Outside the Box: Sheet hits the fan as Wagstaff loses his job... and semi-final
Sunday 24 April 2011
Could anyone have felt more let down by Bolton Wanderers' 5-0 capitulation to Stoke City in the FA Cup semi-final last Sunday than Ian Wagstaff, a 50-year-old lifelong supporter who was told by the bosses at his sheet metal firm in Brisbane that he could not have time off to go to the game. Whereupon he resigned his £38,500-a-year job and flew back to England.
Having lived in Australia for 23 years, he had not watched Bolton in almost all that time and decided to spend £1,000 to see his beloved team at Wembley – twice, he was hoping. "I'm devastated but I wouldn't change anything," he said, "apart from the result."
Now he hopes to see a first Premier League game at the Reebok Stadium before rejoining his wife and children in Brisbane and looking for a new job.
The joke's not on Stoke
Meanwhile the ITV commentator Peter Drury stirred up a hornets' nest with his unfortunate comment during the game that Stoke is "a true one-club town".
Port Vale followers have been complaining bitterly and their message boards were full of vitriol, both for ITV and their local rivals. Now Stoke fans have been retaliating. One wrote: "I too was outraged. Everyone knows Stoke-on-Trent is a city," and another added: "I see 'Port Vale' mentioned on the classified results, but I have always assumed it is a small village in Wales, with a narrow-gauge railway and four different brands of Methodism among 500 people."
All this would have amused Arnold Bennett, the chronicler of the Potteries and once a member of his school first XI, who depicted Stoke as "Knype" and named one of his short stories, The Matador of the Five Towns, after Knype FC's Jos Myatt, "surely the finest full-back in the league".
Not even in a work of fiction did he have the team in an FA Cup final; in fact they were in danger of relegation. But that was before Tony Pulis and Rory Delap.
Change channel to find Guernsey
Clubs as far down the football food chain as the Cherry Red Combined Counties Division One – the likes of Hartley Witney, Farleigh Rovers and Frimley Green – will find themselves travelling in style to one game next season, from Gatwick Airport.
It's either that or risk sea-sickness for the away match with Guernsey, who have just been accepted into the League. The Channel Island club, whose secretary is Mark Le Tissier, brother of Matt, have promised to pay all air fares and have negotiated a deal under which kit can be carried at no extra charge.
The League secretary has even promised that clubs playing there in midwinter will be given a game at the start or end of the following season when the weather should be more enjoyable.
Old Firm scheduling is crackers
Talking of scheduling: even without the letter-bomb sent to Celtic's manager Neil Lennon last week, or Rangers' disciplinary hearing for sectarian chanting at Europa League matches, being held by Uefa on Thursday, it was surely not the best idea to schedule the latest Old Firm game for this particular weekend.
A happy and peaceful Easter to all our readers – especially those in Glasgow.
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