I read with interest Paul Joyce’s article concerning the rebranding of SSV Markranstadt as RB Leipzig in WSC 273. Only this summer it was rumoured that my club Southampton would be saved from extinction by becoming co-opted into the Red Bull sporting portfolio. While the team colours, fitting snugly with the brand, would not need to change the adding of the Red Bull moniker seemed a step too far. Surely something would be lost in fusing a global brand, with all its focus-grouped values and marketing spin, to a football club; an act of historic vandalism similar to replacing stained glass windows in a church with double glazing while nailing a satellite dish to the spire. The internet debate suggested, however, that many Saints supporters were happy to trade naming rights in exchange for the club’s survival. The same supporters had several years previously reacted angrily against a corporate branding of St Mary’s Stadium as simply the “Friends Provident Stadium” with the ensuing negative publicity resulting in a U-turn with the addition of St Mary’s to the title. Corporate patronage is not as new as we would like to imagine. The P in PSV Eindhoven stands for Philips, as in the Dutch electrical giants, with the club’s home games at the Philips Stadion. Indeed, many clubs have benefited from long-term relationships with business which may be far preferable to other ownership and financing options; a quick glance around the leagues reveals several fates far worse than “Red Bull Saints”. Football may be just a game to some but following our team is about being part of a community, feeling a connection with the friends and strangers stood next to us at the ground. It is a thread linking us to people looking out for the score on a TV screen or in a newspaper on the other side of the world. Brands by their nature seek to harness and transform these feelings to translate them into profit, in the process sullying the very spirit of our club. Barcelona’s motto is “more than a club”. Every clubs motto should be “more than a brand”.
Neil Cotton, Southampton
I entirely take Paul Whitaker’s argument (Letters, WSC 273) that football crowds are “meant to be a reflection of society and that includes those serving members of the armed forces on the pitch”. Who could argue with these worthy sentiments? But wait. The illegal war against Iraq – for which arrests have yet to be made – and the useless war in Afghanistan are both only supported by a minority of this country’s population, despite the best propaganda that money can offer. Surely to follow the logic of Paul’s letter and in line with consistent opinion poll returns, then two-thirds of internationals should be preceded by anti-war demonstrations and displays, leaving the other third in the hands of those who reflect the minority opinion. What a triumph for democracy!
David Collett, Chesterfield
All the present hullabaloo surrounding Man City has reminded me of a childhood memory that I think was based on fact. Perhaps one of your readers can confirm for me whether or not, at the start of his time at Maine Road, Colin Bell sometimes wore different coloured socks to those worn by his team-mates? I have vague recollections of him wearing white socks with blue hoops on occasions (possibly a reminder of his Bury days) while the remainder of the City side wore the regulation light blue with red/white tops. If he did, why was this? Does anyone know?
Russ Vernon, Abingdon on Thames
David Waring wasn’t dreaming (Letters, WSC 273) about Wednesday’s mid-1980s away kit but he was a little too vivid. Wednesday would never wear any shade of red shirt. The strip designed by Howard Wilkinson was a silver shirt with purple shorts officially described as “Ascot grey and puce”. The worrying point to note is that Howard is back at Hillsborough as adviser to the new chairman but hopefully not regarding fashion.
David Cooper, Leeds
Richard Pulford’s article Historical Memory in WSC 272 bemoans the fact that Altrincham’s 1986 FA Cup victory over Birmingham City was largely forgotten. However, if he wants to pop along to post-match reveries after any Villa home game at venues such as Aston Social Club, he will hear his club’s giant killing exploit remembered in a song, which includes the line “they got knocked out the FA Cup by non-League Altrincham”. The same middle-aged men will then serenade him with songs commemorating our recent European Cup win in 1982. Around 1999 I saw Robert Hopkins (not known for fondness of Aston Villa or sense of humour) at a game involving the now defunct Paget Rangers and Solihull Borough (who Hopkins was coaching at the time) and it crossed my mind to remind him about his own goal in the aforementioned game. Then I thought not to.
Jim Connolly, Castle Vale
I’d just like to write a quick note of thanks to Will Kumar (Letters, WSC 273) for his additional trivia relating to Altrincham’s giantkilling and the most capped non-League England player. The thanks comes with a caveat, though. I have a feeling that if the question “Who is the most capped non-League England player?” ever arose in a pub quiz, the judges probably wouldn’t accept “Will Kumar’s mate’s Dad”.
Jody Neville, Co Tipperary, Ireland
* That would be worth half a point. The complete answer is John Davison
I must correct the numerous errors in Martin Greig’s article (WSC 272) on summer soccer and the game in Ireland. Martin is wrong to state that the league’s renaissance began in 2004. It began in 2000-01, a winter season, which was the first time in six seasons an Irish team had won a round in Europe; we’ve not had a season since where nobody has progressed. The main reason for this wasn’t summer soccer – not around at the time – but full-time players. All the teams blazing a European trail recently – Shels, Cork, Derry, Bohs, Drogheda, St Pat’s – have done so with the aid of full-time players. The league hasn’t “flourished” since the introduction of summer soccer, in fact, it’s never been in a worse state. Shels lost up to €2 million (£1.8m) a year before the cash ran out in 2006. Cork City entered examinership (Irish administration) last year. This year they have survived two winding up orders. Derry City are being sued by Irish League side Dungannon over unpaid transfer fees. League champions Bohs are reportedly €4.4m in debt. Drogheda and Pat’s also lost more than €1m a year up to last year. Drogheda’s backers pulled out and they entered administration, while Pat’s backer is rumoured to be withdrawing next year. Maybe this is Martin’s vision for a flourishing Scottish League. Somehow I doubt it. The comment about League of Ireland players going straight into Premier League sides is irrelevant in the context of summer soccer – for every Jay O’Shea, Keith Fahey and Kevin Doyle, there was always a Roy Keane, Paul McGrath and Kevin Moran. Martin’s comment that crowds were 20 per cent up in 2006-07 is curious. There was no 2006-07 season – that’s kind of the point of summer soccer. No official attendances were kept prior to 2007 and crowd figures this year are down. Martin would be well advised not to go with the official FAI line on events and seek more balanced reasons for the League’s recent remarkable rise.
Kevin Burke, Co Wicklow, Ireland
Your article on unusual squad numbering (WSC 273) reminds me that Charlton Athletic once numbered their players in alphabetical order à la Argentina 1982. This was in the days when ITV had live Sunday afternoon games and Stuart Balmer wore the No 1 shirt while playing in defence, much to Brian Moore’s disdain. I must admit a certain yearning for simpler times when teams lined up as 1-11 and we didn’t need to have their names on the back to know who they were.
Richard Plummer, Cradley Heath
The article Magic Numbers (WSC 273) misses the ultimate justification for the increasing number of numbers within squads. In recent years I have collected, for my young son of course, two signatures which have been helpfully annotated with the players’ numbers. Both Gareth Bale (3) and Paul Quinn(14) made double sure I knew who had signed what. Having scanned plenty of items trying to decipher the names of players from the past I commend the use of numbers not only as spectator and commentator aids, but as autograph IDs. I suggest a player keeps his squad number for a period of five years whether he stays at a club or moves on. If this means even higher numbers on shirts it could also have the side benefit of reducing eBay fraud.This would be the Dewey system for football autographs. I suggest calling it the Dwyer system after former Cardiff City player Phil, whose signature I may or may not have.
Gwilym Boore, Cardiff
The next time that Frank Lampard scores at Upton Park for Chelsea, I suspect that Peter Grant (Letters, WSC 273) would prefer to see the midfielder run 90 yards towards the baying Chicken Run, slide on his knees, tempt a pitch invasion from the Hammers fans and be the spark for all manner of other unsavoury incidents. Or maybe Lampard could just quietly raise his arms in the air in tribute to his mum and then get on with the game. I think I know which celebration the Met and the Hammers fans would find most “irritating” and “exhibitionist”.
Robbie Sargent, Milton Keynes
When did people start referring to the top division in English football as the EPL? I suppose it might help to distinguish it from cricket’s Premier League, the IPL – although the absence of a bat and the larger ball should surely prevent any confusion. I’ve got a sneaky feeling that it all dates back to the proposed introduction of a 39th game. Did the marketing men also advise Richard Scudamore that American-style abbreviations (NBA, NFL, etc) are the key to world domination?
David Emanuel, Littleborough
In his article on proposed ID cards for Italian fans (WSC 273), Paul Virgo states that they will only be necessary if you follow your team away from home. As things stand now, this is not the case. Interior minister Roberto Maroni is on record as stating that as from January 1, 2010, no club will be allowed to issue season tickets to fans who don’t have the card. This ludicrous proposal seems to have escaped the notice of most people. As season ticket holders make up 70-80 per cent of most crowds in Italy, the effect on attendances if fans decide not to renew in protest will be disastrous. But unless common sense prevails and season ticket holders who don’t want to travel to away games, like me, are exempted, this may be the only weapon we have. The sight of near empty stadiums on TV (they’re already far from full most of the time) is the last thing Italian football wants or needs.
Richard Mason, Bergamo, Italy
After years of “looking away now” when the results are shown on Saturday night’s news I have realised that there are certain things in Match of the Day that signpost what is coming next. Firstly, whenever we see someone get a yellow card it always follows that they get a second yellow/red soon after. MOTD would never have time to show all the first yellows but it would make no sense to show the second yellow in isolation. Secondly, an odd time check combined with a random fact always precedes a goal, ie 17 minutes into the second half and City have won their first corner... goal. Finally, whenever Jonathan Pearce makes a surely-that-can’t-happen type prediction you can guarantee that it will happen. It seems to be his way of showing us he’s only human. Recently he assured us Arsenal couldn’t possibly throw away a two goal lead at West Ham, which they then did. Since the commentary clearly isn’t recorded live I wish JP would spare us this false modesty.
Tim Manns, Southampton
Never mind referees not knowing what to do with a beach ball, how is it the laws relating to the kick-off are routinely ignored these days? The relevant law states that the ball must be played forward and, more importantly, players must be in their own half. Yet now we invariably see players standing several feet into the opposition half, facing their own midfield, ready to play the ball back to them. And all this with the referee standing ten yards away and with the half-way line to guide him. It’s driving me nuts!
Vernon Roper, Steyning
Duncan Blackwell asks if there have been any skinhead footballers (Letters, WSC 273). Back in the 1970s when a player’s choice seemed to be restricted to the poodle perm or the mullet I do recall Frankie Prince (even the name sounds hard) playing for Bristol Rovers and never sporting anything other than a number two crew. As I remember he was what would be politely referred to as an “uncompromising” midfielder who also insisted on wearing short sleeves right through the depths of winter, possibly to display his tattoos to best effect.
Simon Betts, Leicester
In the Shot Archive, Charlton v Blackburn (WSC 273), Doug Cheeseman claims that the attendance was lowered by live TV coverage of the match. Given that only 14,560 TV licences were issued in the whole of 1947 and the attendance was only 6,401 below the year’s average of 32,401, it would appear that Charlton fans made up 43.96 per cent of all TV owners in 1947. If the figures are projected forward to today, Charlton could expect an extra 10,990,000 on the gate at non-televised home games. It may well be that Doug’s hypothesis of bad weather had a greater influence on the attendance.
Brian Monaghan, Co Cork, Ireland
From WSC 274 December 2009