The subject, Bryan Robson, was seen on the front cover and on page two, the latter being an advert for New Balance boots. The Manchester United and England star claimed he’d helped the company to “shape, test and refine” their boots under every possible playing condition - “including World Cup competition.” Judging by the picture on page one, he’d had also had a similar involvement with the production of hair-straightening equipment too.
Charlie Nicholas was top of the list, moving from Celtic to Arsenal for £750,000, but many other well known names were also changing clubs. Kerry Dixon had moved from Reading to Chelsea for a bargain £175,000 while in the sub-£30,000 bracket Sam Allardyce switched from Millwall to Coventry and Gerry Francis moved from Coventry to Exeter. There’s also an ‘R Savage’ leaving Liverpool for Stoke. Surely he’s not *that* old, is he?
A look at the magazine’s Formscope scorecard, however, gave a different view. Peter Shilton was rated “7 out of 10 - Good”, Phil Neal “8 out of 10 - Very good”, Russell Osman “7 out of 10 - Good” and so it went on. Every player scored either 7 or 8 out of 10 with the exception of John Gregory (6) and Paul Mariner (5). A little confusing, to say the least...
In Division One, Larry Lloyd was manager Notts County - just across the city from his old boss, Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest. Clough’s old partner Peter Taylor, meanwhile, was in charge at Second Division Derby County while elsewhere in the division, two former Leeds players - Norman Hunter and Eddie Gray - were learning the ropes at Barnsley and Leeds respectively.
A mixture of flair, experience and youth was undoubtedly the hallmark of Venables’ side. Along wth old stagers Bob Hazell and Terry Fenwick, Mike Flanagan and Clive Allen had arrived from Palace like Venables himself. Utility player John Gregory was playing well enough to break into the England team (as we’ve already heard) and with the likes of Ian Dawes, Gary Waddock and Peter Hucker in goal, QPR clearly had all the talent they needed to eventually finish the 1983/84 season in fifth place. “The First Division is going to have more to worry about than just a plastic pitch” claimed Football Monthly, and with some justification.
The centre pages featured a colour team picture of Manchester United in the style of Shoot! while at the back was ‘Scoreline’, a three-page statistical reference containing recent results, scorers and attendance figures as per World Soccer. There was even a ‘Classified Page’ containing the ubiquitous ad from Steve Earl Football Programmes to make you think you were thumbing through Match magazine.
All in all, then, Football Monthly appeared to be a publication of some distinction due to its lengthy no-frills articles and factual information. Clearly it was pitched at the youngsters that considered themselves a little too old for Shoot’s glossy colour pictures and easily digestible text, but seemingly there was a gap in the market for just such a title. It appeared in newsagents right the way through the 1980’s and despite its slightly cock-eyed England match reports, it rightly became a trusted source of football reporting throughout.