The surprisingly rapturous reception given to the old has-been Sylvester Stallone by fans at Everton v Reading led me to wonder which celebrities have received the worst reaction at a match. The one that springs to my mind is when Ted Rogers, oily host of ITV gameshow 3-2-1, did a pre-match raffle draw at Stamford Bridge in the late 1980s. Taking the microphone he shouted something like “Alright Blues, are we gonna win today or what?” and was met with a torrent of prolonged abuse from all around the ground. It was magnificent and he duly scarpered as quickly as he could manage. It may have been a reaction to the crappy show, but his faux-matey tone was probably the main cause. In general, celebs are on a hiding to nothing if they attempt to speak to the crowd. Just wave and smile for the photos then zoom off ASAP for the cognac and Ferrero Rocher in the boardroom.
David Senior, via email
I was pleased to see that “A Trialist” scored for East Stirlingshire in their win at East Fife on January 12. I had only seen non-contract players referred to in this way – which is, I think, unique to the Scottish League – playing in the first month or so of the season. I didn’t realise that the mystery men could still turn up later in the year. Are they not allowed to be named because they haven’t been registered with the League? Or is it to do with how much money they’re entitled to receive? And, of most interest, has A Trialist ever scored a decisive goal in an important match?
Julian Wallace, via email
Further to bizarre penalties (Letters, WSC 240), three or four seasons back, Ayr’s then goalkeeper Ludovic Roy (a Frenchman who used to play alongside, and bears a passing resemblance to, Thierry Henry) dived at the feet of an inrushing Forfar striker to collect a through ball. Aggrieved at the forward’s challenge, Roy got to his feet and, still clutching the ball, proceeded to headbutt his opponent in a fashion that left him requiring corrective dental surgery. This left the referee with little option but to dismiss Roy and award Forfar a penalty, the ball technically still being in play. However, in a futher twist, substitute keeper John Hillcoat (a have-gloves-will-travel journey-man and improbable Sunday Mail columnist) came on to save the penalty to keep Ayr’s 1-0 lead intact. We then made it 2-0, but true to form he then made three howlers and we eventually scrambled a 3-3 draw.
Tom Simpson, Prestwick
Roy Cameron (Letters, WSC 240) was not dreaming, though doubts remain about the legitimacy of the “bizarre penalty” conceded by Scunthorpe. The incident he recalls happened on December 15, 1980, in an FA Cup second-round replay between Altrincham and Scunthorpe. In the last minute, Iron keeper Joe Neenan’s knee allegedly collided with the groin of bearded Altrincham captain/hard-man/cheat John King (even 26 years on I remember his name, owing to residual bitterness over the suspicious nature of his collapse); this resulted in the disputed penalty, which irritatingly took Altrincham through to a “glamour” third-round tie at Anfield. The Iron’s subsequent Christmas party at Tiffany’s nightclub – then Scunthorpe’s top “nite-spot” and about as classy as you might expect it to be – was marred by an incident in the gents involving a gang of youths who goaded Neenan about the incident. Later, following a chase outside the nightclub, Neenan thumped one of them (Steven Isbister, trivia fans) in a nearby alley. This made national headlines owing to the presence of Ian Botham, then with the club to train/“play” before England’s cricket tour of the West Indies. Neenan pleaded guilty to assault, and was fined £100 plus costs; Botham was later acquitted at Crown Court.
Ian Goodacre, via email
A couple of years ago we travelled up to St James’ Park to watch Coventry City play Newcastle in the Cup. We lost 3-1, but the Sky Blues’ support was outstanding. Even a Newcastle fan mentioned how he was impressed with the away support when he phoned in to a radio show. However, to this day I have been trying to find out why the Newcastle supporters took their shoes off and waved them at us. Whenever I meet a Geordie I ask this question, but no one seems to know the answer. Can anyone help?
Keith Webster, Hinckley
Premiership managers faced with lower-league opposition in the FA Cup normally go out of their way to act in a respectful manner towards the opposing manager and his club. I was, therefore, somewhat surprised to hear Martin Jol repeatedly refer to Cardiff Shitty, although I imagine Swansea fans will have approved...
Tim Manns, via email
In WSC 240 you described Shaun Goater’s biography Feed the Goat as “heart-warming and amusing – if sometimes factually inaccurate”, probably little realising how right you were. I have read the aforementioned book and have no ill will towards Mr Goater, but he needs to be careful with the facts. In the book Goater claims that Millwall FC are inherently racist and should be closed down (page 52). Both are extremely serious claims, especially given that every time Goater has faced Millwall we have had a chairman proud of his immigrant past and have fielded several black players, as well employing a number of black trainers, coaches and community officers. Hardly the actions of a “naturally” racist club. Goater admits as much by commenting that he occasionally sees “black faces” among our fans, however this he cannot understand. He would have been further shocked by the games we’ve played against Asian community teams, as well as the Asian contributor to Millwall fanzine NOLU, and our new mixed-raced chairwoman of African heritage! Furthermore, if Goater’s claims were presented to a court, they would be thrown out. He confuses a handful of eight- to 12‑year‑old kids running on to the pitch in our last home game of the season against Bristol City in 1997 as some sort of frenzied attack (admitting nothing happened, but they “could” have been carrying knives), and the “Sack the board” chants as “serious trouble”. He even bemoans the press (hardly Millwall’s friend) for making fun of his claims. On we move to Goater’s experiences with Man City. Here he claims that fans tried attacking him after City had scored, which is not exactly true. What actually happened, and he can borrow my season highlights video if he likes, is a group of about a dozen kids running on to celebrate Millwall’s goal, some time before City’s equaliser. Stupid, yes, but hardly an aberration or a violent attack. Goater also fails to shed any light on to his comment of trouble outside Maine Road (a Millwall coach driver was put in hospital, shops smashed up etc), which if he’d have bothered watching the BBC hooligans’ documentary is squarely laid at City fans’ door. But at least he is right about our lot throwing seats, so all’s fair. I’ve no doubt Goater was subjected to some racist abuse (mainly by kids, he suggests) and I’m deeply sorry for that. However, Millwall have taken great strides to make the club a better environment and I believe it has done that (ask the Kick It Out campaigners). There was no need for this inaccurate and damaging attack by Mr Goater, other than perhaps to sell a few more copies of his book.
Matthew Little, via email
I have heard many conflicting opinions on David Beckham’s impending transfer to LA Galaxy. The reasons for his move appear simple: Beckham has fallen out of love with the game, as a result of his rejection by England and Real Madrid, and has opted instead for the admittedly tempting combination of absurd riches, Californian lifestyle and a superior celebrity crowd, all combined with the odd kickabout. It’s his choice. Any bitterness from fans stems from the fact that we all wish we had his footballing ability and opportunities, and can’t relate to somebody essentially quitting during his peak years. It doesn’t make him much different from George Best and Paul Gascoigne in that respect. In fact, their stories, blighted as they were by alcoholism, are almost easier to understand. What perplexes me is when Beckham, and others, talk about wanting to raise the profile of the game in America. Why does anybody care whether America plays football or not? I’ve never heard anybody lament the lack of great footballers from Canada and New Zealand, two other countries where football struggles for a place on the sporting radar. If the USA fail to qualify for a World Cup, it’s safe to assume that people on the rest of the planet will really not give two hoots, much like nobody cared when Holland failed to qualify for the 2002 tournament and England missed out in 1994, outside of those nations. And do we really want America to have a greater say in the game? WSC is critical of all the things we associate with American sports: franchising, the media soap opera and, of course, rampant capitalism and commercialism. Most “traditionalist” fans would surely be disturbed, and probably quite distressed, if the USA took charge of FIFA. I am not being parochial about the matter, but I just don’t care if America doesn’t like football, much like I don’t care whether it is yet to fully appreciate Steptoe and Son, and I think it’s bordering on arrogant to think that football has a right to be loved in the States. Maybe they just aren’t interested. If they want to play their own sports and they won’t embrace football, let them. We don’t like their sports much, so why should they like ours? Football shouldn’t be forcing itself on any nation.
Gavin Duenas, via email
I write with reference to Glen Wilson’s excellent and informative article in WSC 239 concerning Doncaster Rovers move to the new Keepmoat Stadium. As a southern-based Rovers exile of many years, I have to pick up on the statement regarding turf selling at “£15.95 for you, guv’nor”. As a northerner who hears this southern term on a frequent basis, surely a more local “£15.95 for you, sunshine”, or, in the words of our own great Charlie Williams “£15.95 for you, me old flower” would be more appropriate. It’s still a snip, by the way.
Gavin Wright, via email
It was nice to see a mention of Wealdstone in the Season in Brief feature (WSC 240) though it should pointed out that they are no longer in the Ryman League – last summer they moved over to the Southern Premier. The Stones are currently groundsharing with another club in the same division, Northwood, having so far failed to get a new stadium built in their home borough of Harrow. Crowds were much smaller in the Conference in those days – Wealdstone and Enfield, who were champions the following year, averaged fewer than 1,000 in their title-winning seasons – but clubs weren’t full-time, so few got into financial difficulties in the way they do now. Weymouth are the latest Conference team to be hit by a financial crisis brought about by over-spending in an attempt to get into the League and no doubt there will be others. I can understand that clubs relegated from League Two think that it’s possible to stay professional – Hereford did it for nine years – but the Conference currently has 20 full-time clubs, which is unsustainable.
Howard Fulton, via email
From WSC 241 March 2007. What was happening this month