31 March 2012

The League of Blogs

Left-click for preview, then select 'Save as...'
to save full-size version

As mentioned yesterday here at The Football Attic, we're proud to announce a new feature to promote peace and harmony amongst the football blogging community - The League of Blogs.

In essence, we thought it would be a cracking idea to create an e-wallchart (tipping our hat specifically in the direction of those previously sold by Subbuteo) featuring team strips created specifically to represent football blogsites.

The Football Attic's Rich J got the ball rolling by delving into the realms of fantasy to create a fictional home and away shirt for us, and now we invite you to do the same for your own football blog.

All you need to do is download our template, design a kit or kits that graphically represents your football blog perfectly, and send it back to us. We'll put your designs on our e-wallchart (see above) and forever more your blog will be immortalised shoulder-to-shoulder with your peers in the blogging community.

Step 1

Choose a template to download by clicking on the JPG or GIF images below. When the full-size version opens up on your screen, save it to your computer.

If you'd like a template in Adobe Illustrator (.AI) format, drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com and we'll send one out to you.

.GIF template
.JPG template












Step 2

Get colouring! You can design your strip digitally with a graphics package like Adobe Photoshop or you could print the template out, colour it in with your felt-tip pens and scan the finished article. Either way, you should have a .JPG or .GIF file at the end of the process for each strip you're designing.

Step 3

Send your .JPGs or .GIFs to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com along with your website's name and URL. Once we've got your design(s), we'll add it/them to our e-wallchart shown at the top of the page and that's that. Job done!

Oh and if you're not much of a designer or you don't own any felt-tip pens, why not tell us what you'd like your kit to look like? Email us at the address shown above with as much detail as possible and we'll try to turn your ideas into reality!

Thanks for taking part, and if you enjoyed designing your kit, why not tell your friends to take part too!

30 March 2012

Football Attic FC & The League of Blogs Wallchart

Football Attic FC?  Have Chris and Rich decided to unhang their boots and get back out on the field?  Of course not!

Following on from Chris' excellent article about his days as a teenage kit designer, we decided we ought to have an official Football Attic FC strip. To that end, I got out my crayons (OK, a graphics package) and put together the home shirt.



FAFC 'Home'

Obviously, there may come a time that FAFC will be drawn against another team in... er... brown... maybe St Pauli? This would of course necessitate a change strip. We at the Football Attic are firm believers in using reverse colours for the away kit and our first choice was for a straight reversal of the home design, but, ever the perfectionists, it just seemed a bit too simple. And so, the away kit you see here was born.

FAFC 'Away'

That's all very stylish and suave I hear you say, but what is this League of Blogs Wallchart thing you also mentioned?

Well, it's a natural train of thought that leaves Football Attic Central and journeys across the blogosphere stopping at other football blogs to see what their kits would be like. Given the Football Attic thought train never stays on a straight path for very long, it was only natural to arrive at the decision to create a Football Blog Kit Wallchart.

Here's the deal... We'll shortly be putting up a Subbuteo-style template. Download it, design your blog's kit, send it back to us and we'll compile them all into an awesome wallchart for you to cut out and keep.

Watch this space!

27 March 2012

Dunlop boots ad (featuring Trevor Brooking), 1980


An additional item from the recently featured match-day programme of the 1980 FA Cup Final.

For the record, Trev didn't wear the boots shown in the picture at Wembley - he wore plain black ones - but for all we know they may have been Dunlop anyway. Either way, a quick phone call to Kevin Keegan's agent would have got him a better boot deal, to say nothing of an England shirt with a proper badge on it.

24 March 2012

I was a teenage kit designer...

Yes, I admit it. Rather than doing the decent thing of going out and hanging around with girls during my younger years, I found peace and contentment by designing football kits. It probably accounts for something, but my wife’s probably the best person to say it.

Felt-tip creations: Arsenal,Liverpool (away),
generic and Leeds United.
I didn’t do it all the time, of course. When I was very young, up to the age of 11, for instance, I liked nothing more than to play football with my school friends and watch football on TV. When football kits started to get flashy however (I’m sorry – the word ‘sexy’ just doesn’t work for me on that level), I then found my imagination was well and truly engaged. I wanted to see if my own creativity matched those of the kit manufacturers, and the best way to do that was with some paper, felt tip pens and a glass of orange Quosh to sustain me.

Actually, it wasn’t always felt tip pens. Though they added strong, bold colours to the page, that same boldness could be inconsistent if you overlapped an area you’d already covered. That’s why pencils were sometimes my medium of choice, although it was slightly harder to scrub the colour onto the page.

In water-colour: Ipswich
(home and away)
I even tried using water colour paints in my early-20’s, mainly because it would allow me to quickly apply the colour to the page while retaining some pathetic semblance of artistic integrity. The results weren’t bad, but it was never going to be easy creating a design with any high level of detail. When decent home computers arrived around the same time, I tried designing kits on them, but though the output was neat, it lacked any kind of soul.

Before you even designed a kit, you had to draw an outline template which would go on to be coloured in. Though some of my peers would have gone for the simple shirt-shorts-socks approach (latterly showed in its finest possible light by John Devlin), I always favoured an action shot of a real player. The trouble was you had to find exactly the right pose to show off all the important details the kit you wanted to draw. Having found one, however, you could then trace it onto one page after another to provide you with a consistent template for future drawings.

Computer-designed generic kits
That was rather tedious, though. Who wanted to waste time drawing templates when the real joy was to be had colouring in the kits?  The answer could be found in the form of a piece of technology that was growing massively in popularity back in the mid-80’s. It was called a ‘photocopier,’ yet even that had its drawbacks - the main one being the expense of getting your copies made. If your local newsagent seemed to be charging too much at 5p a copy, you could always try the local library but either way you felt a bit embarrassed not to be duplicating passages from something altogether more academic in subject matter.

Once you were armed with a large stack of outline templates, however, you were all set for a heavy session of kit designing heaven. The big question was always “Which team’s kit shall I design?” and for me that was answered by focusing on the top teams of the day, both at club level and on the international scene. All well and good, but that virtually blank sheet of paper could either inspire you with potential or strike you rigid with the absence of detail staring back at you. What you needed was a device to help you get started, and for me, that was always the branding used by specific manufacturers.

More felt-tip kits:
Derby and Man United
By simply drawing three Adidas stripes down the sleeves of a shirt or scribbling in an Umbro-esque collar, you could diminish the blankness of the page and instigate the seed of an idea at the same time. You could even take the strip of one team known for wearing, say, Adidas and create another similar one styled by a different manufacturer. Such cheap thrills gave exponential rewards to the young designer, let alone those gained from designing an all-white Brazilian away strip or a retro-style Liverpool kit (for instance).

Sensing that the enormous number of teams I could potentially design kits for was somehow not enough, I even managed to extend the range by creating a whole new realm for my imagination to embrace. In the pre-internet days of the late 1980’s I proposed to a friend of mine that we create a play-by-mail football game, the like of which were very popular back then (as the back pages of World Soccer will verify).

My idea was to create a championship competition whereby entrants could ‘manage’ one of many teams around the world with the intention of winning a World Cup of sorts. In my game, however, those teams would be entirely fictional and would represent well-known cities from around the globe. To make the game more real, my friend and I set about the task of designing kits for all of them and this is where the fun began.

My world championship:
Auckland and Tokyo kits
What colour should Auckland wear? Would striped shirts suit Bogota? What would the well-dressed fan of Stockholm be seen proudly wearing? The colours, the styles and the teams were wrapped up in a billion possibilities, all of which seemed to purge the drabness of my juvenile life from the brain of my 16-year-old self.

And what now, as a man just turned 40? Do I still design football kits? Do I yearn to explore every avenue of my creativity?  Truth be known, the need to retire to a world of imagination is nowhere near as strong for me as it was. Nowadays, when I use my computer to illustrate a football kit, it’s to bring an existing design to the attention of an unknowing world. This is the thinking behind Kitbliss, a pet project of mine I created some time ago to occasionally showcase kits chosen virtually at random. It’s very much a work in progress and will one day, I hope, be an online catalogue showing thousands of diverse designs covering many decades of football history.

Generic felt-tip kit designs
Thankfully, though I have lost my instinct to draw imaginary kits, others are showing theirs to be much stronger. There are many websites catering for fantasy kit design enthusiasts such as Football Shirt Culture and Design Football and a quick browse of the examples uploaded never fails to be an uplifting and rewarding experience. If, like me, you appreciate good design in the real football world, your starting place should always be John Devlin’s excellent True Colours website before visiting the multitude of others dedicated to the subject.

Here on The Football Attic, we aim to bring you lots of our favourite kit designs from down the years, and we look forward to hearing about your own design efforts, either via a comment on this post or by emailing us at admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com.

21 March 2012

Get interactive!

It goes without saying that we love writing about all the wonderful things in The Football Attic, but we also want you to share in the joy we feel...

That's why we're offering you the chance to get involved and make a part of the Attic your own! Perhaps you'd like to write an article for us? No problem - write about whatever you like, but if you're not sure where to start, what about contributing a 'Favourite 5'?

The name says it all, really: it's our new feature where we aim to look at our top five things in a football nostalgia category. We've already written about our Favourite 5 Subbuteo items, but you could write about your Favourite 5 football commentators, sticker books, match-day programmes or any number of other things. Let your imagination go wild! Just drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com and we'll take it from there.

If you don't fancy writing an article, why not send us a question for our upcoming interview with John Devlin?  John's been something of a football kit design aficionado for some time now and has produced two fine books chronicling the last 30 years for all the top clubs in the Premier League and Football League. As if that wasn't enough, he also runs the True Colours website where he continues all the good work found in his books.

If you're a fan of football kit design too, why not put a question to John? Maybe you'd like to know which shirts he once owned or how he designed all the magnificent illustrations in his books and website? If so, drop us a line to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com and we'll do our best to include them in our interview.

Failing that, you might want to confess to that most guilty of sins - getting rid of a piece of football nostalgia as a child that now wish you'd kept. Do you yearn for that Panini album from 1979 which would now be worth a fortune on eBay? Did you own a huge pile of Match magazines that your Mum told you to get rid of? If so, we want to hear from you. Talk to someone that understands and can provide expert support in your hour of need - leave us a comment at our Football Attic Confessional and all will be well...

Now there's no excuse not to get involved in The Football Attic!  Your ideas, contributions and suggestions are always welcome, so please drop us a line and say 'Hello'!

18 March 2012

FA Cup Final Programme, 1980

A quick skim through the Official Souvenir Programme of the 1980 FA Cup Final shows that it was a mixed bag of trivia, some of it dry, some of it brilliantly evocative.

Inside, we first see the Timetable and Programme of Events for May 10th 1980. The running order for the biggest afternoon in English football had a familiar feel; marching regimental bands at 1.10pm, the marching band of Kansas State University at 1.35, more from the regimental bands of the Guards' Division at 2.30 and again at half time, Abide With Me at 2.45 and The Duke of Duchess of Kent shaking hands with the players at 2.50. So far, so regimented.

On page 5, we get a word from Ted Croker, FA Secretary, who speaks of the growing trend for Second Division clubs to do well in the FA Cup Final (Sunderland and Southampton being recent examples at the time). This was a good omen for West Ham although, as Croker said, Arsenal "seemed to have reserved a permanent place at Wembley. This will be the club's third Wembley Final in succession – a record…" He signed off by telling readers that the Final would "be seen on TV in over 60 countries" and by hundreds of millions of people. It would probably have been more were it not for all those regimental marching bands showing up every five minutes.

Further inside the programme, there are detailed club profiles on Arsenal and West Ham along with full colour pictures of the two teams, in case you'd forgotten what they looked like. Furthermore, there are double-page profiles of the two teams to give some detail on the playing staff in each case. We're told that "in August 1977, [Pat Jennings] joined Arsenal from neighbours Tottenham Hotspur. Would Spurs have let him go for £45,000 if they had known he would play for their greatest rivals at Wembley in 1978, 1979 and 1980?" Probably not, but there again if my aunt had balls, would she be my uncle? The answer to both questions is likely to be the same.

The FA Cup Final programme of 1980 serves as much as a condensed reference book as any kind of souvenir. There are pages devoted to previous Cup Final results, Cup Facts ('compiled by Jack Rollin') and Goals Galore ('Scoring feats from past FA Cup Finals') but aside from the statistics and the plentiful colour action photos of both teams, the real charm can found in the filler material. Here, we get a perfect snapshot of the era through the adverts dotted willy-nilly throughout.

There's one for the Sunday Mirror featuring "Kevin Keegan of England and Hamburg – soon Southampton" who was writing a column for the weekend tabloid at the time. Keegan also cropped up in a small advert for Mitre Sports, alongside another for Adidas bearing a tiny caption telling us that Umbro International (Footwear) Ltd were "the sole UK distributors of Adidas products." Quite a sporting gesture on the part of the future England kit suppliers in more ways than one.

Elsewhere, there's an advert for the Victor range of men's toiletries - a useful reference for anyone wondering whether Brut 33 was the low point in male grooming products at the start of the 1980's. Another advertises Skol, surely as ubiquitous in pubs back then as pictures of topless models on Big D peanut dispensers and a predilection for cirrhosis of the liver and lung cancer among the regulars.

But for those wanting a lasting memory of a wonderful day at the FA Cup Final, page 48 of the programme was where it was all happening. There it was possible to choose your commemorative gift to remind you of the big day from a range of Wembley branded products. Blue and white wrist band? Certainly – that'll be 90p. How about a "slide card" as a pocket size-record of all FA Cup Final matches since 1872? No problem – 55p.

And if the 'Italian-made sports bag' didn't take your fancy (despite being made from 'durable nylon - £4.99') there was always the opposite page featuring 8mm soccer home movies. Two hundred feet of celluloid bliss – some even with sound – from just £8.30. What more could a football fan want? Perhaps a ticket to the upcoming Harlem Globetrotters game, but for that you'd need to contact the Wembley Box Office.

14 March 2012

The Football Attic Confessional

One of the joys of writing this blog is going through all the things I have collected over the years.

The Football Attic Confessional - Now Open
One of the not so joyous aspects is facing the fact that there are some things I used to own which I now don't...for I have sinned.

We all reach a point in life where we look over our childhood ephemera and in a moment of insanity, convince ourselves that the journey into adulthood can only be completed by turning our back on our youthful pursuits.  This my friends, was a lie!

The burden of guilt weighs heavy on me as I know it must do you for your own misdemeanours. To this end, The Football Attic Confessional is now open, ready to absolve you of your previous mistakes.

To make you all feel at home, I hereby confess to the following crime:

Throwing away every single copy* of Shoot! magazine from June 1986 to somewhere around 1991!

And let's not forget that at the same time I also disposed of every single copy* of Match from somewhere in 1987 to around 1991.

And now my fellow sinners, it's over to you. Share here your idiocy and let the world know all you have cast aside in the name of 'growing up'


* OK so I kept some special editions, World Cup issues etc...

13 March 2012

Videoblog 1: 'World Cup '90'

Chris O brings you the first Football Attic Videoblog, the subject of which is the 20-part football folder, World Cup '90 by Orbis Publishing.

 

10 March 2012

Rich J's Favourite 5... Subbuteo Items

Following Chris' excellent trip down memory lane, I ventured into my garage today to drag out the box that contains most of my childhood Subbuteo stuff. As you can see below, it wasn't exactly being looked after.

 Thankfully, the contents seemed to have survived.

 
Memorabilia secured, it now passes to me to list my favourite subbuteo items. I have to say that these are not necessarily my top 5 - I've left a few things out in order to look at some of the minutiae that made my Subbuteo days all the better. This is why my favourtite goals (Mundial World Cup style - huge box type goals with bright yellow nets) do not get an outing here... they can wait.

1. Player Numbers (61206)

The smallest details can make or break an experience and for me, realism is very important. Naturally, with Subbuteo, there's already quite a large amount of 'suspension of disbelief' going on. Your team may well be resplendent in finely detailed kit, albeit more often than not without sponsor, but one simply can't ignore the fact that you are in effect fielding a team comprised of ten clones and one other who looks like the answer to the question 'What happens if you mix carbonite with a Mexican wave?' Added to this, your clone army are all flying around on something resembling flying saucers, so as I say, we're already having to use a lot of imagination. With that in mind, anything that adds that extra touch of realism is surely a good thing? That's where player numbers come in.

Finally!
As these were a relatively cheap accessory (relative to other Subbuteo products that is, not to my pocket money alas), they were a no brainer. There were, however, two things you needed to get the most out of these... an almost infinite amount of patience and fingers the size of a baby vole. Separating the small numbers from the backing was the first challenge. Often, the machine which made the cuts in the plastic sheet had gone a bit too far and the backing came with it. Then there was the swear-inducing moment when you realised the near invisible circle was no longer attached to the tip of your finger, but instead nestling among the fibres of the carpet/stuck to your clothes/floating merrily away on an errant breeze. Eventually, player and number came together. Then began a game of cat and mouse as you chased the bloody thing round the clone's back, desperately trying to get it to place in the middle and not at some obscure angle. Finally it was done. Perfect alignment, perfect angle. Just need to press it home to fix it securely... which it did...to your bloody thumb!!!

Did I say these were one of my favourite things? Well they are, for despite all the hassle of actually affixing them, once attached they did look the business. Just look at them. No longer ten clones, these players now had a role to play. No more would the centre forward of matches past be expected to play sweeper. Of course, the goalie already knew his place. He needed no number to affirm his role. He'd probably have killed for some muscle rub, though.

2. Scoreboard (61158)

One of the many joys of finding stuff from many years ago is the little things you'd fortgotten. Seemingly unimportant events you had no need to remember at the time, but years later providing an insight into a distant time. So it was as I prepared to open the box to my scoreboard, I couldn't wait to see which team names were in place. Who had taken part in the last ever Subbuteo match of my childhood? I slid the black plastic out of the box and there it was... nothing! I'd taken the team names out. Even the score was set at 0-0. Ah well.

Even in 1988, it was still all about Italy v West Germany

The scoreboard itself was a slab of black plastic with rotary dials to set the score (so long as no-one scored more than nine) and three slots in which to insert the competing team names as well as the event taking place. Several sheets of black card were supplied with reams of team names, written in a pseudo-light bulb font. The options available seemed to cover pretty much every European team going and almost all known competitions, as well as more specific ones such as 'Quarter Final' and 'Group Two'. While I may not have been able to see who I'd last played with, I could at least see who had taken part in previous outings by those team names I had cut out. Unsurprisingly these were just the teams I owned along with 'World Cup 86'.

Come on you Wels!
Oddly enough, despite being able to take part in such exotic competitions as the Subbuteo League, where you could witness the top of the table clash between 'Ards' and 'Simmering', there doesn't seem to have been an option to play a 'Friendly' as I'd taken one of the blank strips and pencilled it in myself. An odd exclusion I think you'll agree. Maybe in Subbuteo world it was all or nothing. No time for pleasantries and all that. Could explain why the 'Players Handshake' accessory pack (C1923) never sold all that well. It may also have been because it never existed, but that's not what's important.

Even the great Winterthur were there...

Overall, with its plethora of options and imposing nature, dominating the touchline as it did (also meaning it got in the way a lot), the scoreboard was a very special addition to the Subbuteo experience.

3. Coventry City 86/87 Home (Team No. 652)

An FA Cup Winner
I never actually owned that many Subbuteo teams - about ten in total. 20% of these were naturally my home team. The two versions I had of Coventry were the FA Cup winning kit of 86/87 and the following year's Hummel one, my favourite CCFC kit of all time. It would therefore be safe to assume that my favourite is the latter of the two then? Well, no. While I loved the kit itself, both in actual and Subbuteo form, my favourite is the 86/87 version... and not because it's the FA Cup winning one (did I mention we won the FA Cup? - Still the last Midlands club to do so).

In Pescara, the phrase 'Coventry who?' is often heard
Why? Because it meant that for the first time, my Subbuteo matches could feature my home side in the kit they actually played in, rather than the one from last season - Subbuteo were not exactly quick in updating their teams at that time so if I wanted Coventry to play, they'd have to wear the Umbro, Glazepta sponsored outfit from 85/86 and that was just not going to happen. So when the new version appeared, I snapped it up for the princely sum of £2.35 from Barnby's. That very afternoon, Coventry took to the field and ground out a 1-0 victory over Brazil. Due to Subbuteo's clever way of using similar looking kits for several different teams, both Colchester and Pescara (?) have also tried to claim this result as their own, but for me, it was a proud moment... just a shame the player who got that crucial winning goal ended up in defence for their next game.

4. Adidas Tango balls - Orange (61209)

The Adidas Tango... is there a more iconic football design in the history of the game? No, is the simple answer. Sure, others may claim the classic black and white 32-panel ball (Telstar) got there first and the orange ball from the 66 World Cup final might cause more dewey eyes (maybe not in Scotland perhaps), but it matters not. The Adidas Tango IS simply the best ball design ever conceived. It goes without saying then that the Subbuteo version is clearly the best in the table top world too. My personal favourite however, is the orange variant. While the classic white version may be more well known, the orange one in play usually meant only one thing... SNOW! You see, back in the pre-premiership days, before under soil heating that actually worked, the arrival of snow was not greeted by a cancellation and rearranged fixture. Lord no, all that was required was a few volunteers to clear the pitch markings and a bright orange ball. The match may have looked as though it was being shown in negative, but we just got on with it.

All very well for the real world, but snow never really fell on the hallowed green baize, unless your older brother decided to accessorise the pitch with some shaving foam. As we've already seen however, pretending is a big part of Subbuteo so if I say it's a snow covered pitch, then it's a snow covered pitch and we need an orange ball!

Later, a luminous yellow/green Tango was released and it also graced many a match, but deep down, it just seemed a gimic too far.

So there you have it. The Adidas Tango... iconic, versatile and a metaphor for the excess of the late 80s.

5. Astropitch (61178)

It is with a degree of smugness that I write that I owned the Astropitch as it was about three times the price of the standard pitch. Contrasting nicely with the view on 'artificial' pitches in real football, the Astropitch is rightly considered the king of surfaces on which to 'flick to kick'. Before I owned it, I had assumed it was a surface similar to that used in the cricket game Test Match, which flattened out well as it was made from polyester, but on purchase (in fact, on first picking it up, stored as it was, rolled up in in its poster tube) I realised this was not the case. It was a heavy thing and on unfurling, flattened out perfectly every single time. Not ony that, but the flock covering and heavy vinyl backing gave an almost damping effect which meant the ball didn't skim around as much, but instead, moved in a graceful, flowing and controlled manner.

When I first bought it, I wondered if it would prove to be an extravagance too far at £14.95, but after the first few flicks, it was obvious this was the future! From that point, my regular pitch, complete with its creases that just never fully went away, never saw action again.

8 March 2012

Chris O's Favourite 5... Subbuteo items

Peter Adolph was a clever man. Not only did he invent a brilliantly immersive game in Subbuteo, but he also catered for the comforting need to collect that is found so often in the young.

I can’t remember exactly when I started playing Subbuteo. I was probably 9 or 10 years old, and as far as I can tell, it all started when I received a Club Edition set as a Christmas or birthday present.

It was a good place to start. The basic kit contained two teams, two balls, a cloth pitch, two goals and some corner flags. Having made extensive use of that, I was ready to indulge my interest by buying more teams and more accessories, usually from my local toy shop – Worrickers in Barking.

It was the sheer variety of stuff available that made the game the joy that it was. Over many years, I collected all manner of wonderful miscellanea, so I thought it was high time I told the world what my five favourite bits of Subbuteo ephemera were.

1. FIFA Balls (C183)

Unlike m’colleague, a younger chap and only too happy to remind me of the fact, I played Subbuteo in an era before Adidas Tango balls became commonplace. This frustrates me because those Subbuteo Tango balls really were as much a thing of beauty as the full size ones used in the 1978 and 1982 World Cups.

Anyway, it wasn’t all doom and gloom for me in my flick-to-kick youth because those nice people at Subbuteo brought out an alternative – FIFA Balls. Not the name of a Sepp Blatter-penned in-house newsletter, these were white footballs that had a pleasing ‘circular’ arrangement of six coloured hexagons – one in red, one in blue and one in green.

To the best of my knowledge there never was any proper ball designed to look this way, but frankly I didn’t care. Compared to the standard white or orange balls that came with the old Subbuteo sets, these were as exciting, futuristic and modern as a kid could ask for in the early-1980’s. Sadly my favourite, the red one, saw its printed hexagons fade with wear fairly quickly, but no matter. This was a classic piece of kit and a much-valued one in my collection.

2. World Cup Goals (C130)

Having got your hands on a fine set of balls (ahem), what better than to flick them into a goalmouth to match?

At some point, I came to acquire a pair of World Cup Goals to replace the standard ones that were sold with my Club Edition, and no bad thing in my view. The originals had a rather restrictive bar across the back bottom edge of the net which meant if anyone flicked the ball high into the corner of your goal, your keeper couldn’t reach up sufficiently to stop it. Perhaps that was a deliberate ploy to encourage more goals to be scored. If it was, you wonder whether anyone thought to notify the aforementioned Mr Blatter.

The World Cup Goals had nice, rounded posts (rather than the square, angular ones from the Club Edition) and, if memory serves, coloured nets too. Most importantly, that wretched horizontal back bar had been removed. From here on in, it was total unfettered access to all four corners of the goal for our keepers, even if it was an unrealistic slant on the real world being simulated. Bliss.

3. Trainers Bench Set (C179)

Small, but perfectly formed, the clear plastic Trainers Bench provided that extra little touch of class to every game.

Four players in green tracksuits and their manager wearing an old-fashioned brown coat looked every inch the authentic article when placed pitchside. To be ruthlessly honest, one never saw players warming up in green tracksuits in real life and the stereotypical manager wearing a sheepskin coat was probably becoming more of a rarity when this item hit the shops, but somehow it worked.

Much like the Stadium Grandstand (see below) with all its disparate spectators, the addition of a Trainers Bench seemed to give the impression that the game you were playing really mattered. There were people watching in the crowd and there were substitutes ready to replace their injured teammates, should the occasion arise.

No-one need be deluded that this was just about two people flicking bits of plastic around. This was a proper match with proper detail, and the bench – even two benches if you were a connoisseur – helped to retain that air of authenticity. Quite how the modern-day equivalent – three rows of colour-coordinated Recaro seats – would look is anyone’s guess. Thank heavens, then, for simplicity of design.

4. Stadium Grandstand (C140)

I’m proud to say I once owned a Stadium Grandstand section, but it wasn’t something I’d bought with my own money. My budget didn’t run to that.

No, luckily for me, my family home was once visited by a distant, rarely seen aunt who struggled into our front room with two bulging carrier bags. “Here you go” she said. “These belonged to my son, but he doesn’t want them anymore. He’s far too old for them now.”

I emptied the bags and found, along with various teams and other items, an entire Stadium Grandstand. Yes it looked a little old fashioned with its white serifed text printed along the top edge and dowdy terracing coloured in a shade of Heavy Smokers Cough, but at a stroke it elevated my average Subbuteo playing experience to a whole new level.

It even had a few randomly placed spectators dotted hither and yon, glued permanently in position and painted accordingly. Now, my hastily arranged matches with invited school friends would be watched by a crowd in a stadium stand. Hardly Wembley, granted, but it was a crowd that added immeasurably to the make-believe world we played our Subbuteo in.

5. West Bromwich Albion team (away, 1983)

This always brings back special memories of my late father. I must have been about 11 or 12 years old when I once found myself struck down with tonsillitis. I was at home feeling poorly and not a little sorry for myself, my absence from school being a sole reason for any happiness on my part.

Things, however, were to take a turn for the better. My Dad, never a well-paid man in all his working life, was aware of my plight and had decided to go via a nearby toy shop on his way home from work. His motivation: to buy me a get well present to lift my spirits.

Having arrived home, Lambretta parked outside, he came in, took off his coat and handed me the present. “There you are” he said. “I don’t know if you’ve already got that one.” It was clearly a Subbuteo team, but one I wasn’t familiar with. The players were wearing yellow shirts with blue horizontal pinstripes, blue shorts and yellow socks. A quick check of the label on one end of the box confirmed it was The Baggies in their latest change strip.

To be honest, he couldn’t have picked a weirder team out of all those on sale, but I loved it for its modern pinstripes and the yellow and blue colour scheme. If nothing else, it could double up as Sweden, but regardless of all that, I loved it because he had thought of me feeling under the weather at home and had wanted to cheer me up. My Dad didn't really know anything about Subbuteo, yet despite this, his choice was somehow perfect.

For that reason, I'd like to dedicate this post to his memory with my thanks and love always.

6 March 2012

The Football Attic - in your ears!

Ever wondered what your Football Attic co-founders sound like in real life?  We're guessing probably not, but if you are in any way curious, you now have the chance to hear us taking part in this week's Sound of Football podcast.

Chris is the regular presenter of the podcast and is joined every week by Terry Duffelen and Graham Sibley, however Graham's absence this week allowed Richard to take his place for a wonderful chat about football nostalgia.

The Sound of Football podcast is available to download via iTunes, Net Radio UK and Football Fairground.

4 March 2012

International Football Book No.13, 1971

I’m not sure how many people are aware of the International Football Book these days. It’s certainly a new title on me, though in my defence it doesn't stand out with the most distinctive of names. For many years it had a similarly unspectacular appearance to match, but then the IFB was first published in 1959 when printing techniques and marketing strategies were that bit more primitive.

Visual appeal (or a lack thereof)

The International Football Book was essentially an annual containing a comprehensive collection of articles by football figures and writers around the world. The edition I recently bought on eBay is the 13th, published in 1971. Beyond its orange front cover showing a colour picture from the 1970 World Cup, it’s black-and-white content all the way through to the back, but it's not just text. There are dozens of pictures decorating virtually every page and it breaks up the reading matter nicely. Curiously the photos don't often match up with the article they appear next to, so one can only assume the photos are included as an ongoing gallery of football action rather any kind of co-ordinated journalistic masterpiece.

Sponsorship

No matter. By 1971, the IFB was already ploughing a lonely furrow as a title that was thorough in its writing if not its imagery. This 13th edition begins with an article by Sir Matt Busby calling on the FA and Football League to work more closely together to avoid a split following growing friction between the two. Both parties had recently formed a joint committee to discuss key issues such as finance, player discipline and international matches (sound familiar?) and Busby felt the time was right for the Football League to have more say in the running of its competitions and clubs.

The former Old Trafford boss also talked about the recent growth in commercialism in the game at the time. "I was glad Manchester United were able to take part in the Watney Cup" said Busby. "Times change and I think it sensible that soccer should now be prepared to examine the ideas of people who are willing to put money into the game in return for having their names associated with some aspect of it." Quite what he'd have made of the Johnstone's Paint Trophy, one can only wonder.

The Turnip Mentality

One thing the International Football Book did with great efficiency was to get international football players of the day to write articles for them. OK, admittedly they were probably ghost written or translated casually into English, but the fact that they could call on many a true star was rather impressive.

Luigi Riva was one such star. Italy's top goalscorer of all time was the darling of his nation, but the paparazzi were fascinated to portray his life outside of football - sometimes too intrusively as he explained. "[Back in 1968] they were after a photo of me, preferably in a nightclub kissing a girl. Any girl - even just a little peck on the cheek would have been enough for them... Sometimes I think, even against double-marking, it's easier to score goals than it is to get a little privacy..."

Having assured us that most of his earnings went unspent and that his holidays usually involved spending time with his mother, Riva then gave a delightfully frank view of some of his fellow professionals, the like of which we need more of in these boring, media-sanitised times: "I've been really disappointed by the supposed sportsmanship of some other football countries" he said. "The Swedes, for example, are said to be amateurs, supposed to play for pleasure rather than money or success. But in my opinion the Swedes ruined their reputation in the [1970] World Cup in Mexico."

He went on: "The Swedes played much too slowly and their way of shooting is antique. Also they have no imagination, little skill and are much too slow..."  Try getting a quote like that out of Steven Gerrard.

Between the sticks

Elsewhere in the book, the roll call of stars kept on coming. There was George Best explaining that European competition was vital for Man United and that his recent hot-headed spell was all down to the sort of 'close marking' that Gigi Riva could associate with. Three articles focused on the life and career of some of Britain's top goalkeepers - Bob Wilson, Pat Jennings and Gordon Banks.

The latter pointed out that though he'd be 35 at the time of the next World Cup in 1974, he still intended to be considered as England's first choice 'keeper, despite the burgeoning new talent of Peter Shilton arriving on the scene. Sadly for Banks, a car crash in 1972 left him without the sight of his right eye and England failed to qualify for the 1974 World Cup anyway. Ironically, it was Peter Shilton's mistake in a crucial match against Poland that resulted in Alf Ramsey's men staying at home that year.

Brian Glanville's Top Twenty

The reassuring presence of Brian Glanville was here, too, as the World Soccer writer listed his score of top players in the world for 1971. As perhaps you'd expect from such a well-travelled, studious academic of the game, some of the players on Glanville's list were not as familiar as others. For every Alan Mullery or Rivelino there seemed to be an Atilio Ancheta (Uruguayan defender) yet Glanville's undeniable ability to spot an upcoming star was there for all to see.

Dutch midfielder Wim Van Hanegem was picked out for special mention on the strength of his performance for Feyenoord in the 1970 European Cup Final - several years before becoming a global star in the final of the 1974 World Cup Final for the Netherlands. Berti Vogts also ended up on the list as "one of the best all-round full backs in the world" despite still being in the early stages of his international career.

IFB Editorial

There was a definite shift in people's interest in football around the time of the 1970 World Cup. The IFB Editorial noted the way that in previous years, journalists were sent abroad to track England's progress in the four-yearly tournament, and once they were eliminated, the journalists packed up and returned home. Anyone wanting to hear about the remainder of the tournament had to more or less do without any reporting in the press whatsoever.

The 1970 World Cup changed all that. With the exciting exploits of the Brazil team played out before a global audience in full colour, plus an emerging new breed of fresh stars such as Beckenbauer, Boninsegna, Gerd Muller and the aforementioned Riva, the public wanted to see more and know more. "Even [after the Final] the colour films, full length movies made to be seen months later in cinemas the world over, prove that the World Cup has converted us all."

For journalists and fans to remain in Mexico even after England had been knocked out in the quarter finals there remained one barrier - that of the poor transport facilities in the Latin American country. The IFB Editorial bemoaned the impractical and expensive solutions available to newspaper writers covering various matches. Waiting lists for plane tickets, expensive taxis travelling from city to city, unreliable bus and train services... they all proved Mexico to be an "unsuitable choice" as World Cup host, especially when Switzerland, Sweden and England had hosted the same event without any such problems. Whether Ukraine will show we've moved on from such problems this summer remains to be seen.

The celebrity connection

Aside from a section at the back of the book listing the results and stats for every European national team from the past year, it just remains to close with an article by Peter Jones about the many celebrities who support their favourite clubs through thick and thin. If your time machine landed in 1971 and you were unaware who was entertaining the nation at the time, you'd need only pick up the International Football Book to find out.

There's Jimmy Tarbuck, pictured on the back end of his Aston Martin DB6 (obligatory 'COM1C' number plate in full view). Even back then the Scouse comedian was trotting out corny gags by the dozen: "Suddenly the floodlights failed and the game was abandoned... Obviously bad play stopped light!"

Star of Please Sir! John Alderton, was quite happy to turn down some well-paid work to follow the World Cup in Mexico, so we were told. Nearer to home, we learnt that Richard Attenborough was on the board of directors at Chelsea and Eric Morecambe was a director in his own right at Luton Town.

As for all-round entertainer Roy Castle, "he felt sick at having to wear contact lenses... sick, that is, until he found out that his hero, Nobby Stiles of Manchester United, also wore them when playing!" Castle was a Huddersfield Town fan and any quips you're thinking of connecting bad eyesight with the Yorkshire club are made purely for your own amusement.

1 March 2012

Heineken advert, 1978


...to say nothing of the parts most dentists wouldn't touch with a barge pole.