Past Back


I was looking through an old Mail Sports Special from 28 December 1985 - 34 years ago - for something interesting to illustrate how times have changed. Sadly there wasn't much.

First of all, I was surprised that both the Fooball Mail title and the green paper it was printed on were gone by 1985.

In the paper, we read that Pools' game with Chester had been called off due to 4 inches of snow but Boro beat Sunderland 2-0. Elsewhere there were New Year greetings from Pools' chairman John Smart on the Pools two-page spread, which at this time of year usually carried an upbeat headline, this one being "Season of Progress." For that season at least, such a headline seems to have been fair enough - Pools went on to finish 7th top of the 4th Division, compared with 6th bottom the previous season.

And most of the teams in Division 4 were the 'usual suspects' - Burnley, Chester, Hereford and Preston being the only ones that couldn't theoretically join Pools in League 2 next season.

Even the full page of photos of some blonde in her underwear didn't seem worthy of much comment other than that it would have been far more tasteful than page 3 of that day's edition of The Sun, so I picked on this reader's letter to show what people had to do (write to the local paper) to voice their footy opinions four years before Monkey Business existed.

It might be interesting to try out the "no back-passing from outside the penalty area" idea.


There is no doubt there has been a serious fall in gates at Football League matches. Two reasons have been put forward as the prime cause of this — hooliganism and the high cost of attending matches (including travel due to the dispersement of the population away from the vicinity of football grounds).

There have always been hooligans in all walks of life and not just among the unemployed and under-privileged as highly-paid sociologists would have us believe. Before the advent of the permissive society, hooligans invariably received their desserts either justly or otherwise and no one lost much sleep over them.

The point about the cost of attending matches, particularly for fathers taking children is valid. Clubs had no control over the shift of population and transport costs, but they failed to put their house in order when gates were far higher than now and they are payinq the price for greed and mismanagement by certain boards of directors.
"Before the innovation of the plastic-covered ball, back-passing was a dangerous habit"

I wonder if the powers in football have ever considered that one of the reasons for big gates in the past was that matches were more exciting. When matches were regularly televised it was nothing for as many as 15 back passes to be made to goalkeepers, from the half way line in as many minutes and for the same goal-keepers to stand with the ball clutched to their chests for what seemed ages.

Who is going to pay good money to watch this except drunken flag-waving morons spoiling for trouble?

Before the innovation of the plastic-covered ball, back-passing was a dangerous habit, specially on heavy ground as defences under pressure were forced to yield possession by kicking into touch. Back passing to the goalkeeper should only be allowed within the penalty area and, for good measure, the offside rule should be altered to encourage attacking football.

T. K, Hartlepool