“Something inside him broke. It wasn’t the inside of his knee this time. It was his heart.” It may seem like a line from a Mills and Boon tear-jerker but it’s actually from the Daily Record’s coverage of Gary McAllister’s decision to quit playing for Scotland. Oh how a nation was thrown into mourning. Well, no, actually. About bloody time was the general opinion. The truth is that McAllister has never really been accepted by the Tartan Army. Of course the Euro 96 penalty miss is always mentioned but it started long before then. Since his debut in a glorious friendly defeat against East Germany in 1990 nobody has ever been really convinced by him. As early as 1992 there were calls for him to be left out of the squad travelling to the European Championship.Over the next few seasons there was much talk in the Scottish media of McAllister being tracked by Italian giants. Roma were mentioned, so were Sampdoria. When he did finally make the switch to that home of international playboys, Coventry City, no one was more relieved than Rangers fans who had also had to put up with constant rumours of his impending arrival. But it was the way he was booed from the park in Scotland’s recent defeat by the Czech Republic which convinced Gary to go. Showing a Hoddle-like thought process he whined: “There is an element of the media and the support which has exhibited a negative attitude towards me.” Hang on. What actually happened was as old as entertainment itself. You were rubbish therefore you were booed. No negative vibes, no bad karma. You were no good. McAllister’s attitude seems typical of the modern day Premiership footballer who seems to think we should be honoured to be breathing the same air as them. They expect us to stand like slack-jawed yokels who are delighted that the circus has come to town. Sorry Gary and every other footballer in the world. That’s not how it works. Enjoy your big money contracts, boot deals and multi-million pound transfers, but remember whatever changes about football the fans can still tell when the Emperor is naked.
Ouch! Your caricature of Bristol City chairman Scott Davidson (WSC No 147) was a bit harsh. To mock the man’s music biz past and current free ads business is rather desperate, though I suppose it could be classed as “descriptive background”. However, his huge contribution to our club, acknowledged it seems by everyone but Matt Nation, goes unmentioned in order to try and raise a few laughs. Do I care about his choice of hairstyle? No I don’t, strangely enough. I’m more interested in the football and I’m very proud of what our club has achieved under Davidson, particularly in the youth team where we have some outstanding international prospects due to arrive in the first team at last. So, to set the record straight, he’s made sure Bristol City still exist after we almost went to the wall not long ago, sorted the commercial side of the club out at long last, has voluntarily met fans in his own time to answer questions informally on a number of occasions this season, and has acted publicly and repeatedly to try to rid the club of hooliganism and other anti-social behaviour. He’s exactly the kind of chairman most fans would love their clubs to have and you should know because you spend enough time exposing the worst of the breed. Finally, I quote: “...particularly in view of City supporters’ appalling reputation for instigating pitch invasions in recent years”. Which team have you been watching Matt? I and many others are weary of saying this, there was one pitch invasion involving City fans and those responsible have been banned for life where they could be identified. Please don’t print inaccurate ambiguity on such subjects just for effect in the same issue as a thought-provoking reconsideration of Hillsborough.
I suppose it’s too much to hope that the person who tipped Blackburn to win the league in the pre-season issue (WSC No 139) could be given a regular column?
Allen Christopher, Barnstaple
I have to comment on Graham Lightfoot’s article Memory Lapses in WSC No 147, which wrongly suggests that the Kop Hillsborough Memorial protest was aimed at Sheffield Wednesday fans. We at the Liverpool fanzine Red All Over The Land were responsible for the mosaic protest. All our publicity for this pointed out that it was aimed at letting the SWFC directors know how strongly we felt at the absence of any memorial at Hillsborough. Trevor Hicks of the Hillsborough Families Support Group (at our request) wrote a full-page piece in the match programme explaining this. Similarly, the match-day announcer stressed that this message was aimed at the Wednesday directors. That evening, Sheffield’s football paper, The Green ‘Un, wrote: “Wednesday directors were, this afternoon, the target of a demo that seemed to have been endorsed by Liverpool.” Quite clearly it was the directors – those with the power and the duty to erect a memorial – who were being publicly embarrassed by this “outing”. It is no coincidence that after years of ignoring requests that a memorial be erected, they contacted Liverpool FC immediately after the game to discuss the issue. It is also no coincidence, as Lightfoot points out, that this happened at the exact time that the boycott campaign was gaining widespread public support. As for the boycott? Well, it was first proposed over two years ago following disgraceful scenes when what appeared to be a calculated campaign of provocation by South Yorks Police and stewards of SWFC very nearly resulted in the kind of “heated” response from Liverpool fans that, I suspect, they hoped for. It was our first visit to Hillsborough after Jimmy McGovern’s excellent film had rekindled public awareness. Luckily, the game passed without incident, as did last season’s match when we were similarly provoked on a day of shame which culminated in the game’s sponsorship by the Sun. The provocation endured that day was the last straw for many Liverpudlians, and the boycott campaign has grown from strength to strength since then, albeit without the support now of Liverpool FC. Along with the HFSG and the Liverpool Echo they seem to think that a memorial that is ten years too late, and founded on the threat of a possible financial loss of £100,000, can erase years of disgraceful behaviour by Wednesday. Well, it can’t. I won’t be at Hillsborough on May 8th and neither will hundreds, if not thousands, of loyal away-day regulars.
John Mackin, Red All Over The Land
Howard Cunnell wonders why so much was made of the Kanu/Overmars incident against Sheffield United (Letters, WSC No 147), whilst also noting that incidents committed with Arsenal the victims were not made so much of. This particular claim is ridiculously fatuous given that throughout footballing history injustices have happened. Every club in the country can no doubt point to events that ruined a whole season’s work. He then states that Kanu “did not know what was what”. Is this the same Nwankwo Kanu who has played for several years in top level European football and has also represented his country at various levels in FIFA competitions? Yes, I thought it was. Finally, he is right about one particular thing. Wenger’s offer of a replay was neither cute nor scheming, simply because it wasn’t his idea. The suggestion was in fact made by David Dein and agreed upon by both boards with the final whistle ringing in their ears. The Gallic grumbler was simply the very public mouthpiece of a canny piece of electioneering by the Arsenal supremo. Yes, we all know managers who wouldn’t have made the offer, but as Martin Edwards is busily trying to sell up and get out of football, that’s hardly relevant is it? The rematch (it wasn’t a replay in the accepted sense as the venue wasn’t switched) was offered in the full knowledge that the Arsenal team would be much stronger and in the recent tradition of cup games involving Premiership sides it would be highly unlikely that United would be victorious at the second attempt. With many Blades supporters I know predicting a four- or five-goal defeat it’s miraculous that in fact they managed to make such a game of it.
Andy Angell, Sheffield
Regarding the comments made about Fulham supporters in the editorial in WSC No 147 “gleefully” chanting “We’ll never play you again”, it would appear that someone at WSC may be confused about the context of terrace humour in SW6. Admittedly it’s a chant borne of smugness, especially after many a month of having to endure jovial harmonies such as “What a waste of money” and “Where were you when you were shit?” from some of our counterparts in the Second Division. As for relying on the warmth of other supporters “the next time Fulham are on the verge of extinction”, does that mean that we should remain humbly silent in an embarrassment of riches and success, lest we upset some members of the away contingent? I should think not, especially as some may be the same fans that wallowed in entertaining us with ditties like “Flats on the Cottage, they’re building flats on the Cottage” during the late 1980s. My understanding of the topsy-turvy world of football supporting is that we tend to sing a lot of pretty derogatory things to each other in the ground and then go and have a pint – normally in the same pubs in Fulham. And, racist comments apart, I always believed that most things directed at the opposition was fair game whilst you were inside the ground. Let’s face it, even Fulham fans feel a little weird with our new wealth and we might be guilty of verbally flashing it around at the moment. But any opposition fan who has a pint and a chat with us will realise that we’re the same people as we were Before Mohammed. After all, there, but for the grace of a humble shopkeeper and a downturn in the price of real estate ten years ago, went us. We’re not likely to forget it in a hurry either.
Ashley Manning, London N7
I was extremely pleased to read Joan Moore’s letter in WSC 146 confirming that her husband and son were acquitted of assault charges against the police. It is particularly interesting that her husband would appear to have been the victim of unreasonable behaviour in this case. I am sure that any readers in the Merseyside area are aware of a large number of letters from Everton fans to the local press criticising the conduct of Northumbria police officers at the Newcastle v Everton FA Cup tie at St James’ Park on Sunday March 7th, 1999. The unusually large number of 17 arrests and 17 ejections were recorded, resulting in a certain Superintendent Stafford accepting that “Things went wrong”. I represent a young man of previous good character charged with offences of affray and police assault whilst leaving the Exhibition Stand at St James’ Park. My client denies both allegations and indeed complained to the police about the manner in which he was treated which resulted in him suffering a number of injuries. If any fan believes they may have witnessed this incident, which took place just after Newcastle’s final goal, then I would be very grateful if they would contact me at the address below.
Ian Morris, Stephensons Solicitors 95-101 Corporation St, St Helens WA10 1SX
From WSC 148 June 1999. What was happening this month