I’m sorry for having caused a misunderstanding with a line from my piece, Hardcore Football. Of course Derek Megginson is perfectly right (Letters, WSC No 111): Matthäus, Völler and Klinsmann were neither born in the Ruhr, nor have they ever played for a team from this region; actually, few places can be imagined that are further removed from the Ruhr than these gentlemen’s respective birthplaces. And that, I have to confess, was supposed to be my point.“Matthäus, Völler, Klinsmann . . . they all come from here, the Ruhr” was not meant to be taken literally; it functions as a metaphor (to avoid another complaint: yes, in highbrow lingo it’s a synecdoche). I thought a reader would stumble over this statement and, as a consequence, have a closer look at the err, subordinate clause, “the place where German football was spawned”. No matter how smart, suave and stinking rich these modern pros may be, they are still footballing descendants of the men with furry brows and callused hands. That’s what I wanted to say; and I thought it would work, because few people ran out and checked JFK’s birth certificate when he claimed, “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Alas, it’s not what you want to say, it’s what you say. Any misunderstanding in a text is always the writers;’ fault; metaphors are tricky bastards, and they have fooled better writers than me. We all make mistakes (Derek made one too: Pelé wasn’t born in Scarborough; he was born in Tres Caracoes, Brazil; it’s true that he spent the summers of his youth in Scarborough, with his uncle Simon Garfunkel, but he never would have qualified for Walter Winterbottom’s team). I promise to be less pretentious from now on.
Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger, Witten (birthplace of nobody), Germany (home to few)
I read with interest Andy Chrzanowski’s complaint about the perceived anti-Man Utd, pro-Spurs bias of Sky’s Martin Tyler. Although I didn’t see the game in question, and can’t comment on specific instances of commentatorly indiscretion, I would like to knock firmly on the head Mr Chrzanowski’s claim of ‘North London favouritism’. Martin Tyler is from New Haw, near Woking, went to school in Guildford, and has supported Woking since 1953. Anyone who has the Sky coverage of the 1994 FA Trophy final on video (most people, of course) will see Martin repeatedly picked out in the crowd by the cameras, clearly ecstatic, and in the company of a small child, clearly hugely uninterested. If you really want to pin something on him, try this extract from his ‘Recollections’ series in the Woking club history Cardinal Red dealing with 1995’s retention of the Trophy. Mr Tyler was commentating on some game at Anfield, and had been keeping up with the final on Sky’s monitor: “Even two hundred miles away from Colin Fielder’s famous late winner, it was a fantastic feeling. Mind you, it almost ruined my working relationship with Andy. I had to kiss someone and unfortunately for him he was the nearest.”Bearing in mind that it’s Andy Gray he’s talking about, I would humbly suggest that a little bit of bias is the very least of Martin’s problems.
Simon Bell, Brighton
My boss says that when James Alexander Gordon reads the football results, he refers to the Bolton, Wolverhampton and Wycombe teams as ‘Wandererers’ instead of Wanderers. Is he right? If so, he gets a free ticket to Wolves match; if not, he gets another. Please advise.
Has anyone else noticed that Faustino Asprilla greets the accolades of Newcastle supporters with the same double thumbs up as once mastered by the legendary Bill Maynard of Selwyn Froggitt fame? Could the two in any way be related?
Jez Griffiths, Nottingham
It normally takes quite a lot to make me write to magazines when something irritates me, but I had to do so after reading in the diary of WSC No 111 that Italy had a 100% record since the Anglo Italian tournament was revived. I suppose you’ll be telling us next that last season’s winners, Notts County, are also from the Ligurian Riviera and that their victory was a foretaste of Italy’s poor run in Europe this season.
Unusually, I find myself in broad agreement with John Tandy (WSC No 111). I too think Barry Fry is getting things right. I also feel compelled to save Mr Tandy any legal expense by pointing out that Barry Fry does not receive a cut of any transfer fees at Birmingham City. Shortly after his appointment, Barry was at pains to explain that he had not been afforded the same arrangement as at Southend but that he was pleased with this because it meant he would not feel inclined to sell our best players, nor would he put under pressure from the board of directors to sell our best players. We can take comfort in the knowledge that Barry has not received a single penny from the £4 million combined sale of Messrs Daish, Dominguez, Claridge and Ward. Curiously enough, our best players.
Christopher Newbold, Sutton Coldfield
Being sad, when I read in your tenth birthday quiz (WSC No 111) the question “which strip has been worn most often by FA Cup Final runners-up”, I took a reference book and decided to work it out. A waste of half an hour? No, not at all, for it enabled me to discover that when losing 3-0 to Preston in the 1889 Final, Wolverhampton Wanderers wore pink and white striped shirts. If any Wolves fans know how the players were able to see each other in these shirts, will they please contact Manchester United’s marketing department to assist them in their research.
James Clarke, Bexhill-on Sea
I would just like to congratulate you for refusing to print any grovelingly sycophantic letters congratulating you on your previous issue and telling you to keep on keeping on, like some magazines do. Keep it up!
Neil Gouldson, Middleton
* Will do!
I’m getting sick and tired of the TV cameras focussing on disconsolate Newcastle fans after their side has thrown away yet another away game. Match of the Day on Easter Monday subjected viewers to an entire closing credits’ worth of such pathetic images. Are they the only fans to have ever experienced disappointment? Or are they somehow more important due to the vast amounts of money their club has spent/wasted recently? They should try going to the other St James’ Park to watch my team, Exeter City, serve up their own brand of ‘football’ every other week. Then they’d discover the meaning of suffering . . .
Neil Jones, Exeter
I can only assume that Peter Ridges’ letter (WSC No 111) stating the case for wider goals by singing the praises of American football was included with the sole aim of provoking a reaction. Am I to take it that Peter Ridges is the only truly neutral football supporter in the universe? We’ve all watched our teams fight out dire goalless draws and as a Brentford supporter I have seen more than my fair share this season. However, these games are never boring. They may be frustrating and infuriating, but the prospect of seeing your team scramble one in right on the final whistle, or even the fear of seeing your goalkeeper wildly misjudge a backpass with devastating effect in the dying seconds is enough to keep you interested for the full ninety minutes. Besides, aren’t these games essential if we are to fully appreciate the goal feast that always lies just around the next corner? (A refusal to look facts in the face has at times been the only thing keeping us going at Griffin Park this season.) Football’s popularity owes a great deal to the fact that a single goal can often be decisive. Widening goals would mean widening winning margins, effectively killing off many games long before the final whistle.According to Peter Ridges, “60 years ago American football was an unpopular, boring, violent, repetitive game”. So the rule change from which football can apparently learn so much has miraculously transformed it into a high scoring, unpopular, boring, violent, repetitive game. If Americans want to turn an over-elaborate game of fancy dress catch into a big money sport, then fine. All I can do is wish Major League Soccer all the luck in the world in trying to win over an audience who are no more interested in football than the rest of the world is in gridiron. I suspect João Havelange is writing to WSC under an assumed name in order to poison our minds from within.
Johnny Robbins, La Coruña, Spain
With reference to your 10th birthday music feature in WSC No 110. First time I ever heard Jimi Hendrix was in the cold at Hillsborough. Must have been early ’67. They played ‘Hey Joe’ unannounced before kick off, at half-time and as we were going home. I recall nothing whatsoever about the match; I suppose Wednesday must have been playing. One of the great forgotten albums contains an interesting scoreline. In the middle of ‘Willie and the pig’ on the Grease Band’s first album after Joe Cocker split – 1971’s eponymous Grease Band – we hear sung, quite unmistakably: “It’s West Bromwich 21, and Sheffield Wednesday 2.” This is immediately followed by a passable shuffling guitar solo. United fan no doubt.
Dave Quayle, Milton Keynes
It seems that Alasdair Fitzgerald (Letters, WSC No 111) has completely failed to understand my letter regarding the Wimbledon/Dublin fiasco. Given that he only disagrees with one point I made (the population of Cork), his assertion that almost everything I said was incorrect is quite bizarre. Most of his letter tells of how popular Gaelic football and hurling are. I know all that, hence my statement that “Gaelic games have always had a massive support base”. He then tells us of the woes of Cork football over the last 20 years. I know all about that too. What he doesn’t seem to have grasped is that I was saying that Irish clubs could be successful. I know very well that, over the past couple of decades, most of them have been anything but.
Football chairmen have always had a lot to answer for – now you can add the new wave of crowd violence to their list of shame. Two unsavoury incidents I witnessed at King’s Lynn v Nuneaton (a Beazer Homes League match watch a crowd of 3,000) and Ipswich v Norwich were swiftly followed by mass unrest at Brighton, a pitch invasion at Hull and more trouble at Ipswich v Millwall. We are supposed to believe that it’s all down to a few ‘mindless idiots’ spoiling the fun for the rest of us as we stand with arms linked, singing ‘Give Peace A Chance’. Call me a cynic, but I think there are other factors involved, such as the level of policing at football matches these days, and more importantly the amount it costs to provide police cover. Is it me of were there literally hundreds of police at matches in the Eighties? I remember standing on the North Bank at Arsenal and looking at three clear sections in the Clock End opposite – the Arsenal fans on the left, the away fans on the right and a mass of Old Bill in the middle. Nowadays there just doesn’t seem to be as many police around when push comes to shove. At the East Anglian derby I attended recently there was only one mounted officer outside the ground, presumably attending to nosebag duty while the Ipswich fans invaded the pitch and lobbed coins in the Norwich section. This is a far cry from the charge of the light brigade that greeted the infamous Luton v Millwall pitch invasion in the Eighties. At King’s Lynn, twenty arrests were made after fighting between rival fans. Frightened spectators spilled onto the pitch as the fifteen or so police in the ground tried to sort the situation out. A reliable source tells me that a club like Lynn can expect to pay around £78 per hour for the services of a police sergeant, while a constable costs £50. A crowd of 3,600 paying £4 each brings in around £14,000 for the club. After deducting the players’ and manager’s money, then £200-plus for each policeman spending four hours at the game, your bumper payday is beginning to look a bit sickly. The recent trend has been for stewards and ‘specials’ to replace full-time policemen. It costs clubs less and it no doubt costs our cash-strapped constabulary less as well – but is it safe? I wonder whether our eager-to-save chairmen haven’t been a bit premature in deciding that all is now quiet on the Western front. I wouldn’t want to think that club boards are taking chances with spectator safety in order to save a few bob.
Joe Ferrari, King’s Lynn
From WSC 112 June 1996. What was happening this month