We thought this one had been put to bed years ago (appropriately enough) by the much-lamented newspaper The Baggies – a 24-page colour tabloid that ran from 1992 to 2005. Contrary to Mr Moverley’s recall (Letters, WSC 270), the name was current as long ago as the 1890s, as revealed in a 1912 interview with one of the oldest Albion supporters and one-time official, Joe Stringer, reprinted in The Baggies. The name was mockingly awarded by Aston Villa supporters, taunting the Albion fans who arrived at the Villa ground (the two sides played each other five or six times each season) still dressed in their working whitesmith (molten ironworker) outfit of wide trousers, made even baggier with moleskin inserts on the legs. This pre-dates all other references to the name (most of them patently absurd, concerning non-Albion-specific items such as money bags, corruption of the name of the 1920s midfielder Tommy Magee, and the like) and was not challenged at the time of publication, in the main West Bromwich newspaper.
Miles Gordon, Halesowen
I apologise for my linguistic pedantry in advance, but having just read Dermot Corrigan’s article on the slide of Real Betis into Spain’s Segunda (WSC 271) I feel I must disagree with his “loose” translation of a Laporta vete ya banner carried in the recent protests as “Lopera get to fuck”. After a rigorous scientific survey conducted by myself (OK, I asked my wife Sol, my mate Ino and his brother Carlos) I conclude that, however loosely you translate it, you cannot end up with “Lopera get to fuck”. A more accurate translation would be nothing more offensive than “Lopera leave now”. When the Spanish want to say “get to fuck”, and I speak from personal experience here, they would say que te jodas. I would, however, strongly urge you not to use this phrase unless you’ve got a good head start and someone waiting outside with the engine running.
Huw Lewis, Pravia, Spain
I enjoyed your review of the 1975 Soviet season in WSC 271, but feel I must mention the plight of Torpedo Moscow. I always look out for their results as I watched them during a four-month stint in Moscow a few years ago. They have moved the furthest away of all the teams listed as they have endured relegation to the First division (ie the second level), then a harsh relegation one level further down, due to league reorganisation in 2008. Torpedo were refused a licence to play in this league and are currently playing at the amateur fourth level – a huge fall from grace for one of the best known names in Russian football. However, they have been bought back by their original owners Zil, and are currently top of their Moscow-based division, so hopefully this downward spiral is about to be reversed.
Alex Turpie, Greenwich
Among all the hand-wringing, shamefaced West Ham fans around at the moment, my thoughts are with Darron Kirkby. His article, Mixed Emotions in WSC 269, bemoaned the decline in behaviour at the Boleyn Ground and suggested he might be reaching the end of his love affair with the club. He argued that a traditionally partisan but good humoured atmosphere had been stifled by a more aggressive, racist and vindictive tone in recent years. Even though this drew a more encouraging response from Atsushi Kamiyama in WSC 271, Darron’s voice was heard again, contributing to the Surviving The Crunch supplement, he wrote of the “whiff of mediocrity” around the club and sounded as glum as ever. How low must he be now after the events of the Carling Cup and taking little comfort from his case being so nauseatingly proven? The truth is that supporting West Ham has always necessitated the wearing of claret-and-blue blinkers. I constantly evangelise the positive aspects of the club to non-believers: the academy of football, the great players over the years, loyalty to long-serving managers, all buoyed along by chirpy, cockney fans creating a unique atmosphere in a traditional, community-based ground. But it’s there in the background. The Inter City Firm, the harassment of local people around the ground, the treatment of returning ex-players. However appalling the film Green Street is in peddling a negative image of West Ham to people, it is at least grounded on a perception which the Millwall game will have magnified. Add in the modern twists of Icelandic millionaires, shady deals over Argentinian superstars and possible moves to an Olympic legacy stadium and West Ham are as mired in the malaises of modern football as any other club. The question is whether people like Darron, or me, or Atsushi can reclaim the club for ourselves, or whether we are the collateral damage in football’s headlong rush for change.
Mark Lewsey, Glasgow
You may have heard that Newcastle’s Derek Llambias recently ran naked across St James’ Park after losing a bet with Mike Ashley that Shola Ameobi wouldn’t score a hat-trick – as he’d just done against Reading. The ground was supposed to be empty but there were still some corporate guests finishing their drinks and possibly resolving not to come back until Ashley and his gormless mates have sold up. This set me thinking about the willingness of football folk to strip. Martin Allen prepared for Brentford’s FA Cup tie at Southampton a few years ago by jumping naked into the River Solent. Gary Johnson said he would bare his backside in a shop window if a certain Bristol City player scored – but then settled for painting a target on his bum then having the player fire shots at it (one for Dr Freud there). I also recall that Theo Paphitis said he would streak naked across Trafalgar Square if Millwall reached the Cup final, although I don’t know if he carried it out. I’m not sure what is weirder – the compulsion to self-expose or the fact that I seem to remember several examples of it and indeed am now writing to ask if readers can think of any others.
Mike Bateson, Finchley
I loved the article Waste Manager about Glenn Hoddle (WSC 271). It seems, however, that the title doesn’t refer to him but an academy he’s pushing. After seeing his “tactics” first hand at the destructive period he spent at Wolves I only hope he has changed. If his mind still works the same as it did then, playing strikers at right-back, signing unknown players who failed to get a shot on target let alone score, then these lads under his guidance will not rebuild their careers as he states. He ought to rebuild his own first.
Glenn Raybone, Wolverhampton
As a Leicester fan, my interest in football was reawakened last season as we navigated our way through League One, visiting the likes of Edgar Street and Edgeley Park. This enthusiasm was wiped out before the start of this season, however. Having taken a price hike for our home games, I was shocked at the £31 charge from Ipswich Town for our first away game. While recognising it may well be the going amount, I checked their website to find the cheapest ticket was £26. The £31 price was literally doubling the cost of one match from the previous season. I compared the fixture from the previous season on the same weekend. Stockport, currently in administration, charged £15 and can’t get a crowd because of their form. Ipswich, with a rich benefactor and a celebrity manager, will continue to get crowds because of a belief that signing average players will lead to the Premier League. For all the takeovers and cash injections, reducing prices is a taboo for multi-millionaire owners. Yet they have no problem in committing unsustainable amounts in transfer fees confident that the fans will be there every Saturday to supplement their investment. I boycotted the Ipswich game and went to see Burton’s League home debut instead, which ended up a seven goal thriller. It was priced competitively at just over £2 per goal. During the game I was getting sporadic updates from a friend watching the goalless draw from Portman Road at home, via the internet, for free.
Harry Gregory, Leicester
From WSC 272 October 2009