I have no time at all for deposed Rangers vice-chairman Donald Findlay, but Gary Oliver’s article about him (WSC 149) was unfair in two respects. Findlay is Scotland’s pre-eminent defence counsel. He has defended scores of people accused of rape, murder, etc – including many Catholics. To extract from his long career two cases where the victims were Celtic fans is a distortion. And Findlay’s admittedly ill-judged joke that his birthday should have been on July 12th rather than St Patrick’s Day was a mutual one he had with a Catholic friend whose birthday is on the former date. The good news is that Rangers chairman David Murray has, by getting rid of Findlay, again taken strong action against sectarianism.
Ian McLean, Glasgow
Could I just point out the discrepancy in Brian Hughes’s letter (WSC 149) concerning his use of the word “begrudgers” in connection with Manchester United? Had this word been offered on Countdown, it would politely have been rejected since no such word exists according to the Concise Oxford Dictionary. Quite apart from the fact that it contains too many letters. Nice try though.
D Kenny, Solihull
I’m normally a mild-mannered wee soul, but I feel compelled to reply to Cris Freddi’s assertion that Galloway’s finest – Stranraer FC – should be included as one of the century’s worst teams (WSC No 149). He cannot be serious! Being a fan of said team, I am not without a sense of humour. However, Mr Freddi was obviously without several Rothmans whilst compiling his otherwise excelled article. Or he’d know that although we were indeed piss poor in 1987-88, since then two other outfits have, rather gallantly, nicked our place in the hall of shame. Step forward Dumbarton (in 1995-96) with 11 points and East Fife (in 1996-97) with 14, both falling shy of the paltry 16 points we amassed, and their totals were boosted by an extra point for a win, brought in after season 1993-94. Ha. Thus Dumbarton, with three wins and two draws, would have managed only eight points under the old two points for a win system, and East Fife 12 points. Clearly, then, it would take the plumbing of hitherto uncharted depths for us to deserve being lumped with the Hamiltons or Hartlepools of this world. Thanks anyway, Cris. I’ve always wanted to see my name in print in WSC.
Graeme Berry, Glasgow
I dream that I am walking across Newcastle Central station carrying an empty beer keg. I am talking to my girlfriend when I am rudely interrupted by Robbie Fowler, who is sitting on the edge of the platform with some of his Liverpool team-mates. Robbie informs me that I am past it and that this is his town now. I try to push him into the path of an oncoming train, but am held back by Faustino Asprilla. I wake up convinced that I have been having Alan Shearer’s dream. Am I?
James Powell, via email
OK, so the Intertoto Cup is the fat, wheezy kid when it comes to picking European competitions but I have a note here that says its mum is unhappy with the way it’s being ridiculed. We at Upton Park are traditionally Eurosceptic, often pulling out of joining at an early stage of the season. But the Bow bell of change is ringing and we are now transforming ourselves from Premiership yo-yo team to European yo-yo team. And the turnout will be more than 25 per cent, that’s for sure. Of course finishing in fifth spot meant UEFA qualification was ours by moral right (given Aston Villa achieved it in seventh place last year). And not only will the Hammers raise the tone of the Itsa-Nono Cup but so will Juventus. Bloody Juventus! They’re so big I’m not sure they’d fit in Upton Park – personally I cannot wait to see Del Piero thwarted by the searing pace of Neil Ruddock. After the east London traffic fumes have got to the opposition they’ll be jellied eels in our hands. Harry Redknapp can pick up a case of cheap watches at customs and hopefully we can prove that a squad the size of China is not always necessary. Backdoor-qualification-into-UEFA-fever is sweeping the nation. A party’s what you make it.
Jamie Gletherow, via email
The survival of Barrow as a football club seems to hinge upon whether they will be allowed to appeal against the decision to expel them from the Football Conference. In a telephone conversation with the Football Conference a spokesperson told me that the appeal deadline had passed almost a week before the decision had been made. How can this possibly be the case? It just doesn’t make any sense. The management committee of the Conference made a recommendation on May 13th to expel Barrow from the Conference. The chairmen of the Conference voted on this recommendation on June 5th. The vote went against Barrow, but I was told on June 8th that the 14-day right of appeal had expired on May 27th. Huh? Surely a look at the Conference’s rule book would clarify matters. But I was also told of one Barrow fan who asked to see the Conference rule book to verify the situation. But apparently all of the old rule books have been mislaid and all the new ones are off at the printers. All football fans should get behind Barrow to right this injustice. It is just as important an issue as Sky’s takeover of Man Utd. After all, Brian Kidd cut his managerial teeth at Barrow. The big fish of the football world wouldn’t have a pond to swim in if it wasn’t for the likes of Barrow.
Chris Armstrong, Shipley
Gary Parkinson, you should be ashamed of yourself (Season Review, WSC 149). Watford didn’t just outfight Bolton and the other First Division teams by “hitting it long and obstructing the goalkeeper at set pieces”. In the play-off final they outclassed and outpassed them, and scored two of the finest goals seen at Wembley in years, as well as beating Bolton both home and away. Poor loser or what? Congratulations on perpetuating the tired old cliches just one more time. Thank God that David Munro contributed some balance.
Mike Phipps, via email
I notice that Chelsea, in common with other clubs buying big-name players, have “unveiled” an expensive new signing, namely Chris Sutton. Am I right in thinking that this widespread usage dates from a time before saturation media coverage, when clubs would literally unveil a new player – wrapping them carefully in a sheet, then whipping it away dramatically to the gasps of the watching press, rather like BMW showing off a new model for the first time? If so, when did this practice end? And do any of your older readers remember any occasions when the ceremony went embarrassingly wrong?
Trevor Hedges, London E3
In support of Colin Mallam’s idea (Letters, WSC 149) that the incomparable Atkinson be afforded the tribute his waffle so richly deserves, I submit a highlight from his view of Bayern v Man Utd last autumn. Apparently, “Yorkie’s favourite” is “the little one that shapes to go around the face then tucks around the corner”. Turning a centre back on the halfway line has never sounded so beautiful.
Neil Tague, Wilmslow
Much attention seems to have been paid lately to the inability of successive England managers to make the “transition” from club to international level. In light of the recent success of Graham Taylor, is it possible that the reason for this failure is that England’s international set-up is full of bumbling amateurs, whereby the clubs are now highly professional? Perhaps the promotion is going the wrong way?
Matt Morgan, Auckland, NZ
As a Shrewsbury Town supporter I have closely studied next season’s fixtures and quite frankly there is very little chance of our making any money out of them – Hartlepool away in February, for example, how inconvenient. I would therefore like the FA to exempt us from taking part in the Third Division next season. We will, of course, be available to help with the 2006 World Cup bid, even if it does mean playing in a meaningless tournament in Brazil.
Matthew Mead, Much Wenlock
While reflecting on Australia’s gutsy triumph over South Africa which enabled them to qualify for the semi-finals of the cricket World Cup, I suggested to my two sport-mad sons that the Aussies are probably the cricketing equivalent of the German football team, ie write them off at your peril; guaranteed to reach the latter stages of major tournaments even when “not playing well”. “Who would be the cricket equivalent of Brazil?” asked my youngest. I pondered on this one for a moment before opting for the West Indies – prone to the occasional slump, but destined to bounce back; potentially the most gifted natural performers in the world, etc, etc. “Who would be France, then?” asked his brother. We agreed on South Africa, being mindful of their overall strength in depth and their standing as likely champions. Warming to the theme, we considered the other cricketing contenders and their footballing counterparts. Pakistan would be Argentina – always “thereabouts” and sure to exhibit a volatile mixture of flair and skill, with perhaps a tendency to self- destruct. Who could be India? How about Italy – one or two world-class players, passionate fans, past champions but not quite top-of-the-pile these days. So to the 64,000 dollar question: who would be football’s equivalent of the England cricket team? “Well,” I mused, “which national football team could be likened to a bunch of over-hyped, clueless, gutless, perennial under-achievers who fail to progress to the final stages of cups even when the odds are stacked in their favour? “Nope, beats me,” I conceded with a shrug.
Tim Keay, London SW12
Interesting reading your Man of War piece about Graeme Souness in WSC 149. You mention the subject’s “breathtaking arrogance’’ but rather let him off the hook about this latest pile of shit he’s left in his wake being a pattern of his career. Reluctantly I have to concede that he was a very skilful, effective and successful player. However, from an early stage he had no worries about leaving a nasty taste behind at the clubs that helped his career take off (Spurs and Middlesbrough). Again reluctantly, his success as Glasgow Rangers manager has to be recognised along with his creditable insistence that he should be able to sign Catholics (although signing Mo Johnston was arguably counterproductive). This “success” preceded the fall that I suspect gives pleasure to us all including WSC – this particular article being at least the second you’ve published. What I find staggering is how Souness gets away with it. Liverpool were top of the league when he took over; he blew it big time and they’ve never been the same since. Some of his signings were beyond belief (Paul Stewart and Torben Piechnik to name but two). His subsequent managerial positions have left all his employers (with the exception of Southampton) desperate to see the back of him. His managerial career in Turkey, his brief spell at Torino and now his time at Benfica have all ended predictably. Yet one suspects he’ll pop up again at some unsuspecting club whose chairman hasn’t read between the lines of his CV. He made a lot of money as a player and probably just as much again from the accumulated pay-offs he’s been able to exchange for his various departures.
Andrew Cunningham, via email
From WSC 150 August 1999. What was happening this month