A couple of things about the Back, Crabbe and Solomos article on racism in WSC No 118 which I thought was good and said a few things which needed saying. Most of the academic stuff linking hooliganism and racism was actually about support for the national team in the 1980s and 90s. Multi-cultural hooligan groups have been around for a while as Back and co say, but isn’t it mysterious that only their white members turned up to watch England, especially away? They knew what the score was for these kind of events, and violent racism was indeed central to trouble involving England fans abroad for a long time. Secondly, implying that multi-racial hooligan groups are themselves non-racist raises difficult conceptual issues of course; but try telling the Asian community in Newham in the 1980s, for example, that they weren’t sometimes explicit targets of combined back and white hooliganism and racism at West Ham and you might get some puzzled looks. Thirdly, the article’s point about opposing banal racism is important, but it would help if people involved in the campaign sang from the same hymn sheet. What chance do we have of dealing with the old (white) men on the terrace who often equate racism with a critique of redheads, if Ian Wright at the AGARI launch himself describes racism as being like “picking on people with big ears” or “people who are bald”. Saying, well, Wright’s ‘just a footballer’ or ‘just a working class lad’ won’t due unless we’re willing to say the same about his white equivalents most of whom even now don’t take racism seriously enough for exactly these sorts of reasons. Had a prominent white player made the same comment who knows what kind of press he might have had.
John Williams, Sir Norman Chester Centre for Football Research, Leicester
As a metaphysical transcendentalist, there is only one mystery in the universe to me; why have Brazil and Germany never met in a competitive match? In the twelve World Cup Finals since the War, either Brazil or (West) Germany have been in a staggering eleven of them. But not only have they never met in a Final, they’ve never met in a group or knockout stage either, in any event, ever. Even in 1950, when the final stage was a four team group, Germany had managed to avoid inclusion by engineering a war. What’s going on?
Ged Smith, Liverpool
Conrad Thomas deserves a mention for writing a piece of sanitized fantasy on the abandoned Portadown v Cliftonville football match (WSC No 118). Can I give another side to what he has claimed? Firstly, all football fans here in Northern Ireland are totally opposed to mob violence from any quarter. There are no excuses. Secondly, Cliftonville fans have been painted as innocents abroad, mere spectators in the frenzied grasp of loyalists hordes. The truth is far from this. Cliftonville has a significant travelling army of rabid republicans, who glorify the IRA in song, chant and emblems. They laid a wreath at the site of an IRA mass murder attempt a few miles from Portadown, and have consistently offered provocation by waving the flag of a foreign country at away games. They have chanted obscenities at games where the deaths of policemen and soldiers are treated like football scores (“2–0 . . .” etc). Conrad must have been missing on these occasions. There were, I’m sad to say, plenty of them. The simple truth is that tolerance is required on all sides. Conrad got it wrong in pretending that all the blame lay with the loyalists, when the truth was somewhat less appealing. Football in Ulster needs honesty from all real fans. We should stop kidding ourselves that we are blameless, and yes, that should include Cliftonville fans as well.
John Gowan, Hillsborough, Co. Down
Though I enjoy most of what appears in WSC and find a fair proportion of it amusing, I must say I found the piece on Geoff Thomas in WSC No 119 in particularly poor taste. Time was when any professional player making a comeback after a career-threatening injury was looked on with admiration, not only by his colleagues within the game, but also by all genuine lovers of football, regardless of which club they follow. Perhaps instead of the catchy but meaningless phrase ‘Injury Hell’ the writer could have detailed just how many operations Geoff Thomas had in his time out of action, and what guts and determination were necessary to fight his way back into contention following his first unsuccessful comeback: I’m sure many players would have called it a day after setbacks of this magnitude. As for Thomas’ qualities, the writer of this 'witty; item has been over-influenced by the clip which Skinner and Baddiel are fond of showing on their programme. I would suggest that a fairer assessment of the player could be gained by speaking to supporters in the stands at Selhurst Park, where he is still missed: I noticed the Palace fans gave him a rousing round of applause when he appeared on crutches on the touchline at Molineux to make a presentation during Wolves-Palace fixture last season. I think I value their judgment a bit more than that of the writer of this unfunny and unnecessary contribution.
John Powell, Broseley
Graham D Lee’s tirade against Rangers in Europe (WSC No 119) was a waste in your letters section. So Hearts lost to Red Star Belgrade, “one of the best teams in Europe a few years ago”? Well, quite a lot has happened in the former Yugoslavia in the last few years. As for Celtic, they lost home and away, with the usual sendings off, to a mediocre German side, who were then thrashed by Monaco. In fact, if anyone has particularly disgraced Scotland in Europe recently it is not Rangers, but Aberdeen, by losing to the likes of Skonto Riga. Rangers’ demolition of Alania Vladikavkaz should not be underestimated. Last season, the Russian champions gave Liverpool a very hard time and Manchester United were knocked out by a side who finished behind Alania. Also, I have seen Basile Boli described in your pages as “the last known” Catholic to join Rangers. This should be a dead subject by now, but Jorg Albertz, the German international Rangers signed this summer, is a Catholic.
Neil MacDonald, Wood Green
This is really, really getting on my nerves. If I hear any more moralising rubbish about Paul Gascoigne I will go mad. The article Male Order in WSC No 119 is a case in point. Don’t get it wrong, I think what he did was appalling. But you cannot equate him beating his wife with another offence which he could not repeat whilst on a football pitch. There is no chance of him beating his wife whilst running around on a football pitch playing for England, but there is a chance of him being racist. Therefore it would be right to withdraw him from a squad for the latter offence, but not the former. The only reasons I have heard that would initially appear to have some value are: firstly, he is representing England and therefore this is a bad image for the country; secondly, that he is a bad role model. Well, I think they are both cobblers too. For goodness sake, he’s a footballer, not a government diplomat. He’s not there to represent all that is upstanding in a person, he’s there to kick a ball into a net. The idea of a role model is myth. I work in a youth centre and not one young person has ever said they will go and beat their friends or partners because Paul Gascoigne does. Sure, they may want to be as good a footballer (but most think he’s fat and lazy), but nothing else. People learn how to live from their families and friends, not the media which is, by its nature, one-dimensional. There, I feel better already.
Jonathan Farnhill, East Dulwich
18th December, 1996, West Brom v Norwich. Andy Hunt and Tim Hamilton both on a hat-trick. Is this the first time that players have decided who should take a penalty by playing ‘Scissors, Stone, Paper’? Hamilton won; stone blunted scissors. Unfortunately, the goalkeeper had chosen paper and the shot missed the target.
Steve Tilley, via email
“Cantona's expression stating the whole French dictionary without saying a word.” – Barry Davies, Man Utd v Spurs, 5/1/97. Why hasn't he been pensioned off yet?
Simon Tyers, via email
Mark Draper may not be able to hit the proverbial cow’s arse these days, but he’s got that snot projecting down to a tee. During the Villa v Wimbledon game it happened about four times – crap shot trickles wide . . . Sky’s camera zooms in for a close-up of his embarrassment and . . . Splurt! Has he got someone directing him saying, “Now, Mark! Let’s see what Martin and Andy make of that!”? I was trying to eat my dinner at the time.
Alan Dell, via email
Well, it’s a New Year, the traditional time of reflection and in-and-out lists. As most of the other football mags who usually indulge in such frippery are in the process of undergoing re-launches because of poor circulation figures and WSC is unlikely to stoop to such predictable January space-filler tactics, please allow me to do the stooping for you and present the Football In-and-Out List for 1997. In 1997, the main change in terms of football fashion will be the end of the 70s nostalgia boom. Instead, 1988 will become the year that everyone wants to get back to. Liverpool will win the League with something to spare, Wimbledon might nick one of the cups and England will be horribly outclassed by a top European nation. Also In: Inflatables, politically right-on fans, negativity, drugs at matches, short shorts, football backlash. Out: Sky TV, success, positivity, beer at matches, long shorts, celebrity fans, lads, football magazines by big publishing companies, In-and Out lists. A WSC T-shirt for that, I think!
Gabriel Tupman, Shoreditch
* Errmm, no.
So there are 11,000 Druids in this country according to Matt from Gateshead (WSC No 119) and only 100 Satanists? But if he is taking issue with the latter being included in an illustration about football, race, religions and sects because it was based on numbers, then surely it would be the Marxists who wouldn’t qualify? After all, in these Blairite times, there can’t be more than 20 in the whole country nowadays, though I don’t doubt that they, too, are all passionate football fans (game of the working man and all that). In fact there are many more Satanists at large in the UK than Matt suspects. My Black Arts discussion group, for example, regularly meet up at Rochdale’s Spotland on a Saturday afternoon for a bit of light relief before we get on to serious business later in the evening. (We’re easy to spot – just look for the group behind the goal with the capes and antlers.) If Druids do genuinely attend football matches, I can only so they must be pretty quiet about it. Then again, the Celts don’t have much to cheer about, football-wise, just now.
Balthazar de Ville, Rossendale
Middlesbrough FC have now got a ‘Counterfeit Goods Hotline’ you can call to report anything bearing the club badge or logo which you think might be a fake. The way the defence is playing I think this is asking for trouble.
Chris Front, Redcar
Have TV football pundits just noticed snow for the first time? How else to explain their crazed reaction to the Winter weather, exemplified by Trevor Brooking on MOTD dutifully backing up Harry Redknapp’s unseemly rant about the Wrexham pitch. Surely every former player had to cope with the odd icy surface in their time – or was it really Summer all year round in the old days before we went decimal, like my Gran used to claim? Of course it could simply be that all the fuss is because it’s buggering up their precious TV schedules. In which case – nice one, Mr Winter.
Ian Campbell, Birkenhead
From WSC 120 February 1997. What was happening this month