Watching the Seinfeld rerun “The Doll” recently, in which Frank Costanza rebuilt his son George’s old bedroom into a poolroom, I happened to see something peculiar behind the back of the ginger Korea vet when he is arguing with his wife Estelle. On the wall is a plaquette with the words “Pool is not a matter of life and death. It is …” well, take a guess.Does this mean that for the first time in history the Americans have picked up a lesson from a foreigner or might it be that Shanks’s quote was not so Shanks at all?
Ernst Bouwes, Nijmegen, Holland
The King’s Road may not be fashionable (Football Myths, WSC 166), but Alan Clark certainly was not Chelsea’s MP for decades! He was MP for Plymouth Sutton from 1974 to 1992 and from Kensington & Chelsea from 1997 to 1999 when he died (sorry to be a pedant).
Tim Wright, via email
Mark Herron (Rival Distraction, WSC 166) shouldn’t worry about picking on a middling non-League team. At York City, Scarborough are still the team inserted in the “anti-rivals” songs, despite their tragic yet comic departure from the League. Lying a good 40 miles from York, they aren’t geographically our closest rivals, and only became rivals of any sort with their attempts to usurp our position as the only League club in England’s biggest county (no one counts Middlesbrough) back in the late 1980s. It only exists as a rivalry now in that we chuckle sympathetically at their misfortunes, and they probably hate us more than ever as they are continuously plagued with a stream of City rejects. So, Mr Herron, just be thankful that your nearest geographical rivals aren’t flying high in the Premiership and Champions League and taking a huge chunk of your potential support out of your own city. Trust me, that’s far more annoying than not having a local team of significant stature to compete with.
Joe Haining, York
I was shocked and saddened to notice that there was no mention of Brighton’s role in solving England’s managerial problems. The reasoning is as follows: 1) It is widely accepted that Eriksson accepted the job on the understanding that David Platt would join the England set-up. 2) Forest will only release Platt once they are satisfied that they have a capable manager to replace him. 3) Micky Adams, a manager whose career was resurrected due to the support and vision of Brighton FC, has been identified as that man. 4) Brighton, although keen to hang on to a great manager, realise the role they have in saving the country and are unlikely to stop this move. Added to the fact that most of the coaches with clubs at the top of the Premier League and in the England set up learned their trade as players at Brighton (Howard Wilkinson, Alan Curbishley, John Gregory), this points to a huge lack of recognition of Brighton’s role in Sven accepting the job. Why are the press so blinkered? It is only a matter of time before Sven is seen on Brighton beach with a stick of rock singing “Good ol’ Sussex by the Sea”. I leave it with you.
Guy Bransby, via email
You remarked in WSC 166 that there have been two coaches called Peter Taylor in the last 25 years. Well, my team, the mighty Boston United, have just signed their third Paul Wilson since 1987. Is this a record? Or just some ⌦money-saving manoeuvre that I’ve not fathomed yet?
Johnny Chapman, Sheffield
So Michael Richardson was the one who ran on the pitch in ’66 (WSC 166). Or was he? According to Mr Richardson he was “sat more towards the ‘crossbar’ goal side of the pitch”. The “crossbar” goal (presumably site of the infamous “did it cross the line?” goal) was at the other end of the stadium to where the people, who thought it was all over, were. So how did Michael get there? Of course, anyone could claim to have been the one but, ultimately, I do believe Michael and feel that the proof is to be found in Elkie Brooks’s song titles. Firstly we have a 1977 hit obviously inspired by the prevailing weather conditions of the day – Sunshine After The Rain. Then a few words of advice to Bobby Charlton in 1978 – Don’t Cry Out Loud. Finally the clincher in 1982 – Fool If You Think It’s Over. It is now.
Tim Manns, via email
As a Chelsea supporter who can recall seeing Peter Osgood with his boots on (rather than merely poncing around in a suit at half-time), I was drawn towards Harry Pearson’s exposé of the King’s Road as a Football Myth in WSC 166. I feel I should also declare a professional interest in the built environment – and specifically the environs of SW3 – as an officer of Kensington & Chelsea Council. After curbing my intitial reaction (f*** off back to Middlesbrough, you Nothern git), I have to acknowledge he probably got it right. These days there’s nowhere more fashionable than Balham High Road, although no one seems to have told Frank Leboeuf that.
Tim Keay, London SW12
The behaviour of the Italian fans during the game in Turin with Italy has quite rightly attracted a great deal of attention. The racist abuse that Emile Heskey had to endure every time he touched the ball was stunning to hear, so much a throwback for an English listener that it took a while to adjust to what was happening. Almost as bad was the lack of coverage given to it by the Italian sports press – Gazzetta dello Sport only mentioned it by way of a single line in the reporting of Peter Taylor’s post-match interview. While the Italian news press apparently adopted a more critical line, Gazzetta seemed to believe that the best thing is to starve the racists of publicity/turn a deaf ear, depending on your point of view. There’s been a stack of criticism of the behaviour of England fans – not least from people like me, who are fed up to the back teeth of being tarred with the same brush as the meatheads who make up a sizeable proportion of the away support. But here there was some cause for celebration; it shows how far England have travelled down the road to civilisation, and also once again demonstrates that we are not the only country with a problem. Today it is unthinkable that an England crowd would treat a black opponent in that way. And yet… If a Premiership crowd encountered opponents from home or abroad who gave one of their players 90 minutes of monkey chants, there would be uproar. If Heskey encounters such a situation while playing for Liverpool, then the reaction from the crowd would be huge cheers from Reds fans and abuse for the opposition, and the same is true of any club. But in Turin… nothing. Just the usual abuse for the opposition, no great support for Heskey. Some muttering, it’s true. Maybe there was more from the lower tier. But where I was stood, as close to the Italians as the English were allowed to be, no one seemed that interested. If they started chanting “Inghliterra va fan culo” “England f*** off”) then that got a reaction. But racism – so what? We’ve come a long way on anti-black racism at England within grounds, changing attitudes and driving out those who won’t change. The Italians could learn a lot from us. But the near-silence in Turin suggested that progress is barely skin deep amongst England’s hardcore away support.
Philip Cornwall, Lewisham
On a recent trip to Glanford Park, Scunthorpe, I was highly surprised to hear the home team run out to If The Kids Are United by Sham 69. How long has this been happening? It’s not in truth one of my all-time favourite songs but it’s nonetheless an improvement on Simply the Best and that irritating instrumental by Pigbag. It worked a treat for the Irons, too, who rattled in six without reply against admittedly rather spineless opponents. It’s just possible of course that Mansfield had been comprehensively psyched out before kick-off by hearing Jimmy Pursey’s finest musical moment blaring out around them. Other Sham ditties could be put to good use in this way. Hurry Up Harry, for instance, would be appropriate for West Ham whose fans will be impatient to see that £18 million spent while Angels with Dirty Faces would suit Arsène’s talented but temperamental squad. Hersham Boys (with their “laced up boots and corduroys”) was, I believe, adopted by Chelsea supporters when their team was rubbish. So look for it to be making a comeback soon.
Keith Turner, Marske
Here’s why we need a foreign coach for England. Around six months ago, Tony Cottee was interviewed on Sky about his long-held desire to move into management. Informed by the interviewer that a new rule was soon to be introduced by the FA that any new manager of a League club would have to hold the FA’s Coaching Badge, Cottee’s response was that would have to land his first job before the new regulation became official.So, just to make sure that’s clear: he wanted to become a manager without any experience rather than learn how to coach. Lo and behold, two days after the news of Sven-Goran Eriksson’s appointment broke, TC was installed as the new manager of Barnet. Interviewed on Radio 5 Live the following morning, he talked of the managers he had played under and how he wanted to learn his trade at Barnet before moving on to bigger things, such as maybe West Ham, or even England. Barnet missed out in the play-offs last season. Why should their chances this season be jeopardised by a new manager with no qualifications or experience? Of course, they didn’t have to offer him the job, and maybe the Underhill board is foolish to have offered it to him, but if this was Italy, he would have been forced to take the course. That’s why England has around 1,000 holders of the UEFA coaching badge, while Germany has 50,000 and France around 10,000. Oh, and Tony is disappointed that the FA felt they had to choose a foreigner for the England job. There you have it. That’s the problem right there.
Russell Barter, via Email
During Middlesbrough’s most recent home match against Bradford my friends and I were puzzled to see Brian Deane take his shorts off, throw them to the ground and carrying on playing for what seemed quite a long time. Eventually, and probably just as the referee was about to award a drop-ball, Brian went over to the side of the pitch to cover up his modesty. We wondered, though, why it took so long to find a replacement pair. Did one of the substitutes have to rush off to the club shop armed with a credit card only to return in a panic because they didn’t accept Amex, then borrow cash from Viv Anderson, hare back again and complete the purchase, then get into a row with the security guard because the tag on the shorts set off the shop alarm even though they’d been paid for? And what if Brian had scored while shortless? Do goals count if the scorer is improperly attired? Were we thinking about this for longer than we should in an effort to purge the memory of what has been enshrined in football history as Boro’s “battling draw” against one of the weakest teams ever in the Premiership? Yes, we were.
Tony Sherlock, Hexham
Further to the recent correspondence on the facts and figures contained in the Rothmans yearbook (WSC 165), it would be interesting to know how the players’ stats are compiled. Presumably, they are supplied by the clubs who in turn ask the players to fill in their own details, which some of them clearly do more tongue in cheek than others. How else does one explain that Robbie Fowler has been listed for years at 5’11”, apparently as tall as big Les Ferdinand? And Neville Southall was included for Stoke City in 1998-99 at an optimistic 13 stone, only about a stone over his fighting weight in his Everton prime. Young Robbie, by the way, was only 5’9” in 1992-93. It must be something to do with the modern footballer’s diet, I guess.
Miles Lawson, London E5
From WSC 167 January 2001. What was happening this month