Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Flicking in a Winterthur Wonderland

The Picturesque City of Winterthur

Firstly I apologise for a such a poorly punned title. I did consider alternatives, but the play on Hot Chocolate’s ‘It started With a Kiss’ just wouldn’t work. ‘It started with an offer of a free Subbuteo team in a football magazine’ just doesn’t quite cut it.

So what am I going on about? Subbuteo! Despite being aware of Subbuteo from a very early age, being more into cricket than football meant I was more obsessed with obtaining Test Match than any flick-to-kick related products (and for £7.99 from Goldies toy shop, Test Match would be mine – replete with signed photo of the then England team... Botham, Gower et al. Now all that was required was some friends to play with... oh well, back in the box!)

As mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I had seen lots of Subbuteo items in the windows of the toy shop in town, but even when I first became beholden to football, it still never appealed. It just seemed way too nerdy and serious. Yes they had lovely shiny trophies, but one didn’t need to love Subbuteo to desire those. I'd already dipped my toe into the world of table football a few months earlier when I purchased an all white team from the bargain bin at that same toy shop, but other than drawing my own kits on the blank plastic kit canvas, I still wasn't really getting it.

Two factors combined to change my stance:
  1. There were pretty much no other football toys out there at the time (Striker had disappeared a few years earlier and wouldn’t be available again until the '90s)
  2. An offer of a free Subbuteo team in Shoot! Magazine.

Yes, a FREE Subbuteo team! Which one would I get? As the advert clearly stated, ‘You could even get your favourite team!’ The excitement!!! 
The form was filled in, the requisite Stamped Addressed Envelope (how I miss that phrase) included and the standard 28 days for delivery was waited. Finally, one day after school, a package had arrived. A package that had seen better days by the look of it; my SAE a shadow of its former self. Whether it had suffered some rain damage followed by a letterbox-induced shredding or had just been used as a football for the posties at the local sorting office I shall never know. Nor indeed did I care for I was possibly about to embark on my full-on Subbuteo journey. I tore open the parcel, excitement building... who could it be, who could it be???

Well... you know the answer to that. Kinda gave it away in the title, really.

So...Winterthur... Who???

According to Wikipedia, Winterthur (German pronunciation: [ˈvɪntərtuːr], English: /ˈvɪntərtʊər/) is a city in the canton of Zurich in northern Switzerland. It has the country's sixth largest population estimated at more than 100,000 people.

So there you have it. Furthermore, FC Winterthur play in the Swiss Challenge League, the second highest tier of Swiss football. They play at the Schützenwiese Stadium.

Their home colours are all red. Only, they weren’t back then. Their home colours were white shorts and socks and white shirts with, if the Subbuteo figure painters are to be believed, three vertical gashes to the upper body. I’m assuming they were supposed to be uniform stripes, but the ones on my figures definitely looked like the result of some coordinated machete attack. Guess that would explain the blank stares on their plastic faces. The pic below is from an eBay listing (not mine - I’m holding on to my beloved Winterthur!) Mine came in more modern Subbuteo packaging (landscape layout, not vertical), but the figures are identical.

The Walking(?) Wounded

I now had two complete teams and, along with some cheap balls from the same bargain bin as before, could fully immerse myself in the murky waters of Subbuteo. Now all I needed was a pitch...and maybe some corner flags...and obviously a ref and linesman. A scoreboard would be quite useful too. Oh dear. In one fell swoop my interest had gone from passing to 'collector'. 0 to Geek in under 5 seconds...

And so yet another expensive pastime came into existence. One I shall delve into in greater detail in future, but for now, Merry Christmas people of Winterthur... and please, get to a hospital – those wounds need serious attention!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Bukta 'Nylon Soccer Jerseys' ad, 1971

They say the football played in England back then was electric, and now we have all the evidence to see why...

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Ceefax Football

‘England through after dramatic penalty win’ was the headline writ large on ITV’s Oracle Teletext service. It was the evening of June 30th 1998 and David Batty had just seen his penalty saved by the Argentinian goalkeeper Carlos Roa in a Round of 16 World Cup match. England had been defeated 4-3 on penalties after a 2-2 draw, and this was soon reflected in the hastily corrected headline that appeared only seconds later: ‘England out of World Cup after penalty miss’.

Teletext always tried to be first with the breaking news headlines and even if it did so by wrongly pre-empting imminent events, at least its heart was in the right place. This was, after all, old technology – an Information Single-Carriageway bringing pages of news and facts by the dozen to ordinary TV screens throughout the UK.

Though many favoured Oracle, it was the BBC’s Ceefax service that most people preferred. At least it seems that way; you only have to utter the word ‘Ceefax’ to a football fan of a certain age and the chances are they’ll respond with a simple number: 302.

Ceefax page 302 was a gateway to enlightenment, aspiration and fulfilment for every follower of football hungry to know more. Who were United about to sign? Who’d picked up a serious injury and wouldn’t be playing for Liverpool?  Had Arsenal won their League Cup match the night before? These questions and many more were inevitably answered among Ceefax’s neatly regimented pages.

Very useful they were too, but for many, Ceefax really came into its own around 3pm on a Saturday afternoon. It was at this moment that thousands of British football fans pressed the ‘Text’ button on their remote controls and blanked out Grandstand to see the latest scores. Some aficionados with excellent eyesight preferred the ‘Mix’ button to get the double hit of football scores and UK Snooker from the Guild Hall in Preston displayed simultaneously, but they were clearly in the minority. As for those pressing 316 to get the latest two scores appearing on the bottom of their screens while they watched their regular programmes, they were among the absolute elite.

Keying in 303 on your remote got you the latest scores from Division One. With ten matches to cover and any number of goalscorers and sending offs to account for, Ceefax partitioned the scores onto three or four sub-pages that were displayed on rotation for around ten seconds at a time.

Once kick-off was out of the way, we viewers entered into a game of memory and observation. It was all very simple at first; with every score set to ‘0-0’, it wasn’t difficult to spot the name of a goalscorer suddenly appearing below an updated 1-0 scoreline. As more and more goals went in however, the screen gradually filled with player names and times (‘Sterland 26’, ‘Strachan 34’…) By half time, you were trying to remember whether you’d already acknowledged one score or another, but shoot – that was all part of the fun.

Admittedly there were occasional frustrations to be had with monitoring the latest scores on Ceefax. For a start, there was the aforementioned ten-second delay. Knowing that your team’s scoreline was on page 1 of 3, it seemed like an eternity to wait before it rolled around again through page 2 and eventually page 3.

Not only that - every so often Ceefax would also play its trump card by skipping the page you wanted and going on to the next one – never good on a day when a glut of goals caused a fourth page to appear in the sequence.

Back in the day, it wasn’t uncommon to employ mitigating actions to reduce the inconvenience caused by the long wait. There was the ‘Number Re-Entry’ method: here the holder of the remote control would type in the same three-figure page number already being viewed in an attempt to make Ceefax update the text. More often than not, this old alternative to an F5 Refresh was not successful.

Others would use the ‘Short Walk’ method where it was preferable to go off and view another page for a few short seconds before jumping back to the original one. This called for a cool head and immaculate timing; get it wrong by a second or two and you could find yourself waiting another lifetime for the pages to go round in sequence once more.

At the other end of the scale, pages sometimes refreshed too quickly. Regular visitors to page 312 - ‘News in Brief’ - would sometimes be greeted by the sight of 10 or more sub pages of text. A wondrous thing, but you had to be quick. Those that dwelled too long on the latest news from the South American championships could easily find themselves dumped onto the next page in sequence before they’d had the chance to finish reading the previous one. Efficient use of the ‘Hold’ button was key in such situations.

But what are we saying... All these time issues were actually what gave Ceefax its old-world appeal. The sense of growing expectation as you waited for one page to be replaced by another only added to the thrill of it all, if indeed ‘thrill’ is the appropriate word here.

How strange, then, to suddenly find ourselves in an era where Jeff Stelling appears on Sky Sports every Saturday, his head and shoulders entrapped by manifold results, news tickers and videprinters. None of us could ever have dreamed of having so much information at our fingertips all those years ago, but there’s no harm in dreaming about the old days every once in a while too. Where Ceefax’s football pages were concerned, less was definitely more.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

World Soccer: August 1971

Some time ago I decided to search eBay for old issues of World Soccer magazine, the much-loved football magazine, now in its 51st year. I wasn’t sure how many I’d find (if any at all) but I’m pleased to report there were quite a few to choose from, one of which was from the month and year of my birth.

And so it was that I purchased the magazine in question and installed it in my personal collection of football memorabilia. What’s curious to note in this printed snapshot of the global game from 1971 is that this was unquestionably a time of arrivals and departures.

Red Devil Frank

Inside we heard from reporter Eric Thornton on the appointment of Frank O’Farrell as manager of Manchester United, a move which was looked upon as something of a gamble on the part of the Old Trafford club. Having led Leicester City to the Division Two title, he replaced Wilf McGuinness in the United hot seat, and it was suggested by Thornton that his football experience at all levels of the game would probably see him in good stead. As it turned out, his first season there wasn't bad, but his second started badly and he was dismissed from his post only 18 months after he'd first arrived.

Don Howe, understudy to manager Bertie Mee at Arsenal, was on his way out of Highbury to take charge at West Bromwich Albion. What made this something of a notable story at the time was the fact that his predecessor at The Hawthorns, Alan Ashman, heard about his sacking well after most of the British public. The story was leaked from Highbury and soon appeared in national newspapers while Ashman was enjoying a holiday in Greece.

Pele to Europe?

Leaving the international scene was none other than Pele, as reported by Roger MacDonald in ‘World Diary’. Pele’s playing career with Brazil had come to an end in a recent friendly against Yugoslavia, but it was his club career at Santos that had come under the spotlight in the summer of 1971. Newly-formed French club Paris Saint-Germain were said to be offering the World Cup legend around £680,000 to play for them at the time, but Pele was in no mood to switch allegiances having already turned down similar offers from Juventus, Inter and Real Madrid. How ironic to think of PSG buying their success in such a way...

Also retiring - this time from football altogether - was Spanish legend Francisco Gento. Norman Cutler reported that his departure from the club where he'd become such a popular captain and outside-left was strangely muted. His last match was the European Cup Winners Cup Final replay against Chelsea in Athens that year, after which Real simply released a statement showing which players would not be retained for the following season. Gento's name was on it, and that was all that was said.

As it is, Gento had not been at his peak for some time due to injury problems and the Bernabeu club had finally decided to release the Spanish international. Rightly enough, he was granted a much-deserved testimonial some time later, thereby allowing Real's fans the chance to give him a proper send-off.

World Cup '74

Elsewhere in the August '71 issue of World Soccer, there was the full draw for the qualifying competition of the 1974 World Cup. There had been a record 98 entrants for the qualifiers and with only 16 places available in the Finals, the South Americans were upset at only getting three of them - so much so that they staged a temporary walk-out at the draw when they hadn't been allocated the four spots they'd asked for. As it is, they were lucky - the 24 competing African countries were fighting over only one place, something Joao Havelange would seek to improve during his FIFA presidency.

Eric Batty, meanwhile, bemoaned the lack of imagination at the recent handing out of the Footballer of the Year and Manager of the Year awards. Both prizes went to Arsenal after their double-winning season; Frank McLintock and Bertie Mee being the respective recipients. Batty argued that TV, the media and popular press had been caught up in the wave of universal appreciation for The Gunners' achievements at the expense of more deserving subjects. In Eric Batty's view, players like Colin Bell, Martin Peters and Ralph Coates might have been better placed to win the player's award.

In other news...

In this issue, we also heard about Canada's struggle to draw decent home crowds for their international matches, the growing interest in soccer over in Texas - contrasted starkly with the lack of goals and excitement in the NASL, and the introduction of a new competition called the UEFA Cup (a replacement for the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup won by Leeds United that summer).

Eric Batty was also on hand with a player profile on a new young talent called Johan Cruyff. The Ajax centre-forward had already caught the eye in a European Cup tie against Liverpool in 1966 by scoring one goal in the 5-1 home leg in Amsterdam and both for Ajax in the 2-2 return leg at Anfield. "If one man personifies the new standards of Dutch soccer, that man is surely Johan Cruyff" commented Batty.

Finally, Andrew Dettre reported on a tour of Australia that had recently been undertaken by an English FA representative squad. Though the players returned with a 100% success rate on the field, the tour itself was deemed far from satisfactory, largely due to the wealth of unknown names making up the squad. Big crowds failed to materialise at most of the nine matches leaving the Australian FA with far less money than they hoped for to fund a world tour for their own national side.

Front cover  (top): Italian champions Inter walking out onto the field at Selhurst Park to play an Anglo-Italian Cup match against Crystal Palace.

Back cover (right): Team picture of Blackpool, winners of the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1971.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Steve Earl's Football Programmes

Since I first bought a copy of Shoot! for 42p (a price rise of 2 pence on the previous week’s issue I found out later...scandalous!), I have always been drawn to the adverts section near the back of football magazines. The promise of football-related goodies, often in full colour, tempting me all these years. 

Looking back on 25 years' worth of ads, it’s funny how some things have changed and others not. The ads aimed at kids have changed dramatically, moving with the times, as one would expect. Pastel shaded drawings of rosy faced children in England pyjamas (the ad was for football pyjamas, I'd like to point out) replaced with the headache inducing ‘LOOK AT MY AWESOME STUFF IT’S SO AWESOME AAAAAAAARGH!!!!!’ style adverts prevalent in today’s brain mush kids’ football rags.

Adverts aimed at the older end of the age spectrum have changed little; their sober, informative format giving the consumer just what they want – information about what the product is, what it does, how you can obtain it and, in the ‘olden’ days, the standard line about allowing 28 days for delivery.

One specific advert that never seems to have changed is the one that always caught my eye as a lad and still does now.  That of Steve Earl’s Football Programmes.

Advert from Shoot!, July 1986

When Saturday Comes, January 2012

The same goofy, child-bearing-hipped football fan – arm still raised aloft, still giving that curious thumbs up, possibly referring to the FREE programmes (NB: in these hard economic times, this is now just a free programme catalogue) the ad’s strapline has always carried and still clutching a handful of programmes. This figure has been invading my conscious mind for over 21 years and yet, despite this apparently excellent marketing device, the crucial piece of info missing from my memory when I came to research this was... who the hell is this advert for? For as much as I could remember the cartoon, that it was for football programmes and that it offered FREE programmes, I had no idea who was selling / giving them away.

In truth this is probably down to me not really being into football programmes, so I never felt the need to read past the first few lines. I did consider sending off for some free ones back in the day, the offer of free things by post having a very strong allure to a child whose only real post up until that point had been the limited edition Star Wars figures (send 3 names / proof of purchases from the backing cards).

Upon further research (reading my old copies of Shoot! after a trip to the garage), I discovered it was for the aforementioned Steve Earl.  I also discovered, to my disappointment and mild horror as it almost torpedoed the whole angle of this post, that in the copies of Shoot! from 1990, the advert had shrunk to only a few lines and more importantly, Mr GoofyProgrammeMan wasn’t there!!!  Rising costs and an imminent recession obviously took their toll and poor old GPM was laid off. It also now cost a whopping 50p, albeit in unused stamps, to obtain the desired free, sorry, FREE programmes. 

1990 - FREE Football Programmes still available, but no Goofy Programme Man?

Thankfully, despite worldwide economic meltdown, Steve seems to have fully embraced the value of solid branding and restored good ol' Goofy to his rightful place...just to the left of the title.

One more thing I love about this advert is that, through all the years, the font may have changed, GPM may have taken a sabbatical, colour may have arrived, but one thing that has remained constant is the address.  Broad Street, Bungay, Suffolk NR35 1AH.  I can just picture it now...actually, with Google Maps and street view I can do just that...so here it is...

The Promised Land!

Steve Earl's Football Programmes, I may never have sent off for your enticing offer, but you have been a steady rock in my turbulent life for two and a half decades and for that, I salute you!

The Big Match: Golden Goals 1980

Everyone remembers Match of the Day's 'Goal of the Month' competition, but fewer people recall that ITV's The Big Match had its own version called called 'Golden Goals'.

Here's the last thrilling installment from the 1979/80 season, and note an early example of product placement on the advertising board behind the goal for Glenn Hoddle's first effort.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Mobil 'Football Club Badges' ad, 1977

Mobil Football Club Badges, "all in the correct club colours and they're made of cloth material so you can stitch or stick them on to clothing*..."

* "We do not recommend that the badges be washed as this may have a detrimental effect."

Saturday, 26 November 2011

TV Times: 1970 World Cup preview

Many England fans of a particular vintage rightly look back on the 1966 World Cup as a high water mark in all their time supporting the national team. What's easy to forget, however, is that the following World Cup was the one that had everyone talking. England entered the 1970 World Cup as champions and no-one could fail to get caught up in all the hullabaloo that was generated.

Sir Alf Ramsey's team flew out to Mexico to defend their title and back home it seemed like everyone was intent on watching every moment of what would surely be another successful tournament. For the first time ever, the World Cup was broadcast in colour and an appreciative UK public settled down in eager anticipation to watch events as they panned out.

Getting the women onside

To fan the flames of such widespread interest in the competition, the TV Times launched it's special preview issue on the week of 30 May to 5 June (price - ninepence). Headlined How to Survive the World Cup, the magazine took a unique approach by siding with the UK's female population who, it figured, would soon be bored with the welter of football coverage hitting their screens in the coming weeks.

The front cover was a vivid green, save for the white-bedecked curves of Trisha Noble - an Australian singer well known to British music lovers at the time. Male football fans probably would have bought a TV listings magazine anyway back in the middle of 1970, but having such a tempting feminine form on the cover no doubt would have made it an absolute certainty.

And exactly how would the TV Times provide women with the means to survive the 1970 World Cup, you ask? Why with knitting, of course! Don't you remember? Everyone was knitting back then, or so the TV Times would have you believe. Knit Yourself a World Cup Woolly was the feature if you wanted to look like Peter Bonetti and family. Quite why anyone had woollen sweaters in mind when the average daytime temperature in early June was somewhere in the region of 23 degrees C is beyond me, but there it is. As for his daughter Suzanne and her knitted two-piece 'suit', the least said about that, the better...


It wasn't just knitting that the TV Times could offer women, though. There was also Bingo! Yes, the average British female in 1970 was barely breaking into three dimensions with such predictable interests, in fact the only thing missing from this issue was a guide on 'How to Make Three Square Meals a Day For Your Husband.'

Anyway, the Bingo game in question was brilliantly contrived in nature. Printed on page 5 of the magazine was a Bingo card, onto which women were invited to write the names of their four dishiest players from the first week of the competition. If those four players matched up with those chosen by Trisha Noble, Kathie Webber (resident cook) and Gabrielle Drake (actress and future Crossroads stalwart), the lucky entrant could win £4,000. Failing that, the man of the house could also enter by predicting the names of that week's Best Player, the scorer of the Best Goal, Best Goalkeeper and Most Sporting Player. With that last category in mind, aficionados won't take long to work out that Jimmy Hill was on the judging panel for this one.

The classic panel

Hill's judgement (along with that of Malcolm Allison, Derek Dougan, Pat Crerand and Brian Moore) would also serve its purpose for the feature Here Come The Soccer 'Oscars'. ITV Sport's crack band of experts would be giving out awards after the World Cup to those players it thought were best throughout. TV Times even looked back four years to see who might have won the same awards in 1966.

Elsewhere, Peter Farley explained the complicated process by which coverage of the World Cup in Mexico would reach our shores in When a Football Bounces 5,500 Miles. Apparently it's got something to do with Goonhilly, a bunch of satellites and an 84-foot wide dish on a mountain outside Mexico City. Perhaps that's what they meant earlier when they were talking about the World Cup's Dishiest Players...

Soccer with the stars

And this being a celebrity-orientated magazine, there was also the obligatory feature telling us How The Stars Will Watch. Michael Parkinson's wife Mary was apparently going spare with all the wallcharts and other ephemera littering the family home. "The house looks like the Aztec Stadium" she said in a not-at-all-written-on-her-behalf quote. Bernard Youens - Coronation Street's Stan Ogden - meanwhile planned to put his feet up while supping a pint or two. 'England for the Sup!' said the TV Times, showing The Sun's headline writers the way long before their time.

Behind the mic

The only other thing we needed to find out was the make up of ITV's commentary team. Poor old Brian Moore had to forego a Mexican holiday in 1970. He was stationed at the ITV studios in London throughout. Luckier, however, was Hugh Johns (ATV), Gerry Harrison (Anglia), Gerald Sinstadt (Granada), Roger Malone (HTV) and none other than the former England international and ATV Head of Sport, Billy Wright.

Johns, we learned, had spent two months compiling a World Cup dossier beforehand. Sinstadt would be in Leon while his wife was giving birth to their first child. Harrison had been doing keep-fit exercises to ensure he stood the pace. Malone, however, was looking forward to celebrating his 37th birthday after the opening match had taken place. It's not difficult to see who the slacker was in the ITV commentary team, is it?

On the box

Finally, what else was on ITV during the opening week of the 1970 World Cup? Well to begin with, Saturday afternoon featured the iconic World of Sport, introduced by Richard Davies, whoever he is. The same evening you could settle down to watch The Des O'Connor Show with guest star Val Doonican and Jack 'Waa-haay!' Douglas.

At 4.15 on Sunday afternoon there was Bob Monkhouse and The Golden Shot which had one of those did-I-read-that-right line-ups of Tommy Trinder, Anita Harris and Status Quo. Later in the week, you could also feast your eyes on Hawaii Five-O, Doctor In The House and the Benny Hill silent one-off, Eddie In August. Well they were hardly going to put their best programmes on during a World Cup, were they?

Friday, 25 November 2011

My First... Football Kit - Coventry City Home 86/87

I’ll try not to bang on about Mexico 86 too much in any posts I make here, but given it was a hugely pivotal moment in my life, it’s gonna happen. Let’s just all come to peace with that and move on - about six months in fact, for it is now January 1987, having been subsumed by football and discovered in myself a perhaps unhealthy obsession with football kits. (I say unhealthy, I wasn’t doing weird things with them - I just like them... a lot... I’m not David Mellor you know – contemporary reference for you there.) And so it was that I came to be at Highfield Road on a foggy January morning, visiting the tiny chip-shop-counter-style cupboard known as the Club Shop.

Firstly, however, let me give you some background info, for this was technically not my first ever kit.. No, that was a red thing in the guise of the once successful outfit of Liverpool FC. Half of my family are from that part of the world and so it was that before I was actually interested in football my only contact with the sport was via them and this meant occasionally receiving Liverpool-themed gifts.

One Christmas, my brother received a Liverpool kit. I'm not entirely sure it was a genuine replica, but more of a market stall special as it had no badge or manufacturer label and was just all red. This was around 1984, when pinstripes were in. No matter, as we were told it was the official kit and that was all that mattered. A year or so later, it was handed down to me and I proudly ran out in it at school... next to my mate who was also sporting the Liverpool kit... which had pinstripes... which induced confusion in my non-football following brain. “Mine’s the official Liverpool kit,” I naively declared. “So’s mine,” the response. Brain meltdown. So apparently teams change kits every year or so... ooooh this football world is full of surprises!

So, picture the scene - a foggy morn, a bolt-hole outlet beloved of ‘sell to the public’ industrial estate retailers, and an excited pre-birthday 11-year-old gazing at all the merchandise nailed to the wall (OK, OK, I’m exaggerating. A bit...)

Sorry, bit more background required here: why was I at the club shop, which, being at the ground itself (none of your town centre megastores in those days my friends!) was a fair trek for my non-football loving parents? Well, despite this being a time before Sports Direct or internet shopping, we did have quite a few sports shops available to us. There was Davies (an Intersport), some other place whose name I can’t remember and a small independent sports shop, the type that has a ‘musty’ as its central design theme... it also sells school uniforms.

Davies was the place to get your kits though, being a great shop full of proper sporting equipment, including the cricketing helmet I yearned for. £125 though! And kits they had... Liverpool (on whom I had turned my back for the glamour of my home town of Coventry City... oops!), Man Utd, Arsenal - even England. And Coventry of course, what with this being Coventry? No...it’s like the Subbuteo World Cup all over again! Not even my home town shops stocked the blue and white stripes of CCFC.

So to the club shop again. "Do you have the Coventry kit?" "Yes we do." Hmmm...that was easier than I thought. After a while debating what other goodies would constitute my birthday pressie, I ended up with the shirt, shorts and socks... the whole outfit. Interestingly the boys' version of the shorts used a completely different material from the youth's size and given I preferred the boys' ones, opted for those. I ended up changing them for a different size the following week as they were just that bit too small after alland this was the 80's where 'tight' meant circulation problems.

So was I happy? Yes! And no. See, when I obsess about something, I do it full on. I can’t stand seeing a kit for sale on eBay which clearly isn’t ‘right.’Argentina’s 1990 World Cup shirt had two blue stripes on the collar, who doesn’t know that? It was also actually the same tea bag type material as the 86 one too and no retail replica had either of those features, but that’s not the point! You see what you’re dealing with here?


So, my disappointments. The badge wasn’t stitched. In the 80's, no replica badges were stitched (except my England '88 top, but that’s yet another story) so I wasn’t too disappointed with that, however most badges were generally raised flock affairs. The badge on my shirt was flat. No big deal, but anyway... Second - no sponsor. Again, replicas rarely had sponsors on them, though the bigger teams (those available in Intersport) did. Again, not a major issue, but it bugged me a little. Yes, perhaps I should get a life...

The shirt...24 years later...

What’s most surprising when I look at that kit now (replete with a red number 7 made from some old pyjamas that I stitched on myself), is how tiny it is It’s like a doll’s shirt. OK, so I was a child and now both my age and waist size are nearing 40, but it’s still shockingly small. It’s also aged very well. The badge does have bits missing from repeated wearing / washing and the Triple S Sports logo is similarly jaded, but the colours are still as vibrant as when I first got it.

Of course, Coventry went on to win the FA Cup in this shirt and I not only took great pride in following my home team, but also got called a glory hunter for doing so. To be fair, that happened in January when we were about to face Man U in the fourth round - a long, long way from ‘glory.'

This was surely the start of great things to come, and due to that Cup win, we had some money to spend. So what did we do with our winnings? We bought David Speedie. I believe this is the dictionary definition of a false dawn.

Well at least we have the memories. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the Coventry fans’ favourite kits, but not mine. My personal favourite was to come the following season as we moved into the world of 'name brand' kit manufacturers: the gloriousness that was the Hummel ‘Denmark 86’ style kit - one of the least favourite kits amongst CCFC fans.

And finally the replicas carried the sponsor's name too... that well known brand...Granada Bingo. A Coventry fan’s lot is not a great one...

One last anally retentive fact: The shirt cost £10.31. What kind of price is that? The 80's, eh? Messed up times...

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Subbuteo TV ad (1960's)

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Panini: Europa 80

Europa 80 was the first Panini sticker collection I can remember owning. I still have it in my possession - in fact of all my old sticker albums it's probably my most prized possession. To my astonishment, I recently discovered I'd filled 241 of the 262 spaces in the album. 'Astonishment' in that I don't remember getting so many of the stickers, plus I was only eight years old at the time and shudder at the thought of how much money my parents must have given me for the stickers. Still, there it is: a gallant effort in trying to complete my first Panini album.

Panini's first 'Euro' sticker collection coincided with UEFA's first proper European Championship. By 'proper', I mean one in which there were two groups of four competing teams playing all their games in one country. Between 1960 and 1976, the finals of the competition consisted of two semi finals and a final hosted by one nation. Hardly the sort of premise around which to base an entire sticker collection.

The 1980 UEFA European Championships changed all that. Having fought off England to host the tournament, Italy were given the dubious honour of providing the setting for games involving the likes of West Germany, Spain, Czechoslovakia, the Netherlands, Belgium, Greece, England, plus the hosts, Italy.

This was to be England's first appearance in a major tournament since Gerd Muller hooked West Germany's third quarter-final goal past Peter Bonetti in the 1970 World Cup. Ron Greenwood's side headed off to Turin with a side full of emerging talent including Kevin Keegan, Ray Clemence and Trevor Brooking. That squad, along with those of the other competing nations, were immortalised by Panini in their inaugural Euro sticker album and a fine job they made of it too.

The Front Cover
Almost square in nature and distinctively black, it featured a big action photo of Italy's Franco Causio on the ball, closely watched by Dutch defender Piet Wildschut. The album title appeared in geometric cut-out letters above a band of flags representing the competing nations and the Europa 80 official emblem in the bottom corner.

Inside Front Cover
The inside Front Cover gave details of the qualifying round results and final standings, plus the classic Panini 'List and abbreviations of the nations'. Panini sticker collectors will be familiar with this as it cropped up in all their international football albums and provided a fascinating insight into European dialects. Even to this day, whenever I hear the quiz question "Which country is sometimes known by its Latin name of Helvetia?" I can instinctively and immediately answer "Switzerland" purely because of Panini's ever-helpful abbreviation list.

Of particular note is the appearance of several countries that weren't officially recognised at the time, such as Bohemia, Estonia, Croatia and Slovakia. Not sure if it was incredibly foresight of what was to come a decade later or recognition of what had gone before some forty or more years previous.

The album got off to a rip-roaring start with a fabulous map of Europe on page 1 showing where all the competing nations were located. Made up of nine stickers in a 3 x 3 grid, the completed picture was a work of art in itself.

Pages 2 and 3 were devoted to a 'European Championship Roll of Honour.' This comprised of a potted history of all the Euro tournaments up to that point, each one represented by a star player sticker and another of the winning team. All the images were in black and white.

Page 4 featured five stickers, each one relating to an important aspect of the 1980 European Championships. They depicted in turn UEFA President Artemio Franchi, the official tournament emblem (a stylised football flower), the official mascot (a wooden Pinocchio toy holding a football and wearing a paper hat), the Henri Delaunay Cup and a map of Italy showing the match locations. Alongside these was the tournament programme - a place where you could fill in the results of each match as they took place.

Page 5 provided spaces for eight stickers, specifically a city and stadia picture for each of the four venues, and these were always a great way of building up an image in your mind of what the host country would actually be like to visit in real life. Among these, the beautiful coastal view of Naples and the historic splendour of Milan Cathedral particularly stood out.

Last but not least was a mammoth seven-page spread at the back of the album featuring 14 'Excluded Nations', or to put it more appropriately, 'nations that failed to qualify'. As a concept, this seems staggering by today's standards, but you have to remember that only eight teams qualified for Europa 80. In order not to exclude most of the continent from its potential sticker-collecting duties, Panini did the decent thing and allowed five sticker spaces for the likes of East Germany, Ireland, France, Helvetia (sorry, 'Switzerland'), Yugoslavia, Hungary, Northern Ireland, Austria, Poland, Portugal, Scotland, the Soviet Union, Sweden and Wales.

It wasn't the first time Panini had done this (as we'll prove in some of our upcoming articles) and if nothing else it made real the dreams of those football fans that never thought they'd see the day when the Welsh national team featured in a Panini sticker book.

The teams
The higher profile teams (West Germany, Netherlands, England and Italy) were set out on three pages of the Europa 80 album. On these were 20 spaces for players, one for a gold foil badge and two making up a double-sized team picture. The rest (Czechoslovakia, Greece, Belgium and Spain) had two pages featuring a badge, a two-part team picture and 14 players.

The sticker spaces were decorated with a pale green surround that contained hand-drawn images of players in goalkeeping, dribbling, passing and shooting poses. Sadly for me, my eight-year-old self coloured these in with felt-tip pens, but hey - how was I to know I'd be able to sell the album on the internet for a vast cost more than 30 years later?

As for the player stickers themselves, they featured the usual high-quality colour head shots framed in light blue with the player's name, Europa 80 logo and national flag of the player's team below. Among my favourites were those of the Netherlands' Johnny Metgod (still with a full head of hair before joining Nottingham Forest), Czechoslovakia's Zdenek Nehoda (a candidate for 1980's Movember campaign if ever there was one) and England's Peter Barnes (looking like he's having a drug-induced interlude, below-the-waist ecstasy or a hangover from hell).

The Back Cover
All black once again, save for a big picture of the Europa 80 mascot in the middle and the usual array of album prices as they were across Europe at the time (15p in Great Britain's case).

Friday, 18 November 2011

Holy Grail No.1 - Subbuteo FIFA World Cup Trophy

Search for ‘holy grail’ in Google Images and the results invariably depict some glorious, shimmering, golden cup. There’s also a fair few Monty Python images too, but we’ll skip those. Search in the Football Attic, however, and the results are...well, pretty much the same. As for me, my personal holy grail (actually one of many, but we’ll cover some others later) was also an object of golden beauty, but rather than having once been cradled by the Messiah, this was more likely to have been manhandled by a Saturday worker at the local toy shop. My holiest of grails was the Subbuteo World Cup Trophy (officially known as C182) and it was a quest that was to last many, many years... until eBay popped up and made the whole ‘quest’ aspect of it somewhat redundant.

Let me take you back to 1986 and a football ambivalent 11-year-old is watching the news. “And now the sport”... Images flash up of USSR knocking six past Hungary and the Danes (what a kit!) doing likewise to Uruguay. An 11-year-old’s world is turned upside down and he is instantly hooked.

So some weeks go by, some more matches are played and eventually the object of my desire is held aloft in the Azteca. Only, it wasn’t yet an object of desire: the obsession had not yet taken hold. Yes, I had fallen in love with the trophy, a love affair that continues undiminished til this day, but the seed for my infatuation had only just been planted. The obsession began as that trophy, the one that had sat in the display case of Barnby’s window for years, the one I had dismissed as ugly and ‘not a proper cup’ while admiring the European Cup for its undeniable cupliness, the one I would now cherish after purchasing it from said shop the first Saturday after the tournament had finished, became that trophy that was NO LONGER AVAILABLE!!! Apparently, in their wisdom, the makers of Subbuteo had decided - in a World Cup year - that they would no longer produce the World Cup Trophy. Let me just repeat that: no longer produce a World Cup trophy in a World Cup Year. I know!

And so began the obsession: the decline into insanity that saw me, every Saturday, trudging up to that same toy shop, past the toy guns, past the Airfix models and straight to the back where all the flick-to-kick paraphernalia was kept, but no - it was not to be.

I’m not sure if you remember, but there used to be a world with no internet. No Google, no eBay... no blogs about football tat. Hard to recall isn’t it? Well, now imagine trying to track down a discontinued toy that was only ever produced for a few years and that no-one really seemed to care about. Not even the Yellow Pages could help Oh yeah, help the narcissistic fly fishing author, but not an 11-year-old with a perfectly healthy fixation on a small piece of shiny plastic! 'Not just there for the bad things in life'? LIES!

Time passed and as with all unrequited loves, the feelings only grew stronger, but then... a lifeline! Woolworths were on the verge of moving shops and as such had a lot of old stock they were getting rid of. One such item was a Subbuteo set complete with World Cup Trophy. (I’ve just researched this and I could have sworn the set I saw was called The International Edition, but that never seems to have been boxed with C182 - rather the Jules Rimet Trophy. This one definitely had the WCT in it though (no it wasn’t the World Cup Edition as I remember it being an edition I’d never heard of and I had the '86 Subbuteo catalogue poster)).

So, obviously this story ends here right? I bought it, stared at it for ages and my life was complete (albeit missing an Argentina home kit from 1986, but as complete as possible. Of course a Denmark '86 kit would have been nice too...Where was I?!?)


This was 1987, I was getting about 50p a week pocket money and my parents didn’t believe in the DFS model of purchasing, at least not for their spendalot son. I’d therefore have to save for 16 weeks. I’m sure you can all see what’s coming here... yes, by the time I had enough cash (or rather a few weeks before as my parents weren’t that cruel), I marched into Woolworths to be greeted with the inevitable empty shelf and once again my life fell apart.

And that’s when I resigned myself to never owning one. My first taste of true defeat. Years of therapy would have to take the place of that warm glow I’d have received from its shiny, plastic embrace.

Except someone went and invented the internet and someone else thought an online car boot sale would also be a good idea. In turn, I thought both of these were great ideas! I was now in my late-20s, I had a job, a house, a car, a family... but there was still something missing. Some might suggest it was the ability to grow up, but they are but soulless fools. "Subbuteo World Cup”...*click*

“Holy something or other! How much?”

After several near misses and a few ‘out of my price range’s, I finally snared one... £27 for a ‘paint slightly faded’ example. By slightly faded, they meant ‘virtually non-existent’, but I finally had one.

paint 'slightly faded'...

So did I feel complete? Was my search finally over? No, obviously not - as I said I was in my late-20s, I had a job, a house, a car and a family. Besides, the finish was poor and the base a bit wonky. I needed a better one!

I now have three. One was less than a tenner and was immaculate - until the postman squashed it through the letterbox and cracked the base! My last was more costly, but came in the original box, so, between the three of them, I now have an immaculate boxed trophy with a perfectly intact base and a wife who just doesn’t even bother trying to understand certain aspects of me anymore.

The Threesome

Monday, 14 November 2011


To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, when a man is tired of modern football, he is tired of life. Vintage football, however, is different.

We've clambered into The Football Attic to relive all that was good about the beautiful game and invite you to join us.

Long before big business and unbridled commercialism took over football, there was much to enjoy about our favourite sport. Whether it was collecting Panini stickers, playing Subbuteo or watching The Big Match on a Sunday afternoon, you couldn't fail to feel a tingle of excitement as the world of football took you on a sensory joy ride that you'd never forget.

And that's why we're here. There's much to remember and so much time to remember it, so join us as we dust off the memories of a lifetime up in The Football Attic.