Q & A: Wide trousers in China .. and hatred in the Potteries

Click to follow
The Independent Online
While watching the Italian football on Channel 4 this season, I have noticed that the fans often sing 'Na na hey hey kiss him goodbye' by Bananarama. Can any readers explain why?

Contrary to David Jenkins' letter last week, the old Steam hit certainly was sung on British football grounds. I vividly recall losing my voice on a Port Vale supporters' bus back from Newport County at Easter 1970 after singing the praises of Sammy Morgan (who had scored a vital equaliser on his debut) to the tune. - B Ramsden, Stafford.

Steam's song was used in England on the North Bank at Highbury circa 1969- 70 as the salute song to Peter Marinello, the young player bought from Hibs. The last four syllables of the song would be replaced by 'Ma-ri-nell-o'. - A Brown, Beckenham, Kent.

Is American football unique in that the scoring side restarts play?

I think I should correct the misconception that the scoring side automatically restarts in American football. After a score (with the exception of a safety) the conceding team has the option of kicking off or receiving. In fact, unless the conceding team specifically ask to kick off the officials automatically set up the ball for the scoring team.

I know of no occasions when an NFL team or a team in the First Division of the NCAA has opted to kick off after being scored against. My own team, the Ballymena Wolfhounds, in the Northern Ireland Junior American League, has done several times, mainly due to a lack of confidence in our offense's ability to drive the length of the field. - Francis Loughlin, Team Coach, Ballymena Wolfhounds, Co Antrim, Northern Ireland.

I play a sport called Ultimate Frisbee, a game in which a team of seven score by catching the frisbee in an end zone by passing the disc upfield. No running with the disc or physical contact is allowed. In this sport the team that scores restarts, by executing a throw called 'the pull' which sends the disc soaring into the opponents' half. As with American football, this gives the other team possession. - Neil Hornsey, Neasden, London NW2.

Why are West Bromwich Albion called 'The Baggies'?

Most of Albion's original supporters worked as 'puddlers' in the many nearby ironworks. Because of the hardship of the work and the intense heat of the furnaces, puddlers wore oversized, baggy work clothes in order to soak up the sweat. As they would work all morning and go straight to the football in the afternoon, their unusual attire engendered the use of the nickname. The name is a fitting reference to Albion's strong links with local industrial history: they were formed by employees of Salter's Spring Works in 1879. - Anthony Cartwright, Dudley, West Midlands.

When they toured China in the early 80s (the first team to do so) the nickname was translated as the snappy 'The team who plays in very wide trousers'. - Lewis Tonkinson, Solihull.

Why don't football supporters throw toilet rolls any more?

The source of toilet rolls were the lavatories of Football Specials, those ancient bone-shaker trains brought out of retirement by British Rail. Before arrival, the toilets were emptied of all moveable objects and the toilet rolls used as decorative missiles to greet your team's arrival on the pitch. British Rail have replaced toilet rolls with single dispensed tissues, depriving supporters of free missiles, so the trend has lapsed. - Brian Simpson, London SE11.

Every football team seems to have local rivals their fans love to hate. Do rivalries vary in intensity across the country? And are most rivalries mutual? Newport used to have Cardiff as their main rivals, while Cardiff fans considered Swansea their most loathed opposition. Are there cases where a team has supplanted another as a third team's main rival?

I would be very surprised if any of your readers could find a comparison anywhere in the UK, including Celtic and Rangers, with the bitter and, I think, unhealthy hatred in the Potteries between Port Vale and Stoke City.

Stoke's history, (they are the second oldest club in England after Notts County) has largely been spent in the old First Division, whilst the Vale have largely been in the lower divisions. There was always a rivalry but it became bitter and entrenched three years ago when Port Vale were promoted to the then Second Division, while Stoke were relegated to the Third. Vale spent two seasons in the Second scoffing and sneering at Stoke, who struggled ignominiously.

This state of affairs proved too much for sections of the Stoke supporters and when the Vale eventually dropped back down to join Stoke all the pub windows went in, in Burslem, home of Port Vale. The bitterness is vicious and if both go up this season watch out for more violence next season.

It's a bit like Arsenal dropping to the Third whilst Leyton Orient laud it over them in the Second. - Mick Penning, Stoke.

The professional clubs of West Yorkshire provide an excellent example of provincial sporting rivalry.

Bradford City were elected to the Football League in 1903 having never played a game. The conversion of the former Manningham rugby club to football stole a lead over rival promoters who formed Leeds City in 1904. In 1907 a second Bradford rugby club converted to football at Park Avenue. By 1911, the year in which Bradford City won the FA Cup, Huddersfield Town and Halifax Town had been formed.

The paths of the Bradford clubs tended to drift closer to Halifax Town than Huddersfield Town or Leeds United, who maintained a higher status. The rivalry between Avenue and City tended to ignore the fact that the city of Bradford could not support two struggling professional football clubs in addition to rugby league's Bradford Northern, and in 1974 Avenue went into liquidation.

During the 1970s City supporters tended to regard Barnsley and Stockport County as their main rivals, although the decline of Huddersfield Town in the early part of that decade introduced new local rivalry. Halifax provided infrequent opposition and never generated the same degree of rivalry or passion.

With a large number of derbies in the current Second Division, Huddersfield are probably the main rivals of Bradford City, followed by Burnley. The attitude towards Halifax has been generally supportive.

It may shock traditionalists that there is sympathy and support for the reformed Park Avenue club amongst the City fraternity. The City Gent fanzine has itself promoted interest in Park Avenue, if only to rekindle the old rivalry. - John Dewhirst, Bingley, West Yorkshire.

If doing the pools is a game of skill, has any forecaster made a living from the winnings?

Fortunately, it is not a game of skill. It is purely chance, as demonstrated in a paper in the Journal of the Royal Statistical Society in 1952. The paper showed that an old lady with a pin would have done better than the so- called experts who sell their 'systems' to a gullible public. There are some 2,000,000,000 ways of selecting eight matches from 58. - Allan Davies, Grimsby.

When and why was the offside rule introduced in football? How would the game be affected if it was withdrawn?

I wonder if any of your correspondents can confirm a friend's explanation given to me some years ago.

He was a Barnsley fan and used to say that their only claim to fame was playing in an FA Cup final (1912) which led to the introduction of the offside rule. Apparently a player was being treated for an injury off the field, near his opponents' goalmouth. The ball was kicked upfield and the injured player (in days before requiring the referee's permission to rejoin the game, I suppose) simply ran on to meet the ball and scored a goal. I think a newsreel captured the event. - Alan Jackson, Leeds.


Djamolidine Abdujapurov, the Uzbekistani cyclist, has nine syllables in his name. Can any leading sportsman or woman boast more? - Tim Byard, London NW6.

Why are Celtic the only team in the English and Scottish leagues without a sponsor's name on their shirts? - John McFadden, Middlesbrough.

Have any two league clubs never had a 0-0 draw (not counting recent recruits)? - Lewis Tonkinson, Solihull.

Has the Formula One world championship ever been won posthumously? - Brian Simpson, London SE11.

In 1936 the final batch of 25 Class B17 locomotives entered service on the London & North Eastern Railway. Nicknamed 'The Footballers', each carried the name of a leading British club at the time. On a recent visit to Carrow Road I noticed the old nameplate of 'Norwich City' above the players' tunnel. Are any other clubs in possesssion of their own pieces of railwayana? - Ian Lowe, Brentwood, Essex.

Why do rugby union teams persist in not retiring to the dressing room at half-time? Managers now seem to have increased status, so would it not make sense for them to have access to their players to discuss tactical changes? - Martin Dawe, Huntingdon, Cambs.

When was the last time football's top division had a full programme on Saturday (kicking off at 3.0)? - Kevin Parrott, Sutton, Surrey.

If you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

Q & A

Sports Desk

Independent on Sunday

40 City Road

London EC1Y 2DB

Fax: 071-956 1894