I think it was William Shakespeare who once said “Don’t believe everything you read in newspapers. Or fanzines.” At any rate, unless someone corrects a few of the fallacies in Ulrich Hesse-Lichtenberger’s article about German football (WSC No 110), WSC readers will be suffering from some pretty serious misconceptions. How on earth can Ulrich claim “Matthäus, Klinsmann, Völler – they all come from the Ruhr”? Oh yeah, and Kenny Dalglish is a Cockney, I suppose? According to my copy of the 1996 edition of ‘The Sad Person’s Guide to the Date and Place of Birth of Every Famous German Footballer’, Rudi Völler was born in Hanau near Frankfurt and began his career with local team Offenbach Kickers. Lothar Matthäus comes from Herzogenaurach, a little place near Nuremberg whose other claim to fame is that it is the home of the Adidas empire. Jürgen Klinsmann is proud to be a Swabian and played for both major Stuttgart clubs before experiencing such huge success with Inter Cardiff and Scarborough. His career was resurrected by David Dein of Arsenal, but he later returned to Germany to play for Borussia 1898 Dudeldorf. Surely everyone ought to check his facts carefully before submitting anything to you for publication?
Derek Megginson, Scarborough
(birthplace of Bobby Charlton, Savo Milosevic and Pelé)
Having spent an afternoon in front of the TV for a dull 0-0 draw between Leeds and Liverpool (Barry and Trevor tried not to say “what this game needs is a goal” too often, but failed) today was perhaps the wrong day for me to hear the news that FIFA have dismissed the idea of introducing bigger goals. Graham Kelly apologized for even considering it, saying it was just a thought and not his idea anyway. There’s a lesson here from America. No, please, bear with me. First, a baseball quote (reading about baseball is much more interesting than watching it) from former player Bob Gibson: “In any sport, there is a natural tendency for defence to develop the upper hand over time.” Which is true, because it’s easier to teach untalented players to do defensive things like holding an opponent’s shirt for ninety minutes than it is to teach things like curling the ball into the top corner from 25 yards. So what happens? Should the law-makers allow a low-scoring game to evolve naturally, or should they intervene to maintain, or even increase, scoring levels? 60 years ago American Football was an unpopular, boring, violent, repetitive game consisting entirely of pile-ups in the mud and long kicks downfield. (Yes, it was as bad as rugby.) But the NFL has maintained a policy of continually changing the rules for the benefit of spectators (including moving the goalposts). Seventy years ago, 0-0 ties were commonplace; there hasn’t been one for over 50 years now. The result, much as I hate to say it, is a very interesting, complex and popular game. Of the ten most-watched TV programmes in the USA last year, eight were NFL games. And they don’t allow sponsors’ names on shirts. On the other hand, there’s baseball. An example of how conservative baseball is: for 100 years, there have been two leagues, whose champions play each year in the hyperbolically titled World Series. Imagine having a season ticket at Newcastle and never seeing Matt Le Tissier. It’s that sensible. But if you're a true baseball fan, you’re supposed to approve of this situation, as a mark of your unconditional love for the game. You’d rather watch Vinny Jones twice a year than Vinny and Matt once each because, well, that's the way it’s always been.And I’m sure that’s why I'm a bit embarrassed to admit that I would quite like goalposts to be just a teensy bit bigger. Next I’ll be saying that a 300 mile round trip to Doncaster for a 0-0 draw that was invisible from the visitors’ end might not have been the most profitable use of my time. And how many of the people who dismiss the 25-foot goal as a gimmick ever complain that there are too many goals? OK, apart from Alan Hansen. FIFA are responsible for trying to ensure that playing to win, or even to avoid defeat, is automatically entertaining. The NFL has managed it, from a very unpromising start; I have never heard an NFL team accused of winning with boring tactics, because it can't be done. That's the challenge for FIFA.
Peter Ridges, via email
Call me pedantic, but in your haste to sneer at Wimbledon (“Another busy day at Plough Lane”, Letters, WSC No 110), the photograph used was not that of Plough Lane! (If anything, it looked a bit like Doncaster Rovers’ Belle Vue.) I mean, have a good look at it, because if the SW19 car park was that big, we’d still be playing at (a redeveloped) Plough Lane and not nearing the end of a seven stretch at HMP Selhurst!
Ray Armfield, Sheerness *Oops. It was indeed Belle Vue. Our photographer took a wrong turning on the motorway.
Okay, the game’s up. All English Premiership managers are charged herewith of doing their best to nobble Scotland for Euro ’96. Evidence? I hear you cry. I’ll give you evidence! Joe Royle – Big Dunc’s injuries that last precisely the first half of any international week; Howard Wilkinson – Gary McAllister ‘suddenly’ becoming crap; Ron Atkinson – Eoin Jess being substituted by the Veteran Plus, Gordon Strachan; Frank Clark – Mark Crossed-wires suddenly finding Scots ancestry; and, perhaps worst of all, whoever manages Bolton is encouraging John McGinlay back to form. Christ! Only Gerry Francis, by injuring Colin Calderwood, is trying to redress the balance. Would this be happening if we had a chance of upsetting Germany or Italy instead of England? I very much doubt it. It’s bad enough that we have a ‘national’ coach who cannot see past Parkhead for home-based players without our being deprived of our quality Anglos. And don’t think a nation as paranoid as Scotland will have the wool pulled over it’s eyes. Recently I chanced upon a copy of the Evening Standard magazine which included an interview with some old Spurs player. Perhaps the most interesting part was about footballers’ politics, where it was claimed that 20 out of England’s squad of 22 for World Cup ’82 were Tories. The 20 must have included Kevin ‘Tony Blair’s Best Mate’ Keegan. Just as well no Scottish internationals are at Newcastle, because KK would probably have had them turning out for Cuba by now.
Alan Murray, via email
Through their dealings with the media Manchester United have saddled themselves with a reputation for paranoia. However, the reaction of Sky TV’s Martin Tyler to an incident during the recent home game against Tottenham showed that United’s guarded stance may not be an entirely unreasonable one. It all stemmed from the corner-that-never-was-but-should-have-been shortly before United’s winner. Tyler seized upon the incident with an indignation that bordered on mania; and then dwelled on it for the remainder of the game. He later implied that the referee’s decision may have cost Tottenham the match (I actually think Spurs have a sight more self-possession than to crumble at the first minor decision given against them). The plot thickened some twenty minutes later. United also had a corner appeal turned down, when the ball brushed off Ian Walker’s hand. This, however, was summarily swept aside by Tyler, with a remark about the difficulties faced by referees and linesmen in such situations.The importance which Tyler attached to the earlier episode would have been valid, had it related to a particularly contentious penalty appeal or a player’s dismissal, but this was a bloody corner kick!Trevor Francis apart, Sky’s commentary team can usually be relied upon for balance and a degree of intelligence, so do Martin Tyler’s opinions stem from a fundamental dislike of United; or can they be attributed to a sinister grounding in North London favouritism from his former ITV guru Brian Moore?
Andy Chrzanowski, Reading
It’s unlikely there has been such an appaling remark made by a manager as the one reported to have come from Joe Kinnear after the Wimbledon v Forest match in March. He was quoted as saying: “Manchester United and Liverpool both said their fans would love to travel to Dublin and Joe Royle told me to ignore the critics and go for it... as for our own fans there’s only 4,000 of them and if they don’t like it that’s too bad.”It defies belief that Kinnear can regard the feelings of people who have been supporting Wimbledon for long before he came along as less important than those of Joe Royle and the supporters of Liverpool and Manchester United. There can’t be more than ten people in favour of the Dublin plan against around 4-6,000 Dons supporters who are opposed to it: if it were to be a democratic decision there would be no contest. Should Kinnear and Hammam eventually realize their dream and get their big glamour club in Dublin, I hope for two things: firstly that the Dons supporters don’t go down without a fight, and secondly that Hammam does not call his new club Wimbledon, because that would be defiling the name of a real football club, one that’s been supported by South Londoners for the past hundred years.
Brian Matthews, Sutton
It was with interest that I read Kilian Kelly’s letter in WSC No 110 in which, referring to Colm McCarthy’s article on Wimbledon/Dublin, he said, “I would like to disagree with just about everything he said.” What is interesting is that almost everything he says in disagreement is incorrect! As a Corkman who has lived in Aberdeen I find the comparisons drawn between the two cities to be completely off the mark. The population of Cork is 150,000 approximately and certainly nowhere near the 250,000 that Kilian Kelly states. In relation to Cork’s ability to sustain a professional teams in the past twenty years, he has not grown up in the same city as I have, which has seen the liquidation of its four professional team (Hibs, Celtic, United and City, though the latter’s name still lives on) and the abandonment of its premier soccer ground to the Gaelic Athletic Association for use for minor matches that would not merit using its larger stadium. The future of the more recently developed Bishopstown pitch now in doubt also. While I agree that soccer is probably not losing supporters to Gaelic games and rugby, it still does not seem to be gaining support ‘beyond the pale’ either. In Cork, hurling and Gaelic football attract greater support; in Limerick, whose soccer team has also suffered a liquidation in recent years, rugby is king and in Galway, hurling and Gaelic football are probably as strongly supported as soccer. Derry is the only exception in his list, managing to sustain a well-supported soccer team. In contrast, soccer in Aberdeen has no major competitors. Men’s hockey is relatively strong but neither it nor rugby, which is not even represented in the top four divisions in Scotland, rate in comparison to the level of support that soccer receives. Sorry to sound a realistic note especially when it means deflating the hype about my own city which does have a tremendous sporting history. However, it is a city in which ‘football’ implies ‘Gaelic’ not ‘Association’. As it stands, if Wimbledon were to move to Cork, they still would not have a home ground of their own.
Alasdair FitzGerald, Bo’ness
An exam question for aspiring referees. Compare and contrast the ‘goal’ scored by Neil Shipperly at Old Trafford on 11th March with that scored by Mark Wright at Anfield on 16th March.Both goals were scored with headers from crosses into the box, and both Shipperly and Wright made incidental contact with defenders in front of them as they jumped. Both games were, coincidentally, ‘refereed’ by a certain S Dunn.However, Shipperly’s was by a visiting player from a club with much less money and influence than the home team, and was therefore deemed illegal while Wright was playing at home, and his was therefore allowed to stand.
Peter Moody, via email
Shortly after Robbie Fowler came on as a sub during the England v Bulgaria match, the cameras cut away to Terry Venables and Bryan Robson on the bench, to all intents and purposes discussing the move they had just made. And there sitting behind them, wearing his customary, slightly stunned expression, was little Robbie. Either he’d been seized with panic and sprinted back to the safety of the bench immediately after coming on, or for once, the normally impeccable Sportsnight editors messed up. Tee hee anyway.
Keith Forshaw, Frodsham
Can anyone confirm that the swishing sound used by Sky Sports Premiership football action replays is the same as that made by Timothy Claypole in Rentaghost? Also, can I have a cut-out picture of an obscure 1970s Charlton Athletic player next to this letter?
Keith Marten, London SE18
So you can’t be a real England fan unless you turn up at Wembley to watch eh? (As implied by the advert carried in WSC No 110).
I fail this ‘test’ on the following counts. I don’t go to Wembley because: a) it is 300 miles from where I live; b) expense (see above); c) it is (usually) shit to watch; d) the xenophobic attitude to visiting teams and supporters (chants, abuse etc); e) the downright arrogance of Wembley Stadium (see advert) and the FA hierarchy in assuming that London is the centre of the footballing universe. Even Venables would have trouble in making a case for that. There are many excellent stadia up and down the country which would be full to see England play. The more intimate atmosphere of club stadia would probably induce players to repeat their club form (which is presumably why they are picked in the first place) and reduced the negative ‘Wembley nerves’ effect. I really resent the implication behind the advert that just because I don’t turn up I’m not a real fan. Give me the chance to turn up without being ripped off and I’ll be happy to be a ‘real’ England fan.
Jim Thorburn, Penrith
Richard Newson’s piece on the connections between football and music made excellent reading. Indeed, I was one of those supporters who went AWOL in favour of Joy Division and The Jam; taking a year’s sabbatical to listen to All Mod Cons and Closer in my bedroom. What I also enjoyed in Richard’s article was the deference shown to the very wonderful Half Man Half Biscuit. The vastly underrated, er, Biscuits, were responsible for the finest pop/footy lyrics ever committed to vinyl. Check this out from the McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt album – “How many of you lot know that song by Blackfoot Sioux, ‘I’m Standing In the Road’, was penned by the burly physio of non-League Farnborough Town.”Arguably even better was the following observation from This Leaden Pall – “Alan Brazil seems to be the lead singer in the Goombay Dance Band.” Oh, did you know that they once recorded an hilarious B side called All I Want For... I’ll get my coat.
Dave Wiggins, Liverpool
Am I being over-critical, or did Gary Newbon’s touchline interviews after the Coca Cola Cup Final plumb new depths, even for him? Not content with flogging to death his one line of enquiry, namely that Savo Milosevic had answered his critics by cracking in a tremendous goal, he then went on to make the crass suggestion to the man himself that the goal perhaps made up for what was happening in his native land. Surely even scoring at Wembley can hardly be considered compensation for having your home town napalmed. Thankfully, Savo’s grip on the English language is as tenuous as Ian St John’s, and I don’t think the full implications of the remark were realized. After Matthew Lorenzo’s rabbit-in-the-headlights performance during the 1994 World Cup, I thought ITV’s football coverage couldn’t get any worse, but this season’s offerings leave me wondering. Not so much ‘Saint & Greavsie talking about the Endsleigh as if it’s important’ as ‘Bob Wilson talks about Blackburn getting stuffed as if anyone outside Ewood Park gives a toss.”
Paul Rouse, Horsham
Richard Newson’s feature on the hybrid genes of pop n’ footie (WSC No 111) neglected to mention the Land of Song. An unforgivable oversight, given that the four best songs with a soccer slant come from over the Irish Sea. They are: 1) Give him a ball (and a yard of grass), Sultan of Ping FC’s tribute to Nigel Clough, punctuated with slices of Dad’s philosophy: “If God meant the game to be played up there/He would’ve built goalposts in the air.” 2) Joxer goes to Stuttgart – Christy Moore’s anonymous pilgrim at Euro ’88 “overheating from long haul and duty free“. A rabble rouser, distinguished by Joxer’s nightmare about Big Jack’s team selction from Hell: Cascarino, Giles, Dunphy . . .3) Broke my heart – the Saw Doctors’ tirade against pub league prima donnas as Leo “standing on the edge of the parallelogram” waits in vain for a square pass from Piers. This is the band who also summarized the adversities of life, viz. “When you’re playing against a gale force wind and it changes at half-time.” 4) My Perfect Cousin – The Undertones flirted with footie from What’s with Terry? (myopic nerd tragically forced to “miss seeing another George Best goal”) to Teenage Kicks, an anthem to the inferiority complex notable as much for its Subbuteo reference as for its audacious rhyming of ‘cabbage’ and ‘University Challenge’. Terry Wogan once said, “If Ireland win again, they get to keep the Eurovision Song Contest.” The Emerald Isle is the Brazil of the pop scene, so credit where it’s due, please.
Tony Kinsella, Swinton
From WSC 111 May 1996. What was happening this month