Sunday, 21 September 2014

FKS: Soccer Stars 80

It's my firm belief that FKS should probably have been renamed 'NCM' around the start of the 1980's. 'Non compos mentis' is a fair description of what their football sticker collections were like back then, such were the variable standards employed throughout.

The new decade should have brought about a new dawn for FKS and its sticker albums in the UK, but instead they continued to churn out yet more of their basic, plain-looking stickers that were not dissimilar to the ones they were making a decade earlier. Look closer, however, and you'd have marvelled at some truly laughable examples of photography in the images that were featured, setting FKS well apart from the equivalent merchandise being made by Figurine Panini at the time.

To begin, there was the eye-catching front cover of the Soccer Stars 80 album. Overall, it had a more modern look than the corresponding Panini offering, although the picture showing West Bromwich Albion seemingly playing St. Mirren may have been every bit as baffling as some of the stickers inside. Along the bottom, a caption indicated that the English First and Second Divisions were featured among the 48 pages, and for good reason as this was the first time that Second Division teams had appeared in an FKS collection.

Inside, each of the First Division team line-ups consisted of 13 players, confusingly spread over one-and-a-bit pages. The extra 'bit' meant that some double-page spreads actually showed players from two or even three different teams. You wouldn't have got that in a Panini album, but then perhaps Panini had a bigger budget or better designers.


Each team section was titled in a never-more-Eighties green bubble font, followed by some rudimentary facts relating to the honours won by that team. There was also a handy grid showing their results from the previous season, with spaces provided for results in the current season too.

Sadly, FKS didn't bother with the team pictures and foil badges that were made so popular by their rivals, making do instead with the regular white-bordered player stickers bearing a name along the bottom edge. As for the photos themselves, let's just say they were... idiosyncratic.

While Panini standardised on 'head and shoulders' shots for their stickers, FKS were nowhere near as conscientious. They instead opted to raid image galleries, reuse old pictures from previous collections, take some of their own pictures and even paint over old pictures to form a tapestry of lunatic inconsistency.


If ever you're feeling depressed, just turn the pages of this album in its complete form to quickly cheer yourself up. Smile at Brighton's Peter O'Sullivan pinching his nose as he runs out onto the field for Brighton. Be amazed at Martin Peters wearing his Norwich City shirt from 1976. Laugh at Middlesbrough's Stan Cummins sharing his picture with one of his team mates, or Terry Cochrane proudly wearing his Burnley shirt despite having moved to Ayresome Park in October 1978. As for Trevor Francis, his shirt has had more paint applied to it than the Forth Road Bridge.

Uniformity was a key element of this collection - in more ways than one. Players were shown in their home kits, away kits, old kits, new kits, training kits, tracksuits and in Terry Cochrane's case, wrong kits altogether. The whole thing was a total hotchpotch from start to finish and could be considered to be 'interesting' if it wasn't for the fact that it was actually rather deranged.


In similar vein, the Soccer Stars 80 album featured a dozen England Under 21 players - six shown in the middle of the album, and six at the very end. None of the full England squad were included, though - just 12 upcoming young stars such as Russell Osman (in a grey Ipswich shirt), Derek Statham (distracted) and Kevin Reeves (asleep).


Luckily, higher standards were restored with the excellent gallery of Second Division team pictures, before leading into the Scottish Premier Division team pages that used the same format as their English counterparts. Then at the very end of the album there was the customary 'Special Offer' - something not unfamiliar to Panini fans. In this case, FKS collectors were invited to send off for up to 22 bronze medallions "each representing an English First Division Club from the current 1978/79 season." The front of each coin showed a club badge while the honours and cups won by the team were displayed on the back. Think 'fancy 2p pieces' and you're pretty much there.


With that, you have a full picture of FKS and it's floundering attempts to keep their foothold in the UK sticker market. Though they'd make further collections for another couple of years, they were finally declared bankrupt in 1987, never to be seen again.


It's anyone's guess what their stickers might have looked like had they still been around today, but my feeling is they'd be virtually the same as they always were. A plain white border around a randomly chosen photo - that was the FKS way for years and years. Unable to stray far from that tried and tested formula, it was perhaps this reason and this reason alone that ultimately proved the undoing for Britain's very own answer to Panini.


-- Chris Oakley

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Last Chance To Enter The Last Ever League of Blogs

Last chance? Last ever? That sounds like an awful lot of finality... and it is...

There's just over three weeks left to get your entries in for the League of Blogs 2014, but not only that - it's your last chance to ever be in the League of Blogs as after this one, there won't be another.

The League of Blogs started out as a bit of fun and has always been just that and after three good years, we've decided to retire the feature once this one has finished.

We plan to replace it with something completely new next year which should be just as collaborative, but that's in the future... For now, it's all about the LoB!

So don't miss out on your last ever chance to be part of the nation's favourite* league... head on over to the instructions page and get scribbling!

Commercial Break 2

It’s time once again to dip into the advertising archives as The Football Attic finds a short selection of British TV adverts that all take their inspiration from the world of football.

Sit back and enjoy Brian Clough doing some sterling voiceover work (even if his dental work leaves something to be desired), the worlds of Dad’s Army and Fawlty Towers colliding, plus a triple bill of animated stripy chocolate bar delights.

As someone once said, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore...




(You can also see this video and many others on our Football Attic YouTube page.)

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Football Attic Podcast World Cup Extra No.2


Rich and Jay from DesignFootball.com are back to finish off their review of the recent World Cup!

We were going to cover other stuff too, but ended up quite engrossed in the land of FIFA so consider this the conclusion of our World Cup Extra...

Once again Jay and Rich bicker over the pronunciation of certain footballing names, Rich moans about domestic football and Jay tries desperately to make sense of his love for Suarez...and fails... 'Ave it!


Download:
Subscribe on iTunes or download here. Alternatively, catch The Football Attic Podcast on Square One Football Radio.

See also:
The Football Attic Podcast archive

Friday, 12 September 2014

The Football Attic Podcast Extra No.2 - Vintage Era Football

The Football Attic loves going back to the 1970's and 1980's in search of fabulous nostalgia, but what happens when you go back even further - long before the Second World War and back further still to the late 1800's?

The answer comes in the rich seam of wonderful stories about the players, teams and other football folk that made the early days of British football such a glorious era.

To confirm that very fact, Chris O met up with Graham Sibley to talk about Chapman's Arsenal, a Twitter account that provides real-time insights into Arsenal Football Club during the late-1920's and early 1930's.

There's also a discussion about the formative days of British football that will feature in an upcoming podcast series that Graham's currently working on.

So if you fancy immersing yourself in a more innocent time when players had curly moustaches, centre-partings and very little money, why not listen in to The Football Attic Podcast Extra... you'll be glad you did.



Download:
Subscribe on iTunes or download here. Alternatively, catch The Football Attic Podcast on Square One Football Radio.

See also:
The Football Attic Podcast archive
WA & AC Churchman's 'Association Footballers' Cigarette Cards, 1938
The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts & Feats (1979)
The Sound of Football podcast

Friday, 5 September 2014

Catalogue of Eras: Littlewoods - Spring & Summer 1982

"Like discovering a whole new shopping world in your own home", mail order catalogues have offered people a tempting glimpse through the looking glass into retail heaven for decades. By thumbing through anything up to a thousand colour pages, it was possible to turn your back on those busy high street stores and buy clothes, gifts and all manner of things from the comfort of your Shackleton's high seat armchair.

The innocent (if self-indulgent) pastime of casting a casual eye over the lingerie section has now become the stuff of legend, but what did the humble mail order catalogue have to offer for young football fans? This occasional series aims to bring you the answer in a parade of long-forgotten memories, easy-pay instalments and dubious marketing strategies.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

League of Blogs 2014 Deadline - Fri 10th October


All good things must come to an end...as does everything else...

Several people have asked if they're too late to join the League of Blogs and the answer right now is "NO!"

If you're asking on the 11th October, however, the answer will be "YES, WHY WERE YOU SO LAZY????"

What I'm getting at is we've now set a deadline for the League of Blogs 2014 entries and that deadline is:


FRIDAY 10th OCTOBER at midnight!
(23:59:59 for those who wish to be pedantic)


That means you've got at least another five weeks, so there's no excuse to not join up... NO EXCUSE!!!!

For details on what I'm banging on about, see here and for the excellent entries so far, go to the League of Blogs Gallery

Friday, 29 August 2014

Videoblog 5: World Cup Soccer (Macmillan Software)

If you thought all football computer games were about moving pixelated players around a pitch and scoring goals, think again. Back in 1986, one piece of software tried to entertain and educate kids with a two-in-one offering that was ambitious, if a little timid in its overall quality.

The title was World Cup Soccer and its combination of football statistics, team management and mini-game action caused one magazine reviewer at the time to liken it to Don Johnson with a wardrobe limitation.

To find out exactly what this means and to see whether England are capable of winning the World Cup, join Chris O as he brings you The Football Attic's fifth videoblog review.


Friday, 22 August 2014

The Ford Sporting League (1970/71)

The first full football season of the 1970's was a turning point in the history of the English game, for it was at this point that companies first started sponsoring club competitions. With ticket sales dwindling and hooliganism rising, it seemed football in England was going through a crisis of sorts, but that didn't stop corporate entities queueing up to put their name to the competitions which, it was hoped, would turn its fortunes around.

One such idea was the Ford Sporting League - not a competition in the traditional sense, moreover a one-off attempt at promoting and encouraging positive aspects of the game. The premise was simple: every time one of the 92 Football League clubs scored a goal during the 1970/71 season, they'd receive one point. When they scored away from home, they'd score two points. If a player received a yellow card, however, they'd be deducted five points, while a red card came with a ten-point penalty.

The team with the most points after 42 League games would earn a prize of £50,000, with smaller prizes of £2,500 given to the team with the most accumulated points at the end of each month. The money was to be spent not on new players or a refit for the Chairman's office but facilities to improve the match-day experience for the fans, such as a new stand or a scoreboard.

So, more goals and fewer bookings - that was the key, and just imagine what you could buy with all that lovely money. Taking inflation into account, £50,000 then was the equivalent of around £750,000 now. Such riches were highly desirable, especially for clubs at the lower end of the league spectrum, and one man had his eyes on the prize - Jimmy Frizzell.

A former full back turned coach of Oldham Athletic, Frizzell took the managerial reigns at Boundary Park in December 1969. His immediate priority was to steer Oldham away from the foot of Division Four, and this he did quickly and with great success. The end of the 1969/70 season saw The Latics finish mid-table and the following season they went one better by finishing third, thereby gaining promotion to Division Three.

Those of an impish disposition could argue that this was not his greatest achievement, however, for in that successful campaign of 1970/71, Oldham Athletic also won the Ford Sporting League. They did so by scoring 88 goals in their 46 games, just one less than the highest number across all four divisions set by Notts County, the team that topped Division Four that season. As for bookings, Oldham had only four in the 42-match period for which they were assessed, and sendings-off amounted to none.


Such was the clinical efficiency of Jimmy Frizzell's side during the 1970/71 season that they picked up not only the Ford Sporting League's £50,000 first prize, but also all of the £2,500 monthly prizes because their points total was always the highest. A grand total of £70,000 eventually found its way into Oldham Athletic's bank account and it wasn't long before a new stand was built on the north side of Boundary Park for the fans to enjoy.

Just four bookings all season - that's all Oldham had. How does that stack up against modern-day football, and who might have won the Ford Sporting League last year, had it taken place? As ever, The Football Attic is on hand to crunch the numbers, make wild generalisations and stick two-fingers up to scientific accuracy...

'Ford Sporting League 2013/14'

Back in 1970/71, the Ford Sporting League gave every Football League club an equal chance by calculating its figures over the first 42 games for everyone that season. For First and Second Division teams, those were the only 42 games of the season, however the remaining teams in Divisions Three and Four played 46, so the last four were discounted for them.

For our 2013/14 comparison, however, we haven't got the appropriate data for the cut-off point of 38 games which would have applied, so you'll just have to accept that the following calculations are based on the full season. In real terms, that matters very little because the champion team would have been Liverpool, and that despite playing eight games fewer than those clubs outside of the Premier League. The team that just pipped them to the title last season, Manchester City, finished 33 points behind them in second place on -99 with Southampton third on -124 points.


Yes, that's right - none of the top 92 clubs in English league football finished with a score above zero, but that's as much down to the punishing penalties given for yellow and red cards rather than anything else.

Certainly where goals scored are concerned, there doesn't seem to be much to choose between most of the teams, with the possible exception of Man City who easily scored more goals at home than the other 91 teams.


Specifically, it's the yellow cards that do all the damage in this system as Watford found out to their cost. They picked up 102 of them during the 2013/14 season, and that undoubtedly led to them finishing bottom of our Overall points table.

The highest-ranked Premier League team in the Yellow Cards table was Stoke City, and they're well down the list in 30th with 71.


On the Red Cards scale, Blackpool were the supreme champions last season - the only team to pick up ten in total. Sunderland were the highest-ranking Premier League team with seven red cards.


But all this statistical analysis merely distracts us from the tremendous achievement of Liverpool being the winners of our virtual Ford Sporting League for 2013/14. Will they spend their £750,000 prize on building a new stand at Anfield, we wonder?

(Source for data: www.soccerway.com, www.football-league.co.uk)

-- Chris Oakley

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts & Feats (1979)

There was a day, long, long ago, when the name of Guinness loomed large in the literary world. You could buy The Guinness Book of Car Facts & Feats, The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, The Guinness Book of Wild Flowers... I'm also led to believe there was a long-running series of books about people breaking records, too, but let's not get sidetracked by that. Back in the 1970's, if you wanted to feed your brain with morsels of football-related knowledge, The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts & Feats was the book to read.

The first edition of Jack Rollin's kick-and-run compendium was published in 1978 and four more were released, the last of which arrived in book shops in 1983. I was recently lucky enough to purchase a copy of the second edition, and as you'd expect, it really does pack in more facts than Stephen Fry on speed.

The level of detail at times is staggering, right from the moment you peruse the inside front and rear covers displaying the winning records of all League Championship-winning sides from 1889 onwards. Not only do you get the final points tallies and goal difference stats, but also the number of players used in each squad and the number of ever-present players they contained. And that's before you get to the Introduction.


The first main section of the book is 'Milestones' which uses as its basis the original laws of football from 1872. This in itself is a revelation as one discovers some elements of the game that have long since been changed or removed altogether. Who knew that after a goal was scored, the teams would always change ends? And the rule that states "No player shall wear nails, except such as have their heads driven in flush with the leather... on the soles or heels of his boots" only makes the mind boggle further at the way football used to be.

Further revisions of the laws are detailed and the wonderment continues. The two-handed throw-in? That arrived TEN years after the first rules were formed. Goal nets didn't arrive for a further eight years after that. And when were numbers first worn on shirts in an FA Cup Final? In 1933 - SIXTY-TWO years after the first FA Cup competition took place.

This fire-cracker set of facts and figures gets the book off to a great start, but it's swiftly followed by another great section called 'British Soccer - League Club Stories'. Here, each of the clubs in the English and Scottish Leagues has a paragraph devoted to it and a notable story from its history. Some of the tales told by Rollin are delightfully entertaining and brilliantly worded. Here's my favourite one, all about Hartlepool United:

"On 27 November 1916 a doomed German Zeppelin, caught in the glare of searchlights and in flames from the fire of a persistent Royal Flying Corps pilot's armoury, jettisoned its remaining bombs as it made for the sea. Two of them shattered the main stand at Hartlepool United's ground. After the war the club claimed £2,500 compensation form the German government. The claim was relentlessly pressed by correspondence, but the only tangible reply was another bomb on the ground in the Second World War."

What then follows is an admittedly drier section that details the highest and lowest number of league wins, league goals and league defeats by various teams, but relief quickly comes in the eight pages of colour photographs that succeed it. Although the focus here is on the important figures of the day - Brian Clough, Trevor Francis and Ron Greenwood among them - there's also a lovely double-page spread showing a montage of football programmes from around the world.


With that out of the way, it's back into a seemingly unending mass of rudimentary facts and figures about British league clubs and international cup competitions. It's here that the informal tone from earlier in the book gives way to serious statistics, but reading this as a kid, you'd have been soaking up all this knowledge like a sponge. It's what you did when you were younger, and if your juvenile self was keen to learn who Manchester City played during their 1976-77 UEFA Cup run or something just as irrelevant to the average man on the street, this book came up trumps again and again.

After a second selection of colour photographs (this time from the 1978 World Cup) and an assessment of world football and its key players and competitions, the book ends with a Miscellany that again makes one smile with its detail. We learn that Robert Howell of Sheffield was the only gypsy to play for England and that Albert Iremonger of Notts County was, at 1.96 metres, the tallest player to appear regularly in the Football League. (Think Peter Crouch, but seven centimetres shorter.)


Surely, though, the final word about this excellent book has to go to its feature on the 'Football League's Foreign Legion' - those players born overseas that were plying their trade in England during the 1978-79 season. If anyone's curious to know what football was like 36 years ago, just be aware that all 13 foreign players were listed in a space no bigger than three inches by ten on one of its pages. Time marches on, but books like this provide the context by which we judge modern-day football, and beautifully so.

-- Chris Oakley