I notice that Steve Ducker (WSC 203) believes that UEFA will be “100 per cent responsible” for any crowd trouble that occurs in Portugal as a result of the England v Croatia game being moved from Coimbra to Lisbon. Funny that, as I always thought xenophobia and heavy drinking had a role to play in these situations. UEFA’s decision seems to make sense on this occasion (as does the moving of the Germany v Holland game to Porto’s stadium). The Lisbon and Porto police forces are the only ones with any real experience of large crowds with a potential for trouble (the so-called classicos when Porto, Benfica and Sporting play each other) and those cities have had virtually all the dealings with foreign football fans in recent years. Furthermore, as Coimbra is only just over an hour from Lisbon and with limited accommodation, it would be safe to assume that many England fans will be basing themselves in Lisbon for the tournament. Incidentally, weren’t UEFA criticised for holding the Engand v Germany game in Charleroi in 2002, as the ground was too small and the size of the town ensured that it was easy for large groups of fans to congregate together? However, if there is trouble then there may be other people for us all to blame. How about the Portuguese bar and cafe owners for selling their beer too cheaply and for making their outside tables and chairs too easy to throw around?
Matthew Guest, Porto, Portugal
Steve Ducker overlooks a number of key points in his attack on UEFA’s decision to move two matches at Euro 2004. First, UEFA said all along that they reserved the right to move matches. None of us has the right to complain as we were buying tickets for games blind, even if I would feel cheesed off, like him, at losing out on an England game, rather than gaining one (though losing Holland v Germany) as happened. Second, improved security is not the only or even the primary reason for the moves: the simple fact is more people want to see these games live. Though I enjoyed being among the 15,000 at Yugoslavia 3 Slovenia 3 at Euro 2000, the organisers would have been far from happy had the luck of the draw put that match in one of the major venues rather than Charleroi. Why waste Porto’s ground on Czech Republic v Latvia (which I will still enjoy)? And France do not travel in large numbers even when winning tournaments next door (5,000 short when they played the Czechs in Bruges in Euro 2000). Third, he claims UEFA are taking a huge risk by moving England to a city Germany will be playing in two days later. If England reach the quarter-finals, they will be in Lisbon a day or two after Germany anyway. The risk is allowing these sides to compete at all. UEFA are trying to please the most fans possible, improve security and trust we can behave. I hope they are right.
James Lucas, Luton
Dan Brennan’s piece on Andy Goram (WSC 203) missed an ideal opportunity to remind us all of one of the greatest football chants of all time. After Goram went public about his battle with schizophrenia, on his next appearance (I forget the fixture) the crowd started singing “Two Andy Gorams, there’s only two Andy Gorams”. Not psychologically accurate I suppose, but genius nonetheless.
Joe Williams, via email
Reading about the half-time scoreboards in WSC 202 reminded me of a wet Saturday night in September 1982 when I watched NEC play Go Ahead Eagles. I lived in Nijmegen as a student – my own club, second division Eindhoven, were playing at far-away Heerenveen. In those days before teletext and the internet there was no better way to follow the score than via the board at the NEC stadium where all the matches were frequently updated. I could not believe my luck when the man in charge of the board stuck the first ‘1’ underneath the zero at the E game, which meant Eindhoven were one up. Still 70 minutes to go so nothing to get excited about, but I spent the rest of the match peering through the darkness at the board, while showing little or no attention to the cracking game I had actually paid to see. My heart sank every time the man went up the ladder with one of his numbers and that happened a lot that evening. To my growing amazement, he walked past the E every time and left the score at 0-1. Hurrah! After the NEC match finished, I hurried home to check if Heerenveen had equalised in injury time. I was to find out an anxious half-an-hour later that the game had been abandoned after thirty minutes because of fog. A couple of weeks later Eindhoven began a national record of 48 games (almost three years) without an away win.
Ernst Bouwes, Nijmegen, Holland
It’s funny, isn’t it, that after Steve McManaman’s debut for Man City against the mighty Villa, in which he apparently ran the show, the clamouring for his reinclusion into the England team seems to have abated? Could this be because people have finally realised that he’s actually not very good? Saying that, I must admit that if running around aimlessly while simultaneously pointing was a prerequisite then he’d be the first name on my teamsheet.
Jason Taylor, Hadfield
In Paul Ashley-Jones’ article on Wales’ narrow play-off defeat, he refers to the “stability, organisation and a team spirit desperately missing under Bobby”. Having survived nine months of Mr Gould at my club, Cheltenham, where he told supporters who criticised him to “fly away”, I can only hope John Ward does a similar rescue job to Mark Hughes. Apparently Bobby laid the foundations for the subsequent improvement…
Trev Wallis, Cheltenham
The Five Minute Wrexham in WSC 203 states that in 1934: “Tommy Bamford hits 44 goals, with five in one game and 13 hat-tricks.” I think this achievement has been severely understated. Tommy must have been some player but I would like to know if he only started 14 games that season, picking his matches against the small fry to ensure he could smash in at least a hat-trick each game or was he a regular starter with an attitude problem where unless he was guaranteed his minimum quota of three goals, he would drift anonymously around the middle of the park? Does anyone know of any other players who only scored in hat-tricks or more? I already have a long list of players who only bothered to try when the cameras were there or when they thought some big club scout was visiting.
Marcus Seldon, Lytham St Annes
I was happy to see Peter Sharpe’s reply (WSC 203) correcting Matthew Dixon’s original letter (WSC 202) regarding the Sheffield United-Birmingham City Peter Withe saga. He was correct in everything he wrote, except the winning goal in the 1-0 April St Andrew’s fixture was scored by Andy Kennedy and not Steve Wigley. Andy scored so few that to “steal” his vague glory seems almost criminal.
Andrew Baker, via email
Although I appreciate that we are all entitled to our opinions on the greatness or otherwise of players, managers etc, I cannot allow it to be said that the marvellous Deryn Brace (Five Minutes, WSC 203) should best be forgotten. For several seasons he was the best player on the pitch for Wrexham and often the only one who looked like he cared. After the departure of Gary Bennett, he is probably the only player who has come close to matching Benno’s rapport with the fans. His error on that day in Chesterfield was only one of a series of poor performances that denied the club its moment or glory – the fact that one Brian Hughes knew the next day he would be signing for Birmingham, which he duly did after our exit from the Cup, is another part of the story of how we managed to throw away the chance of reaching the FA Cup semis for the first time. If you really want to mention some villains in red shirts, you could do worse than name the teamsheet for our latest performance on national television. Aside from turning up and shaking hands with Yeovil our heroes did very little else and the painfulness of the 4-1 scoreline has only been heightened since by Yeovil’s fortune in drawing Liverpool in the third round. I can’t imagine what was said in our boardroom when that one came through. The mention of Yeovil and Chesterfield brings me on to another subject of some significance, namely the huge home advantage obtained by not giving away supporters a roof to hide under. This is crafty in the extreme as the away fans, try as they might, cannot generate any noise to spur their team on. Should there not be some sort of rule that a proportion of the away support is given a roof under which to shelter and generate some noise? The lovely folk of Rochdale were especially generous on Boxing Day last year and we somehow sneaked a 2-2 draw – I feel that if we had been standing on a windswept terrace with our cries heading directly up into the air without the players hearing them, then we would never have got a point that day, and, conversely, it might have been us and not Chesterfield who were diddled out of an FA Cup final place by the great David Elleray.
Robert Wardle, Bristol
Among the cast of the pantomime Little Red Riding Hood at the Trinity Arts Centre, Gainsborough is one Garry Birtles, appearing as Muddles. Good to see one of Brian Clough’s protégés gaining useful employment. Wonder if he’ll sign for Manchester United Rep and than disappoint greatly.
Stuart Goodacre, Lincoln
From WSC 204 February 2004. What was happening this month