Surely the insouciant arrogance with which David Elleray slithers to cover up his mistakes cannot be unconnected with his day job? Who remembers a school teacher who ever admitted to getting something wrong? Of course, as a servant of the privileged classes, Elleray performs his role with a polished charm, his eyes glinting like a demented pterodactyl. But beyond this saurian resemblance, I can’t be the only person to notice that the penalty he gave against Sean Dyche, for obstruction outside the area, was a carbon copy of the dreadful decision he gave against Frank Sinclair when he came shoulder to shoulder outside the box with the dying swan of the Ukrainian ballet, Andrei Kanchelskis, in the 1994 Cup Final. It’s time this man was confined to the playing fields of Harrow.
Martin Humphrey, London SW4
Now that left-winger Tony Banks is the new minister of Sport, will WSC be displaying a more positive attitude towards the ‘establishment’? Or will it be business as usual – immature sniping, by posturing former Trotskyites, at anyone in authority who wears a suit and who appears in any way ‘grown up’? The latter, I hope.
Mick Rubbleman, Chester
I heard that the Forest mascot – a sort of squirrel/fox hybrid that wears a Robin Hood-type tunic – was recently voted the most hated club mascot. I propose a change to something a bit more appropriate to the city of Nottingham. As part of a half-time entertainment, perhaps the squirrox (pat pending) could be ritualistically slaughtered by its replacement, for example being chased around the pitch to exhaustion by chain-smoking Boots plc beagles before being put out of its misery by a deft blow to the head with a blunt instrument. It would enhance the afternoon further if the entire Forest team could be similarly dealt with, thereby ending the suffering of the fans with a comedy flourish.
PhilClarke, via email
One of the main reasons why teams like Swindon languish in the lower divisions is the attitude of so-called supporters like Ali Veysey (Letters, WSC No 123), who do nothing but moan and groan about any initiative the club may promote as half-time entertainment. The Robinettes may not be the Ballet Royal, but are a whole-hearted bunch of girls trying to stimulate some interest from a crowd not known for its passion. No doubt Ali Veysey sits in the Castrol Stand, known colloquially as the dead centre of Swindon.
CP Bailey, Cheltenham
In his article Instant Replayed (WSC No 123) about Burnley’s FA Cup Quarter-Final, Simon Evans recounts Steve Taylor’s last gasp penalty being blasted into the stand. In my recollection it was the limpest trickle-along-the-ground penalty ever. With memory obviously such an unreliable thing, perhaps there is another supporter out there who can remember him netting from the spot and heralding an era of unprecedented success for the Clarets.
Crawford Scholes, Bollington
Laudable though David Hayes’ trashing of Tyne Tees’ The Football Show (WSC No 123) may have been, Geordie viewers should have known that for trite banality you’re pipped by the North West (again). Granada’s The Footie Show pairs post-Welsby Evertonian Trevor Ward with his apparent paramour who is (or ought to be) called either Becky or Debbie, to prove categorically that ‘Football humour’ is a media oxymoron. Becky (or Debbie, or is it Tracy?) parades her coveted indifference to football and performs the single function of conducting alleged interviews in a foamy bath (yes, really) with such local luminaries as Lee Sharpe and Eric Hall. Admittedly, The Footie Show does give airtime to the Burys, Blackpools and Burnleys (to whom Granada has action access without lining the pockets or Murdoch or Birt), but even they get less of a look-in than beer-bellied chancers in Sunday slug-outs, queuing up to be sneered at in a regular (ie cheap) feature. Incidentally, while the Shaka Hislop ‘kittens’ gag was pretty dire, it’s David James who is nicknamed The Cat because he keeps getting in a flap. Sorry, I heard Nick Owen was after a new scriptwriter.
Tony Kinsella, Swinton
Surely the time has arrived for the game’s big cheeses to sit down and thrash out what is an acceptable goal celebration and ensure match officials rigorously enforce it at every level? On the one hand Uwe Rosler is carded for slapping the hands of his own supporters. On the other, at Blackburn, Cole and Scholes involve themselves in what could be described as ‘inflammatory’ euphorics (Cole – the naughty boy/finger on lip, Scoles – a laughable Category A stare) without the nearest hint of reffing action. Clarification is obviously required. Personally I long for the return of the swift, stiff handshake (in the event of a particularly spectacular strike, maybe a backslap) and back to the centre circle for the restart. That said I must confess to a fondness for Lee Sharpe’s corner flag antics, but he doesn’t get much opportunity for that at Leeds.
Mark Craven, Rochdale
The debate over the legalisation of cannabis and the question: “John Motson – is he all there?” are two topics of national interest which are continuously aired by our media. Yet I wonder how many of your readers realize how the subject of wacky baccy and Motty are irrevocably linked? Around four years ago I was taking a short break in Amsterdam with an American psychologist friend who considers my interest in football to be part of some incurable pathological condition. So I welcomed with relief his decision to allow me to watch the BBC coverage of the UEFA Cup second round tie between Norwich and Bayern Munich before we hit town one evening, even though I was suspicious that he was using me as a guinea pig in some kind of clinical study. As the game started he realized he would only be able to endure it with the help of some locally rolled cigarettes, and these were smoked accordingly. As the latter worked their magic, my friend began to laugh helplessly at every phrase the man Motson sent down his microphone, and I watched in fascination as an internationally respected mind doctor was reduced to a giggling wreck. Motty’s commentary that night was no different to the usual gibberish he’s been spouting for the last 25 years. Which leads me to wonder whether the man is taking something before games, and the only way for us to really appreciate what he’s saying is to enter a similar state of mind by ingesting or inhaling whatever it is he’s on. I’m sure it would work with Barry Davies and Brian Moore as well.
Ian Plenderleith, Zurich, Switzerland
Much has been written (most of it negative) regarding the idea of feeder clubs. I would like to propose an alternative: Feeder Nations. This seems to me to be a much more logical step since it promotes World Peace and encourages small children to learn a foreign language and take an interest in another culture. Here’s how it works. Clubs are allowed as many foreign players as they like – but only from one country. Thus Chelsea can only field English and Italian players, Arsenal only English and French, Man Utd English and . . . er . . . well you get the picture. Middlesbrough will no doubt lay claim to Brazil, but that may be justifiably contested by a host of other Premiership sides – personally I feel Wimbledon have earned first shout given the similarities between the Brazilian league structure and their own business model. Spurs get Argentina (and what a lovely couple they make). Sheffield Wednesday and Belgium are ideal for each other. Portugal should relocate their embassy to Leeds immediately. Villa fans may wish to pick up a copy of Teach Yourself Colloquial Spanish. Leicester and Poland has a certain solidarity about it. This really gets interesting outside the Premiership, where you can pair Tranmere and Finland, Charlton and Morocco, or maybe Shrewsbury and Macedonia, but I feel there should be a natural synergy between twinned club and country. I would therefore encourage fans to choose their preferred Feeder Nation on a first come, first served basis and justify it by whatever kind of perverse logic they wish to employ. For myself I would only feel comfortable were Bristol City to start taking players from Chile. They play in red like we do and I seem to remember them having a half-decent team in the ’70s. Their ability to cope with high altitudes would be useful against Stockport or Chesterfield and the sound of the Pan Pipes would echo nicely up the Clifton Gorge. If other nations were to adopt this scheme as well (are you listening FIFA?) we could see some of the finest Lumbering English Centre-Halves we have shouting and pointing in Managua, Alexandria, Osaka, and Mombasa, and wouldn’t they be that much better for the international experience?
Matt Greenslade, Flight Of The Condor Stand, Ashton Gate
You either love them or loathe them, but once again the club has totally dominated the Premier League. With their large following, huge wealth and foreign players Glasgow Rangers are once more about to be crowned champions. It has not been their best season, with heavy defeats inflicted by the so-called lesser clubs, but as we enter the final games of 1996-97 fortunately for them the major challengers dropped vital points and the expected challenge never materialized. Their foreign superstar, last year’s Player of the Year and more famous for his off the field activities than those on it, is again the subject of transfer rumours. Meanwhile, European success has eluded them but no doubt they will be installed as clear favourites for the domestic trophies next season. Now read this passage again replacing the words Glasgow Rangers with Manchester United and then explain to me again the difference between the Scottish and English Premier Leagues.
Doug Stenhouse, Altrincham
“It’s his lack of quality that doesn’t provide a goalscoring chance.” (Ray Wilkins on Babangida, Juventus v Ajax, European Cup Semi-Final). Just how much does the smooth-talking bushbaby get paid for expert opinions like this?
Andy Cranwell, Errol
In his 50th birthday tribute to Johan Cruijff (not Cruyff) in WSC No 123 Simon Kuper says that Cruijff, “comes from the generation of Dutchmen to whom England meant the BBC radio under the blankets during the war.” Which war? I can’t remember a war taking place in this quaint little queendom by the sea after Cruijff was born (in 1947!). About that penalty against Helmond Sport. Cruijff was not the first player to take a penalty that way (passing the ball to a teammate instead of a straight kick at goal). A Belgian international named Rik Coppens had done that decades earlier. But as Cruijff pointed out, that has never been shown on TV, so how was he to know? Kuper is right when he says that Cruijff “obeys his wife in every regard”. That’s why he didn’t play in the 1978 World Cup Finals. In order to create unrest in the Dutch camp during the 1974 tournament that fine example of German journalism, Bild Zeitung (a tabloid) published (false) stories about Dutch players (including Cruijff) celebrating a victory around their hotel swimming pool with champagne and naked women. The missus didn’t like that and told Johan that that was to be last time he would spend such a long time away from home. So no Argentina for Cruijff. And no World Cup for “us”. For some reason that traumatic last-minute-of-normal-time-and-the score-still-one-all-shot-by-Rensenbri-nk-that-hit-the-post springs to mind. As Blackadder once said: “I think the phrase rhymes with ‘clucking bell’.”
Martin Cornelisse, Den Haag, Holland
Like a lot of people, I took a great deal of pleasure in watching Manchester United getting knocked out of Europe. Was it the thought of how stupid Peter Schmeichel looked after his ‘we’d have beaten the 68 team 10-0' remarks? Was it the thought of all those United fans who assumed they had a team who could take on the best, in spite of those earlier home defeats, to Fenerbache and Juventus? No, actually. Schmeichel had a point, if you read beyond the headlines – fitness has improved massively in the 20 years since, so the midfield would be overrun and Nobby Stiles wouldn’t get close enough to Cole and co to kick them. And United’s true fans have been through enough this season, what with the Portuguese police, to make up for the fair-weather whingers. And if the others can’t cope with United, then they’ll never be able to give the likes of Dortmund a run for their money. No, it was the thought of no more Brian bloody Moore, who sounds as if he has a Union flag protruding from every orifice whenever he commentates on British teams in Europe. Just so long as the ref in the final isn’t English, we might actually get a tolerable commentary that doesn’t force you to turn the volume down and miss the crowd noise.
Richard Peters, Tulse Hill
From WSC 124 June 1997. What was happening this month