Letters, WSC 270

Dear WSC
Regarding Simon Cotterill’s article in WSC 269. Indeed it is rare that many J‑League clubs sell out tickets for many games but this doesn’t tell the whole story about Japanese football. First of all, the World Cup crowds were different to those at ordinary J-League games. I’m not sure if it’s the same case in England but the media strongly encouraged people to cheer on the national team, which is followed on a four-year cycle only at major tournaments or in qualifying.  Secondly, J-League attendances did decrease quickly after the initial boom but a football culture is developing and the supporters who go regularly understand the game a lot more. This can be seen at Urawa Reds and Albirex Niigata who both use stadiums built for the 2002 World Cup and sell out all their home games.  It’s not just Japan and Korea where there are problems with attendances – English football has them too, as can be seen at the half-empty Ewood Park or Riverside Stadium.
Kazutaka Watanabe, Atsugi, Japan

Dear WSC
I read Saul Pope’s article about Leicester City’s UEFA Cup tie in Madrid (WSC 268) with interest and more than a little frustration. Having followed Leicester for 25 years at the time, the 1997 debacle in Madrid even now stands out as the lowest point of the club’s treatment of its fans.  On landing in Madrid we were herded off at the cargo terminal, greeted by a line of machine-gun-toting Spanish police, who body-searched every man, woman and child. We then waited an eternity for the official club coach to take us to a deserted part of the city where we were afforded less than an hour of free time before reboarding the coach and reaching the Vicente Calderón stadium three hours prior to kick-off.  We disembarked under armed guard, were searched again, then nudged and cajoled into the ground where any attempt to view over the external balcony was met with a baton to the midriff, pushing us back into the overcrowded walkway.  I wrote to Leicester City and the Football Supporters’ Association complaining of our treatment; Alison Pilling’s reply from the FSA promised to “look into these matters as several hundred fans feel the same way”, while then-chairman of Leicester City Tom Smeaton’s reply ends with “I hope that we can now all put this experience behind us and concentrate on the rest of the season” (thanks Tom…).  My frustrations remain the same now as they were at the time. Firstly, it is simply not believable that any business in the western capitalist world would undertake such a venture without expecting financial gain, however small. Secondly, and more alarmingly, it was an insult to Leicester City supporters to be asked, much less expected, to believe that any part of that trip was carried out with the fans safety and enjoyment in mind.  I for one was certainly never offered the £35 megastore gift voucher as your correspondent suggests; and for the record Saul, to my mind Ian Marshall would not have looked out of place erecting scaffold – if only after training.
Jim Woollard, Bournemouth

Dear WSC
I see that you’ve picked up on the new air of optimism at Gigg Lane now Bury have Alan Knill in charge. The Season in Brief in WSC 269, describes broaching the top four in 1926 as the club’s “highest finish to date”. It’s good to know you don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that we’ll keep going from strength to strength.
James Bentley, Bury

Dear WSC
I am writing in reply to the letter from Simon Melville in WSC 269 about the clothing worn by the Hamburg fans which he found offensive. He states that he is disconcerted by the iron cross on display. The iron cross is a medal of gallantry which was made for soldiers of the Prussian kingdom who fought against the armies of Napoleon in 1813. A long time before Nazism I’m sure you’ll agree. This merit medal continued to be awarded till the end of the Second World War when everything associated with the Third Reich was destroyed.  Simon also mentions the legend Gott Mit Uns which he associates with the “infamous” Wehrmacht. The Wehrmacht was the standard German army, nothing to do with the Nazis. Gott Mit Uns was on all soldiers belt buckles and translates in to “God With Us”. This was also on the belts of all German forces in the First World War, again before the time of Nazism. Why old German militaria has to be linked with football I don’t know but none of these are anything like as offensive as a Swastika or the SS lightning flash.
Lee Huison, Northampton

Dear WSC
The league table for English Division One 1925-25 in Season in Brief (WSC 269) showed several notable things in addition to the sheer number of goals. All 22 teams scored more goals at home than they conceded, and fewer away than they conceded. Also, all teams had at least as many home wins as defeats (20 had more, only two the same) and all but champions Huddersfield had more defeats than away wins, with their balance only plus two.  It would seem that home advantage was fairly overwhelming, with occasional blips like “lowly” Burnley’s 7-1 win at “mid-table” Birmingham – though their difference of six places in final position represented only four points. The tendency to win at home and lose away is further indicated by 11 teams round the middle of the table spanning only five points, though this group included Everton with 18 draws and Liverpool with 16, no other team having more than 12.
Ian Duff, North Berwick

Dear WSC
I wish to advise a minor discrepancy in Graham Hughes’s review of the 1925-26 season in WSC 269. Manchester City were actually relegated a week after, not before, the FA Cup final. They lost at Newcastle 3-2, with Billy Austin missing a penalty when the score was 1-2, and went down by one point as Leeds and Burnley both won their home games 4-1 to finish 19th and 20th. City did have a superior goal average to those clubs and this was helped by a record 6-1 win over Manchester United who they also defeated 3-0 in the Cup semi-final (worth a mention).  This was, of course, in the days before City ruined football and the world economy by buying players and actually paying them wages in a similar fashion to the current big four. It was, however, the year of the General Strike. City were, naturally, the first team to reach a Cup final and get relegated…
Dave Wallace, King of the Kippax

Dear WSC
Re: D Hawkins’s letter in WSC 269 about the origin of West Bromwich Albion’s nickname. I am now going on 86, but I remember the 1931 FA Cup final between Albion and Birmingham (not City until 1945 – how many times has that mistake been made?). My parents took the Daily Mail so it must have been in that paper that I saw an advertisement featuring the Albion team all wearing suits with a jacket and plus-fours – trousers stopped just below the knee with long stockings, very popular then with golfers. In my opinion it’s this photo that was the origin of WBA being called “the Baggies”. Also, though the Albion wore blue and white stripes with white shorts and Birmingham blue shirts and white shorts, no one thought it necessary for either to change. Interesting in view of all these mandatory away strips and so on being worn nowadays.
JW Moverley, Malvern

Dear WSC
I feel I should point out two glaring errors in the same sentence in Cameron Carter’s TV Watch in WSC 269. While pointing out that Newcastle under Shearer were just as crap as they had been for most of the season, Cameron asserts that “Mark Lawrenson or even a chimp with a pointing stick would have managed more than one win from eight games”. Firstly, Mark Lawrenson had a spell as Newcastle’s defensive coach during the 1990s, to no discernible effect whatsoever. Secondly, a chimp (I don’t know if he had a pointing stick) spent several mostly hilarious seasons just down the road, before his sacking deprived us of a ridiculously enjoyable song and the equally enjoyable sight of his team trying to play football.  Incidentally, credit should go to Roy Keane’s dog for giving us such a wonderful replacement for the Monkey’s Heed song. I don’t know yet whether we’ll find something similar for Steve “I’m a Geordie, me” Bruce, but I would like to place on record my thanks to Sunderland for taking him on, thereby eliminating the possibility of him coming to St James’s.
Dave Green, Gravesend

Dear WSC
I read with great interest the centre spread which involved my first footballing hero, Gordon Banks (Shot! archive, WSC 269). Unfortunately, your editorial contained an incorrect fact. Gordon Banks saved a penalty from his England colleague, Geoff Hurst, in the second leg at Upton Park which Stoke won 1-0 (after extra time, Stoke having lost the first leg at the Victoria Ground 2-1 – I was there) and not at Old Trafford.   The reason I know this is because I was behind the goal that Banks made his save in at Upton Park. The first replay was played at Hillsborough and finished 0-0 (after extra time) and the second replay (at Old Trafford) did indeed finish 3-2 to Stoke City (again, I was there). The picture, though, is absolutely correct, this was Gordon Banks celebrating Stoke getting to Wembley for the League Cup final after the game at Old Trafford.
Michael Cassidy, Bicester

Dear WSC
Gary Perkins (WSC 269) is not imagining things. There was indeed a magazine for kids in the late 1970s which had a “computer-generated” super league of about eight teams from the UK’s regions. The magazine/comic was Scoop, which was like Shoot! and Roy of the Rovers, but designed to cover all sports, not just football.  I remember the superleague. There was a photo of the so-called computer – a device that, despite its boxy appearance, was so advanced it could even generate a picture of the winning goal in a match. I have a vague recollection of seeing an animated image of Phil Neal firing home for the North West team (who may have been called Pool United).  Scoop boasted Manchester City winger Peter Barnes as a weekly columnist and included a number of cartoon strips, among which were The Cannonball Kid, about a young striker who could hit the ball very hard; The Goalie’s Got Guts, about a goalkeeper who had to juggle his football career with his busy life as an Accident & Emergency ward doctor; and Stark, about a new breed of mercenary footballer, who could be signed up for one game at a time. He had a calling card: “Jon Stark – Matchwinner. £1,000 per game, £250 a goal, no fee for lost game”. That’ll never happen, obviously.  Scoop recognised that football was where the big sales lay, and other sports like cricket and rugby became token extras in the magazine. But, if it wasn’t for Scoop, I’d never have known who Precious MacKenzie was when Half Man Half Biscuit sang about him years later.
Steve Nicholls, Birmingham

Other comments about Scoop included the following:

The results for each week would be displayed while a full match report of one featured game would appear with “computer generated pictures” which I suspect were drawn by someone with white horizontal lines then laced through the image to add to the “authenticity”.  So enamoured with this idea I wrote my own program on my PC whereby the players would be picked on a Friday for each regional team (all by me) then, dependent on their performances at the weekend, would help to create a match result. However, picking 16 teams, inputting them, and then creating fixtures and a league table inevitably took up too much time and after a couple of weeks I bored of the project.  Those of you concerned I spent far too much time in my bedroom at the onset of my teenage years would probably be right, but the good news is that the program I wrote was good enough to be entered as coursework for my Computer Studies O-level, earning me a B grade in the process.
Steve Heald, Edinburgh

The computer was called the Scoop Super 2000. It resembled a photocopier with a reel-to-reel tape recorder stuck to the top. As an Ipswich fan, I was interested in the East Anglian team. At the time, we were one of the finest in Europe so I expected a Muhren/Wark dominated side with a couple of Norwich players thrown in for politeness sake. Instead, Scoop decided that Coventry was in East Anglia, so we ended up with a team dominated by the likes of Terry Yorath and Danny Thomas (who also contributed a weekly article to the magazine).  I utterly believed in the Scoop Super 2000 until my brother echoed Gary’s suspicions that it was in fact typed up by the office junior. My innocence destroyed, I transferred my allegiance to Tiger and Hot Shot Hamish not long after.
Steve Ransom, Trimley St Mary

The teams (11 from England, with names such as Birmingham Utd and Pool City, plus Glasgow Wanderers) were picked by the magazine’s “regional reporters”, and it was always a source of bewilderment to my 13-year-old self that the line-up for Southcoast City invariably included Peter Cormack, by far the worst player in the Bristol City team despite being a former Scotland international. Occasionally the computer was deployed on other sports, and on one occasion there was an all-time England v Australia cricket match in which, if I recall correctly, WG Grace was dismissed cheaply by Dennis Lillee.
John Paines, Bristol

From WSC 270 August 2009