I’m stunned. Whilst channel hopping for some late night smut, I came across none other than Garth Crooks hosting an in-depth politico-chat show, Des-patch Box.I sat transfixed as Garth, a man whose normal journalistic beat leads him to doing humourous pieces on the shopping trips of the Reggae Boyz or Graham Kelly’s musical tastes, spent air-time slapping down Austin Mitchell’s views on the strong pound, summarizing the extradiction of Pin-ochet and probing into why the Welsh Secretary resigned.I first of all dismissed his presence on such a programme as a fluke, poor Garth being pressed into service when a Paxman clone went down with lumbago, chucked a copy of the Independent and told to get in front of the camera. But no! Garth gave a much more measured display than he ever did for Man Utd. At the end of the show he astound-ed me by announcing that he’d be back next Thursday.As a mere lad when Garth was in his prime for Spurs, I remember Tony Galvin being championed by the Topical Times as a major intellectual force because he had a degree in Russian. Shoot! thought Chris Hughton a real academic because he read the Guardian rather than the Mirror. But now know who was the true colossus of culture – Garth Crooks.I can only wonder at what Mark Falco and Gary Brook are doing now – teaching juris-prudence at Oxford and developing new forms of antibiotics, perhaps?
James Kerr, York
I recently saw a Coronation Street publicity still from Granada, taken in 1964. It shows Ken Barlow and Albert Tatlock in the Rovers. In the background, on the wall, is a Stockport County fixture list. So when were Stockport County usurped by the fictional Weatherfield County? It’s been niggling at me for a while.
Simon Bell, via email
Here comes another whining letter from an author (and yes, I have had bad reviews before) but this is the first time I have felt compelled to make a public exhibition of myself. John Williams comments (WSC No 141) “that most of what is said here could have been gathered from a detailed scan of the quality national newspapers and close scrutiny of the telly”. Oh really? When did the following last appear in the media?
1. The conflict between Alex Ferguson and his chairman may owe something to the manager’s rejection of share options.
2. An analysis of United’s transfer policy as exemplified by two Martin Edwards quotes: “It was the manager’s choice not to go for Salas” and “Is there anything clever in being £50 million in debt and winning the European Cup?”
3. Specifically why Glenn Hoddle prefers David Batty to Steve McManaman.
4. Why Steve McManaman’s solicitor was in contact with the FA.
5. The belief and strategies underpinning FIFA’s commercial policies.
6. Why the relationship between Glenn Hoddle and David Beckham was an accident waiting to happen.
I could go on but I would say this wouldn’t I?
Alex Fynn, London N20
Alan Shearer’s remark about “so-called part-timers” has been taken to mean that because the majority of the Luxembourg team spend their working days in a bank, they should be easy to beat. I think that Alan has been misinterpreted and that, as captain of his country, he was offering a robust defence of his fellow League players, who are true part-timers. How else would any other industry classify an employee who works a three-hour day plus Saturday afternoon and the odd evening for 40 weeks a year? Until more of our “professionals” emulate the likes of Cantona and Zola and stay behind after training to refine their skills, we will continue to be confronted the spectacle of one-footed players with little technique struggling to beat a bunch of bankers.
Chris Bickley, Basingstoke
John Hartson will rightly be punished by the FA for the incident in which his boot connected with Eyal Berkovic’s jaw. But hold on. Wasn’t it the FA who declined to act on an earlier piece of video evidence which shows an international footballer quite clearly kicking a fellow professional in the face? That time the culprit was England captain Alan Shearer on the eve of the World Cup, and the verdict was that his near-decapitation of Neil Lennon was accidental because he was trying to extricate his foot from a challenge. One rule for a Welshman, another for an egotistical multi-millionaire. Perhaps during the FA disciplinary hearing Hartson should plead temporary amnesia; stating that he thought he was still in Swansea attacking hanging baskets.
AS Thomas, Swansea
The piece on Jock Brown in WSC No 141 was free of both the hyperbole and character assassination which has typified the media coverage in Scotland. However, one major buy highly pertinent fact missing from your piece was the thorny question of religion. This has been made an issue by many Celtic fans, notably former managers David Hay and Billy McNeill and ex-players Jimmy Johnstone and Murdo McLeod. Brown is described as not being “Celtic-minded” by these people, a code for being a West of Scotland Catholic. A large part of the hostility to Brown seems based on the fact that his brother once played for Rangers, leading to the assumption that Brown is a Protestant and therefore “unsound”. This a bizarre replay of the sort of McCarthyism which led to Celtic’s greatest ever manager (the Protestant) Jock Stein, being refused a directorship on retirement. (Instead, Stein was offered a job running the club’s football pools operation, a post he declined.) The current row has manifested itself in a number of ways, most famously the banners from fans saying “We’re not bigots Mr McCann”, which appeared at Celtic Park earlier this season after McCann had robustly defended Brown against his critics.To outsiders, the whole thing is positively mediaeval. It also contrasts remarkably with the seamless appointment of a Catholic, Bob Brannan, as the chief executive at Ibrox. Brannan was appointed with minimal fuss and little comment, unthinkable even ten years ago. He was right in amongst the Rangers fans at PAOK Salonika in August, and more recently spotted trackside at Rangers’ recent triumph at Leverkusen, whooping it up with the fans. An interesting contrast, don’t you think?
Steve Smith, Birmingham
I agreed with Nigel Harris’s analysis of Bobby Gould’s Welsh career (WSC No 141) though I suppose one could call it untimely, given our recent wins. However, happy as I was that we didn’t get stuffed again, victories are rather bittersweet with Mad Bob in charge. After the Belarus game, he commended Robbie Savage for deciding to move from defence into midfield without instruction from him. This speaks for itself in terms of respect for the manager, but I’m worried that this might set a precedent for future games. I think Savage might just have got bored, like the big kid in the playground who wants to go centre-forward. Maybe next game, if a player gets a knock or is a bit tired, then he can go in goal for a bit, or perhaps, if we’re a man down, we’ll play rush goalie. I’m sure Bobby won’t mind if he can go on Football Focus again, claim all the glory and go on about how you can’t keep him down for long. Unfortunately, like some town centre nutter, everyone just seems to be ignoring him while going about their own business.
Tony Dolan, Cardiff
If Hull City’s owner David Lloyd insists on proceeding with a deal to sell the club to a consortium that already owns Doncaster Rovers, what are the implications for these clubs? Their owners would know that if the Tigers escaped relegation and Rovers gained promotion back into the League, they would be in breach of the ruling on not owning more than one League club. Which one would they choose to sacrifice? Could it be the one whose ground occupies a prime development site in central Hull? Unless something is done, more lower division clubs could soon become mere profit-making property deals for speculators such as Lloyd, who still purports to have Hull City’s interests at heart.
Marilyn Campbell, Chichester
You really have to hand it to Manchester United for the way that they’ve turned their European season around. I wish them well, but it’s strange, isn’t it, that you never hear the media making the connection between Champions League and “the back door” this season. Does anyone know of a reason why not ? Of course, it could just be me being jealous again.
Steve Marshall, Tynemouth
Am I right in thinking that the recent match between Middlesbrough and Forest was the first in League history to feature two players called Marlon (Beresford of Boro and Harewood of Forest)? Who cares, you ask? Well, I can tell you – it’s a small victory for those of us handicapped by having film buff parents.
Marlon Edwards, Battersea
Chris Turner made some good points in about football strips(Letters, WSC No 141). The continual rip-off of fans, especially of children, with teams changing the design of their strips every new moon is getting beyond a joke. But unless fans stop buying them then they will continue to be churned out. It must be part of the job specification for strip designers to take hallucinogenic drugs for breakfast before starting work on away kits.One point though. Holland in 1988 are not the only side to have achieved anything wearing orange shorts. Dundee United won the Scottish Cup in 1994 wearing orange shorts (well, tangerine actually) with the legendary Ivan Golac at the helm. A man with no need for hallucinogenics, he was high on life – or it could have been the greenhouse effect.
Jim McFarlane, via email
Arriving at Fulham Broadway tube on October 31st, I was disappointed to be informed that the Chelsea v Villa match had been called off because of the torrential rain. I can understand the referee’s point – it really was pissing down. However, I was astonished to see on Match of the Day that Wimbledon’s pitch was perfectly playable. The weather in south London can’t have been any better than at Stamford Bridge, and the pitch at Selhurst is used at least once a week. Chelsea seem to be perceived as a “big” club these days, but their claim looks hollow when hotels and restaurants take priority over having a pitch that can drain properly. And we would have beaten them this time. Probably.
Jez Stephens, Bournville
From WSC 142 December 1998. What was happening this month