Friday, 21 November 2014

Whatever Happened To... Nasal Strips?

Tunes, it seems, are not the only things that help you breathe more easily. For a short spell in the mid- to late-1990's, another ingenious device - some say a fad - proved just as adept at opening your nasal passages as the sweet lozenge of yore. Or was it?

Robbie Fowler was a Liverpool striker with an incredible talent for scoring goals, but one thing was letting him down - his ability to breathe in more air through his nose than he'd have liked. Despite the fact that his nostrils seemed perfectly capable of doing their job properly, he searched for a way to increase his 'intake yield.' *

What he found was the Breathe Right nasal strip, a "spring-like band" that sticks to the top of your nose and gently opens the nasal passages. For an all-too-brief spell back in the mid-90's, every athlete on earth seemed to be wearing one, all seemingly encouraged by their ability to take in more air during physical activity.

And so it was that Brer Fowler felt obliged to join the ranks of the world sporting elite who were decorating their noses with these funny-looking plasters. It was said that these nasal accoutrements improved air flow by 31% and even helped reduce snoring for those that were so afflicted. Sadly their introduction came too late to be tested on fans of Graham Taylor's England team, but their popularity was beyond question only a few years later and for many years hence.

As it is, there was much doubt poured on this revolution in assisted breathing, some claiming the whole thing to be complete hooey. Dr. Beat Villiger, a Swiss sports specialist invited by FIFA to test the viability of nasal strips, claimed that when the human body was really exerting itself, breathing usually switched from the nose to the mouth anyway, in order to pull in more air.

So in other words, the benefit of wearing one only became apparent if you were doing anything less than a full sprint. Or to put it another way, wearing a nasal strip was a way of telling people that you were so unfit, you needed a bit of help from a plaster to get you through 90 minutes of occasional exercise. Hardly surprising, then, that we don't see them worn much today.

That said, perhaps they just haven't been marketed right, or indeed aimed at the right people? For a device that gently opens up small apertures to improve performance, surely they could be worn on the anus to help TV commentators get more of their words out, or across the eye sockets to give World Cup hosting administrators a wider view of what's going on. Just a thought...

* Made up terminology.

-- Chris Oakley

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Videoblog 6: The Encyclopedia of World Football (Marshall Cavendish, 1980)

Way back in July 2013 when we recorded our podcast on Football Books, Rich asked Chris whether there were any books he loved enough to warrant him running back into a burning house to rescue from its raging inferno. Chris answered that one particular title would be worthy of that life-threatening course of action, namely the Encyclopedia of World Football.

Sixteen months on, Chris finally tells you all why he loved the book so much in Videoblog 6 (see below). For fans of football kits, badges and general miscellanea, this is a great old book that's well worth hunting down on eBay and other online auction sites.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Got Not Got CCFC & Kit Book Review

Last year we reviewed the 2nd incarnation of the retro football bible, Got, Not Got and a few of the spin off titles that were starting to appear alongside it. There's no new version this year as instead, Derek & Gary have been busying themselves creating a wealth of club specific volumes, ranging from the giants of Man U and Liverpool, to the smaller, but no less loved clubs such as Norwich.

Falling neatly into that last category is The Lost World Of Coventry City.

This book holds a very special place in my heart, not only because of the team in question, but also because I was able to contribute lots of my own memorabilia collection to its hallowed pages. NB...most of the pics in this review might just well be of pages with my stuff on, cos...hey, it's my review ;-)

On top of that, anyone who's listened to our podcasts will know how often I've bemoaned the sheer lack of attention Coventry has had down the years, so to have an entire book all to ourselves is bliss!

Following the usual GNGLWoF format, this is just chock full of pretty much everything you could imagine that's ever been produced with the CCFC name on it, from the standard club programmes, Subbuteo & Panini, through the more obscure stuff like myriad pin badges and CCFC gnomes, culminating in what must be the nadir of Coventry City memorabilia, the Cup Final 7", "Go for it City".

OK, so the single itself may not be all that bad and of course, anything to do with that Cup Final will always be endearing to any CCFC fan, but the B side, "Go for it Cupid" (my heart, shooting to win) is possibly one of the worst pieces of music ever set down on vinyl!

There are pages dedicated to Coventry's kit manufacturers down the years including the iconic Admiral & Hummel and the possibly less remembered Ribero, covering the infamous chocolate brown kit and of course, the test card shirt from the late 80s.

As with every other Got Not Got book, the joy is not only in the sheer wealth of material covered, but also the depth of knowledge shown in the writing. If you are a Coventry City fan, you simply have to own this book and the same goes for fans of the other clubs who have also had the "Lost World Of..." treatment thus far,

The second book on review here is another that has me firmly within its target demographic. If I wasn't spoilt enough by a book all about Coventry, "Shirt Tales & Short Stories - The Lost World of Football Kits" is surely the icing on a book shaped cake.

Covering English clubs from Arsenal to Wolves, it also features a selection of Scottish teams and a page for each of the home nations.

Each team is given a double spread featuring several kits from their history, covering both much loved classics and also the ones some would rather forget along with text detailing the selections and a brief history of the clubs' shirts.

A large amount of the photos are from the vast collection of Neville Evans who runs the National Football Shirt Collection, and these lend a real air of quality to the book, with each of his shirts lovingly and professionally photographed.

As well as the shirts themselves, scattered throughout the book are kit adverts from the 70s, 80s and 90s as well as shots of the kits in use from the time.

As with the CCFC book, if you have any interest in football kits whatsoever, this is an absolute must! It may not cover every club going, but those that it does are given the VIP treatment...and of course, that means there's room for a Volume 2!

- Rich Johnson

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Panini: Football 82

Let's see who's looking through the... ROUND window...

Yes, Panini's 1982 collection featured players gurning, grimacing and squinting through a circular frame on many of its 516 stickers. It was the fresher look that the Football 82 album was based upon, although many familiar features remained throughout.

Once again, the front cover changed colour, this time using pale blue to top and tail a great action photo from a match between Tottenham and Manchester United. Though the picture was nicely composed, however, one has to wonder how many kids had sleepless nights over the thought of Sammy McIllroy's gruesome missing right hand.

Inside, the old double-page spread was employed for each of the English First Division teams, the major change this time being that the player biographies were now enclosed in two columns either side of the fold, rather than underneath each sticker. And then there were the new stickers themselves which now featured the name of the league and division in the top corners and a slightly restyled bottom section to show off the name of the player.

From Arsenal to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the bright new face of English football came shining out. Silky shirts with pinstripes, smart haircuts and smiles were all in plentiful supply as players old and new adorned Panini's pages. Check out Southampton's army of ageing greats such as Alan Ball, Chris Nicholl and Mick Channon - all comfortably in their thirties - situated a turn of a page away from Stoke's youngsters including Lee Chapman (20), Adrian Heath (20) and Paul Bracewell (19).

Elsewhere, we had our first ever sight of Swansea City in the First Division, along with Notts County who were back in the top flight for the first time since 1926. For Leeds United, however, this would be their last season at the highest level of English football until their next tilt at the League Championship came along in 1990.

The foil badges in Football 82 were spruced up in all their gold finery with clearer lettering and a pleasantly contrasting silver border providing an improvement on the previous year's efforts. They added a decent splash of glitz not only to the First Division and Second Division pages, but also now the Third Division pages too, albeit in a half-size format. This meant your average junior collector was likely to get a rare glimpse of the impish Lincoln City badge or Reading's building society-esque depiction of some trees and a river.

For the Scottish Premier teams, two players yet again had to share a single sticker, although the manager of each team was now given one of his own in full size format, and again the Scottish First Division teams were each given their own team picture.

Yet apart from the opening 'Players of the Year' section that mirrored Football 81, there was no main feature showcased in the middle of the album. Granted, the 1980 FA Cup Final section in the previous year's collection wasn't the most exciting thing ever, but at least it provided a contrast to the usual 'badge-team-player' routine found on all the other pages.

Instead, the album closed with a tantalising message telling us to "Look out for Espana 82 - Panini's great World Cup collection" due to appear in shops in April 1982, and a back cover promotion for Subbuteo's six-a-side game, Top Scorer.

Despite continuing the high standards of previous efforts, it could be argued that with Football 82 Panini used the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach by barely straying from its tried and tested format.

But that, however, was about to change. For Football 83, some new ideas were set to bring a breath of fresh air to Panini's annual stickerfest, and for the more traditional fans, they may not necessarily have been for the better...

-- Chris Oakley

See also:

Monday, 10 November 2014

Help Fight Cancer & Win a Kit Collection Book!

Earlier this year, Rich finally got round to photographing his ridiculously large kit collection. He then spent far too much time creating a photobook of them all (reviewed here by kit book legend John Devlin).
It was limited to a run of about 20 books and they sold pretty quickly so if you wanted one, alas it's no longer available...however...

We have a special copy to give away...sort of...

Rather than just make this a competition, we thought we'd do something good and raise some money for charity and sticking to the football theme, we've chosen the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK.

To this end, we've set up a Just Giving page to make the process nice and easy.

All we ask is you make a £2 minimum donation. You can donate more if you wish - for each multiple of £2 you donate, you get an entry into the draw to win the kit book. So if you donate £6, you'll get 3 entries, trebling your chance to win...

The event closes on Sunday 14th December, after which we'll draw the winner and try and get it to you by Christmas!

Please leave some form of contact details when you donate so we can contact you if you win.

So...what are you waiting for? Get donating!

Monday, 3 November 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever - Final result

After nearly a month of voting, we can now finally announce the winner of our contest to decide The Football Attic's Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever... and here's how you voted!

Yes, friends, you've voted Sensible Soccer to be the top retro football computer game of all time, comprehensively beating Football Manager with almost three quarters of all the votes cast in the Final.

Over the last week, only one winner ever seemed likely, although Kevin Toms' management sim had Sensible Soccer on the rack for the first couple of days. In the end, however, it was the playing sim that stormed through to claim its place in the Football Attic Hall of Fame as your favourite football video game title.

Our huge and sincere thanks to all of you that took part in our vote-off from start to finish. It's been great fun seeing who you've been supporting during each round!

And now, let's remind ourselves of why Sensible Soccer is such a worthy champion... Once again, many thanks to you all!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

The Game (ITV, 1991)

I have no experience of playing non-league football myself. I was always let down by a less than sylph-like physique and was perpetually, to use the common parlance, 'carrying too much timber' in my younger days to be of any use. Little did I know it mattered not a jot.

Having watched The Game, I realise I had nothing to worry about. Danny Baker's six-part series for LWT proved the point more than satisfactorily as the spotlight was turned on men young and not so young who didn't allow their physical shortcomings stop them from enjoying a game of amateur football.

Shown late on Friday nights in London and the South East back in 1991, The Game portrayed life in Division Four of the East London Sunday League as if it were Division One of the Football League. Every week, ITV's cameras would focus on one match at Hackney Marshes or a nearby venue while Baker provided the commentary and interviews with players and managers alike.

Given Baker's comedic reputation, it's easy to think that this was his attempt to embarrass and humiliate a bunch of pot-bellied men possessing only the merest hint of footballing ability, but this simply wasn't the case. Every aspect of the programme was played straight down the line without a trace of demeaning condescension. If there was any humour to be gleaned from what was put before us (and there was plenty), it was earned simply by holding a mirror up to Sunday League football itself.

The first episode of the series featured a match between two pub teams, Coborn from Bow, and The Cock Hotel from East Ham. Rooted to the bottom of the entire East London Sunday League, Cock Hotel hadn't won a single game during their two-year existence and had recently appointed a new manager when the programme was made. They chose John Smythe, apparently, because he just happened to be in the pub on the night when the issue was raised.

As for Coborn, third in Division Four, they relied heavily on John Priestaff (right), already the scorer of 25 goals that season. Priestaff, hair slicked back, two rings in his left ear and a gold chain around his neck, told Baker about his proven pre-match preparations:

"Last time I went out and got drunk on a Saturday night, we had a game against Tesco's and I scored six against them and I had a terrible hangover. So every time I have an important game, I go out on a Saturday night and get well slaughtered, and I'm alright in the morning!"

Talk soon gave way to action, and for that Danny Baker was joined on commentary duties by Terry Franklin, an experienced Sunday League player in his own right. Between them, they described the play on Pitch 88 where 22 players, many with stomachs escaping the paltry confines of their team shirts, were doing battle in very windy conditions.

The difference in quality between the two teams was soon apparent, and after a flurry of goals, the final score of Cock Hotel 1 Coborn 8 confirmed the gloomy prospects for the team from East Ham.

Episode 2 of The Game once again provided the stories that added depth and interest to a fairly ordinary football match played by ordinary people. Chris Mostyn of the Young Prince 'B' team was supposedly getting married a day ahead of their match against Thomas Neale. Would the inevitable party the night before detract from Young Prince 'B's performance on the Sunday? Not necessarily, as it turned out. "The more drunk we get, the better we play" said one of their players.

And so it proved to be. Jamie Sykes, their centre forward (see below), claimed two goals in a 3-1 victory the next day. Interviewed ahead of the game, Sykes told Danny Baker: "I got sent off in a game about eight weeks ago... Their left back came across and gave me the old elbow in the mouth and cut me lip, so I reacted quite violently." When asked what he'd done, Sykes replied: "I chased him around the pitch. He was running backwards and I was running forwards and I still couldn't catch him. I got a 6-match ban."

In the following episode, Sykes found himself 'sans boots' just before an important match against Gascoyne O's. "I cleaned 'em up for TV and left 'em on the balcony" he confided, before being told to find some spare ones elsewhere in the dressing room. Such tales were rife in The Game, and it was these and many other vignettes that brought home the simple charms of football at this level, a world away from the big-name superstars, the sponsorship deals and the glamour.

Every game seemed to have something that brought a smile, if not a laugh, to your face. Whether it was the bulldog that got angry with any player taking a throw on in its close proximity, or the ball being kicked right off the field and under the axle of an oncoming P3 bus, the real-world brilliance of non-league football just kept on giving.

Without Danny Baker, the series wouldn't have been kept on such a rolling boil as it was, and his observations while commentating only left you wishing the likes of Clive Tyldesley or Peter Drury could be every bit as amusing.

At one point during a break in play, the cameras aimed their gaze at a woman sitting out on the balcony of her council flat overlooking the pitch. "This was one of the executive boxes they've recently built here at Mabley Green" said Baker. "It is for one and you get your own front room and Council flat with it" he brilliantly suggested. When the camera glanced across at a nearby match, he proffered: "Yes, as ever, ITV have gone and chosen the right game to cover..."

The series ultimately ended with the championship being sown up by Gascoyne O's and the Dick Coppock Cup (strictly for Sunday League Division Four teams only) being won by Young Prince 'B', but in many ways, it wasn't the winning that was important. What really worked about The Game was its focus on the people that played and their love for playing. Even now, some 23 years on, you can't fail to enjoy this series, and it's every bit as relevant today as any game involving Ronaldo or Messi - take my word for it.

-- Chris Oakley

Our sincere thanks to Revelation Films Ltd for permission to reproduce the above images.

Danny Baker's 'The Game' is available to buy from for £3.99. 

Friday, 31 October 2014

Match Facts Football Yearbook 87/88

It's oft claimed that kids of today spend all their time in their rooms on their computers or consoles, while the youth of our day did nothing but play out from morn til night. I have a teenage stepson and while he does indeed spend a looooot of time glued to his computer (phrasing!), he also spends a good deal of time outdoors in that good old fashioned fresh air, playing good old fashioned football.

When I think back to my Saturday afternoons at his age, I recall with fondness that same fresh air...wafting in through the window of my tiny bedroom, where I sat listening intently to Mercia FM, following the fortunes of my beloved Coventry City. Now if the image of a teenage lad sitting alone in his bedroom listening to his team play out another goalless draw isn't depressing enough, imagine then that as well as listening, he's also making careful notes about the match...actually let me back up slightly's not like I was just making notes for my own amusement like a nerd or something! I had an actual reason to be noting down the team that day, subs, goal times etc...My life had some purpose!

So why was I painstakingly recording match details? Was it because, in pre-internet days, access to such info was regarded as a precious commodity? Was living in some eastern bloc with tightly controlled media access? Or was I just a nerd? Obviously not the last one...

The real reason was because I was truly obsessed with football and Match magazine had provided me with an official (it was given away with a magazine, so it had to be completed!) means to record such info.

The Match Facts Football Yearbook 87/88, to give its full, rather grandiose, title, was an A5 sized booklet, which allowed, nay encouraged, you to fill out your team's match details for the entire season. Being 12 and with nothing better to do, I took to this task with an intense amount of gusto.

On opening the booklet, you were presented with a space to fill in details of your team, their nickname, ground, manager etc, beneath which was an example of how to fill in the match facts. This was split into two parts, the top dealing with the basics - Opponents, Date, Score, Attendance etc and the bottom part reserved for the team list. This was before squad numbers of course, so it was easy to fill in positions 1-11. You were encouraged to write the player names diagonally, not only because the spaces were quite small (note the names in the example are all pretty Pickering or Ogrizovic for them to contend with!), but also to allow room for the Match Facts rating (the score given to each player in the following week's copy of Match). As you can see, that was something I never bothered with...mine was a more 'of the moment' sort of nerdiness...

The Yearbook had enough spaces for a full season (even accounting for the higher number of games in a lower league club's season), as well as special pages for the FA / Scottish Cup and the League (Littlewoods Challenge or Skol) cup.

What they didn't provide, however was space for any European competitions...but this was of course 1987, so no English clubs were playing in Europe. If you were a fan from North of the border (maybe, Dundee Utd) then that was just tough...this was dealing with domestic matters only! Even then, something was missing...with English clubs banned from European competitions, the Full Members Cup had been created, meaning teams in the top 2 divisions were now playing 3 domestic cup competitions in one season!

As it turns out, Coventry did very well in the FMC (sponsored that year by Simod, an Italian sportswear manufacturer) and nearly reached the final, only losing to eventual winners Reading on penalties...which you can see was lovingly recorded by myself in the space left by getting knocked out of the Littlewoods Cup early.

The empty match slots at the end of the season also come in handy as Coventry had one final cup competition to play that year. The mostly forgotten Anglo-Scottish Cup pitched the winners of the FA and Scottish Cups against each other in a 2 legged final. The first leg took place on 22nd December 1987 on a chilly night at Highfield Road. A 1-1 draw played out in front of a paltry attendance of just 5331. The return leg at Love Street was set to be played on 23rd March 1988...but it never happened. After the tiny crowd at the first leg, the whole thing was ditched, which must surely make this the longest ever 2 legged final in the history of the game?

As if filling in stats wasn't exciting enough on its own, to prolong your interest (and keep you buying the mag no doubt), the Yearbook also had spaces for stickers. Similar in size to the Daily Mirror ones, these brightened up what else would have been rather dull pages, rendered as they were in a pale green with darker green lines. Bizarrely, it would appear I grew tired of putting in the stickers much quicker than I did filling out details of 42 matches (plus those 3 cup comps!), perhaps lending the nerd theory extra weight.

Match produced another Yearbook for the 88-89 season, following exactly the same layout, but in shades of red. I clearly had outgrown my nerd status (I so hadn't!) by then as I seem to have given up halfway through the season...I think what finally killed it was having to write the following in the one and only entry for that year's FA Cup...

"Sutton Utd 2 - 1 Coventry City"

25 years on and the pain is still fresh...

-- Rich Johnson

Monday, 27 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: The Final

And so it's come to this... Fifty of the greatest retro football video game titles have been whittled down to just two. Falling by the wayside have been the classic and the clumsy, the majestic and the 'meh', but now we arrive at the Final to find a monumental showdown between two giants of the home computer age.

On the one hand, we have Sensible Soccer, a playing simulation par excellence. 'Sensi' provided everything the football fan could ever want. After-touch control, editable squad lists and team kits, plus different pitch styles and goal replays were just the icing on the cake. What really made it a great game, however, was its sheer simplicity. There were no 3D graphics to render, no sluggish sprites to animate - just a brevity of detail that gave the game its slickness and playability. A masterpiece of arcade football brilliance.

And then we have Football Manager, the grand-daddy of all management simulation games. Originally made for the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, your job was to manage a squad of players with enough élan to help them rise from Division Four to Division One over successive seasons. By selecting your best individuals and buying better ones where necessary. it was possible to enjoy each match (shown in isometric 3D) and steer your team to ultimate glory. Detailed without being confusing, this was another triumph for the 'less is more' school of video game programming.

But which one gets your vote? Which game had you gripped with addiction every time you played it, and which one is deserving of the title 'Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever'?

Simply select one of the two titles below, register your selection and in seven days' time, we'll announce the winner as chosen by you, our beloved football nostalgia lovers.

Make your decision, be brave, and may the best retro football video game win...

Thanks for taking part in our vote-off. You can see the result of the Final here!

Fantasy Nostalgia: Liverpool wear Admiral

When I recently read Bert Patrick's book all about the history of Admiral, legendary kit makers to the great and good of British football, one episode sent my mind into a tailspin. It was the section where Patrick, looking to grab the kit contracts for as many top clubs as possible, approached Bill Shankly at Liverpool and gained his agreement to provide them Admiral outfits.

Sadly for Bert Patrick, what would have been a huge name to add to his company's portfolio turned out to be a false dawn as Liverpool's board of directors overruled Shankly to prevent the deal from going through.

Yet it got my mind thinking: what would Liverpool have looked like in an Admiral kit back then, and thereafter?

Time to get doodling, I thought...

Kit 1: Circa 1973
If Bill Shankly had been backed by his board, this might have been the first pair of Admiral kits worn by his team. (Click on images for a larger version.)

Applying Liverpool's colours to the Admiral kit for Leeds United at the time, you get an all-red outfit with a flappy collar, oval badge and those famous Leeds number ribbons stitched into the socks. Well we can all dream, I suppose...

For the away kit, I've gone for the white and black that was preferred by the Anfield club at the time.

Not bad, but quite plain and basic as were many of the kits at the time.

Kit 2: Circa 1974

Admittedly this is the most 'out there' design of the lot, but this is Fantasy Nostalgia after all...

Here I've used Admiral's Luton Town kit template which would have originally used orange, navy blue and white. Given that Liverpool only wore two colours at home in the early 70's (red and white), I've had to use a bit of artistic licence by adding a darker shade of red on the first kit. As for the vertical band, I hardly think it would have been accepted by the Anfield faithful, but it was somewhat in vogue at the time!

Once again for the away kit, I've chosen a predominantly white and black colour scheme, but this time there's more red thanks to that red band flanked with black.

A more interesting pair of kits than the last ones, but perhaps better suited to, say, a Swindon or a Middlesbrough...

Kit 3: Circa 1975

By 1975, the England national team had an Admiral kit of their own, and that's the design I've used for this third version of what Liverpool might have been wearing around the same time.

Again I've employed a shade of dark red on the shoulders and shorts as an accent colour, but this time it's predominantly red with white trim for the home kit, and quite smart I think it looks too.

For a bit of variety in the away kits, I've provided two options - white/black again, but also an all-yellow version, even though Liverpool rarely wore that colour until 1979.

Personally I think these kits are the most believable of all those shown here and I think Bob Paisley's team would have looked quite fetching in them.

Kit 4: Circa 1976

Yet more flights of fancy now as we enter the era of the glorious Admiral tramlines. For Liverpool to have embraced this design would have meant a leap of faith of gargantuan proportions for club officials and fans alike, and yet it's not completely beyond the realms of fantasy to think of Liverpool in such a series of kits.

One shortcoming of the design, however, would have been exposed when Liverpool became the first top flight team to have an official shirt sponsor around 1978/1979. Having to fit 'Hitachi' onto the front of their kits would've broken up the tramlines motif somewhat, and yet according to my home kit design shown here, it doesn't destroy the whole look, in my view.

Could you imagine Graeme Souness or Ray Kennedy wearing any of these? Probably not, but it's worth remembering that if Shanks had got his way, that Admiral logo really would've been worn by the English champions rather than the Umbro diamonds...

-- Chris Oakley