Letters, WSC 118

Dear WSC
There is something to be added to Kevin Bartholemew’s article about Brighton (WSC No 117). Yes, the directors sold the Goldstone ground for retail development. And yes, the board under Bill Archer removed the clause from the constitution which said that they couldn’t profit from the sale of the ground. But, according to the Guardian (2/10/96) the company who bought the Goldstone, Chartwell, is part of the Kingfisher group which – guess what? – Bill Archer is involved with. So, someone could, if they were a director with, say, an interest in DIY and property development, profit from selling the ground. Then they could profit from the shops which are going to be built on the land. I bet Kingfisher is involved in building as well. All this could be done for a stake of, say, £56.25! Archer isn’t interested in the club; he’s interested in the Goldstone. That’s why he couldn’t care less if the club dies. The football club is a smokescreen for what he is really up to.
Keith Tester, Worthing

Dear WSC
I wonder if anyone noticed anything in particular about the kick-off of the Man United v Liverpool match in October. Solskjaer taps the ball to Cantona, who crosses his right foot behind his left leg and deftly knocks the ball back towards one of his thrusting young bucks in midfield. Not obvious enough to be arrogant, perhaps, but cute nonetheless.However, the recent PFA player of the year has, to my mind, one reason for performing a manoeuvre such as this, namely his over-dependence on his right foot. His recent goal against Leeds serves as another example of his unipedularism. A seemingly simple left foot volley was executed in a style akin to the can-can with his preferred right. Ditto his team mate Giggsy, albeit the other foot in his case. In the Reebok ad, after proving his world-class credentials by rounding several briefly in-work actors, Ryan sends a left foot banana shot screaming into the top right hand corner from the left hand side of the penalty area. Fantastic. But hang on. From that angle surely a swift stroke with the right instep would undoubtedly have a much higher success ratio? Still, the kids love it – the shot that launched a thousand goal kicks, throw-ins and counter attacks on parks across the land. Granted, each one of us is physically inclined to favour one side or the other. It’s natural. But professional footballers should be trained ambidexters, able to overcome their natural urges. They should practice using their wrong foot as much, if not more, than their good one. Adding another string to one’s bow, so to speak, rather than harbouring the forlorn hope that you might have developed a telescopic right or left leg overnight, thus eradicating the need for your good standing leg to be troubled by the tantalizing cross, for which the wing-back will later be taken to task for not having judged his angles quite correctly. Further, wages should reflect a player’s ability to command the ball competently with both feet. And if that doesn’t buck up the ideas of some rogue unipeds I could mention, I don’t know what will.   Even the magnificence of Georgi Kinkladze and (his Holiness) Aljosa Asanovic is tempered by their unwillingness to consider the possibility of employing their right feet to so much as trap the ball (I could go on about players who never head the bloody thing either, but I’ll save that for some poor sod down the pub). In short, two feet are better than one. Although, having said all that, it never did Maradona any bastard harm.
Rob James, Coventry

Dear WSC
The recent pleas from political parties for us all to become a more respectful, ‘moral’ society makes me think of those wonderful days when 70,000 grown men would crowd together politely on the terraces, just thankful to be allowed the afternoon off by their benevolent employers. And they would all be wearing hats. Hats gave fans a profound understanding of their place in the system – flat caps for working class, bowler for middle class, topper for aristos, crown for royalty (plus balaclavas for loonies). It was simple and effective: as a result no-one ever swore in the family enclosure and nobody rushed on to the pitch to demand the resignation of the chairman if results were unsatisfactory. My advice to Bill Archer and his mates at Brighton is to make the wearing of flat caps compulsory for anyone entering the Goldstone Ground or wherever Brighton next pitch their tent. The unruly element wouldn’t be able to help themselves – they’d soon be singing lusty choruses of ‘hip hip hooray to the board’ at every game. OK, I might be wrong.
Sean Ferling, Birmingham

Dear WSC
‘And here comes Hurst, he’s got . . . Some people are on the pitch! They think it’s all over! It is now!” I read somewhere recently that Kenneth Wolstenholme has always insisted that his most famous five seconds of commentary actually ended “well it is now”, and that this assertion was not backed up by careful examination of the sound tape. Far more interesting for me, however, is speculating on what precisely Wolstenholme was about to say that Hurst had got. Whilst the answer is probably something along the lines of “Peters in support”, or “Charlton calling for it in the centre”, I’ve for years harboured the quaint notion that it was something far more unusual. My own theory is that he was about to add “. . . a really cute arse”, although I’d be interested to hear what readers think.
Dave Espley, Stockport

Dear WSC
In view of the fact that certain media commentators have predicted a widespread revival of interest in all things connected to the early 1980s, I wonder if any of your readers have noticed the resemblance between the current blend of fresh-faced no-hopers and grizzled has-beens that go under the name of ‘Leeds Utd’, and the collection of fresh-faced no-hopers and grizzled has-beens that helped the famously unlucky West Yorkshire outfit achieve relegation in the 1981-82 season? Instead of looking for inspiration in an era that is best forgotten, Leeds’ sharp young manager George Graham should base his ideas on the events of the culturally rich late 60s, when a team consisting of a potent mix of grizzled, hard-tackling, dirty bastards and fresh-faced, hard-tackling, dirty bastards took the football world by storm (apart from when they reached cup finals).
Owen Walker, Huddersfield

Dear WSC
While naturally happy that you reviewed my book I Think I’ll Manage, (WSC No 117) I’d have appreciated it a bit more if you had picked a reviewer who had made some attempt, however fleeting, to familiarize himself with its contents. Mark Rivlin seems to think that the chapter ‘Two Horse Race’ was about Manchester and Newcastle, when in fact it was about Rangers and Celtic, and that the chapter ‘Out on a Limb’ looks at injuries. It does, very briefly, but it is mainly about the roles of individuals in teams. The accusation that I’m patronising is clearly the reviewer’s idea of an ironic joke, so patronizing is his review. To be told that I “compromise the professional integrity of psychology” by someone who throws around terms like “ego” and “superego” without any evident idea what they mean, is, of course, deeply ironic. And what precisely does he mean by “a Howay-the-Lads type football fan”? Is this some flowery way of saying something more overly bigoted? Apparently, if I had “stayed on the psychologist’s couch” (something few psychologists possess, except as household furniture) “we might have had a much needed insight into the world of sports psychology as seen through the eyes of football bosses”. Unfortunately, I had set out to write a book looking at football bosses through the eyes of a psychologist. Deepest apologies for accidentally writing the wrong book.
George Sik, West Ewell
*Uh – oh, looks like George hasn’t had a bad review before.

Dear WSC
Chinese TV has just shown highlights of the World Club Championship between Peñarol and FC Porto. I’m not sure of the year – judging by the haircuts the Porto team was a late 80s version, while the Uruguayan mob were early 70s. Anyway, the reason I’m writing is to tell you that due to heavy snow they used a lime green ball. Honest.
Phil Horton, Urumqi, People’s Republic of China

Dear WSC
The only tiny crumb of comfort which can be gathered when you lose someone in a tragedy borne out of negligence or incompetence is that its impact will ensure that the mistakes which created it will be learned from. Therefore while most football people will have been saddened by news of the Guatemala disaster, for the many still traumatised by Hillsborough it is still devastating to watch on TV an almost mirror image of 15th April 1989 being reflected from across the other side of the globe. Many factors and circumstances led to Hillsborough but ultimately the disaster would not have happened except for the cages created by the existence of radial and perimeter fencing in the Leppings Lane terrace. Fanzines and FSA had warned of the dangers but no-one was listening until after the tragedy, when the fencing was removed permanently – albeit as part of the overall move to all-seater stadia. Internationally, however, FIFA, although now glaringly aware of the potentially fatal consequences of the fences, has singularly failed to prohibit their use around the world. While the safety at a stadium may be the responsibility of national and local licensing authorities, FIFA could quite easily refuse to sanction games played behind such barbaric monstrosities as that in existence at the Mateo Flores Stadium, particularly when these games are World Cup qualifiers directly under their auspices. The startlingly obvious lesson of Hillsborough was that fences cost lives. FIFA’s moral bankruptcy lies in their ignoring this lesson while presiding over a world sport awash with vast sums of money. The millions generated by the game should be used first to ensure the safety of its supporters before they buy mansions for its all too numerous multi-millionaires.
Colin Moneypenny, Merseyside

Dear WSC
Watching Alan Sugar on a late night football programme on Sky talking about the bad influence of money on football at the moment, a thought came to mind: is he being ironic (or, rather, hypocritical) when he says that money from Sky has led to an uncontrollable rise in transfer and wage demands and that it should be kept in check?Isn’t this the same person who was one of the prime movers behind Sky winning the bid for the TV rights when the Premier League first kicked off, knowing he would then be be able to sell yet more Amstrad satellite dishes?
Jake Pollard, London SE24

Dear WSC
I’ve just been listening to the CD soundtrack of the Disney film The Lion King – and very good it is too. At the very start of the very first track, ‘The Circle of Life’, two lines are sung which I obviously do not understand.The lines are:
“Arsène Wenger, nawaki tiwaba sitahu wenyaba
Arsène Wenger, awakaki sivabo argenwaba”
Can anyone translate, please?
Derek Megginson, Scarborough

Dear WSC
I am writing to you in reference to the comic strip entitled ‘I was Nobby Stiles’ Double’, which graced the bottom of the letters page in WSC No 117. Your cartoonist needs to do a bit more research when producing works based on real historical events. The last caption implies that Nobby Stiles, on the afternoon of 30th July 1966, made the infamous decision to devalue sterling while the Chancellor Roy Jenkins took his place in the World Cup Final against West Germany. Yet the cartoonist’s logic falls flat because, as any schoolboy or economic historian can tell you, Jenkins didn’t make this choice until a year later, when Harold Wilson’s struggling Labour Government looked to the Chancellor to lift them out of a post-oil crisis slump in which a run on the pound had caused a crisis of confidence amongst voters and the city. Typically, Wilson managed to distance himself from the devaluation – a clever political manoeuvre in view of the commonly-held assumption that it single-handedly delivered the 1970 election to the Tories. In addition, I find it hard to believe that Nobby did not arouse some level of suspicion amongst Treasury officials, particularly in view of the fact that in physical appearance, speech, cultural attitudes and political acumen he bore no resemblance whatsoever to “the future Lord Jenkins of Hillhead”. However, I’m willing to admit that Jenkins was indeed a brilliant, hard-running midfield ball-winner who would probably have gone on to full international honours (albeit for Wales) if he hadn’t been snapped up by the Labour Party.
Pat Salmond, Boston, USA (LSE 1983-86)

Dear WSC
I have just witnessed Tory MP John Carlisle on TV, opposing the ban on handguns, claiming that the majority should not be made to suffer for the actions of the minority. Is this the same John Carlisle who in the late 1980s supported the introduction of identity cards for football fans, banning England fans from travelling abroad, vetoing English clubs returning to European competition and backing fellow Tory MP, and Luton Town chairman, David Evans, with his ban on away fans at Kenilworth Road (in Carlisle’s constituency)? Am I being cynical or do I smell an election around the corner?
Phill Gatenby, Moston

Dear WSC
Steve Parish (The Main Problem, WSC No 117) asks “what is the point of getting worked up about Lee’s decisions?” Quite a lot of point, actually, when most Manchester City fans agree that those decisions have helped put us into our worst situation in over thirty years. It was worked-up fans who questioned the appointment of Alan Ball in the first place. Lee didn’t listen, but who was right? Steve says that if the club was taken over by others and Lee left “it would not go down well if he made a profit”. In fact Lee has already made a handsome profit out of City. He took over on the cheap, paying £3 million for a 29.9% stake in the club. All his subsequent activities at Maine Road have been focussed on increasing the value of his shares by improving the commercial set up at the club. Cynics suggest that a man who spent 18 years telling all and sundry that he wasn’t interested in football and his concerns were businesses and horse racing may be interested in City primarily as a business venture. Steve dismisses as “cobblers” the notion that having an ex-pro as chairman put off potential managers. However, it is not the fact that Lee is an ex-pro that puts managers off, but his whole approach (accurately described by Dave Wallace of King of the Kippax as that of a “1930s mill owner” – Lee is known to one Premiership manager as ‘the ego has landed’). Steve Parish is correct in that there has been “no mass uprising against Lee”, but what is surprising is how many City fans show open disenchantment with “the saviour”. It may seem strange, having written the above, but I still like Francis Lee and want him to stay on (which probably explains why he is a millionaire and I am a mug punter). I just wish that he would cut the bullshit and stop acting like a tinpot dictator.
Tim Chadwick, London

From WSC 118 December 1996. What was happening this month