22 February 2012

Panini: Football 78

Panini’s first foray into the world of annual UK sticker collections began with Football 78. Its bright red cover featuring action photos neatly sectioned into the hexagonal patches of a big football was a beacon for kids across the country to go out and fritter away what little pocket money they had at the time.

For many sticker collectors, this was where it all began - the start of a lifelong obsession. The Queen's Silver Jubilee had been and gone, and now it was time to celebrate something altogether different: the glorious sport of Football itself.

Page 2 and 3

Inside, we get an early sight of two elements that would become familiar in later years: a grid for filling in First Division results (some of which were already filled in for you up to October 15th 1977) and the trophy page with spaces for stickers of the FA Cup, League Championship Trophy and the two Scottish equivalents. Of those four stickers, only the FA Cup and Scottish Cup were in gold foil for reasons we’re still trying to fathom out.

First Division pages and stickers

The team pages came next – two for each club with spaces for seventeen stickers each. Strangely in this first domestic Panini album we see an odd reluctance to fit in an extra player on the first page to create a uniform layout. Note the odd row of three rather than four where the manager and goalkeeper images reside…

The double-page spread has a familiar look for those that remember Panini’s later efforts, but in this early period the preference was to show biographies of each player in a single block on the second page rather than individually below each player’s picture.

There was also the statistics block situated between the badge and team photo; a mini-feast of facts and information for the knowledge-hungry child wanting to know a club’s record attendance or the change colours of Wolverhampton Wanderers.

As for the stickers themselves, the ’78 design was that of a red window frame with English flag, team name and badge at the top and player name at the bottom. Team badges were of the hard gold foil variety while team pictures used a similar design to those used for the players.

What’s notable about the player photos in this early Panini vintage is that each team member wasn't necessarily  seen wearing the same shirts. In many cases you can pick out two or even three different shirt designs per team, something Panini made a point of correcting to a large extent later on.

Second Division

Subsequent Panini albums may have dared give you a glimpse of life in Divisions Three or even Four, but it's only the second tier of English football that was spotlighted here. Again there was another results chart to complete (half of it already having been done for you) before the minimal format of badge-statistics-team picture rolled out across six pages.

Here we get our first glimpse of the double foil badge – a regular-sized sticker split in two for twice the pleasure. Even though the Second Division badges were, in reality, only half the size of their First Division equivalents, there was something undeniably joyful about getting two on the one sticker.

As for the teams listed, there was an eclectic mix of the rising stars, the fallen wonders and the perennial water-treaders. Premier League stalwarts such as Bolton, Fulham and, yes, even Tottenham Hotspur sat cheek-by-jowl alongside teams like Bristol Rovers, Orient and the previous season's Division Three champions Mansfield Town.

Scottish Premier Division pages

If you think there's a two-tier structure in the SPL today, that was nothing compared to Panini's view of the Scottish Premier Divisiom in 1978. Aberdeen may have been first in alphabetical order, but there was a pecking order to observe. First came Celtic and Rangers, treated royally to the same double-page spread of their English counterparts. Everyone else followed and had to make do with only a single page, if you don't mind.

Hardly fair treatment, really, especially as that only left enough room for seven players to accompany the manager, club badge and team picture. Still, at least we got a fair selection of the pale, pasty-skinned and wild-haired talent making a name for itself north of the border, as well as the ubiquitous half-completed results grid.

Sadly no Scottish First Division pages were included in this collection – they were to come in later years – but at least the strange array of Scottish Premier Division club badges made up for it. Celtic's badge looks a good 15 years ahead of its time, Clydebank's looks like it's been extracted from the cover of the Communist Manifesto while St Mirren seem to have settled for something scribbled on the back of a fag packet by Alex Ferguson himself.

Curiosities

Aside from the ongoing 70's competition to see 'who looks more like Graeme Souness than Graeme Souness', there's much to please the idle browser of this album. Sir Alf Ramsey makes an appearance as Birmingham City manager (Panini politely leaving out the word 'Caretaker' for such an undoubted legend of the game), while Everton's team picture appears to have been taken on a 1:3 hill.

Phil Thompson's lovely head of hair can only, in our opinion, be put down to him visiting the same stylist as Wendy Craig, star of BBC TV's 'Butterflies' whereas the winner of the award for the 'Too-Frightening-For-Words Pose' undoubtedly goes to QPR's Stan Bowles. 'Most Overlooked Badge'? That must go to the one worn by many of West Bromwich Albion's players… anyone know anything about this?

As for the team trying hardest to look professional in its team picture, that must surely go to the aforementioned Clydebank who all appear to be wearing the biggest stitched-on numbers ever on their red tracksuit tops. A fine effort there, we're sure you'll agree.

Back cover

A never-more-70's hand-drawn vignette depicted as if zooming away from view in a vivid red-orange-yellow colour scheme. A bit like the opening titles to a Lew Grade British spy thriller series shot through the prism of an official FIFA World Cup film. Kind of.

12 February 2012

Interview: Gary Silke and Derek Hammond (Got, Not Got)

Gary Silke (left) and
Derek Hammond (right),
authors of Got, Not Got
Gary Silke and Derek Hammond are the authors of a recently published book called Got, Not Got, a title that has quickly become an epic tome for lovers of football nostalgia everywhere including ourselves. The book sold in great numbers over the Christmas period (rightly so in our opinion), so we decided to have a chat with Gary and Derek to find out more about Got, Not Got and their love for the bygone days of The Beautiful Game.

TFA: First of all, let’s begin by congratulating you both on the huge success of the book. It’s richly deserved... but how did the project begin?

DH: Thanks a lot! I'm not sure the success is exactly 'huge' but we've had a very promising first few months both in terms of growing sales and press and reader feedback.

We first punted a book to publishers about 7 years ago - centered all around 'Supersonic Soccer Stuff They Sold Us in the Seventies' - and we had a couple of very near misses. About three years ago something much more like GNG was again touted around by a different agent, with the same response. The feedback we were getting all suggested it would be impossible to sell football nostalgia to fans of more than one club.

TFA: And prior to the project starting, when did the two of you first meet?

GS: I'm surprised to say I can't really remember. I think Derek contributed something to my Leicester fanzine The FOX and it was quite funny. He was just a crazy kid looking for a break and hey... I took a chance on him.

TFA: Reading through the book, it’s plain to see how much time and effort has gone into compiling and writing all the entries. You must have reached a point where you realised there would be too many subjects to cram into one book... How frustrating was that for you?

DH: No problem! We realised early on that we couldn't possibly fit it all in, and started to think about GNG2... Now readers are sending us great ideas (fog! DIY ticker tape! Brut! proper drop balls!) and pictures on a weekly basis, and once again it's a case of having to decide what to fit in and what to leave out.

TFA: Despite all that, however, was there anything you forgot to write about or wished you’d included after the book went to press?

GS: I can't really think of anything we wish we'd included. Maybe rolled down socks in the manner of Rodney Marsh and the Argentina side of 1978?

I was also desperately trying to get hold of a Striker diving goalkeeper to do a big close-up photo of but I kept getting pipped at the post on eBay. I SHALL get one for GNG2.

We started the book with the intention of doing 120 pages, but at a very early stage the publisher requested we make it 240. It soon became clear, even then, that a GNG2 would be required.

TFA: Which entries in Got, Not Got did you both particularly enjoy writing about?

DH: Swivel boots, Cov Girl of the Match, Shame, Smoke, Punk Rock Football. I'm easily pleased.  

TFA: We’re pleased and grateful to say you’ve also set up a Got, Not Got blog site to accompany the book. What are you hoping to achieve with the blog and what have been your favourite entries on the site since it began?

GS: Our publicity comes from a very grass roots level so it was important to get a blog going to help spread the word. With Facebook and Twitter added we have started to reach a wider audience. It is also a rallying point for like-minded people to come and discuss all our great old stuff. We want to encourage a wider level of participation for the next book. Everyone has a great story to tell and some old tat to illustrate it.

I like the stuff we are getting sent now because it is fresh to us and makes for a great blog entry.

TFA: Looking forward, you must still have lots of ideas buzzing around in your heads for future blog articles and entire projects, even. Is there anything you have in the pipeline you’re thinking about creating that you can tell us about?

DH: We're working on a humour book for publication later this year. Then there's GNG2 to look forward to, as we both accidentally let slip earlier!

TFA: OK, it’s ‘what if’ time now... If you had to create a football nostalgia Hall of Fame, what would be the first three things you’d put in it? (They can be real items or generic concepts, specific or general...)

GS: Subbuteo seems to hold a very special place in the heart of the nation and I see they are now relaunching it so it will no longer be a 'Not Got'.

Mud, sums up how different football was then. So that would be in. When was the last time you caught the smell of mud at a professional football game?

And just that feeling of quivering excitement you got when you were going to the match as a kid. I think only an FA Cup Final for Leicester City could re-ignite that feeling for me now. And even then I'd probably just end up getting annoyed by something modern.

TFA: And of all the items of football ephemera you actually own, what single things would you both nominate as your favourites, and why?

DH: For ironic bad-taste fun it has to be my Justin Fashanu rubber, cover star of GNG. I just got a very cool fake Action Man for GNG2, for 99p, complete with totally unnerving psychotic glare. No joking, he is genuinely scary.

From a more personal perspective it has to be my childhood box of football cards - which is why I was touched when James Brown at Sabotage Times reviewed the book and said it was just like finding his old football stickers.

TFA: Sticking with your own personal possessions, which items did you both once own that you now regret getting rid of?

GS: My Leicester City Admiral shirt was nicked from the PE changing rooms circa 1979. I'm just about over it, though I still intend to hunt down and execute the bastards who did it.

TFA: Is there anything either of you really wanted to own that you finally managed to purchase, and were you ultimately pleased or disappointed when you got it?

DH: I would give anything to see the original advert for swivel boots which so affected me back in around 1970. To see the actual boots, complete with the patent turn-on-a-sixpence rotating turntable of four studs under the ball of your foot... that would be close to a religious experience for me!

TFA: If you don’t mind us asking, have you ever spent a ridiculous amount of money on a single item of football nostalgia?

GS: I spent a ridiculous amount on two items, but probably not in the way you mean. This woman at a car boot sale had two matchworn 'Ind Coope' City shirts from the mid 80s. I asked her how much she wanted and she said: "10p.... each."

I paid and left. Does that make me as bad as the bastards who nicked my Admiral shirt? It does, doesn't it?

TFA: A lot of people are now becoming disenchanted with modern football for various different reasons. Do either of you fall into this category and what do you find so appealing about bygone football over and above the game as we know it today?

DH: We both fall deep into this category - I guess that much is pretty clear from the book - but of course we keep plodding to the football because we're hooked. The modern game lacks characters, atmosphere, a sense of fun and glorious abandonment, it's overpriced and over-defensive, players and coaches are scared to lose, and there aren't any floodlight pylons or greyhound tracks any more. Apart from that, it's great.

TFA: It’s been suggested to both of us that a better title for your book would have been ‘Got, Got, Need’ as an alternative refrain by sticker-collecting schoolchildren everywhere. Are you willing to admit you named your project in haste and apologise for your wrong-doing?!?!!

GS: In our playground it was always 'got, got, got, not got'. I think there are regional variations. The title works on two levels with everything in the book being something we had 'Got' and have now 'Not Got'. That's the only way it could work.

TFA: The FIFA World Cup in 2010 saw a sudden increase in the number of adults collecting Panini stickers, presumably as a way of reliving the joys of their youth. Do you consider it wrong in any way to collect stickers well beyond your childhood years or do you encourage such behaviour?!

DH: I haven't personally collected football cards since I was a kid, but Gary has. I'm a serious student of football culture and pop history, and my interest in vintage ephemera is for research purposes only. He's just an overgrown child. My collection, meanwhile, just happens to be expanding faster than his... but let me assure you it's for all the right reasons.

TFA: Speaking of Panini stickers, what’s the most stickers you ever swapped (or saw swapped) for just one other? (Rich J once witnessed about 300 swapped for a single Jim Smith which was needed to complete a Panini Football '87 collection...)

GS: I can't remember the figures but I had to hand over an absolute stack for Kevin Beattie to complete my 1973-74 FKS Sticker Album. And it was damaged so I had to do a repair job with a blue biro.

I learnt a lesson that day, keep your cards close to your chest and never advertise how much you need something.

TFA: Finally, what would you say is your personal cut off date, where ‘nostalgia’ ends and ‘modern day’ begins?

DH: 1992. Year Zero.

Gary and Derek, many thanks for your time and all the very best of luck with your future ventures. Keep up the good work with Got, Not Got!

Got, Not Got is published by Pitch Publishing and is available via Amazon.co.uk at the new low price of £11.99.

8 February 2012

News of the World and Empire News Football Annual 1961-62

Behind the creased and crumbling cover of this 50-year-old pocket book lies not only 384 pages of facts, figures and statistics but a fading image of a football world few of us can fully appreciate.

Things were very different at the start of the 1960’s, including the title of our subject. The News of the World Football Annual (as it came to be known for more than 40 years) started out as the Athletic News Football Supplement and Club Directory in 1887. Little more than a pamphlet back then, it covered more and more content with every passing decade and merged with other similar publications, changing names as it did so. In late summer 1960, the 70th edition of the annual appeared, and for the first time, The News of the World saw its name on the front cover.

Stats, stats and more stats

The purpose of the book remained constant; to cram in enough anecdotal and factual information to sustain the most ardent football fan for an entire season. Beyond the hand-tinted picture of Sheffield Wednesday’s Ron Springett and Don Megson on the cover, there was more than enough to satisfy the enthusiastic youngster or the seasoned veteran, whatever their interests.

Though football had existed for around 100 years at the time of publication, the book showed the sport as only just entering a new era where foundations were being laid for the game we know today. The £20 maximum wage had only just been abolished (allowing players to earn anything up to £100 a week), the England team were preparing for only their fourth World Cup tournament and the great old teams of the 1950’s were slowly making way for the sides keen to make an impact in the 60’s and 70’s.

One-man teams

On this latter point, the NoTW Annual features a piece written by Tom Finney OBE, a legend for Preston and England who had retired in 1960. The Lancashire-born striker lamented his old club’s relegation at the end of the previous season and noted how other big teams of the era had only just avoided a similar fate. “Blackpool only just escaped it” said Finney. “How they will miss the inspiration of Stanley Matthews when the old maestro finally decides to call it a day. Without the skill and drive of Nat Lofthouse, Bolton Wanderers just steered clear of the danger zone. And how would Fulham have fared without the genius of Johnny Haynes?”

Tom Finney wondered whether the great teams of the day were too reliant on a single star-name player to get success. If they were, the removal of the £20-per-week wage limit in January 1961 was designed to keep more of them in the British game. Prior to the pioneering work of Jimmy Hill, chairman of the PFA, many Italian clubs were offering vastly better pay for any professional willing to up sticks for the continent. The Annual reported how Jimmy Greaves had joined Milan in June 1961 for guaranteed earnings of £40,000 over three years plus a £10,000 signing on fee. Aston Villa’s Gerry Hitchens went to Inter in the same month for £25,000 over three years, while Charlton’s Eddie Firmani made Inter his second Italian club in June 1958 having already spent two years at Sampdoria. Just before the book was published, Denis Law left Manchester City for Torino for a British record fee of £100,000.

Costs increase, squads shrink

Such a slow bleed of England’s top talent to the continent was of great concern – not least because attendances were falling and clubs were operating at a loss. Ivan Sharpe wrote how “the day of the club with a staff of 50 or more professionals seems to be over” and lamented that the ability of teams to nurture young talent could be severely threatened. Sharpe also commented that 17 of the 44 First and Second Division clubs were financially in the red, thereby causing a pall of doom to hang over the game in England.

It wasn’t all depressing news, however. Malcolm Gunn was quick to highlight the positive change in fortunes for East Anglian clubs at the time. Ipswich Town had returned to the top flight as Division Two champions under the promising leadership of Alf Ramsey. The total cost of the team? Just £30,000 – around the same price paid for a typical top flight player.

Gunn also highlighted the great achievements of Peterborough United – champions of Division Four in their first ever league campaign of '60-'61and newly-crowned record holders for scoring 134 goals in their 46 games. As for Norwich City, they too were on the up-and-up; 1961-62 would be the season in which they won the Football League Cup in only its second outing

Spurs at the Double

Elsewhere, the buzz was all about Tottenham, recent double winners proudly lead by captain Danny Blanchflower. As well as reflecting on the rare achievement of winning both major competitions in English football, Blanchflower also took the opportunity to write about the growing demand for substitutions to be allowed in the FA Cup Final. The future Northern Ireland manager went one step further by calling for subs to be allowed in every Cup round. “Supposing Leicester City had got to Wembley by knocking out a team that had been reduced to ten men [through injury]. How would they have felt if, in the Final, they were allowed what their earlier opponents were denied?” said Blanchflower.

Yes, things were certainly different back then and a glance through the five-page 'Football Diary' of the previous season illustrates this perfectly.

On October 26th 1960, Charlton and Middlesbrough drew 6-6, equalling the record for the most goals in a drawn Division Two match. 'T.Docherty', an Arsenal and Scotland international became coach at Chelsea on February 10th 1961 - ten full years before taking the reins of the Scottish national team. March 17th 1961 saw the appointment of Don Revie as manager at Leeds United and within three years had got the side promoted to Division One. Finally, on June 26th 1960, the great Arsenal, Sunderland and England centre forward Charles Buchan passed away. At the end of his football career, he turned his hand to journalism and eventually gave his name to the world's first football magazine, 'Football Monthly'.


And as if all that wasn't enough, the Annual also had plenty of froth and nonsense to break up the formality of endless words and statistics. Adverts for 'Gent's Drip-Dry Shortie Raincoats', appliances to increase your height and gold-plated lucky charms were littered throughout the publication along with a welter of ads for bookmakers and pools companies alike. Some 50 years before British TV screens were treated to the sight of Ray Winstone's revolving head for Bet365, it's fair to say the public were tempted into the tantalising world of gambling in an altogether more serene way.

5 February 2012

England v USSR (Match-Day Programme, 1984)

We're delighted to bring you our very first guest post courtesy of Rob Langham, a member of the team behind the brilliant blogsite The Two Unfortunates. Here, Rob takes us back 28 years to an international game he attended at Wembley and the match-day programme that accompanied it...

The programme for England’s international against the USSR, a match that took place on 2 June 1984, is a fascinating time capsule, not least due to the advertising strategies of the time - more of which later.

Unbeknownst to all of us at the time, the Soviet Union only had another seven years to run. Mikhail Gorbachev was still a year away from assuming office and our relationship with the USSR was filtered through the prism of the late Cold War period - tit for tat Olympic boycotts and Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s video for Two Tribes perhaps the most memorable manifestations of international relations.

That was a polyglot Soviet side. Having performed solidly at the 1982 World Cup in Spain, they, like England, had failed to reach that Summer’s European Championships in France. Far from Russian-dominated, the various republics of the union were well represented with captain Aleksandr Chivadze and Tengiz Sulakvelidze representing Georgia, Sergei Aleinikov and Sergei Stukachov hailing from Belarus and Kazakhstan respectively, and the Armenian Khoren Oganesyan acting as the XI’s primary creative force.

All of that was to be swept away two years later of course - as incoming manager Valeriy Lobanovskiy made a better fist of what Ron Greenwood had tried to do with Liverpool players for England the previous decade by jettisoning much of the existing squad (including Oganesyan - dropped for developing a ‘star complex’) and packing the team with the Ukrainians of Dynamo Kyiv.

But for now, it was an effective and unspectacular unit that cantered to a 2-0 victory against an England led by Bobby Robson.

In his programme notes, Robson opined about the lack of availability of players on a consistent basis and it was a weakened team that eventually took the field here - Mike Duxbury’s horrendous error allowing for the first goal and provoking a chorus of boos in a sparsely populated Wembley.

The old guard - Peter Shilton, Terry Butcher, Bryan Robson, Ray Wilkins and Trevor Francis was supplemented by a number of newcomers with perhaps the most significant being Gary Lineker - appearing in the squad for the first time in the 1-0 defeat to Wales that Spring.

But the number of unlikely names betrays a team in transition after the failure to overcome Denmark in European Championship qualifying. Former NASL man Steve Hunt, David Armstrong, Mike Hazard and John Gregory all made it to Bisham Abbey.

The most intriguing of the inclusions was winger Mark Chamberlain, Dad of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and a man who performed spiritedly on the afternoon - overshadowing the man on the opposite flank, John Barnes (the latter was to have the last laugh a few days later when he scored after a mazy run against Brazil).



There was also a Watford inflection to things - as reigning European under-21 Champions, Robson had seen fit to promote a number of that set up to the full team and Nigel Callaghan was one to benefit. Add to that Luther Blissett, at the time a Milan player but forged at Vicarage Road nonetheless.

But the theme didn’t end there. In a year that saw the Hertfordshire club reach an FA Cup Final, the programme advertised ‘The Summer of 84 Concert’ for later that month, with chairman Elton John headlining, supported by Nik Kershaw, Paul Young, Kool & The Gang and Wang Chung plus DJ appearances from Steve Wright and Simon Bates among others. Dull and dreary England’s 2-0 defeat may have been but presumably considerably less horrific than the entertainment offered by that shower.

Elsewhere in the publicity sections, the prospect of gridiron action involving the Tampa Bay Bandits and Philadelphia Stars was offered (no, I haven’t heard of them either) and a typically oblique Benson and Hedges adorned the back page - MIDDLE TAR.

Our thanks go to Rob for that wonderful trip down memory lane, and don't forget you can catch more of Rob's writing (together with that of many other fine folk) at www.thetwounfortunates.com. We also urge you to follow TheTwoUnfortunates on Twitter, too.

If you'd like to contribute an article of your own, please do so - simply contact @COakleyFtbl or @sofa_soccer on Twitter or leave us a comment on one of our blog posts and let us know all the details. Cheers!