I write to you concerning Simon Creasey’s fascinating article Parting Shots (WSC 259), in which Ignacio Palacios-Huerta of the London School of Economics describes that, in penalty shootouts, the team that taking a penalty first wins 60.5 per cent of the time. He then goes on to say that the team kicking first “has a 21 per cent greater probability of winning the shootout”. I don’t cast doubt on Mr Palacios-Huerta’s abilities as a statistician, but it is possible that he meant 21 per cent more probability of winning. If Team X has a 60.5 per cent probability of winning, then Team Y therefore has a 39.5 per cent probability. Team X’s probability is [(((60.5 / 39.5) -1) x 100) =] 53 per cent greater than Team Y’s of winning the shootout. Or, in other words, that Team X wins 21 per cent more matches means that their chances are 53 per cent better than Team Y’s for any given shootout. We can be sure that this is precisely what was going through Rio Ferdinand’s head after extra time in Moscow.
Patrick Finch, Eskilstuna, Sweden
As a Cambridge United supporter of 31 years standing, I was intrigued by the letter regarding the identity of the player on the train (WSC 260). Subsequent reference to Cambridge United – The League Record shed no further definitive light on who it might have been. I must point out, though, that Alan Biley’s blond mullet came a little later than the period discussed, post-Big Ron (who left for West Brom in early ’78). In 1977-78 Alan seemed quite happy with a perm, as did most of the rest of the U’s players at the time. When his spectacular golden tresses suddenly emerged, after a pre-season presumably spent mostly at a Cambridge unisex salon, he was affectionately christened Wonder Woman by the sages in the Habbin Stand. Christ, I miss all that…
Bill Hawkes, Whitstable
Your article on long throws in WSC 260 neglected to mention the man whose chucking ability is now terrorising defences in the Conference, the magnificently named Exodus Geohaghan of Kettering Town. The man now known as “The Exocet” hurls the ball as far as Stoke’s Rory Delap but usually without the benefit of long run-ups due to there being less space behind the touchline at most non-League grounds. Kettering haven’t scored from one of his throws yet, partly because he is also the best header of the ball at the club and could do with being on the end of them himself. If this is against the rules then they should be changed – look into it, Sepp.
Andy Roberts, Ludlow
I need help with a hooligan. Someone in the 1980s had his team’s name tattooed on his lower lip but who was it? It was done upside down so it would be revealed when he pouted, as I distinctly remembering him doing in a tabloid photo with a group of mates all pulling the more usual hard faces. I think he might have been one of the many holders of the title of football’s Public Enemy Number One. And was there someone else who had his team’s name somehow picked out on his front teeth? Maybe it was just the initials. I can’t claim that I need this information for a Danny Dyer documentary – I’m just curious, as indeed was the lip-tattoo man.
Ross Andrew, Uttoxeter
David Stubbs was right to say in his article about football and music in WSC 260 that the Beatles had “no great love of football”, although they do have a kickabout in one scene in Help!. Their lack of interest may be partly explained by the fact that they grew up in the 1950s, when both the local clubs were going through their worst ever eras. Paul McCartney did have some family attachment to Everton – he bought a Goodison Park season ticket for his dad once his music career took off – but his former schoolmate Bill Kenwright has been unable to persuade him to invest in the club. Oddly, however, McCartney wore a Liverpool rosette in one of the unused pictures taken for the gatefold of Sgt Pepper. The famous front cover of that LP does feature a Liverpool player, 1940s centre-forward Albert Stubbins, but the group apparently chose him simply because they thought his name was funny.
Max Crawford, Crosby
The publicity for Kenny Sansom’s new autobiography referred to the fact that he was known for relieving the boredom at England team hotels by impersonating Norman Wisdom. During his days as a Spurs player, Peter Taylor was also known for taking off the agile yet gormless funny man. There was also a recent comment in WSC’s Weekly Howl* about Man Utd’s Gordon Hill sharing this proclivity. In fact, I distinctly remember the United manager Dave Sexton commenting that he usually roomed with Hill on away trips because no one else could stand the regular Wisdom routine, which involved falling over sideways while cackling. Was this part of a general trend for comedy impersonations among footballers? If so it seems to have died out. Or was there something about Norman Wisdom specifically that struck a chord with London-born players?
Robin Kingsley, Droitwich
Why do fans, commentators and players alike, when referring to a European games, say that away goals count double? We all know what they mean, that if the teams finish level, then the side that scored more in their away leg win. However, if taken literally, this would mean that a team who lose 3-2 away and draw 0-0 at home would go through 4-3 on aggregate as the two away goals are worth four if, indeed, away goals did count double. It’s almost as annoying as penalty shootouts being described as lotteries.
Denis Hurley, Cork, Ireland
Whatever happened to the flags that used to mark the halfway line, situated just outside the touchline? Maybe their proximity to the manager’s technical area was deemed dangerous by the Health and Safety Executive ? Can anyone shed any light on when they disappeared?
Dave Murray, Leith
Richard Weir’s letter (WSC 258) about Carlisle fans being serenaded with the Smiths’ Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now after a defeat by Leeds reminded me of the PA announcer at Wembley at the end of England 3 Scotland 1 in 1979 playing the opening bars of So You Win Again by Hot Chocolate to mock the exiting Tartan Army. This treachery was not lost on the 16-year-old making his first Twin Towers visit, even though he was more into the Police and the Skids at the time. This inappropriate end-of-match song (from a Scottish perspective anyhow) was bettered a couple of years ago by the PA announcer at Cowdenbeath FC, who played Duelling Banjos without a hint of irony after a TV comedian had said two days earlier it was the song that reminds him most about Cowdenbeath and the kingdom of Fife in general.
Alex Horsburgh, Fife
I take it that Andy Thorley, who claimed that the Britannia Stadium was the windiest and coldest in the League in your Season Guide in WSC 259, has never visited Ice Station Zebra, aka Boundary Park, Oldham?
J Ferrier, Leics
The other day, I saw a bloke wandering through my local town centre in a new Arsenal shirt that confirmed my view that modern football shirts aren’t red any more. I can still remember the excitement of watching Man Utd run out at Filbert Street in the Sixties and one of the things that struck me was that Best, Charlton and Law were wearing bright scarlet red shirts, and it was the same with Arsenal and Liverpool. Now they all seem to play in a dull, almost pinky, cherry red. Have my two cataract operations changed my colour vision? Or if I am right, why have shirt colours changed so much?
Bill Craven, Daventry
From WSC 261 November 2008