The article on the FA Cup’s longest tie (Draw to a close, WSC 298) reminded me of what I believe is still officially the longest single match between two English sides – the second leg of a Division Three cup tie between Stockport County and Doncaster Rovers on March 30, 1946. After extra time, the score stood at 2-2 – which was also the score following the first leg. Having checked with the local authorities, the referee let the game carry on until one team scored, the original Golden Goal. After 203 minutes and with darkness setting in, the match was finally brought to an end. The story goes that fans left the match to go home for their tea and returned later to carry on watching. The replay at Doncaster was won by the home team 4-0. This might not be quite as impressive as the longest football match ever, which I believe currently standards at 57 hours. This epic encounter between Leeds Badgers and Warwickshire Wolves in 2010 was played to raise money for charity.
Alan Bredee, Enfield
After reading the latest of many articles in WSC campaigning for the return of standing areas to football grounds (two of them, in fact, in WSC 299), I felt the need to write this letter. I just do not see how it is particularly important whether one sits or stands at football matches. Indeed, in most situations in life where we are offered a choice of sitting or standing, we would sit down, which makes me question whether it is even an inconvenience. It is clearly not a safety issue. There are numerous reasons why watching football is a generally safer experience than it used to be and it would be naive to give all the credit to all-seater stadiums, but certainly the experience of watching a football match is no less safe because of seating. Is it about atmosphere? Well, most of the singing inside a football stadium tends to emanate from the same area in each game. The vocal fans know where to gather, whether they are standing up or sitting down. If standing areas are introduced, these same fans will merely gather in the standing area instead, and sing as they always do, so what would be different? It is also worth pointing out that the most vocal element of any club’s fanbase is likely to include the largest proportion of trouble-makers. The standing areas will not, by and large, consist of families and old men with flasks. For the most part, they will be made up of posturing young men with a few pints of lager inside them. Most of even the most vocal fans, even after a couple of drinks, know where to draw the line but some do not. Standing areas could become the territory of those who require the greatest supervision for their own and others’ safety. It is surely more difficult to identify problematic supporters when they have the greater freedom of movement that a standing area would afford. I realise I am probably in a very small minority of WSC readers to feel this way, and I may indeed be missing some crucial points, so I would like to genuinely ask why WSC and its readers want standing areas in football grounds. Or, more precisely, why they feel this will benefit football and its spectators in general?
Gavin Duenas, Somerset
Reading the Focus on Dennis Tueart piece in WSC 299 prompted a memory from my days delivering the Manchester Evening News in the 1970s. Shortly after Manchester City’s League Cup win, Mr Tueart featured prominently in a front page advertisement for hair transplants under the banner “Dennis watches his overheads”. As Dennis was recently so keen to favourably compare his cup-winner to Wayne Rooney’s altogether more acrobatic derby-winner, maybe he could now go “head-to-head” with Wayne to enlighten the world on the advancement of rethatching techniques over the past 25 years.
Vaughan Evans, Altrincham
In response to Neil Fairchild’s views on West Ham’s proposed move to the Olympic Stadium (Letters, WSC 299), it is a bit much to say that because a poll on the most popular Hammers fansite Knees Up Mother Brown voted in favour of a move, it is the majority view. I have just checked the results and only 1,238 votes were cast, of which 718 (just under 58 per cent) were in favour. It is not exactly a sweeping mandate. The poll was issued almost a year ago, in January 2011, and a lot has happened since then. In fact, a similar poll on the same website in May and June 2010 resulted in 72 per cent voting against a move. This quote from the website says it all: “A stunning turnaround since our last poll six months ago, when 72 per cent of voters voted against leaving the Boleyn ground. The key component in that enormous swing appears to be the emergence of Tottenham, whose plans to challenge West Ham for the stadium were only revealed after the June 2010 poll was conducted – suggesting that while many supporters still oppose the idea of moving, it is a sacrifice they are prepared to make to prevent Spurs relocating to east London.” Of course, Spurs are no longer involved and West Ham would now be tenants rather than owners, so I suspect a poll taken now would see opinion swinging back against a move. I agree with Neil Fairchild on one point, however. He says West Ham fans should be asked for their opinions on the subject of being tenants. It is an excellent idea but one that Gold, Sullivan and Brady have so far failed to act upon.
Mark Harknett, Stony Stratford
Neil Fairchild (Letters, WSC 299) fails to mention the effect West Ham moving into the Olympic Stadium will have on my club, Leyton Orient, although that issue has been covered elsewhere. However, I must take issue with his glaring factual inaccuracy. Upton Park is served not only by the District Line, but also the Hammersmith & City Line. As Leyton station is served solely by the Central Line, clearly this is yet another example of the so-called “big” clubs being favoured by authority. And West Ham want better transport links! The greed. The avarice.
Phil Laing, Chingford
Your editorial (Conflicting views, WSC 299) was right to draw attention to the increasing presence of the military at matches – a pattern repeated in rugby league – and the conflation of remembrance and support for current UK involvements. You only have to watch the opening ceremony of each Super Bowl to see where this could lead: explicit support for whichever war the US is currently fighting accompanied by a flypast of air force fighters. We would do well to remember the role played by football clubs in allowing matches to be used for recruiting in the First World War, when there was enormous social pressure to join up (a white feather for anyone who was not in uniform) that helped form the “pals battalions”, who all died together in places like Somme.
Geoff Holden, Leeds
Why oh why do articles that summarise the effect of the Berlin Wall on football – such as the one by Paul Joyce (Border control, WSC 299) – always go down the route of looking at history through the extraordinarily blue-and-white-tinted glasses of Hertha BSC supporters?
When, in 1962, the German authorities finally decided to disband the traditional summer championship play-offs for the sake of founding a true Bundesliga, one of the 16 slots was to be granted to a representative of the Berlin Oberliga. However, by no means was this berth guaranteed for Hertha BSC. At that stage, their entire post-war success in the Berlin Oberliga consisted of a measly two championships, with one relegation thrown in as well. Hertha simply had managed to win their league in 1962-63, albeit under a very heavy cloud of accusations that they had blatantly violated the generally agreed financial rules to gain an unfair advantage over other Berlin sides. The authorities decided not to investigate. When the DFB finally looked into Hertha’s financial records two years later and shrieked in horror, Hertha even had the nerve of naming themselves as the wronged party, citing necessities based on their own isolated geographical location. Gimme a break.
Peter Schimkat, Kassel, Germany
In response to Gavin Duenas’s letter in WSC 299, I can vouch that he is not alone in his assessment of the awfulness of the BBC’s Football League Show opening credits. Creating such an horrific spectacle must have taken some doing, when ITV’s unlamented Sunday morning The Championship show had already set the bar alarmingly low. In the interest of research, I have just watched those BBC credits repeatedly over and over, and they don’t get any better. They seem to say that football fans are eccentric types, who mug for the camera and ball-juggle on the surprisingly quiet streets of England and Wales, as well as in their living rooms. I bet they wouldn’t do that if their mum was around. Maybe they have all just been forced, like me, to listen to a loop of the strange, avant garde sound collage of supporters chanting, which passes for the “theme tune”. Aficionados of vintage science fiction might also point to this as an explanation for the empty streets.
Jamie Sellers, Brighton
Drew Whitworth’s letter in WSC 299 regarding never seeing a team score more than five in a match reminded me of my mother’s completely opposite record of attendance over the past 35 years. She has seen half a dozen games, kicking off with her first ever game (aged approximately 40) which was Coventry 5, Norwich 4 one Boxing Day in the late 1970s. This was followed by a long period in the football spectating wilderness that ended when we persuaded her to attend two games in Pompey’s Division One-winning season – a 6-2 win over Derby County preceded by a (relatively) dull 3-2 win over Preston. The next season came a 6-1 victory over Leeds and in 2005 a 3-1 defeat to Manchester United. It would be nice to report that she then watched the Portsmouth 7, Reading 4 game in 2007, but she decided to give that one a miss. Her latest game was the Portsmouth v Tottenham FA Cup semi-final in 2010. Given her record for goals and the respective strength of the squads that day, we went there with trepidation expecting a 5-2. Spurs are the only side she has seen play but not score.
Richard Storey, Kingston upon Thames
Following the current trend of writing in to correct errors in previous issues of WSC, I felt compelled to write concerning my own misdemeanour. In WSC 103 (September 1995) I wrote that Cardiff were crap. I can confirm we’re actually quite good now.
Paul Weaver, Worcester
Joyce Woolridge claims in her article on Sir Alex Ferguson’s 25 years of managerial success at Manchester United (Silverware jubilee, WSC 299) that the BBC “whinged interminably about his boycott of their interviews”. Did they? I suggest the only interminable whinging came from viewers of Match of the Day, either from those ignorant of the background to Sir Alex’s spat with the Beeb, or from fans who thought the BBC should capitulate over the Panorama investigation into Jason Ferguson’s activities as an agent. It was only when years of complaints about the lack of Ferguson showed no signs of ending that MOTD started to make fleeting mentions about him turning down requests for interviews.
John Lyons, Sparkhill
My New Year’s wish is that Match of the Day realises just how sick we are of hearing losing managers whining that “the ref got that one wrong”. The programme should deny these pampered prima donnas a platform for the whinging and excuses with which they seek to repair their fragile egos. I would love it if, at the start of the programme, Gary Lineker said: “You can take it as read that all winning managers thought their team played well and deserved the three points, while the losing managers blamed poor refereeing. You don’t need to see that so instead of showing it seven times, we are going to show extra football. Rest assured though that if any of them says anything remotely interesting, we will show it. Don’t hold your breath.” Every post-match interview should begin with the interviewer saying: “Look, if you’re going to whine about the ref, we’re not going to show it. So why don’t you tell us where you went wrong with your team selection or tactics, or which of your players screwed up the most?” Sorry, I have to go, they’re about to ask Roberto Mancini about City’s first defeat of the season.
Mick Blakeman, Budleigh Salterton
I would just like to thank Matthew Barker for his excellent article (Rescue package, WSC 298), in which he highlighted the plight of my Italian team, US Ancona 1905. Sadly, the club are now in their third guise since I started supporting them, following a visit to the city in 1987. Their two seasons in Serie A were mentioned by Matthew, but Ancona also reached the Coppa Italia final in 1994 – a rare achievement for a Serie B club given the Cup is seeded in Italy. I was in attendance at a packed Stadio del Conero for the first leg of the final against Sampdoria, which ended 0-0. The return tie was still goalless after 55 minutes, but the wheels came off spectacularly and we lost 6-1. It should also be mentioned that Ancona only managed to begin again last term from Marche region’s Excellenza league because the chairman of little Piano, a non-League club in the city who were punching above their weight in many respects, allowed his club be be usurped and become US Ancona 1905. The short history and colours of Piano just disappeared! But Ancona cannot, and I believe will not, allow this newly formed club to ever again face bankruptcy. Matthew highlighted why brilliantly.
Jim Rendall, Edinburgh
Regarding the cover of WSC 299, Alex Ferguson is not unique in having won so much over a 25 year span, despite referees conspiring against him and his team. Step forward former European middleweight wrestling champion, but yet to be knighted, Mick “Not The Ears” McManus. Both went on long unbeaten runs year after year but when a rare defeat came the reason was always the bias or ineptness of the official. The denouement after any defeat for the Caledonian curmudgeon or the New Cross niggler followed a similar pattern: finger jabbing, ranting and a disdainful march to the dressing room. United fans have been quick to take on board the former grappler’s influence on their manager and have often been heard lauding him this season with Mick’s old catchphrase, updated for the 21st century to “Not De Gea”.
DP Tapping, High Wycombe
Your correspondent Jon Spurling, writing on “Christmas (goal) feasts” in WSC 299, refers to the “cricket scores piled up”, citing 8-2 and 10-1 as examples. It seems that he, together with many football writers, fails to realise that 0-0, 1-0 and 0-1 are also all cricket scores – and are seen a lot more frequently than those he quotes.
Glyn Berrington, Brierley Hill
There was a glaring omission in Adam Bate’s article (Give and go up, WSC 299). Why no mention of Norwich City? Their attacking passing game has seen them through successive promotions from League One and the Championship, and is currently, like Swansea’s, holding up well in the Premier League. Unlike QPR and other teams mentioned, neither have made any expensive big-name signings. Adam is not by any chance just a jealous Ipswich supporter?
John Rushmer, Swardest
From WSC 300 February 2012