If Chic Charnley (Reviews, WSC 281) had had a longer fuse, it’s a racing certainty that he’d have played for Scotland and, in all likelihood, have drawn the attentions of bigger clubs in Scotland and down south. But, in gaining a model pro, we’d have lost a character who inspired love and loathing in equal part (depending on whether he was playing for your club). For a fan Chic was a uniquely interactive experience – if you got on his back he’d react and, as his disciplinary record shows, on 17 occasions that reaction led to a red card. As a fan you knew it. He’d be looking at the crowd trying to pick out his tormentors and on a good day you’d get a gesture. What better motivation could there be.At McDiarmid Park in Perth, on New Year’s Day 1997 Chico had a particularly fine blow-up. With the St Johnstone fans full of New Year spirit (spirits?) the abuse directed at Chic was ripe. With the match at 1-1 the red mist descended, and he thumped one of his team-mates. What followed was one of the high points of the last 20 years for Saints fans – a 7-2 victory over the bitterest local rivals.Equally, when playing for Partick Thistle against Motherwell in 1994 or 1995, I recall the crowd focusing even more relentlessly on the man. My memory says that again he got wound up, launched a kung-fu tackle at an opponent and earned an early bath. I’m less certain of this though and would welcome confirmation that I twice played my part in taking Chico off the pitch, definitely my most significant footballing achievement. At a later date I met Chic in a Glasgow pub. He was holding court to a rapt audience of Celtic fans whose devotion to him was greater than to many of the club’s long-term players. They knew he was one of them and they knew he’d come within a whisker of fulfilling his/their dream of playing in the hoops. Down-to-earth, frank about his errors and damn funny, it’s a shame there aren’t more like him. But if there were, there’d be chaos.
Alistair Smith, Forest Hill
In his story about watching every World Cup game live (Caught in the Net, WSC 282), Al Needham said: “Like a solar eclipse, all the celestial forces appeared to click into alignment for me in 2010.” Well, there actually was a total solar eclipse in the South Pacific during the World Cup final. As a keen astronomer, football fan and environmentalist, I was trying to watch all 64 games live on a solar powered laptop and TV on Easter Island but, yes, you’ve guessed it, I saw every minute of every game apart from Steven Gerrard’s goal.
Andrew Howard, Forest Gate
I recently attended a performance of Tomorrow, In A Day, an electronic opera about Charles Darwin by Swedish pop duo the Knife. My enjoyment of the evening was somewhat compromised during a moving lament about the death of the great naturalist’s young daughter, during which the singer held a football for added poignancy. The ball appeared to be based on a 32-panel Buckminster design, similar to the Mexico 1970 World Cup ball featured in WSC 281 and not invented until a century or so after the events in question. This may have been a deliberate allusion to the creationist worldview – a suggestion that God begat the football in its recognisable modern form but also strewed the earth with heavy leather balls and skeletal evidence of cranial trauma to test the faith of believers. Alternatively, it may just have been an oversight in the production design, an oversight that it is hard to imagine occurring if such detail conscious football men as José Mourinho or Sam Allardyce had chosen instead to pursue a theatrical calling. Have any other readers found their appreciation of avant-garde arts spectacles diminished by avoidable football-related anachronisms? I am not sure whether I should get out more, less or not at all.
Ben Moore, Chiswick
The photograph of the Watney Cup game between Halifax Town and Man Utd which accompanied Matthew Knott’s informative article (Spot of Bother, WSC 281) would have made an interesting Shot! feature in its own right. Nowadays, for many who remember it, the Watney Cup tends to be viewed with a certain amount of disdain (largely due to the vile beer that the sponsors tried to foist onto an unwilling nation), but at the time it was taken seriously. In the second year of the tournament, Man Utd sent a full-strength side to The Shay on the last day of July 1971, attracting a crowd of just under 20,000. Denis Law and George Best played and Bobby Charlton is the player observing the penalty to the right of the photo. In fact, the penalty featured was one of two in normal time rather than in the shoot-out which the competition had introduced a year earlier. Alex Smith saved Willie Morgan’s penalty, while Bob Wallace scored from the spot for Halifax who, to this day, are justifiably proud of their 2-1 win. It’s hard to believe, but three years after this game, when United spent a single season in the second tier, only one division separated them and Halifax Town. Today, in a rather different football world, we’re talking six degrees of separation.
Charlie Adamson, Huddersfield
You wouldn’t have thought there had been a World Cup going on this summer if you’d believed Sky. Another example of the “not invented here” syndrome which competing TV companies use to such poor effect. However, I did see the pitchside advertising announcing that we can now watch football in 3D if we subscribe to Sky. Well, I could have sworn I’d been watching football in 3D for over 30 years without the benefit of Sky. However, I will check again to make sure on my next visit to the Stadium of Light.
Arthur McArdle, Holmes Chapel
It would have been astute of Eastenders to film two of every scene located inside the Queen Vic from the Germany v England fixture until the World Cup final on July 11 – one scene with the St George flags up behind the bar and one with them gone. As it is, they were in plain and proud view throughout the rest of the tournament, a preposterous and insulting presence to match that of Barbara Windsor trying to blend in with actors.
Neil Bray, Budleigh Salterton
Recently, through work, I had to visit Spennymoor and immediately the name “George Courtney” sprang to mind. I then had to travel to Heselden and the name “Colin Bell” entered my head. Do other readers have any other obscure British places that immediately conjure up footballers or connected personalities? Or did I spend too much time in my youth with my head stuck in a Rothmans?
Steve Heald, Edinburgh
Does anyone else find it mildly ironic that Spurs have finally reached “the next level” with a manager brought in just to keep them up? As Tottenham embark upon their Champions League campaign, Daniel Levy will get plenty of praise for numerous aspects of his leadership. And right now he’s being well stroked among Spurs fans for having brought in Harry Redknapp. But after having, frankly, ballsed up a managerial decision or two in pursuit of fourth place, the fact is that it wasn’t until he forsook that ambition that he found the right man. Never in a thousand years would he have brought in Redknapp for that task. Desperation brought in Redknapp, and desperation ousted the chairman’s favoured “continental system”. Levy’s done a lot of things well, but he’s also been lucky in that his own mistakes forced him into the decision that ultimately got him where he wanted to be. And it’s a good thing, too, because the grand strategy didn’t appear likely to do so.
Dave Talbert, Indiana, USA
Mike Donnan asks if Peter Beagrie was the first player to celebrate a goal with a somersault (Letters, WSC 280). I don’t know who the first player to do that was but I can tell you where Peter Beagrie got the idea from. After scoring the winning goal in Barnsley’s FA Cup replay against Stoke at Oakwell, Steve Cooper rubbed salt in the wounds with his gymnastic skills. Peter Beagrie was with Stoke at the time. The game was on a midweek evening and featured on the BBC’s highlights show. Steve previously played for Plymouth so their fans would no doubt have witnessed the celebration before the Barnsley (and Stoke) fans. He always gave 100 per cent effort so his death in 2004 aged 39 was all the more saddening.
Chris Emblem, Barnsley
I noticed something that wasn’t picked up in your World Cup diary coverage (WSC 282). Before the trophy presentation, while many were perhaps dwelling on the dazzling nature of this level of achievement and how much sporting success can mean to a nation, Guy Mowbray was preoccupied with issues concerning engraving. “There is enough space for names up to 2038 on the base of the FIFA World Cup,” he told us. It is, actually, a concern. Will they start erasing team names from 2042 to make room? Why is it only Guy who seemed worried about this? Thank glory one man was paying attention here.
Roy Guthrie, Paignton
From WSC 283 September 2010