Matt Nation (WSC No 122) clearly wasn’t among the hardy souls that witnessed a quite literally stomach-churning performance by Leeds at Shrewsbury in the early ’80s. Having led 1-0 at half-time, Leeds collapsed spectacularly in the second half to lose 5-1. All this was clearly too much for one John Donnelly, a midfield journeyman for whom the epithet “He can’t be worse than...” would be praise indeed.Midway through the game he just about made it to the touchline before bending double and throwing his guts up. Any suggestion that the permed Scottish bruiser had been out on the raz the night before would be completely scurrilous, but let’s just say he left on a free transfer at the end of the season. And while going for a 40-60 ball with Roy Keane may not count as heroics in Matt Nation’s eyes, there’s every chance of seeing any player who does try and ‘compete’ with Roy quite literally shitting themselves on the pitch. I know I would.
Andy Limb, Brixton
I must take up the challenge laid down in Mark Winter’s article Light Relief (WSC No 122) and disabuse him of the idea that the urinal at Runcorn is in any way a first. I think that the title must be taken by the red brick ‘netty’ at West Auckland’s Darlington Road ground. Breeze block, hah! This sturdy construction in engineering works brick with five foot high wall and open aspect covered in generations of patination has stood for many decades. It is alleged that news of this most terrifying form of ablution caused panic among the Juventus stars who played West Auckland in the first World Cup tournament just before the Great War, causing them to lose heart – a point sadly missed in the dramatisation of the game A Captain’s Tale starring Denis Waterman.
Gerald Wallace, Gateshead
Your diary entry for February 8th and Kevin Bartholomew's article (both WSC No 122) were probably wrong when they asserted that attendees at the Fans United day included supporters from virtually every other Football League team. Our plight at Brighton has struck a chord mainly with fans of other medium sized teams who see either images of their own past or possible nightmare visions of their future. To fans of Manchester United et al we are from another world, and our actions only have relevance when we are accused by a hysterical media of jeopardising the country’s chances of hosting future international tournaments. I did not see any fans from Third Division clubs other than Brighton and Hartlepool on that day, and quite understandably. To the supporters of these smaller clubs our troubles are a fact of every day life. Imminent extinction? Been there. Relegation to the Conference? Done that. As a Hartlepool fan remarked to me after the game: No-one ever did anything like this for us. We must appear like a bunch of spoilt brats; kicking up a fuss simply because we don’t get our way. Events at the Orient game will only have served to reinforce this view. It’s very easy to have sympathy with someone who is worse off than you are, but your immediate rivals are another matter. I, for one, feel perfectly justified in despising every other League team simply because they are above us. We all experience some pleasure when someone above us takes a fall. There have been some sympathetic noises from other Third Division supporters but, when it comes down to it, it’s a them or us situation. On hearing of the Bournemouth situation many Brighton fans initial reaction will have been that this could just save us. We have been reduced to looking desperately for the results of Doncaster and Hereford and trading insults with Darlington fans. Matt Tenholme (Letters, WSC No 122) might like to know that large crowds do not win football matches. He will have realised this if Darlo had ever had one. Having said all that, if there is another Fans United day somewhere else, I will make every effort to attend. But if, in the meantime, Brighton failed to survive, I may just decide that someone else deserves to go through what I have. I wonder how supporters of Maidstone and Aldershot feel?
Sam, via email
Am I the only person who has spotted the piece of blatant racist typecasting during the Sportsnight introductory credits? Maybe I’m just the only one sad enough to write in about it. I refer of course to the players depicted at the end of the title sequence. English and Irish footballers show their grace and guile while the Scottish players end the piece with what can only be described as a ‘Glasgae kiss’. Typical eh? It doesn’t even look like Duncan Ferguson either...
Jim Taggart, Hull
I read with interest the article on Manchester United’s Museum and Tour Centre, but can I take this opportunity to correct two of the statements made by Joyce Woolridge (Modern History, WSC No 122)? I have to admit that they are small points but if we made such mistakes here we would have all the anoraks in Manchester (and there are lots) making their voices heard. Firstly the wonderful trophy of the queen with lions etc, was a gift from Real Madrid to commemorate the matches against United in the 1956-57 season’s European Cup Semi Final. Barcelona gave us a statuette of a short fat bearded bloke. The second error is that Newton Heath was founded in 1878 not 1873 as Ms Woolridge states. The Stretford End may have been christened the unhistorical West Stand for safety reasons but along the front of the stand’s roof runs an advert for Umbro as “sponsors of the Stretford End”. Currently there are plans for a Museum relocation to the North Stand where we hope a new three floor Museum will open next year. This extra space will allow us to examine some of the subjects currently neglected in our displays. By this I mean United’s stunning lack of success and virtual bankruptcy in the 1930s and a proper look at the club’s supporters. I would hope that our new museum would look rather more critically at the history of the club and not just show it as all ‘Glory, Glory, Man Utd’. Bankruptcy, match-fixing and hooliganism all have a place in the history of Manchester United and should be included in that history. Also I’d be very grateful if you could publicise that we are actively collecting supporters’ memorabilia, including travel documents, badges, jackets with sewn-on patches etc.
Mark S Wylie, Curator, Manchester United Museum and Tour Centre
If only Murray Jones’ current whereabouts were unknown (He Can’t be Worse Than, WSC No 122). As Kingstonian fans know all too well, he is probably crumpled in a heap on some ICIS League pitch, clutching his head for no immediately obvious reason. And, as a result of his latest bout of head-clutching, Jones too is at the centre of a ‘video evidence’ controversy. Jones turned up at Kingstonian last March, wore his shorts as far up his rectum as the picture in your last issue suggests and fell over. A lot. Occasionally to good effect. But usually to the annoyance of supporters – mostly, though not exclusively, opposition supporters. Jones turned up at Sutton last August. And, in a Ks’ game there in February scored as many goals in the first fifteen minutes against us as he had done in a dozen games for us (two). However, Jones was also one of seven (!) players booked in that time. And when his head-clutch arrived, a second yellow inevitably followed. At which point, all hell broke loose. Five Sutton players stormed off the pitch with Jones. And the ref, sensing that six against eleven would not be much of a contest, even with Ks crap defence, took the other players off for a “cooling-off period” (and to have a lie down himself, I shouldn’t wonder). The crowd, meanwhile, chanted for an abandonment so they could go down the pub for some “cooling-off” of their own. Sutton eventually won the game, which inevitably ended up as a nine-a-side. But Jones wasn’t finished. As luck would have it, Cable TV were recording the game. And the incident which lead to his demise is, apparently, on camera. So Murray is appealing against his sending-off, although the clearest evidence on the video is probably that Murray is appalling. Here’s to his whereabouts being unknown again very soon.
Mark Murphy, Chessington
Re: Feeding Time (WSC No 122). 14th February (Valentine’s Day, how sweet) brought the announcement of a rather cosy ‘alliance’ between Crewe and Liverpool. “Feeder club!” was the cry. Numerous arguments exist either side of the fence, but surely the media, clubs, and sadly, many supporters, are missing the point: Crewe Alexandra are being stripped of their identity. Although the smaller clubs struggle financially, we are not charity cases. Patronizing fans of so-called larger clubs should think on: Big club suffers stock market crash, relegation from the Premier League and the loss of several key players – it could now happen to one of the bigger teams. In their sudden fall from grace would they then form an alliance with United, Liverpool or Newcastle? No, it wouldn’t happen. Crewe’s alliance could well be a visionary move and deep down many know that it makes sense. But football isn’t about sense. I’m sick of references to other industries, that you have to move on. Other businesses lack football’s tradition and supporters who are brand loyal like no other consumers – sometimes to the point of insanity. Too much passion has already been stripped from the game, and this takes us all another step towards a nondescript system where results are insignificant and razzamatazz is all.
Jules Hornbrook, Editor, Super Dario Land
In reply to Simon Tyers’ letter (WSC No 122) I’d like the witch hunt for half-time entertainment to include my team, Aldershot Town. Okay, I know we’re non-League playing in the Devon Custard League Division Nine (or whatever it’s called this season), but crappy entertainment even spills down the ladder to this level. At home games I’ve witnessed events from daytime fireworks displays to the dreaded cheer leader dance acts. To top it all, though, Barton Rovers provided us with a pre-match kite flying display. I ask you.
Mike Wray, Crowthorne
It’s a mighty long time since I flicked through a copy of ‘Know The Game – Association Football’, but I’m sure there’s a rule about there being only 22 players, plus one ref, on the pitch while the ball’s in play. Why, then, does the physio feel he can take a short cut across the corner flag (saving a couple of yards) while meandering back to the bench? Makes me mad.
Ed Broom, Ipswich
Simon Tyers has initiated an interesting debate about the worst entertainment to be found at out football grounds (WSC No 122). I think it is my duty to end it. At Swindon Town, the introduction of the cleverly named ‘Robinettes’ is enough to send all but the infirm and the clinically insane scurrying for cover. Whilst the few who remain to witness the antics of our intrepid ‘dancers’ ponder the question as to why they were ever introduced, I can’t help wondering if they have ever been introduced to each other (a question that could also be aimed at our defence in recent weeks). If you are still in doubt, or have a peculiarly high pain threshold, why not witness them for yourselves – but remember you have been warned...
Ali Veysey, Charlton
Well, after reading Simon Evans’ article (WSC No 122) no-one will ever go to a match in Eastern Europe again! Although a lot of what he says is true (the barbed wire, the filthy toilets, the skinheads), I feel he paints a far bleaker picture than what I, at least, have experienced. I am a season ticket holder at Widzew Lodz and can honestly say that I have never seen any “clashes between skinhead groups and police” and so would certainly not describe this as a “regular occurrence”, either inside or outside the ground. I am not denying that Polish football has a hooligan problem, nor am I trying to say that Widzew Lodz fans are angels, it’s just that not every game is like a war zone. This is true even of derby matches – the tension is high and the fans abuse each other no matter how dull the game, but this doesn’t mean that things are to ‘kick off’ afterwards. I couldn’t speak for the rest of Eastern Europe, or even Poland, but here in Lodz at least, I go to games, see some good football, some passionate support and, dare I say, I enjoy it.
Matt Smelt-Webb, Lodz, Poland
Regarding television replays (Editorial, WSC No 122), it must be worth noting that the almost exclusively televisual sport, gridiron, adopted the TV umpire a few years back. Now I would suspect that the gridiron game provides a commercial model on which the Premier League is widely based (executive boxes, bags of cash etc) but it is interesting to note that TV replays are no longer used for reasons, as I recall, of holding up the game for too long and because of a few important decisions where the original, correct ruling of the umpires was overruled by a dicey, myopic call from the TV booth. In the other sport which has adopted some measure of TV adjudication, cricket, I was unfortunate enough to witness at first hand a decision reversed by booing from the executive boxes (who were all watching the game on TV, of course) at Cape Town. Both teams ended up bringing the game into disrepute and the umpire looked a complete dick, not because he made the wrong decision in the first place but because he gave in to the pressure he was placed under by the players to reverse his decision using TV evidence which he had not previously called for. The mess out in the middle was quite unpleasant and introduced a very sour atmosphere among the crowd. From my own experience of supporting both sports, the repercussions of a similar decision in football do not really bear too much thinking about. If the ref makes a howler, it is over in a moment and the game goes on with most people in the ground unsure of what really happened anyway. If it goes to TV replay you hear it on the radio, see it on the big screen and it takes bloody ages, and in any case most of the live partisan support (ie those closest to getting on the pitch) are not interested in what the correct decision is anyway. On the other hand, I have just seen a referee’s assistant lose Southend United two points by apparently not being able to tell the difference between a black player and a white colleague. Maybe TV replays should be introduced but only in the Icis League and Belgian second division for a trial period.
AD Godfrey, Canvey Island
From WSC 123 May 1997. What was happening this month