Saturday, 26 September 2015

Panini Continental: Football 81 (Belgium)

Ever remember that feeling you got as a kid at Christmastime; that feeling of envy towards your friends when you saw the presents they’d received? Oh, you were happy enough with your own gifts, sure... but you always felt that their Electronic Battleship game was slightly better than your Buckaroo. Well that’s how I felt when I recently won an eBay auction for a Panini ‘Football 81’ sticker album from Belgium. The English version was great... but my new acquisition had an extra undefinable something that made it ‘better’.

In all my years as a Panini devotee, I’d only ever collected the Italian company’s UK stickers. I knew nothing of their annual ‘Football’ albums from across the channel, but when I did stumble upon them during an eBay visit one day, I soon realised they would be an unattainable fantasy. The eventual selling price for these European Panini albums was always well beyond my budget, and I had to accept that some things in life were just never meant to be.

Luckily for me, my luck changed a few weeks ago when I snapped up the Belgian version of Panini’s Football 81 album for a very reasonable price indeed. What I saw inside was an alternative take on the sticker collections of the early Eighties as I knew them with some subtle (but no less significant) variations.

To begin with, there was the inside front cover. In Panini’s UK albums, this was where you’d usually find a grid in which to write the First Division results for the current season. In the Belgian version, there was a series of small, individual score charts for each gameweek. They both fulfilled the same function, yet somehow the latter version looked more appealing.

After an introductory page featuring a two-piece team picture of the Belgian national team and a review of Belgium’s excellent Euro 80 campaign, the 18 clubs of the Belgian First Division were dealt with in the traditional manner. The double-page layout looks familiar, and yet it’s slightly neater than what we were used to seeing in the UK with 14 players, the manager, the club badge and a two-piece team picture all arranged with pleasing formality.

Look closer, however, and you’ll notice that the player stickers are all in Landscape format rather than the UK-favoured Portrait. Strange as it may seem, this allows for a square space in which the player can be seen, as well as a decent-size club badge, the club name and a rectangular symbol showing the club’s colours on the right. Contained within an outline box along containing the usual profile details, the overall look is smart, even if some of the profile text appears randomly above the sticker rather than below it.

So what else was different about this Belgian book of brilliance? Well, frankly, it was the novelty of everything being so.. non-British. For a start, every shirt worn by every player in every team had an enormous sponsor logo. Then there were the team badges - so unfamiliar to one used to seeing the famous crests of Arsenal, Everton or Manchester United. And then there were the players, many of whom mean nothing to the average British fan, yet a scant few shine out like diamonds. Close examination reveals Dutch master Arie Haan in the line-up for Anderlecht, Cloughie’s 'clown,' Jan Tomaszewski, in goal for Beerschot and his Polish team-mate Gregorz Lato in the white shirt of Lokeren.

Looking for familiar faces indeed becomes something of a preoccupation here as you turn each page. A star of the Belgian national team surfaces occasionally (Jean-Marie Pfaff for Beveren, Erwin Vandenbergh for Lierse) amid a welter of talent from Yugoslavia, the Netherlands, Poland, Denmark and beyond, yet I was also surprised to find a few lesser-known Brits as well.

Plying their trade in the land of beer and waffles, we find James Gillespie of Gent, a one-time Queens Park player and Scottish ‘amateur international’. Down in the Second Division, there was Ron Ferguson, once a young striker at Sheffield Wednesday and Darlington but now playing in Brussels where, over six seasons, he averaged a goal every four games. And at KV Mechelen there was Stan Brookes, a defender who spent six years at Doncaster before spending another six in the Belgian second tier. Overlooked in Britain, their reward for moving to Belgium was seeing their face on a Panini sticker - something that wouldn't have happened had they stayed in Blighty.

As mentioned earlier, the strangeness of seeing unfamiliar team badges on foil stickers was undeniable, but some of them are worthy of particular mention for their sheer peculiarity. Dip into the Tweede Afdeling (that’s the Second Division, to you and me) and you’ll find La Louviere represented by a sheep’s head emerging from a fur coat. No, wait a minute... it’s a wolf, apparently. Or how about Sporting Hasselt, who appear to have adopted someone’s rough sketch of two hands holding a football? One wonders whether Millwall missed a trick by not following Olympic and their iconography, but the top prize for surrealism surely goes to RC Harelbeke. Their badge showing a stylised football player with a rat’s head and tail shows just how far behind the UK was when it came to LSD-influenced logo design.

The final eleven pages of the album dedicated to the Second Division are arguably the best of all. They’re comprised of two sections, the first dedicated to the badges and team pictures of all 16 teams, the second showing off the players in a half-and-half style that Scottish fans of Panini will be all too familiar with.

This is where we get our introduction to the brilliantly named Boom from Antwerp and Santa Claus’ favourite club, St-Niklaas. We also get to see Charleroi SC sporting what looks like Southampton’s Admiral shirts from the late Seventies, but with black stripes instead of red.

Add those to the welter of odd-sounding foreign player names, Pony kits and team managers that look like they could form a police identity parade for someone arrested on a charge of indecent exposure and you have, in many ways, a Panini album that surpasses anything available in the UK 34 years ago.

True, I was curious to know what football in another country looked like while I was growing up, and I hoped this latest purchase of mine would finally tell me. All I can say is that Panini have rewarded me for my curiosity, just as they always did, by making a wonderful sticker album that delivered in every possible way. With colour, attention to detail and great efficiency, they were undoubtedly the masters of the football sticker world.

- Chris Oakley

Friday, 18 September 2015

The Modern Badge Bandwagon

Everyone loves a football club badge. They can purvey any number of messages about a team in a million different ways, but while some look near perfect, others look considerably ill-conceived.

Over the years, every single team in the UK has succumbed to that irresistible urge to update their badge at  various times. Their constant replacement and abandonment of imagery has created the treasure trove of logos, crests and pictograms that continues to grow in size to this very day. A look back through the archives, however, shows that some clubs have fared better than others when it came to finding the right badge for them.

Of all the designs that have come and gone throughout British football history, the ones I have a soft spot for are those that looked modern when they were first created but within a few years looked hopelessly 'of their time'. These are the badges that ripped up the rule book, dispensed with the intricate detail of the once traditional coats of arms and shouted "I am modern!" from the rooftops... only to be laughed at and pelted with rotten fruit by those who saw it.

A few clubs, such as Nottingham Forest and Derby County, have managed to retain the essence of their 'new' badges to this day, but they are very much in the minority. For most teams that tried a more radical approach, the switch to a new design was altogether more temporary.

The movement towards simpler badges began in earnest at the start of the 1970's. Wolverhampton Wanderers (no strangers to the art of rebranding) were the first of many to take the plunge by showing off their new logo at the start of the 1970-71 season. Consisting of two W's with a wolf leaping overhead, this was and still remains a classic design. Sadly for anyone sharing the same opinion, it only lasted three-and-a-half-years, whereupon the letters were moved to the opposite side of the shirt and the jumping wolf acquired two friends.

In 1972, Crystal Palace followed suit with the creation of a circular badge bearing their nickname of the time, The Glaziers. The most striking element of this one, however, was the stylised 'CP' in the middle. It looked fantastic, if a little corporate, but it was perhaps slightly too simplistic for most people's tastes. Certainly Malcolm Allison thought so. When he arrived as manager of the Selhurst Park club at the start of the 1973-74 season, he rubber-stamped his own new badge and nickname to replace the previous one. And that was that - after a single season, Palace's 'CP' roundel was gone, consigned forever to the big logo scrapheap of football history.

While all this was going on, West Bromwich Albion made their own attempt to usher in a new badge, but theirs lasted little more than four years. Replacing the charming song thrush sitting on a twig that had been brought in for the 1969-70 season was a lower case 'A' in navy blue that looked vaguely like a centurion's helmet. Fortunately the throstle wasn't completely done away with as it reappeared in simplified form inside the 'a', but the overall effect was ever-so-slightly underpolished. With a bit more thought on the part of the designers, this could have been a great logo, but it was not to be.

From left: Wolverhampton Wanderers, Crystal Palace, West Bromwich Albion
Somehow, some way, the team that really defined boldness and modernity in club badges was Leeds United. Their 'smiley' vision in yellow and blue came to epitomise all that was simultaneously good and bad about new team logos from that era. Featuring only the club's initials in bulbous form, it simply said "this is us - straight-forward, uncompromising and divisive". Very much born of the 1970's, Leeds' badge actually made it into the next decade (albeit only for a few months) with the help of some additional circles and lettering around the outside. The original version, however, remains the purest and best example of all.

Further south, Luton Town tried their hand at funky logo design around the same time and launched their 'Lt' badge at the start of the 1974-75 season. Comprising of a stylised ball and (again) the club's initials (only one of which was capitalised, strangely), this was a rare example of a 70's badge truly standing the test of time. It was so popular that it wasn't replaced until 1987, at which point the Kennilworth Road club lurched to the historical end of the design spectrum with an old-fashioned coat of arms. Bor-ing!

York City were the next to step up to the plate, and their motif, introduced in 1974, was a brilliantly radical attempt to channel the spirit of mid-80's corporate branding ten years ahead of its time. Combining the Y and C from the club's initials in a loose marker-pen scribble, it was informal, fun, and just the sort of thing a national building society might have favoured to front a 1984 TV advertising campaign. As is often the case with this kind of thing, though, it proved to be a bit too modern and was hastily replaced with another design in 1978 which, ironically, looked even more like a national building society logo from a 1984 TV advertising campaign.

From left: Leeds United, Luton Town, York City
Come the late-70's, even more clubs were joining the 'modern badge' bandwagon, and several even managed to hold onto their new designs for nearly a decade. Notts County's gorgeous magpie logo, introduced on a regular basis in 1977, was a fine example of how not to create something that was likely to look dated within 10 minutes of its inception. It did so by not adding the name of the club, something that probably would have required the use of a font last seen on the closing credits of 'Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads'.

Bradford City's badge, a 1978 creation, was arguably a little more amateurish in its design, but it too had a certain charm that was based entirely around all five initials of the club's name. Were it not for a bit more finesse, it may well have lasted beyond the three seasons it appeared on the team's shirts.

One of my all-time favourite badges from the era is that of Blackpool. Introduced in 1979, it showed Blackpool Tower by the sea, wonderfully pared down and framed perfectly by a circle. For those people less familiar with the landmarks of Lancashire and its environs, it could easily have been an upward-pointing arrow to denote the intended direction of travel for The Tangerines. Either way, I reckon it would work just as well today, especially if the team name was displayed below it.

From left: Notts County, Bradford City, Blackpool
Even when the Eighties arrived, the trend for trendier badges continued. Some fifteen years after they last wore a crest on their shirts, Reading introduced a new edition in 1981 that evoked an image of pastoral bliss in deepest Berkshire. Featuring (we presume) the trees of Elm Park and the water of the River Thames encased in a curiously shaped black shield, this was a nice attempt at design, even if it did have an air of 'art college assignment' about it. Clearly someone somewhere didn't think much of it, though; it only appeared on the shirts for two seasons before the idea of a shirt badge was abandoned altogether by Reading for five more years.

Whenever I see Leicester City's badge from 1983, I immediately think of my Panini sticker collection of the time. It's sheer simplicity (featuring a whole fox and not just its head) was a breath of fresh air after the fussyness of its predecessor, and I remember welcoming it as such during those great days when football sticker collecting was my entire world. The badge managed to cling on for a good nine years before Leicester switched to the more detailed badge they have to this day, but I think the current one looks like it's trying too hard. Maybe it, too, is ripe for an update...

But if you're talking classic badges that burned brightly but all too quickly, there's undoubtedly an 80's equivalent to Leeds' classic smiley logo of the 70's. Step forward Newcastle United and their 'NUFC' badge from 1983 to 1988. Where Leeds did a grand job of cramming their two main initials into a circle, Newcastle went one better by adding the 'FC' as well.

There are two elements of genius to this badge: firstly, someone had the brilliant idea of rotating the 'C' through 90 degrees, and secondly, they then used it to create the gap at the bottom where a magpie could sit. By including the magpie, the club showed that it hadn't forgotten its identity and also added a pleasing counterpoint to the (let's face it) unavoidable lettering.

From left: Reading, Leicester City, Newcastle United
Yet as is often the way with all of these badges, it's stark modernity was only ever likely to polarise opinion. The outcome: it was swiftly thrown into the great waste disposal facility of football badge history, left to see out its days as a forgotten view of the future. And that's a shame, because what followed was a movement towards a kind of faux heritage that has seeped its way into many of the team badges we see today. Without bravery and open-mindedness, football clubs are left with the clinical, over-stylised identities we see today. Maybe you're happy with that, but personally I prefer those olden days when football clubs were prepared to do something a little bit different - if only just for a few short years.

-- Chris Oakley

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Fantasy Nostalgia: Retro Sweets Football Kits

At the end of June, I published a post which comprised of fifteen football kit illustrations, each one representing one of the old ITV regional television stations. I did it for no other reason than to provide a whimsical antidote to the serious world of modern football.

It was, by Football Attic standards, one of the most popular things we've done in recent times. Many of the comments we received at the time said things like "This is totally bonkers... but brilliant" (for which I'm personally very grateful), but Beyond The Last Man contacted us on Twitter and said: "I dare you to do a set based around 70's sweets and chocolate brands."

As if we'd waste our time on something as fatuous and stupid as that...

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Left to right: Aztec, Banjo, Bounty, Curly Wurly

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Left to right: Dairy Crunch, Double Decker, Flake, Fudge

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Left to right: Milky Bar, Pacers, Polo, Refreshers

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Left to right: Fizzy Spangles, Texan, Topic, Turkish Delight

-- Chris Oakley

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Fantasy Nostalgia: Interior Colour Guide For Football

You may have the experience, you may even have the equipment, but when it comes to decorating your home, it takes a certain eye for colour when it comes to choosing the right paint.

But fear not! If you're a football nostalgia fanatic and are wondering what colour to paint your home, help is at hand with the new Football Attic Interior Colour Guide For Football!

We've got every colour under the sun to suit every room in your house, and all as a tribute to some of the greatest players that ever set foot on a pitch. So before you pick up that brush and don your overalls, check out our colour chart first - it's every interior designer's favourite style guide!

(OK - can we stop talking crap now...?)

-- Chris Oakley

Friday, 4 September 2015

The Greatest Germany Home Kit 1965-2015 - Your vote counts!

First, it was England. Then came France. Now, The Football Attic is proud to be begin a new quest - to establish The Greatest Germany Home Kit of the last fifty years.

The white and black of the German team (and that of the West German team before it) are as iconic as the yellow of Brazil or the orange of the Netherlands. Worn by heroes such as Gerd Müller, Franz Beckenbauer, Lothar Matthäus and Jurgen Klinsmann, the home kit of the German team is as identifiable as any, and is inextricably associated with great success across several decades.

More than 600 matches have been researched and 22 kits have been illustrated so you can assess the good and the not-so-good from the last half a century. Your main duty is to simply enjoy the designs for what they are, but also we'll shortly be inviting you to vote for the one you think is the best of all - just to get an idea of which kits are the most popular.

Before we go any further, here's our graphic showing all of the (West) Germany home kits since 1965.
Click for larger version
(You can also download a full-size version of the graphic here.)

The kits

Kit A was worn in West Germany's first match of 1965, a 1-1 draw against Italy in Hamburg, but was also worn throughout almost their entire 1966 World Cup campaign. It was only in the Final against England that West Germany switched to Kit B (different only in the round neckline of the shirt), although this version was well established and had already been worn regularly since April 1965.

Where our fifty-year period of focus is concerned, these two kits were worn in more matches than any other; Kit A for 33 and Kit B for 79, but whereas the former was retired in 1974, the latter went on to be worn right up to the eve of the 1978 World Cup.

It was in West Germany's first match of the '78 tournament that Kit C made ​​its debut, made ​​by German manufacturer Erima, and it was their logo that had appeared on the shirt of Kit B During 1977. However, after 12 years of wearing two kits that were very much a product of the 1960s, West Germany finally had a new outfit that was modern for its time. With a black edged 'flappy' neckline and black piping across the shoulders of the shirt, Helmut Schön's team looked stylish and in no way old-fashioned in their appearance.

Kit C was worn for two years, even making an appearance in West Germany's group games of the 1980 European Championships, but for the Final against Belgium, they changed again. Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Uli Stielike and the rest of the German team faced their counterparts wearing Kit D - the first of 19 consecutive Adidas kits that are still worn to this day. The cut of the shirt was much the same, but now there were Adidas stripes on the sleeves as well as the socks, while the neckline was now a solid black. For further contrast, the piping across the shoulders was flipped horizontally too.

Kit D was worn regularly over a four-year period, but it had to share the spotlight With Kit E during that time - especially during the 1982 World Cup when the latter edition was seen throughout. Sporting a black v-neck and no piping on the shirt, this was seen as a refinement of its predecessor but one that was only worn for a dozen matches up to 1983.

Kit F emerged just in time for West Germany's ultimately unsuccessful Euro 84 campaign. Once again, the shorts and socks were left unchanged, leaving the shirt to provide a fresh look with its stylish wrap-over v-neck - the only change to the entire ensemble, but a very noticeable one. Kit F was worn 19 times between 1984 and 1986 and was only absent for one match in June 1985. On that occasion, West Germany wore Kit G against England in a friendly in Mexico City - essentially the same shirt, but this time with a simple black v-neck to replace the wrap-over. Whether the single outing for this kit was down to the 3-0 thumping at the hands of Bobby Robson's men, we shall never know...

Once again, a World Cup Finals tournament ushered in a new West Germany kit, and in 1986 it was the turn of Kit H to make its first appearance. Kit H was the first to use all three colours of the national flag on the shirt, albeit in a minimal fashion on the shallow wrap-over neckline and cuffs. The entire outfit was worn eleven times in all up to the end of 1987, along with Kit I on four occasions - essentially identical to Kit H, but with a round-neck version of the shirt.

At the start of 1988, the West German national team changed to possibly their best known kit of all - Kit J - which made ​​far greater use of the black/red/yellow by incorporating an abstract ribbon motif to the shirt. Made famous by the victorious World Cup campaign of 1990, Kit J has been worn more often than any other kit since the 1970's, and with some justification.

When Euro 92 rolled around, however, it was time for another change and on this occasion, Adidas restyled the shirt to give an approving nod to the previous one. For Kit K, the flag colours were moved to the sleeves, a new black v-neck was added and the ever-present Adidas logo switched to its 'Equipment' variant - even on the socks.

In 1994, Germany wore their most colourful shirt to date - and the one that polarises opinions the most. As part of Kit L, it featured a series of diamond-like geometric shapes in black, red and yellow across the shoulders and upper chest, with a repeat of the pattern occurring on one leg of the shorts. In addition, the three Adidas stripes were also now in the colours of the German flag.

If Kit L looked flamboyant, Kit M went to the opposite extreme. During 1996 and 1997, the Germany shirt had a plain, dignified look - removing the colourful detail of its predecessor to leave a largely white shirt, black shorts and a longer discrete black neckline and cuffs. To add to the vintage-era feel of the kit, the DFB badge appeared on the shirt in white inside a black shield. Bold, but nicely executed.

At the start of 1998, Kit N was launched and immediately brought back a more modern stylistic approach. Once again, the black/red/yellow was in evidence as the colour for the three stripes horizontally crossing the chest and neatly running behind the DFB badge. Continuing the complex theme of the shirt, there were also black panels down the sides and a black v-neck with white insert, while the shorts also had panels to contrast the white Adidas stripes in black. Only the socks appear to have escaped the attentions of the designers.

Kit O arrived at the start of 2000 and was remarkable for having more black on the shirt than at any time in the past. Truth be known, the black that appeared on the shoulders was more like a dark charcoal colour, but even so, the effect remained stark and uncompromising. Two years later, the see-saw swung back again in favour of minimalism as Kit P made ​​use of a popular Adidas shirt template of the era. With the simple black v-neck neckline and black cuffs, this was the more refined look that the German team adopted for the 2002 World Cup Finals.

Kit Q appeared to be an interesting combination of Kit O and Kit J as a return to black shoulders (along with red and yellow flashes) heralded the run-in to Germany's Euro 2004 campaign. As if to leave no-one in any doubt as to the nationality of the players wearing the kit, there were miniature German flags on the shirt sleeves and the front of the socks.

At the end of 2005, however, it was 'new kit' time again as Adidas launched Kit R, an outfit that ultimately would be seen in the World Cup Finals played on German soil the following year. Maintaining the use of the three flag colours, the shirt had long curves across the shoulders, down the sides of the shirt, and even onto the top of the shorts.

A new direction was taken when Germany faced Cyprus in Hannover towards the end of 2007 as Kit S appeared for the first time. It's main feature was a broad black band running from left to right across the upper part of the shirt, ending in a curve that provided a border for the round DFB badge. The black band also contained red and yellow bars to create a stylized version of the Bundesflagge, whereas the socks had a broad black band on the turnovers as a background to the three white Adidas stripes.

Almost exactly two years later, Kit T was introduced and had a striking resemblance to Kit M thirteen years before it. Yet again there was a single black neckline and once again there was a black shield container to house the now gold DFB badge. This time, however, three thin vertical lines in the colours of the German flag ran behind the badge as a subtle counterpoint to the traditional white and the black Adidas stripes.

In November 2011, Adidas went retro again - this time feeding from the styles of the mid-1980's. Kit U had a shirt with diagonal pinstripes in black, red and yellow, echoing shirts like those worn by Portugal during Euro 84. The single wrap-over neckline was also a hark back to the same era as the overall kit adopted a 'less is more' motif in time for Euro 2012.

Finally, in November 2013, Germany wore Kit V, the kit they'll be wearing until November 2015. This was a true original in many respects. The shirt featured a bold, detailed chevron that graduated from dark red to a lighter red with a similar colouring appearing on the shorts and sock turnovers. The shorts themselves were designed to be white rather than black wherever possible as part of a wider switch to single-colour strips by numerous national sides.

With smart black detailing along the sleeves, neckline and shorts, Kit V was as imaginative and daring in its conception as anything we've seen since the mid-1960s... but is it your favourite Germany home kit of the last 50 years?


Before you get the chance to register your vote in our online poll, I'd like to express my sincere thanks to Terry Duffelen, Rich Nelson and Rick Joshua for all their help in clarifying many important pieces of information during the research for this feature. Without their help, many of the details shown on the graphic above and in the accompanying text would be incorrect or incomplete. Thanks a lot, guys!

The vote

And so we come to the fun part - the part where you can vote for your favourite Germany Home Kit of the last half-century.

The process is very simple. All you need to do is look at the graphic shown near the top of this article, note the letter associated with your preferred kit, then select it on the form below and press the Vote button. On October 4th, one month from now, we'll count up all your votes and announce the winner of the Greatest Germany Home Kit 1965-2015.

Thank you for your participation!

-- Chris Oakley

Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Football Attic Podcast 29 - 50GFSE - The Top 5!

As with all good journeys, so too must the 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever come to an end... and so we hereby present the Top 5!

Listen to the "experts" discuss the best football shirts ever created and the detailed reasoning as to why they are what they are.

Finally, we take a look at the stats relating to the whole project and discuss some of the feedback we've had along the way.

It's a long one...nearly 2 hours!


Subscribe to The Football Attic Podcast on iTunes or download our podcast here.

World Cup Sunshine

It was something Rich Johnson said while we were recording the fifth Football Attic podcast. We were discussing the World Cups of the past and my Attic co-blogger innocently observed that the best tournaments were often the ones with the most sunshine. Think Mexico '70 or Mexico '86... great World Cups that evoke memories of players scoring fabulous goals in stadia bathed in beautiful bright sunlight. Then think of Italia '90... a tournament looked upon by many as being an exhibition of negative football, mostly played at night.

A water-tight theory, I was inclined to think at the time... but could it actually be proved? It got me thinking: was there any direct correlation between the amount of sun that shone during a World Cup and the quality of the football it produced?

Obviously it was never going to be easy calculating the exact amount of sunshine for a single match, let alone several tournaments. No-one to my knowledge has deliberately stuck a light meter in the pitch of every World Cup game and published the readings for all to see, so how could the theory stand up to assessment?

I soon realised this was no place for exact science and academic brilliance. Some wide-ranging assumptions and flabby rules were needed if this exercise was going to bear fruit, so that's exactly how I went about my work.

Goals = quality

To begin, there's no quantifiable way of determining how good a World Cup tournament is or was. Every one of them has had its fair share of memorable moments, but they've all had their dull matches too. For the purposes of this elaborate plan, therefore, I decided to focus on the number of goals scored during a tournament as a general gauge for its overall quality.

The shadows

Then there was the sunshine issue. What was it about, say, Mexico '70 that proves it was so rich in sunlight? In short, shadows. Seemingly every image we saw of Pele or Gerd Muller or Jeff Astle (for instance) featured said players with short, dark shadows attached to their feet, and it's these shadows that confirm the presence of strong sunlight.

Video evidence

But could a match be considered 'sunny' if, for instance, the sun only shone for five minutes of a match? In my view, no: the term could only be applied if shadows were being cast on the pitch for more than half a match.

And how could I prove that this was the case? By watching YouTube videos that, in some cases, lasted no more than a couple of minutes.

(I did warn you that this was unscientific.)

In my defence, however, many World Cup matches can be found on YouTube in their entirety, and where this was the case, I assessed the whole game to reach some sort of outcome.

Oh, and I also decided to start my research from 1970. My reasons were two-fold; firstly, because the number of World Cup matches on YouTube falls away sharply before the first Mexico tournament, and secondly, because all pre-1970 TV footage is in black and white. The latter point is apposite when trying to work out whether a match is played in hazy sunshine or no sunshine at all.

Making the grade

Finally, I had to list all the important details for each of the games. Initially, I planned to record each World Cup match as being 'sunny', 'cloudy' or 'rainy', but I soon realised this was too complicated. All that was needed in essence was to say whether a match was 'sunny' or 'non-sunny', so that was the system I chose.

Not that these were the only classifications, of course. Many World Cup matches are played at night, so for the purposes of this exercise, the label 'Night' was applied to all games that kicked off from 7pm onwards in the local time zone.

And for even more complication, some games have been played in a stadia with a closed roof. For those matches, the label 'Indoor' was applied.

Data collecting

Having determined all of the above, it was time to start collecting the data... from 636 matches. A spreadsheet was created, and one by one, each game was listed along with its duration and goals scored (including extra time but not penalty shoot-outs).

Once all the data was collected (and I say that as if it only took me ten minutes), it was simply a case of totalling up all the goals and minutes for each match in each category of Sunny, Non-Sunny, Night and Indoor.

It was at this point that I felt an infographic coming on. Here it is:

Click for larger version
Thanks to the loose application of some tenuous (at best) rules based on many all-too-brief video clips, a number of conclusions were drawn from the data.


Firstly, the answer to the big question: does a World Cup football match played mostly in sunshine bring forth more goals? The answer, it seems, is a definite 'no.' Of all the four match types, 'Sunny' came out worst with one goal scored every 37.5 minutes. 'Non-Sunny' matches (i.e. those played in cloudy or rainy conditions) featured goals scored (roughly speaking) once every 35.3 minutes - about the same for 'Night' matches.

Best of all, however, were the 'Indoor' matches. So far, there have been 12 games played in stadia with a closed roof, and in those, a goal has been scored once every 29.2 minutes.

(Once again, it behoves me to remind you that these are very imprecise figures, but unashamedly so. And can you find any that are more accurate on the internet? Of course not, for no-one has such dedication to a redundant cause as I.)

Taking each tournament in sequence, you can see from the infographic that the 1970 World Cup was indeed dominated by 'sunny' matches (as shown by the yellow blocks in each case). As we suspected all along, Mexico came up trumps again in 1986, and proportionately these two tournaments had the highest percentage of 'sunny' games out of all the twelve World Cups covered (see separate graphic below).

Click for larger version
Sunshine was in the shortest supply during the 2010 World Cup with the 1974 competition not far behind. In general, however, there have been far fewer 'Sunny' games since the start of the 21st Century - not necessarily because of adverse weather conditions, but because more World Cup matches are being played later in the day in stadia that don't allow direct sunshine to reach the pitch quite so easily. Both factors mean less sunshine is seen in quite the same way as we saw back in 1970.

Taking all 636 games in their entirety, we can generally see that there's almost an equal three-way split between those that were 'Sunny', those that were 'Non-Sunny' and those that were played at night. To be a little more specific, however, the 'Sunny' games just about have the lion's share - 38% compared to 32% for 'Night' games and 28% for 'Non-Sunny' games.

Finally, to confirm the earlier point, you're likely to see more goals in 'Indoor' matches - 3.17 on average, compared to 2.45 in 'Sunny' matches. And that, as much as anything, sums up the overall result of all this research and analysis: as much as we choose to disbelieve it, 'Sunny' World Cup matches are somewhat inferior where the quantity of goals is concerned.

A depressing thought, but the one thing this exercise can't quantify is the quality of the goals scored during sunny World Cup matches. Without spending several more weeks on research, I'd like to offer the following names to make a case for the sunshine/great goals ratio: Josimar, Pele, Maradona, Krol, Negrete...

Need I go on?

-- Chris Oakley

Friday, 21 August 2015

Words on Numbers

It's been far too long since we welcomed our old friend Ed Carter into the Football Attic fray, but we're delighted to say he's back once again, this time with some fine observations on the traditions of shirt numbering...

I am not mad.

On my computer I have a list of every England football squad ever submitted for a major international finals tournament. Remember, please, that I am not mad when I tell you that if every squad was like the one we sent to the 1950 World Cup - where no teams had fixed squad numbers - I would not have bothered to curate this list in the first place. I love the numbers of sport. I love the statistics, I love the scores but above all I love the numbers that are assigned to competitors to differentiate them.

I once discussed this with someone and they immediately started talking to me about the Olympic Games. I am sure that, if I understood the innumerable arcane points of interest in the way Olympic competitors are numbered I would be completely enraptured. But for me, Olympic numbers can be summed up by the way they are affixed to the competitor they demarcate: throwaway, paper-thin, ephemeral. They don't capture my interest at all.

What interests me is the sports where competitors are given a number and they wear it over the course of an entire season or beyond. Two years ago, my beloved Formula 1 motor racing decided to introduce career car numbers to the drivers, as is the case in motorcycle racing and in American motor sports. Once a competitor is issued a number of their choosing they will carry it throughout their entire tenure in the sport, regardless of team or achievement. As an identifier, and I suppose as a marketing tool, it was a diamond-tipped bullet of pure genius. I tried to maintain my decorum throughout. But I failed and immediately made a list.

I am not mad.

Football. The old association football. When I was little, football players wore shirts numbered from 1 to 11, apart from for during international tournaments, where numbers as lofty as 20, 21 or 22 could make a thrilling appearance. The dark hearts behind the Premier League had other ideas, and from 1993/94 squad numbering has slowly percolated its way down throughout the football pyramid.

I'm nothing if not a staunch traditionalist (in addition to not being mad, which it is important to remember) and as such I should be appalled by this. To be fair, I occasionally am. But on the whole, I completely love it. It is probably my favourite thing about football, now I think about it. If they stopped wearing numbers again, as they used to in the old old days, I'd probably go and find something else to watch. Greyhound racing, perhaps. Or a tortoise with a number painted on its shell in Tip-pex.

Originally, the number a football player wore - as is the commonality of any sport where the numbering of its participants still grabs me - was specific to their position and role on the field. Number 1 was always the goalkeeper; 2 and 3 were the full backs; 4, 5 and 6 were, from right to left, the half backs and numbers 7 to 11 were the forwards: again, from right to left, the outside, inside, centre, inside and outside. The initial challenge to squad numbering, you might think, is how do you maintain this positional system when there is every number from 1 to 99 to choose from? In reality of course, people had been taking liberties within the 1-11 framework for years.

For a start, there were national differences. When 4-4-2 replaced 2-3-5 as the standard formation in soccer, all hell broke loose. The English approach was to pull the numbers of the old centre and left halves back into defence as the centre backs so that a team might line up GK 1; FB 2, FB 3, CB 5, CB 6; RM 7, CM 8, CM 4, LM 11; CF 9, CF 10. In Germany, the corresponding numbers might be 1; 2, 3, 4, 5; 7, 10, 6, 8; 9, 11. In Brazil and Argentina, the centre backs assumed the numbers of their predecessors, the full backs - 2 and 3. 4 and 6, the right and left halves, became the gallivanting, marauding right and left full (wing) backs. The defensive midfielder wore 5, the central midfielder 8 and then the four attack-minded players were numbered as they were in Britain.

Or weren't. Kevin Keegan wore 7 for Liverpool but was the centre forward. Bobby Charlton was number 9 but he was an attacking midfielder. Pele, the world's greatest ever number 9, wore 10 because a Brazilian FA official assigned him that number at random upon the team's arrival in Sweden for the 1958 World Cup. Perhaps the most exciting thing of all was that Johan Cruyff wore 14 for Ajax, Barcelona and the Netherlands, a rare example of a player who was so good that officialdom is willing to waive the rules on their behalf.

Liverpool Football Club were the forerunners of pretty much everything in English football when I - or pretty much anyone over the age of 30 and under the age of 60 - was growing up. But as well as their excellence on the pitch, their approach to squad selection and development allowed them to be progenitors of the squad numbering system in English football. A player would break into the team and, if they showed sufficient quality to stay there, would very often retain the number. The aforementioned Keegan wore 7 because he made his first foray into the starting XI as a right winger. When I grew up watching the last great Liverpool side of the late 1980s, Ronnie Whelan wore 5 in central midfield because that was the number he had inherited from Ray Kennedy, who had himself worn it as a left-sided midfielder. Steve McMahon wore 11. John Aldridge, one of British football's greatest ever centre forwards, number 8. Steve Nicol frequently turned out at right back in a very Brazilian number 4. Gary Gillespie often partnered Alan Hansen (6) at centre back wearing 3. None of these numbers were strictly right, but they all meant something. That is what is so important. It demarcates the players and the positions on any given day, but also the progression of time and season. A sense of history and purpose and of being part of something more significant than just your part in it.

"I tell you what you must love then. You must love the way the Netherlands turned out numbered in alphabetical order for the 1974 World Cup." Well, no, actually I hate it. Because there's no meaning behind any of it. No thought, no history, no romance, nothing. What is even worse than Jan Jongbloed lining up in goal wearing number 8 is that had the system been properly implemented, he would have been number 9: as befitted his talismanic status, Johan Cruyff was granted the number 14 which should, by right, have belonged to Johan Neeskens. Cruyff's alphabetical assignation should have been number 1. It is things like that which make me glad Holland did not win the 1974 World Cup.

Had Cruyff worn 1, though, I suppose alphabetical squad listing is something I could get behind a little more; although it seems a staggeringly heartless and utilitarian thing to do, the sort of thing that might have happened in a book about World Cup football written by George Orwell.

The great alphabetisers of world football, though, were Argentina. In 1978 they did it properly, with no exceptions made. Number 1 was River Plate's midfielder Norberto Alonso. Ossie Ardiles wore 2. Mario Kempes, the goalscoring hero of the final, managed to get number 10. They remain the only team to be numbered alphabetically to win the World Cup. As such, they continued the practice in both 1982 and 1986, although on both occasions the system was modified to allow Diego Maradona to wear 10. In 1986, Jorge Valdano was also pandered to, wearing number 11.

Even staid old England got crazy enough to pull an alphabetic shenanigan on us. Perhaps it was the aching twelve year chasm of spiralling failure and national shame, but when the team arrived in Spain for the 1982 World Cup they were numbered according to the single most convoluted system ever seen at a football tournament, until such a time as any country wants to turn up graded by colour of hair.

Of the 22 man squad, 18 were given a number according to their name. Trevor Brooking, an archetypal number 10, wore 3. Steve Coppell, a number 7 all day long got number 5. But a goalkeeper wearing a number between 2 and 11 was too much for the FA to contemplate, so the custodians were corralled into their own individual alphabetic section and then duly handed a number 1, 13 or 22 shirt. The other exception was Kevin Keegan, England's exception-ally unfit talisman, who briefly wore his traditional number 7 shirt during a substitute appearance against the hosts in the final match of an injury-stricken campaign. The whole never-repeated experiment is, by quite some margin, the most louche thing the English football team have ever done. Including the fact that Fabio Capello used to give the substitute goalkeeper number 12, the very thought of which makes me feel a bit peculiar. Good peculiar? Bad peculiar? I don't even know.

Nowadays, squad numbering has settled down a little bit. The worst excesses, in this country at least, seem to be out of the way. The majority of players still seemingly gravitate to wearing a shirt numbered between 1 and 11 to signify their quality and irreplaceability. Additionally, there have become new paradigms set for the outlying numbers. See someone wearing number 21 or 27 or 33 and you pretty much know the sort of player you're going to get.

The great hero of English squad numbering is undoubtedly Sir Alex Ferguson, who maintained a squad kept zealously within an outer limit of numbers in the low 30s, as well as making superstars of Roy Keane's 16 and Paul Scholes' 18. That's precisely the point of squad numbering done well: both Michael Carrick and Ashley Young spoke out in the press upon their arrival at Old Trafford about the honour of being bestowed with these grand old numbers and the expectation that comes with them.

The villain of the piece? Arsene Wenger. Purely and simply for the most heinous shirt numbering crime ever committed in the British game, granting William Gallas the number 10 in 2006. The nine intervening years have done nothing to calm my volcanic revulsion to such an act. I neither support Arsenal nor do I have any strong feelings either way to Gallas. But when a player - a centre half - walks in to your club and asks to wear the number 10 shirt only just vacated by Dennis Bergkamp, a trip to the Job Centre is clearly the only eloquent response. Instead, Wenger granted the request. I've not forgotten and it can never be forgiven. But as long as there are squad numbers, there'll always be these moments. I've come, broadly speaking, to accept it. European games, with their attendant players pratting across the screen wearing number 63 or 87, can now pass with me barely even needing to clench my buttocks or grind my teeth. Or vice versa. There was many a clenched tooth and ground buttock round my house in the early noughties.

Although I still hear Barry Davies' disapproving voice ("what a RIDICULOUS number to see on an association football field") whenever anyone is tootling around in a 38, I have started to see the brilliance of it rather than being hung up on the incongruity. The best of the current crop is Yaya Toure's 42 shirt. You need to be good to wear a 42 shirt through choice. There's nowhere to hide in a number 42 shirt. One day soon, probably in no more than ten years, you'll hear some pundit somewhere saying that Manchester City have never properly replaced their 42 shirt. It's a brave new world, but scratch the surface and it's a comfortingly familiar one.

Our grateful thanks to Ed Carter for his latest guest post on The Football Attic, and a reminder to you all that you can hear him every week with Ian King on the 200% Podcast and see his sublime illustrations and paintings over at his Redbubble website.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Football Attic Podcast 28 - 50GFSE 12-6

The 50 Greatest Football Shirts Ever! may be finished, but we're not done with it yet! Not while we still have 12 shirts left to blather on about!

It's another Jayless pod as he's off definitely not working or something (he told me to say that in case the tax man is listening), so I'm afraid there's only one mention of baselayers...

So pop your slippers on, grab a mug of cocoa and settle down in your favourite armchair and let the warmth of Chris, Rich and John's soothing tones send you to sleep...


Subscribe to The Football Attic Podcast on iTunes or download our podcast here.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Retro Rewind: 101 Great Goals (BBC, 1987)

By my reckoning, it’s 83 great goals, 15 that might be great and 3 that definitely aren't, but that’s just me being pedantic. And besides, it would have been a far longer and more cumbersome title for a VHS tape that I recall seeing virtually everywhere back in the late 1980’s.

I never actually owned a VCR until 1990, but this video cassette cropped up wherever I went, from my local WH Smith to the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, London. Though the inlay cover was far from exciting, the title did rather more to stir my imagination. What were these great goals, packaged and presented for us by the BBC? How exciting would it be to watch a whole uninterrupted hour of goals, goals and yet more goals? And would I get any change from a £10 note if I bought it?

I never did find out which goals were on that tape until the internet arrived, by which time my Akai VCR was well on its way to fully decomposing along with several dozen Scotch E240 tapes of mine. Upon watching the video, one is immediately struck by how many of the goals are familiar. That’s because many of them either won the BBC’s Goal of the Season competition or were shortlisted for the accolade.

Fortunately, even where that is the case, the goals are well worth seeing anyway. As mentioned earlier, only a paltry amount could be considered ‘not great’, and even they've got some intrinsic value to them. One of them, a goal scored by Jimmy Greaves at Valley Parade on January 3 1970, consisted merely of a throw-in by Joe Kinnear, flicked on, scuffed by a Bradford defender and poked home from close range. Hardly ‘great’, but worth seeing just to witness a legendary striker doing what he does best.

A classic Liam Brady effort for Arsenal at Tottenham in 1978 acts as the basis for the most rudimentary of opening title sequences, after which the goal-laden chronology begins in 1969. Bobby Charlton crops up with two of three successive Manchester United sizzlers, then it’s Greaves at Bradford followed by Martin Chivers scoring for Tottenham at Molineux on the same day... except Tottenham couldn't possibly have been playing Bradford and Wolves on the same day. The caption shown on the Chivers goal was wrong, and this was one of a few similar cock-ups that threaten to blight the overall presentation.

No matter. The goals they kept on coming; Ernie Hunt’s brilliant volley, set up by Willie Carr’s donkey kick, George Best looping the ball over a floundering Pat Jennings, Ronnie Radford slamming a screamer into the top corner of the net against Newcastle... Iconic images paraded before our eyes garnished inevitably by the excited commentaries of Motson, Davies, Coleman and others.

Growing up as a kid in the late 1970’s, it was goals like these that were often shown on TV, almost as a reminder of how good modern-day football ought to be. Personally speaking, I was always most fond of a long-range pile-driver, flying into the roof of the net from way out. Many such goals featured on this tape from the likes of Alan Mullery, the aforementioned Ronnie Radford and, perhaps most tellingly, Johnny Metgod for Nottingham Forest against West Ham in 1986. These were the goals I tried to replicate while playing in the local park as a kid right up to playing five-a-side with my colleagues as a 37-year-old.

It’s not all ‘thirty yard thunderbolts’, however. Proof is provided that a great goal can take many forms, whether it’s from a clever chip (cf. Glenn Hoddle against Watford in 1983, Terry McDermott against Everton in 1977) or an overhead kick (cf. Danny Wallace for Southampton against Liverpool  in 1984). Whatever your taste in goals, be they created from a series of neat passes or blasted in from distance, it’s fair to say you’ll be satisfied by something you see.

If there's any particular criticism to make, it's that the bigger teams feature more prominently than the smaller ones. Goals by Tottenham, Liverpool and Man United players make up more than a third of the total on their own, and those three teams appear in more than a quarter of all the clips, but maybe that's no surprise. Your average Match of the Day usually focused more on those clubs anyway, so the footage used in 101 Great Goals is simply a reflection of that.

The procession of great players, great teams and great goals continues through until 1987 (the year of release for this VHS tape) with the last goal coming from Clive Allen for Spurs against Coventry City in the FA Cup Final of that year. Somewhat disappointingly, Allen’s goal was the only one featured from that match. No Keith Houchen? Tut tut... But hey, it’s not easy putting together a selection of the best things in a particular category. Better, perhaps, to be grateful  for what you’re given, and this BBC production is certainly worthy of acclaim for providing over an hour of great football entertainment.

-- Chris Oakley