I would like to ask my fellow readers if their clubs have something called “The Nardiello Factor”. The Nardiello Factor is a phenomenon where a striker’s popularity is based in a large part on the exotic nature of his name. At Barnsley we have seen no finer example of this than in recent months with the arrival of Jerónimo Morales Neumann. My fellow Tykes have been beside themselves at the thought of this player, and have wondered how Mark Robins can possibly limit him to just warming the bench. This opinion seems based on nothing more than the fact that he has a name that would be good to shout out when (if) he scores. Our Jerónimo accordingly scores a Nardiello Factor rating of nine (the maximum score is ten). Contrast this with Chris Woods, our loanee from West Brom. He scores a paltry NarFac rating of four. Were he to slightly change his name to Christiano Woodaldo he would up his NarFac rating to eight but, alas, this is not to my knowledge due for consideration. As a consequence the support from the terraces has been a little limited to date. Liam Dickinson scores a NarFac rating of one, though I am willing to concede that, even if he changed his name to Galileo Figaro Magnifico, he’d do well to register a NarFac rating of five. His yellow boots have had a negative impact.
Ian Marsden, Belper
Adam Bate’s article on the current state of West Midlands football (Attendant danger, WSC 285) gives a number of good reasons as to why the area’s four Premier League clubs are seeing a decline in their respective attendances. However there is another reason – modern fans. At my club – the perennially comic Birmingham City – there is an increasingly vocal minority who expect Blues to play total football, beat every team with a flourish and Liam Ridgewell to have developed into a Ruud Krol. Let me reiterate. This is Birmingham City. Every player who mistimes a pass, fails to score or doesn’t beat every player they take on is berated, booed and generally slagged off. You even get chants of “4-4-2”, directed at an intelligent, urbane manager who not only has attracted the likes of Alexander Hleb to Small Heath but forged a team that was unbeaten at home for over a year and finished last season in its highest position for half a century. That the same manager has done a lot to challenge the stereotype of Blues as an underachieving club with moronic supporters is, of course, an irony lost on these fans. Maybe it’s that us Brummies like nothing more than a good moan. Maybe it’s the hyperbole generated and encouraged by Sky. Maybe it’s the individualisation of working class culture and the further reduction of football to mere consumerism. Whichever way it’s both tragic and ridiculous.
Chris Sanderson, Birmingham
As a Wolves fan I felt that Adam Bate didn’t let his theme get in the way of the facts in his article in WSC 285. Due to police restrictions Wolves’ capacity is approximately 28,500 and our attendances so far this season have been 27,850 v Stoke, 27,745 v Newcastle, 27,511 v Aston Villa (on Sky) and 28,552 v West Ham. So that’s four attendances at near capacity with three against teams who, with all due respect, are not exactly glamorous and one that was a Sunday lunchtime Sky game. In fairness, I would agree with Adam that our ticket prices are unjustifiably high and as a long-distance fan living in Cumbria I am having to restrict myself to occasional games this season. But unlike Villa, Birmingham and the Albion, our attendances are still holding up well.
Alan Davis, Ambleside
Simon Betts (Letters, WSC 285) may be a little disappointed if he ever travels to Hetton-le-Hole hoping to find Ralph Coates Close. Over the years I have often felt that Hetton Town Council should be proud of its football history and name new roads after local-born heroes. My ideas have included the above together with Alan Sproates Street, Billy Wardle Way, Harry Potts Passage, Bobby Cram Croft, Allan Ball Bypass, Ted Widdowfield Walk, Ian Collard Court, Tommy Tait Terrace, John Hall Hill, Jimmy Scott Square, Thomas Adey Avenue, William Graham Grove and Joe Mantle Mews. But so far the only success has been the Bob Paisley Bar and Lounge in the Hetton Centre, which possesses magnificent views from its first floor windows onto Eppleton Colliery Welfare Football Ground, home to Sunderland Reserves and Sunderland Women’s FC. A memorial to Bob Paisley has also been erected outside the Hetton Centre. There is a Deepdale Street – but I don’t know if Sir Tom has relatives there – and perusing the local A-Z in quiet moments, I have so far identified Nicholas, Barnes, Henry, George and Claude Streets as possibly having football heritage status, but whether Charlie, John, Thierry, another Charlie and Makelele have any Hetton-le-Hole roots, I don’t yet know. Ralph Coates may have his memory preserved for posterity one day, but he is only one in a quite lengthy queue of candidates.
Ron Miles, East Rainton
Ian Rands’ eye-opening piece (Blade running, WSC 285) on the way Sheffield Utd’s tentacles are spreading around the world made me shudder. The fans’ puzzlement at what the benefits really are is only one side of it. Surely the alarming thing is what this does for the fans of the clubs who were happily going about their business before Sheff Utd took control of their club. If I was slogging away all week in some Chinese sweat shop, making widgets that can be bought cheaply over here, I would be desperate to go and cheer my team at the weekend. However, if that was Chengdu Blades, whose main purpose seems to be to further the cause of Sheffield Utd, then I think I would go and throw myself off the Jin Mao Tower.
Alan Bunce, Reading
Although disregard of the West Country by the London/Manchester-based media has been absorbed into the psyche of the region’s football fans, the absence of any mention of Plymouth Argyle in coverage of Malcolm Allison’s career has been hard to take. It was at Home Park where his innovative coaching first came to notice, taking the Greens to a League Cup semi-final in his first season after arriving from Bath City with skipper Tony Book in 1963. Allison’s return in 1977 was to an Argyle in grave danger of a first-ever descent to the Fourth Division. With ten games remaining he recalled the fading local hero Fred Binney and adopted a controversial circular midfield. Argyle embarked on a glorious surge out of the relegation zone starting with a remarkable 5-1 win at Pompey, Binney scoring twice (seven by the season’s end). Eventually Allison completed his second circuit of the Plymouth-Man City- Palace circuit, gradually disappearing from view. Along with many other Argyle fans I will always treasure the impact that Big Mal had on the league’s furthest outpost.
Kevin O’Connor, Norwich
What is it about Chelsea which triggers such emotion? Go back to the 1960s and there is an episode of the Likely Lads in which Terry Collier says he hates Chelsea – “flash gits” as he describes them. Some of this visceral loathing is unreal. The latest diatribe in your letters column (WSC 285) sought to draw a distinction between “good” successful clubs (Arsenal and Man Utd) and bad ones (Chelsea). In doing so, the writer left out a couple of salient facts. Chelsea’s real financial troubles started in 1985 when a Tory-run council tried to force the club out of Stamford Bridge, artificially jacking up the price of the land by granting planning permission to turn it into flats. I remember the meeting where this happened, I was there. Arsenal, lest I forget, had a helping hand from its local authority which even steamrollered through a raft of Compulsory Purchase Orders to enable the Emirates to be built. History is often more complicated than we realise.
David Millward, Wapping
I agreed with Rob Freeman’s article on goal-line technology (Eyes down, WSC 283) and feel I must take issue with Matt Howell’s riposte (Letters, WSC 284). The main concern regarding the introduction of technology, goal-line or otherwise, is surely when to stop play. Take, as an example, the 2010 FA Cup final. David James parried a Chelsea shot onto his own crossbar, which subsequently bounced downwards and then out of the goal area, to the strident claims of commentator Jim Beglin that “this is ridiculous. That’s a goal.” Portsmouth immediately went on the attack and spurned a decent chance to take the lead themselves. Replays proved the officials right (and Beglin wrong) and he partially backtracked, but would not back down on his insistence that technology should have taken a hand. When, then, should the replay take place? If it was immediately, the disallowance of the “goal” would presumably result in a drop ball, possibly on Portsmouth’s goal-line. If it was when the ball next goes dead that could be minutes, or in this case, possibly even after Pompey had scored. What referee would then refer to the cameras and inform a team that not only had they not scored but that the opposition had, possibly minutes earlier? Video referrals would undoubtedly slow the game down and the laws required to implement such an introduction are far from straightforward.
Ian Plumbley, Accrington
Roger Titford’s article on groundsharing between rugby and football clubs (Code of conduct, WSC 285) was thought-provoking but missed some key points. He highlighted the fact that rugby is the cheaper game to watch, supposedly attracting fans away from football. This to me misses the salient issue – that professional football, across the board, is overpriced. Surely football and rugby (both codes) are dissimilar enough not to create problems with fans “crossing over”? If football really is losing ground to rugby, the game needs to take an honest look at why this is happening. It won’t simply be down to the price of tickets, but also to the quality of the matchday experience and the quality of the sporting contest on offer. I speak as a fan of both rugby league and football, who lives in Hull (and supports Hull FC and Exeter City – my hometown, where no one plays rugby league). Would I rather pay to see committed rugby players in games with non-stop action and plenty of points, or overpaid no-marks like Jimmy Bullard fannying about, to no great effect? Really, it’s a no-brainer. As for Matt Rudd’s reference to “mutual dislike” between fans of rugby and football in Hull, all I can say is that most rugby fans couldn’t give a knack about Hull City or where they play. His attitude is typical of the arrogance of a lot of football fans who think that only their sport counts and any other game is beneath them – which, given the way Hull City have played for the last two years, is a bit of a joke.
Scott Moncrieff, Hull
I suggest Jess Cully (Letters, WSC 285) knows damn well I haven’t yet ticked off Stade de Reims in my quest to see every European finalist (The hundred club, WSC 284) and, furthermore, is equally certain I consider the current bearers of that name to be the same club which reached the 1956 and 1958 European Cup finals, despite their financial collapse of 1991. This is clearly an attack by a jealous hopper, determined to mess with my chi (the vicious use of the word “purist” is conclusive proof in this respect). Do the only European trophy wins of Leeds, West Ham and Rangers no longer count because the competitions they won have since been renamed or culled? I didn’t see Fiorentina till 2008. They “ceased to exist” back in 2002 (Wikipedia – hands up) and then initially re-formed under a slightly different name. But, for me, a club’s history carries through these periods rather than being stopped. The same supporters, ground, strip and matchday culture have endured since La Viola’s 1990 UEFA Cup final at least. No one was supporting “Fulham 1987 Ltd” in the first Europa League final – they were supporting the same club which provided Johnny Haynes, Bobby Robson, Jim Langley and co for the London XI which reached the first Fairs Cup final. And a certain club in Milton Keynes doesn’t dare claim it won the 1988 FA Cup. Yes, I’m prepared to go that low – but these are the things you have to do when someone threatens the one piece of ambition and structure remaining in your life (but thanks for not digging me up on the fact I got one of Birmingham’s Fairs Cup final years wrong).
Alex Anderson, Glasgow
Mark Poole does his best to sell the proposed restructuring of Scottish football (More the merrier, WSC 285). However, as part of the analysis nothing is mentioned of the teams outside the 24 or 28 who will make up this two-league competition. If some stories are to be believed the remainder will get to make up a rump third division with some SPL reserve sides and little chance of promotion as they will no doubt make sure there are some ludicrous ground criteria to join the elite.
As a Berwick Rangers fans this holds no promise for me, our fans and those of other clubs in the Third Division. This proposal is in effect the death knell for our clubs; we would be better leaving the SFL structure completely and joining the Juniors. If we end up in a semi-reserve league then that will be the end of my attending Berwick games. In the rush for the money that SPL2 will supposedly offer we will be cast adrift by the greed of the Division One clubs who appear to expect a massive Sky deal for Ross County v Morton on a Tuesday night. The irony is that many of the teams in the lower reaches are far better run than the clubs who have chased the pot of gold and ended up in administration. This is a dreadful proposal for up to half the clubs in Scotland and Mark Poole does us no service by failing to mention the impact on us.
Derek Bell, Kelso
James Eastham (Spa breaks, WSC 285) claims that the French eat just under a billion tonnes of yogurt each year. For a country of 62 million people, that equates to 16 tonnes per person per year, or 43 kilos per day. With the average Activia yogurt pot containing just 125g, that’s 350 pots per person each day. With that much “Tummy Loving Care” going on, the outbreaks of unrest in the French camp in South Africa this summer seem even more surprising. Or was the problem that they were just unable to leave the bathroom? I think we should be told.
Richard Tiplady, Glasgow
From WSC 286 December 2010