Gabriele Marcotti is right (Letters WSC 217) when he points out that none of the performance-enhancing drugs at the centre of the Juventus doping court case were actually illegal – apart from erythropoietin (EPO) – but the rather smug attitude of the club still leaves a bitter taste. As I understand it, it’s only recently that ways of detecting EPO usage have been perfected (in time for the Athens Olympics) which may explain why so few of the players at the club between 1994 and 1998 tested positive – and why Juve’s defence counsel, Paolo Trofino, and others are so confident that the prosecution will fail at the appeal stage. Also, it was never my intention in the article in WSC 215 to portray Robert Baggio, Paolo Montero etc as a bunch of thickies; more that their unhelpful attitude during the hearings had, at best, the whiff of a fudge about it. Sergio Campana, president of the Associazione Italiana Calciatori (the Italian PFA), said after the verdict was announced that he believed that all the players had acted in good faith. Does that then mean that, if the club were indeed administering doses of EPO, they lied to the players about what they were doing? And will the appeal, when it eventually comes round, throw any more light on proceedings? Probably best not to hold your breath.
Matt Barker, via email
In the late 1990s, pundits and Sunderland fans would forever lecture Manchester City on how we shouldn’t have sacked Peter Reid. So I was pleased to see from Andy Dawson’s piece (WSC 217) that his managerial ineptitude is now acknowledged. He is wrong, though, to criticise the signing of Keith Curle. Reid’s blunder was not in buying Curle, rather in partnering him with out-of-form Steve Redmond, instead of Colin Hendry. When Redmond was finally dropped in February 1992, Reid declared his number-one target to be a tall centre-half, just five months after selling Hendry. Those Sunderland fans smugly delighted to have Reid in charge might have made a worthy inclusion in your “things no longer seen at football” series.
Colin Tapner, Poole
Your article on Peter Reid (WSC 217) was just a little too biased against the man. It missed out that in his time at Sunderland, Reid saved the club from a relegation that was looking likely, won the First Division championship twice (and also lost out on penalties in a play-off final) and achieved two top-ten finishes while in the Premiership. He also managed to produce teams that attracted over 40,000 people to the Stadium of Light. While his faults and mistakes are obvious, the least you could have done would be to have given him some credit for the positives he managed in his time on Wearside,
Nathaniel Donovan, St Albans
A few weeks ago the BBC screened a documentary about Manchester United after Match of the Day. As this was the diary of a season about five years ago I am not sure of its relevance today, and on reflection I cannot remember why I bothered to sit through it. It was all worthwhile, however, when the subject of the mighty reds opting out of that season’s FA Cup came up. A supporter suggested that they should definitely have entered because the chances were they would draw, “someone like Exeter and the reserves and youth players would be able to beat a team like that”.
Tim Manns, via email
Leeds fans are used to reading historical rewriting of the facts that diminishes any achievement. But in the Season In Brief in WSC 217, Jonathan Baker overstepped the mark when writing: “Meanwhile in Sheffield, Wilkinson was fine-tuning the dour, long-ball style that would eventually see him win the Division One championship with Leeds”. I can’t speak for his tenure at Wednesday, but the first half of Howard’s eight-year stint in charge at Elland Road was nothing short of miraculous. He took a moribund side from 21st in Division Two to the League title in just three-and-a-half years, with a net outlay of little more than £6 million. And, what’s more, once promotion was achieved in 1990, his team played a goal-tastic brand of attacking football that saw Leeds take part in no less than 32 games that produced four or more goals in all competitions between August 1990 and May 1992. Those included a 6-1 win at Wednesday, a 4-1 win at Villa and an amazing 4-5 home defeat to Liverpool. With Dorigo, Speed, Sterland and Strachan marauding down the flanks and McAllister spraying sublime passes all over the pitch, it was hard to find a more consistently entertaining side in the League in the early 1990s and only Arsenal outscored Leeds in that time. Wilko would eventually lose the plot – selling Cantona was the start – but its unfair to overlook his early success at Leeds.
Phil Birkbeck, Barnard Castle
I was interested to read in WSC 217 about Gillingham’s anger over what they see as Charlton’s attempt to muscle in on their patch and steal their fans. The Gillingham chairman will no doubt be aware of another Kent club with similar fears. Conference side Gravesend & Northfleet are very concerned that a nearby Football League club are thinking of moving from their home town to a new stadium in Northfleet, just one mile from the non-League club’s ground. Naturally, they are worried about falling attendances if the larger club move in nearby. The name of the club in question? Gillingham.
Martin Jackson, via email
The only people that miss Terry Christie being involved in Scottish League football (see WSC 217) outside Ochilview are the chiropractors and physiotherapists who had to treat hundreds of SFL club supporters for stiff necks after watching his teams play. His relative success meant his tactics were copied by others, leading to a whole generation of midfield runners and long balls into the corners. Sorry (as Stenny’s hero Jimmy “Lloyd Haddow” Bank became a hero at my team, Berwick, too), but let’s hope Terry’s famous duffle and his long-ball game can be both be left in Scott Harvie’s rose-tinted dustbin.
Doug Stenhouse, via email
Good to see the BBC still carry the Dirty Leeds stereotype torch, as their feature on Joe Jordan in Football Focus on February 12 showed. The aforementioned feature showed clips on Jordan playing for Man Utd, Scotland and Leeds United. The Man Utd clip showed him scoring a goal, as did the Scotland clip, while the clip of his Leeds days showed him attempting to break someone’s shins with an over-the-top challenge (as perfected by the Beeb’s darling Steven Gerrard these days). Did Joe only play like this for Leeds, or is it just another case of unbalanced, clichéd reporting by the Beeb?
Mick Graham, Dublin
I’d just like to reassure Neil Cummins (Letters WSC 217) that Match of the Day does indeed send a commentator to every Saturday and Sunday Premiership game. They commentate on the full 90 minutes, conduct post-match interviews and then go home. Their efforts are edited down to size during the course of the evening, but nothing is dubbed on afterwards.
Editor, BBC Match of the Day
Roger Titford’s article on “Wiggy” Mihailov may have “brought back a few dormant nightmares” for Reading supporter Michael Baker, but Michael’s own casual reference at the end of his letter to one Dick Habbin caused this reader to do an eye-bulging coffee-spilling double-take of Peter Glaze proportions. Back in my youth I remember Dick Habbin turning out for my home town team of Sandy Albion FC in the old South Midlands League. It must have been about 1965-66, I guess, and he arrived with a great deal of bally-hoo. (There was a lot of bally-hoo floating around in those days, but like gauze its almost completely disappeared now.) Although I would have been only about ten or 11, I remember his every silky skilful touch of the ball being greeted with encouraging coos of approval from the “old men” (ie people of about 28 and upwards) in the crowd. After that he was whisked off to who-knew-where and promptly slipped down the back of the filing cabinet of my memory, where he has remained ever since, until Michael Baker’s letter brought it all back. A quick Google informs me that he played for Reading between 1969 and 1974, scoring 49 goals in 247 games, and that he also had spells at Rotherham and Doncaster Rovers. Apparently he was last heard of running a building firm in Rotherham, but for me he remains at mythical as Pickford the mystery footballer.
Rob Chapman, Manchester
I read with interest the editorial in WSC 217 about the “charade” of Chelsea winning everything bar the European championship and World Cups this season. I have no allegiance to the Roman empire, as I am a Brentford fan.But why are Chelsea seen as falsely acquiring success on the back of spending money? So what if they can afford some of the best players in the world? So can Manchester United and Real Madrid, but I don’t see them winning every competition they enter every season. Also, you can buy the best players, but that doesn’t mean you will have the best team (again, Real Madrid are a great example of this in recent seasons and the current one). So what is it about Chelsea that is really bugging people? Oh, that’s right, it’s because they’re upsetting the balance of power in an over-hyped, greedy league that has not been competitive for years, by playing football that has shown offensive flair and defensive solidity. Oh, and they have a manager who can actually build a team. Oh, and they paid money to do it. How do the blighters sleep at night? The only difference between Chelsea and Manchester United and Arsenal in the domestic league is that they have been given the money to spend on players in one go. Manchester United have had to spread their big signings over many seasons, but they can still outbid most of their rivals for the best names around. Most, but now, not all. In modern football, the teams that win things usually have the most money. But they still have to beat other less rich teams along the way. And that doesn’t always happen. Do people say the achievements of Manchester United and Real Madrid are worthless because of their cash backing? I don’t think so.
Ben Walsh, Hampton
Reading Season In Brief in WSC 217 has brought back (extremely) hazy memories of the first football match I ever went to – Cambridge United v Newcastle United in April 1984. Being nine years old at the time, I had no idea the Us had gone 31 games without a win and I’m not quite sure why my mum took me along to the Abbey – perhaps she was star-struck at the thought of seeing a former international (Kevin Keegan) in close-up. I have no recollection of the game at all, apart from all the players leaving the pitch at the end to the strains of Cliff Richard’s Congratulations. However, I did manage to ruffle Little Kev’s perm (it was quite grown out by then) as he ran down the players’ tunnel at the end. Considering they had just lost to perhaps the worst team in League history, I was lucky he didn’t thump me.
Neil Burkett, via email
I’ve just read Mark O’Brien’s article on a possible Everton/Liverpool ground-share (WSC 217). It occurred to me (and I’m off sick with flu so may be delirious) that there may be a solution. Why not build two joint stadiums running side-by-side? With two separate pitches and sets of stands. There appears to be plenty of room in the King’s Dock area of Merseyside. The clubs could then share the administrative and community work functions in the section where they join (down one of the “long” sides of the grounds) and still have scope for both teams to retain their individuality and history. Plus there would be a larger area for the shops, hotels and any more of that non-football stuff felt necessary. This way the Reds can still have the Kop, Shankly Gates and Hillsborough Memorial and the Toffees can have, er… whatever they want too! They could sell it under the banner “shoulder to shoulder into the future” or something (I’ve gone too far now haven’t I?).
Mat Spillets, Swansea
Following on from the letter claiming some commentaries on Match of the Day are dubbed [see above for clarification], there is another item on MOTD that is equally annoying – that of showing BBC employees celebrating goals. It’s sad that each manager is shown celebrating when their team score (what else are they expected to do?), but is it really necessary to focus on Delia Smith at every Norwich game, Michael Grade at The Valley and Ian Wright every time one of his sons scores for Manchester City or England?
James Ferris, Hebden Bridge
From WSC 218 April 2005. What was happening this month