I am writing, still shocked by one of the worst performances I have witnessed on a football pitch in 25 years of attending. I refer to the half-time ‘entertainment’ provided by comedian (sic) Stan Boardman at the Liverpool v Charlton Cup tie. Being a Charlton supporter but living in the Midlands I cannot afford to be too snooty about the North/South divide, but events such as those witnessed can only provide fuel for the debate. To their credit the Liverpool crowd met Boardman’s ‘jokes’ with stony silence. One example quoted here might give the flavour of this man’s exceptional wit: “Jan Molby’s gone to Swansea, but they had to cancel the match yesterday, they couldn’t get the sheep off the pitch.”If I hadn’t seen this man’s pathetic attempts to get a laugh, I would have sworn it was a pisstake with Bobby Chariot on a bad night. Dying a spectacular death at the Kop end, Boardman took the chorus of “Who are yer?” from the Charlton end as some form of encouragement and tried to engender some banter there, but failed to notice the sarcastic laughter emitting from a now convulsed away end. Had I been a Liverpool supporter, I would have cringed with embarrassment, and someone from the groundstaff finally twigged, leading Boardman away by the arm down the tunnel from which, one hopes, he will never again darken an Anfield which only 45 minutes previously had seen 36,000 people from both sets of supporters stand in silent tribute to Bob Paisley. My advice to Swansea – don’t get Stan Boardman for your half-time entertainment unless you want to hear some very bad jokes about yourself – it’s unlikely that he’s got the imagination to change his material.
John Salvatore, Birmingham
In WSC No 109, Archie McGregor wrote a piece (Beyond the Fringe) which chronicled the respective failures of Hearts and Hibs and, well, very little else really. What was the point of this article? Was it to inform those not in touch with Scottish football of the Edinburgh sides’ woeful inadequacy when it comes to winning trophies? Why? Do these people care/want to know? Was it to inform Scottish footie supporters of something they knew already? If so, why? Was it to rub salt in the wounds of already permanently-scarred Hearts fans? Can someone pleeeeease mention 1986 just once more, please? Just one or two points about the article itself – Hearts do not, and have not, to my knowledge, proclaimed themselves the “third biggest team in Scotland”, but rather have claimed (and had it claimed of them) that they are potentially the third biggest team in Scotland. Which is undeniably true. Would a more appropriate idea not have been to pay tribute to the thousands of Hearts (and Hibs) fans who have remained loyal to their team, despite not having won a decent trophy for 33 years (in Hearts’ case)? (Another point: Why was Hearts' recent 3-0 destruction of Rangers at Ibrox (January 20th) not even given a mention in the diary? It was, after all, the shock result of the Scottish season so far.) I do not buy your magazine/ fanzine to simply read articles about my favourite team – that would be pointless. However I feel that Hearts (and Hibs, although it grieves me to stick up for them) have been hard done by in this issue, and I hope you redress the balance in a future edition.
Andrew Quinn, via email
Loath as I am to further augment the ‘Let’s All Knock Brian Moore’ bandwagon, I do feel the need to offer some support to David Templeman’s reservations about Bri’s observational skills (Letters, WSC No 109). Sorry Bri, but, at times, you are just a little bit crap. One particular aspect of BM’s commentary technique has always caused me genuine anxiety. It’s the way his voice suddenly mutates into a throaty, gravelly, unearthly rumble at special moments of personal excitement/curiosity/ appreciation. This is far too reminiscent of the guttural voice of the devil as represented through famous possessed persons such as the girl in The Exorcist. I suggest a referral to a jobbing trad-Catholic priest. The ‘Christians in Sport’ network may help in this regard.
Andrew Fisher, Brighton
Couldn’t spot the fish (Bafana Bafana, WSC No 109) but after several minutes of looking it resolved into a fantastic 3D picture of Wembley Stadium. Did any other readers notice this?
Crawford Scholes, Macclesfield
I dare say there are some pretty good reasons for opposing the formation of a Premier League Division Two (Ron Noades is behind it: that’s a pretty good one for starters), but it seems to me that a lot of the arguments put forward by Ed Horton in WSC No 108 are simply tosh. “Football exists on the aspirations of supporters,” he says, “Without those aspirations clubs are nothing . . . Breaking the links between the lowest professional team and the highest . . . makes football a smaller, small-minded thing . . . One might be forgiven for observing that this process has already taken place, and is called the Premiership.” Sorry, Ed, but I don’t think so. If Torquay win Division Three, they’ll be in Division Two. Win that and they’ll be in Division One. Win that and they will be in the Premiership. No sign of a narrowing of aspirations there, as far as I can see. All the Premier League has really meant in practice is a change of name and a lot more money. He moans that Bolton are apparently doomed to first-time relegation and claims this is symptomatic of a gulf between the top two divisions. Personally, I wrote Bolton off as relegation certainties the moment they lost their manager in the close season, just as Swindon did a few years ago. All this really proves is the importance of having a decent manager; it’s got nothing to do with a gulf between the divisions. As on many occasions over the years it seems to me that the death of the little clubs is being prematurely proclaimed. (Talking of little clubs, I noticed that on New Year’s Day West Brom achieved their tenth consecutive League defeat and went up a place in the table. This has to be some kind of record, surely?)
John Tandy, Birmingham
Following the death of the ‘Great Leader’, Kim Il-Sung, the attention of the bourgeois western lackey media has once again been turned on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Following their nearly successful qualifying campaign for USA ’94, many have asked the secret of North Korea’s unparalleled footballing success. It can be incapsulated in four words: Pak Doo-Ik Thought. Pak Doo-Ik Thought stresses the leading role of the scheming inside forward in the dialectic of modern football. Pak Doo-Ik played in the inside-left position, which is sadly neglected outside North Korea, having been overtaken by such bourgeois revisionist positions as the ‘midfielder’, ‘wide man’ ‘the man in the hole’, etc etc, not to mention the reactionary religious concept of the ‘Christmas Tree Formation’.The Inside Left position is the very distillation of Pak Doo-Ik thought, representing as it does the adherence to the True Path, deviating neither to the ultra-left Trotskyist Outside Left position (or ‘Left-Winger’, cf VI Lenin, Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder), nor rightwards to the petty-bourgeois revisionist centre. The predominance in western countries of defence, and introduction of revisionist positions such as sweeper, etc, merely confirms the backward-looking and reactionary nature of these regimes. Only by striving manfully from the inside left position in an all-out assault on the entrenched positions of the bourgeois capitalist 15-yard box can the toiling masses achieve the True Goal of Actually-Existing Socialism, and a 1-0 lead to take into half time.
Michael Evans, via email *Yes, so, were you after a two-year subscription or just the one?
In response to Colm McCarthy’s article on Wimbledon/Dublin, I would like to disagree with just about everything he said. As a Bohemians fan, I have spent quite a lot of time travelling around Ireland to enjoy “the rusty barbed-wire and Bovril” of our national league. Since coming to Scotland this year, I have also seen quite a bit of some (sort of) big-time clubs – Celtic, Aberdeen etc. I think, therefore, that I am in as good a position as anyone to comment on this topic. Firstly, his geography. He claims, “The next biggest city [after Dublin] is Cork, with 150,000, then you are down to places with populations of 50,000 and smaller.” The inhabitants of Limerick, Galway and Derry might have something to say about the figure of 50,000. As for Cork, with a population of approximately 250,000, it is far bigger than Dundee and roughly the same size as Aberdeen, to use Colm’s Scottish comparison. Aberdeen, like Cork, has just one senior team,who you may recall won the Cup-Winners’ Cup in 1983. Dundee, despite being smaller, supports two professional teams. All the more remarkable, then, that one of them reached the UEFA Cup Final in the 80s, beating Barcelona in both legs on the way. Several full time Scottish clubs have average gates of 8,000 and less, yet still survive in the Premier Division. So please, don’t try and tell me that Dublin is the only place in Ireland capable of sustaining a professional team. As for losing supporters to Gaelic football and rugby, this is utter nonsense. Gaelic games have always had a massive support base, particularly in rural areas. Recently this has been slipping, the main problem being the upsurge in the interest in soccer. Okay, most of these new fans divert their attentions to the greener footballing pastures across the water, but interest in soccer is still booming. Fans turning to rugby? Irish rugby???? Come off it. Colm also says he regularly attends League of Ireland matches on Sundays, choosing this ahead of the wide spectrum of foreign footy on TV. I’m not sure why he thinks “it is not realistic to expect too many others to do the same”. Why, then, is it realistic to expect fans to go to Sunderland v Charlton, or other similar 1st Division matches? Anyway, the fact is, few Irish fans have to make this choice. He forgot to mention that the vast majority of games are now played on Friday or Saturday nights, when there are no British counter attractions. “We don’t want English hooligans over here” is “crypto provo anti-Brit sentiment”, is it? Not wanting the likes of C18 in Dublin on a regular basis seems more like perfectly reasonable common sense to me. Even if Wimbledon do come to Dublin and do well, so what? Most real fans in Dublin won’t care. They will still be an English team in English competitions with mostly English players. The kids will still be wearing their Liverpool and Man Utd jerseys, it will just mean they can see their heroes in Dublin more often. They certainly won’t suddenly become Wimbledon fans. The problem with Irish football is nothing to do with populations, rival sports or the structure of league football. It is quite simply attitudes like Colm’s and the multitudes of couch potato pseudo-soccer fans in Ireland. If these people paid less money to Sky Sports and more attention to their local teams, we would soon see the problems disappearing.
Kilian Kelly, via email
I’ve just finished reading Colm McCarthy’s article on Wimbledon’s proposed move to Dublin (WSC No 109) and I haven’t felt so angry since Kevin Keegan announced that Robert Lee was the greatest player in the country. He dismisses the desires of Wimbledon fans to keep hold of their club as simply “not a rational thing for grown-up people to do”. Well, excuse me, but when did anyone ever claim that spending most of your money and weekends on watching 22 men kick a ball around was rational? The whole point of being a football fan is the irrationality. Colm’s article reeked of the arrogance of the gloryhunters he referred to – Wimbledon are not an out of town shopping centre in search of a suitable catchment area; they are an important part of my and lots of other people’s lives. Go and watch American football if you want your business, Colm. Oh, and while you’re queuing for hot dogs amongst a capacity crowd with only the cheerleaders singing, you might like to ponder whether it’s rational for a nation of 3.6 million to have a football team which reaches the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The glorious thing about football is its refusal to make sense; it’s a glory which people like Colm McCarthy do not deserve to share.
Matthew West, London SW20
Maybe I am missing something in John Tandy’s letter (WSC No 108) but doesn’t “Jonathan Hunt” have four syllables? Surely only an adjustment of emphasis is required to sing his name in most of the chants? I sympathize with the non-scanning properties of a name like Alberto Tarantini. In the early eighties, Sunderland were blessed (?) with a seven-syllabled Argentinian, Claudio Marangoni. To fans who had only just come to terms with incorporating “Ian Porterfield” into our songs, this proved to be two syllables too far.
Stephen Geers, London SW3
Although Arsenal can still legitimately claim to be one of the biggest clubs in the country, it seems they have fallen some way behind two or three of their rivals when it comes to claiming the very highest honours. It is not easy to see how they can close the gap in the short term, so I suppose it is understandable, from his point of view, that David Dein should be attempting to diminish the importance of that gap by campaigning for the expansion of the existing European competitions and the creation of a few more. Reasons to despise Arsenal have never been hard to come by, but Dein was generous in providing a few new ones in his recent Football Focus interview, during the course of which he attempted to convince us that we all stood to benefit from his efforts. In response to the suggestion that, for example, allowing two entries from certain countries into the European Champions League/Cup might devalue the competition, he informed us that fans make no distinction between the various European competitions – they just want to see their team in Europe. Therefore, the only thing that matters is that English teams should be allocated as many places as possible. I wonder how many fans he actually consulted on those points? But the bit I liked best was when he took the trouble to explain how the UEFA Cup is, in fact, more prestigious than the European Cup this season. You see, the likes of Legia Warsaw (scornful sneer) make a mockery of the continent’s premier club competition – after all, all they have done is to win their national league and then progress, by means of the playing and winning of football matches, to the latter stages of the competition. The UEFA Cup, though, is graced by AC Milan, who didn’t actually win anything of consequence last season, but, well, they’re AC Milan, so obviously the UEFA Cup is the place to be. The big, rich clubs already enjoy huge advantages over the majority – that’s the way it’s always been and I’ve got no real problem with that. But when, despite all these advan tages, they fail, then to reward them regardless is to defeat entirely the object of the game. Still, I suppose it will be my duty, as an English fan, to support Arsenal in the European Losers-In-The-Semi-Finals-Of-Secondary-Knockout-Competitions Cup next season. Best of luck, David.
Eddie Edwards,via email
From WSC 110 April 1996. What was happening this month