In the article about hooliganism in WSC 181 the usual catchphrase “every club has their trouble makers” was once again wheeled out. Can I just point out that Macclesfield Town have had no arrests in at least the last two years and possibly further. I know for a fact that they are the only Football League club who can boast this for the 1999-2000 and 2000-01 season. To my knowledge they are currently running at zero for this season as well. Perhaps the phrase “every club (except for Macclesfield Town who are a friendly lot and would be an ideal day out for yourself and the kids) have their trouble makers” would be more appropriate.
Tom Rance, Macclesfield
Having inadvertently come across and watched the end of Close Up With David Beckham on Sky, I was most impressed with the amount of supportive comment offered about the man in question’s recent behaviour. For example, Michael Parkinson said what a well-mannered young man David Beckham was, a role model for children and fellow sportsmen although (he implied) not the brightest or most eloquent. However, two matters arose from the rest of the programme to throw this conjecture out of the window. Firstly, Beckham was subsequently seen driving without the benefit of a seat belt. Far more reprehensibly, on a round of golf he was seen to tread on an opponent’s ball, and to fail to repair the consquent damage caused to the green. This is shoddy behaviour which will doubtless lead to the secretary of the golf club writing a terse letter of complaint, admonishing Mr Beckham for his pisspoor etiquette. I hope Parkie will be reviewing his opinion having seen the programme. And if not, why not?
Matthew Dixon, Sheffield
David Wangerin (WSC 181) is clearly more generous than many: a manager walking out on his club days after publicly announcing he would never do such a thing disgusts most fans I know. To defend John Gregory by pointing out that he guided Aston Villa to their first FA Cup final in 40 years ignores his team’s lamentable display in that match and in most other pressure matches during his time at the helm: Celta Vigo and Varteks Varazdin, anyone? The recent Cup capitulation at home to Manchester United was exceptional only insofar as it was seen by millions on live terrestrial television. Peter Schmeichel apart, Gregory’s transfer record was woeful. The jury is not “still out on Bosko Balaban”; he’s bobbins. While (in marked contrast to Balaban) Juan Pablo Angel has certainly tried to justify his transfer fee, he’s still only managed 11 Premiership goals – precisely the same as Ade Akinbiyi, who cost half as much. The combined cost of Hadji and Stone – £10 million – hardly demonstrates a bargain hunter’s nose. Furthermore, his inexplicable policy of paying over the odds for Spurs cast-offs – Najwan Ghrayib and David Ginola – may have been one valid reason why Doug Ellis was reluctant to throw good money after bad. More disgracefully still, Gregory’s public comments about Stan Collymore and Paul Merson could, at times, have come out of the mouth of a Dickensian workhouse owner. I’m no fan of Doug Ellis, but to blame him alone for Gregory’s failure is disingenuous. After four years and transfer payments rivalling the Gross Domestic Product of some developing nations, almost the only thing that has improved at Villa Park is the stadium itself.
Jonathan Westwood, via email
When are we going to get linesmen who understand the law on offside? Yet again a legitimate goal (this time Sylvain Wiltord’s at Blackburn) is disallowed through an incorrect application of this law. One of the beauties of football is the defence-splitting pass that is exploited by the forward running through from an onside position. The practice of a linesman raising his flag when the attacker receives the ball seems to be endemic; tune into any television highlights of any competition anywhere in the world and you won’t have to wait long before encountering yet another example. It goes without saying that the effects on teams and their confidence in referees are unnecessarily negative. One is aware that the footballing authorities are too heavily engaged in money-making to be diverted into the small matter of ensuring that the laws of the game are correctly enforced. Is there any way that this problem can be addressed? Perhaps a “Campaign for Real Offside”. Or do we go down another route and abolish this law altogether ? Or don’t we care? Certainly the present position is indefensible.
Chris Duckham, via email
In WSC 181 you show a picture of “away fans caged in at Stamford Bridge in the mid-1980s”. The stand you show is the lower east which was always occupied by Chelsea fans. The away fans occupied the big open terrace behind the goal (apart from the occasional foray into the shed end opposite by West Ham fans ).
Stuart Mendo, via email
Footballers’ Wives is a gloriously trashy piece of telly, and what makes it even more entertaining is the fact that so many football folk are pronouncing themselves offended about it. Joyce Woolridge followed suit in WSC 181, complaining of a lack of realism and vacuous scripts and performances. This is a bit like slating Dallas for not accurately portraying the oil industry and neglecting the important environmental questions connected with it. Footballers’ Wives isn’t a documentary, it’s sensational, glossy eye candy that is there simply to be gorged on like a particularly tasty box of chocolates and then forgotten. All the characters are beautiful, although I’d have to say beastly captain Jason is an exception, for the same reason models on magazine covers are – that’s what sells. If Footballers’ Wives pretended to be a serious, realistic view, we’d be right to raise objections and point out its faults. But it’s just a glorified soap based on an area that’s long been ripe for this sort of treatment. For a more realistic view, read Shelley Webb’s book of the same name. I’m not having a go at Joyce here – her assertion that the script is a cipher for another cultural attack on the working class was nearly as rib-tickling as Germaine Greer’s hilarious piece of cod philosophy on the show in the Guardian. When a show can be both entertaining in its own right, and provide so much spin-off pleasure, we can rest assured that British TV is still the best in the world.
Martin Cloake, London SE26
Dianne Millen (WSC 181) does well to point the finger at the Scottish media for stirring up the emotions of fans prior to the recent Aberdeen v Rangers SPL fixture, and also their attempts to shift the blame to unidentified English hooligans. However, she does miss the one thing most likely to cause a riot at an SPL game. The fact is that the only time there is likely to be serious trouble at Pittodrie is when Rangers are the visitors. Yes, we at Aberdeen have more than our fair share of idiots who just want a fight, but if the visiting support are so repellent that they whip normally law-abiding fans into such a frenzy then it is no surprise that this is the game that the hooligans (all 12 of them) pick to come onto the pitch. The most disturbing factor of all however were the blatant Nazi salutes that peppered the away end. Certain sections of the Rangers support have attempted to dismiss the saluting as a “Red Hand of Ulster salute”, as if that makes it acceptable at a Scottish football match. Celtic have a similary shady fascination with Irish history, but at least they have a made a visible effort to address the problem with the “Bhoys against Bigotry” campaign. What can be done to stop fans displaying such openly fascist tendencies? I believe that Lazio were threatened with ground closure when their fans unveiled banners relating to gas chambers and roundly abused black players last season. I can see little difference between the two in essence, and yet there is no plea from Rangers for an end to the religious bigotry, no visible display of condemnation from the players and nowhere near the outcry from the press that there should be. We are constantly told that Rangers v Celtic is “the greatest game in the world”. But it’s played in an atmosphere fuelled by nothing but hatred, far stronger than any other fixture I am aware of. I wait with bated breath for the day that they both sod off to the Premiership or Phoenix/Atlantic League and leave us all in peace. We’ll all be skint and Livingston will win the league but frankly who cares?
Al Pritchard, via email
Ian Plenderleith’s article on copyrighting of fixtures (WSC 181), interesting though it was, suffers from a lack of research. He assumes, wrongly, that the issue is a new one and arose from the growth of supporters’ and other sites on the web. In fact it goes back to the 1930s when the pools companies started up. The Football League saw how much money was being made by Littlewoods, Vernons and others and wanted a cut; at one stage it became so acrimonious that fixtures were scrambled, none were published in advance and clubs could only advertise that they were at home (or away) on Saturday, with the opponents not confirmed until a day or so before the game. It’s bad enough now with all manner of different match days and times but God forbid we go back to that. It was eventually resolved by the pools companies paying a levy and, I believe, the League copyrighting the fixtures. Whether this was subject to a legal challenge at the time I couldn’t say – this letter suffers from a lack of research, since I couldn’t be arsed.
Neil Reynolds, via email
I thought the article “An Easy Target” by Andrew Turton (WSC 181) was interesting but misguidedly defensive. I agree with his sentiments regarding the national press over-reaction at the “coin throwing / hooliganism” at Cardiff v Leeds – in fact, I think there is a strong argument that the national press have driven the whole thing along due to a couple of weak news weeks. Where I think he is wrong is underestimating the problems at Cardiff. I was one of the unlucky few pinned up against the wall outside the Griffin pub (it having locked its doors to protect its customers) at Brentford a couple of seasons back as several hundred Cardiff fans (“pissed out of their heads” according to their own songs) rained bottles and glasses down the street while being held back by the police. The occasion wasn’t helped by Brentford underestimating the amount of away support that Cardiff would bring, but nothing excused the ongoing incursions into the home end by Cardiff fans and the random attacks I witnessed outside the ground as people tried to leave at the end of the match. The lack of security measures at Ninian Park for away fans this season have become stuff of legend. Rumours have circulated that Cardiff City have been in dispute with the local police and were sending only the bare minimum to matches with orders to avoid getting involved. Whatever the reasons, it has been evident that little has been done to prevent attacks outside or inside Ninian Park this season and away fans have suffered. I know other clubs have problems and the FA are appallingly hypocritical when dealing with crowd problems (or anything else come to that). Describing Cardiff City as an “easy target” is far too simplistic and denying the truth. The truth is that Cardiff have had a major hooligan problem for a long time, it’s not getting better and the only surprise is that it didn’t come out into the national press ages ago.
Chris Hunter, Godalming
I note from the letters page of WSC 181 that Cris Freddi is being picked on by two of your correspondents. I have no wish to pile pressure on the poor chap but he really can’t be allowed to get away with “His 55 caps are a sign of how dry the well has been” in reference to Maurice Malpas. To save space may I refer WSC readers to the History/Legends section of the Official Dundee United FC Website (www.dundeeunitedfc.co.uk) and allow them to make up their own minds on the extent of Mr Freddi’s insult to the 13th most-capped Scot of all time. Suffice to say Maurice won League Championship and Scottish Cup medals with United, captained Scotland and was highly rated by a difficult-to-please duo called Jim McLean and Jock Stein.
Bob McPherson, via email
In the press furore over Darius Vassell’s spectacular overhead strike against Holland, they seem to have missed the obvious link between Darius and the inventor of the “bicycle kick”, Aston Villa chairman Doug Ellis. As every Villa fan who has had to listen to Ellis’s deluded ramblings over the last 30 years will know, our corpulent chairman claims to have invented the said bicycle kick while playing for the Navy against an Italian IX after the Second World War. “Within a year,” he states, “players all over Italy were copying it.” Obviously young Darius has had some coaching from the 78-year-old superstar chairman and was able to put this to good use on his international debut. Another Villa player, David Platt, scored an equally acclaimed goal during Italia 90 using an adaptation of the Ellis kick, but unfortunately Platt had not fully mastered the maestro’s technique and was forced to rely on the “half-bicycle” kick. It’s good to see that Sven is not frightened of using the experience and knowledge of members of the FA’s International Committee.
Bob Piper, via email
Just to correct Rob Synott (Letters, WSC 181), Bolton’s Reebok Stadium is named after a company which was founded in Bolton in the 1880s and has sponsored the team since the early 1990s. Faceless maybe, transient no.
Rob Moss, Bolton
The Worthington Cup final was played with the roof closed in Cardiff for reasons of, and I quote, “Spectator safety and comfort”. Madness. Of course it’s actually because they’ve let the pitch get a bit soggy and the football authorities are worried about two Premiership sides clogging about in the mud and producing a bad spectacle. Bad advert for the game and all that… Having controlled everything from merchandising to kick-off times, football now wants to control the weather. It’s an outdoor game. The roof in Cardiff should be used only very sparingly to ensure that the pitch remains playable and can take 90 minutes exposed to whatever passes for the elements in a 75,000 seater sports bowl. Am I the only one who would rather watch the players cope with what nature can throw at them, from an exposed terrace in the pouring rain? Surely not.
Richard Brown, via email
From WSC 182 April 2002. What was happening this month