29 April 2012

The Big Match: Studio Timeline (Part 1)

For many years The Big Match served up football highlights on a weekly basis for ITV viewers in London and the south east of England. Starting in 1968, it was presented by Brian Moore - ITV's main football commentator right through to the early 1990's - ably assisted at first by Jimmy Hill and latterly by Jim Rosenthal.

Though ITV's coverage (and Moore himself) have rightly received much acclaim down the years, we thought it was time the studio sets were put under the microscope - because nothing says nostalgia more than a room painted in various shades of brown. Here's Part 1 and we pick up the action at the start of the 1968/69 season...

August 1969

Style:
1970's school staff room
Colour scheme:
A pleasing combo of blue and dark brown, divided by the warm yellow of an oak panel band.
Brian's desk:
Non-existent from what we can tell, but there was at least the pleasing sight of a 'Big Match' logo on the wall behind Moore using the standard ITV Sport font of the time. If you think it looks 'futuristic', remember that this was the year of the Moon landing and even a programme about football was fair game for its usage.
Guest area:
Two seats, one either side of an occasional table for glasses of water, etc. Backdrop was a funky looking wall featuring a repeating raised pattern of 'The Big Match.' Occasionally a sofa was brought out for pre-recorded inserts, plonked in front of a wall showing a nicely drawn montage of football players in action. Nice.
Gimmicks:
A large vertical panel to one side of Moore's desk displaying a similarly large still photo with a connection to the highlights package that followed. The camera would zoom in over Moore's shoulder and the image would cross-fade into Arsenal v Chelsea or some such.

August 1969 onwards: space-age fonts, groovy backdrops and big pictures. 


January 1970

Style:
Tomorrow's World meets Match of the Day.
Colour scheme:
Pale cyan throughout with a dash of polished steel for flashness. Also a very nice raised abstract pattern throughout much of the studio surroundings.
Brian's desk:
A neat little cyan-coloured unit with clear plastic frontage trimmed with metallic strips... or grey-coloured plastic, we're not sure which. Behind the desk, a massive metallic Glam Rock-style logo which is bold, if not brassy.
Guest area:
Two modest seats, one either side of a simple occasional table on which was placed two glasses of water and, often, an empty whisky decanter.
Gimmicks:
None, other than that enormous unavoidable Glam Rock signage.

January 1970 onwards: Glam rock, textured walls and empty decanters.

January 1971

Style:
Mint choc chip.
Colour scheme:
Green wall panels alternating with textured brown and a little bit of cafe latte thrown in for good measure. Still using a chrome-effect logo, but less 'in your face' than the last one.
Brian's desk:
Surely the most grandiose desk Brian Moore's ever sat behind. The shape of a giant letter C, it had an oak-effect top surround with green plastic ITV Sport logos stuck on at regular intervals to face the camera. The base had that textured brown finish with a metallic 'Big Match' logo on the front. But that's not all: this desk sat in front of a revolving rear screen that rolled back to reveal a chroma-key window showing the next match coming up. Witness thus...

The big reveal (l-r): Watch as the chroma-key window
is revealed from the right.
Guest area:
Two simple but relatively modern chairs, a circular wooden table, glasses, ashtray, etc.
Gimmicks:
Look no further than that moving rear screen. If proof were needed that The Big Match now had a bigger production budget, this was it.

January 1971 onwards: Brian's giant desk of doom, simple
chairs and lots of brown.

August 1972

Style:
Doctor's waiting room.
Colour scheme:
A slightly drab two- or even three-tone green ensemble. Chrome pillars divided up the background at different points with a chrome horizontal band dividing the upper and lower parts of the green wallpaper (if wallpaper it be). Printed silhouettes of players in action occasionally appeared behind Jimmy Hill or anyone else in the guest area (see below).
Brian's desk:
Solid, minimalist, rounded corners and coloured using exactly the same palette as its surroundings. Behind Brian's desk were two panels, one displaying the retained metal 'Big Match' lettering, the other showing the ITV Sport logo. Clever camerawork allowed only one to be shown over Moore's shoulder if required.
Guest area:
A comfortable seat or two in purple with a simple but modern occasional table between them.
Gimmicks:
None whatsoever.

August 1972 onwards: Yet more chrome, wall-to-wall green and
shiny pillars.

August 1973

Style:
Cork-tastic.
Colour scheme:
Mainly brown due to the cork-effect wall covering used extensively. Elsewhere, a red, white and navy blue combo was used for the ITV/Big Match insignia seen in front of and behind...
Brian's desk:
Smaller than the 1972 vintage, but smarter and more workmanlike. The programme title was displayed proudly in red with navy blue trim in front of the desk and for variation was also displayed on a sign behind Moore on the wall. Pointless, yet somehow rather pleasing too.

August 1973 onwards: Cork, Clough and big bold signage.

Guest area:
A second similarly-branded desk was provided for guests to sit behind, although the two seats were often filled by Brian Clough and Malcolm Allison (hastily drafted in to fill the gap created when Jimmy Hill hot-footed it to the BBC).
Gimmicks:
None.

August 1974

Style:
Coffee and cream.
Colour scheme:
A varied range of brown tones and white, broken up with occasional stripes and lines. A warmer golden brown was often seen on some of the wall panels, but essentially this was an unadulterated brown love-in.
Brian's desk:
A substantial affair with white Greek-style pillars in each corner and a solid slab of wood on top. Behind the desk on the wall above Moore's head was a sign saying TheBigMatchTheBigMatch', reminiscent of the type used the previous season. So good they named it twice, you might say.

August 1974 onwards: Stripes, a multitude of brown and
repetitive wording.
Guest area:
Last season's guest desk had been taken away (probably now sitting in Nigel Clough's garage). Instead, we now had the altogether more informal arrangement of two brown leather swivel chairs for guests to sit on (as amply shown by Rodney Marsh and Terry Venables on the Christmas 1974 show).
Gimmicks:
A reveal! Yes, if you thought The Generation Game had the copyright on sliding doors, think again. Over Brian's shoulder, a screen painted with a generic football action scene would open up to reveal a chroma-key portal looking out onto Loftus Road or some other footballing mecca in the capital (see below).

 Can you tell what it is yet? (l-r): The screens pull back to
reveal a shot of the Tottenham badge at White Hart Lane.

Coming up in Part 2:
Peter Taylor distracts you from a Norwich-inspired background, Elton John's in a see of yellow and Brian Moore gets the blues...

27 April 2012

'All The Way' (England Football Team), 1988


Officially the second worst England Football Team song ever*, this was released as a rallying call for Euro '88.

When the First Round of said tournament was over, England's record in Group B read 'Played 3, Lost 3.'  Whoever had the bright idea of calling it 'All the Way' must have had a very oblique sense of humour indeed...

(* The song peaked at number 64 in the UK charts, just two places better than 'We've Got The Whole World At Our Feet', released for Mexico '86.)

20 April 2012

Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, 1976

Once again, we're delighted to bring you another guest post from Rob Langham of the awesome The Two Unfortunates. Here, Rob gives his take on Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook from 1976...


I admit it. I quite like Jimmy Hill.

Generally regarded as an indescribable buffoon, his reputation reached a nadir after his verbal jousts with Martin O’Neill on the BBC sofa in France 98. But, given the Ulsterman’s skill for careerism and his own reputation management, isn’t the enthusiastic puppy dog profile of the less calculating man the more likeable one?

For all the gaffs, Hill’s later appearances on Sky’s Sunday Supplement were the only tolerable thing about the show. His utterances may well have been preposterous but one always sensed he had the wider interest of the game at heart – far more so than Brian Woolnough and his venal cohorts.

This is evidenced by his pioneering role at the PFA and the work he carried out in scrapping the minimum wage and his key involvement in the best years of both Coventry City and Match of the Day. Hill cares.

It was the 70s... Brown was where it was at!
Which brings me to a publication I literally dug out my Dad’s attic – Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, published by Purnell in 1976 and while officially retailing for the grand old price of £1.35, was actually purchased for 45p at Woolworth’s on Maidenhead High Street (the price sticker remains intact).

Although clearly intended for a younger audience, the book very much reflects Hill’s personality, containing as it does discussion of many of his own preoccupations – and seemingly written by the man himself without the benefit of ghost writing (the style is occasionally over eager and stilted).

A section headed Pounds and Pence is revealing and analyses the businesses players enter into in order to secure their financial wellbeing after their careers are over. Hill enthusiastically eulogises these forerunners,  of The Apprentice for instance: ‘Trevor Brooking, the West Ham schemer is an especially bright lad... and he’s used a stack of ‘O’ Levels to build up a plastic-bindings business in East London’ – although his description of Peter Storey as being ‘involved in the beer business’ is unfortunate given the ex-Arsenal man’s subsequent prosecution for running a brothel, importing pornographic videos and financing a scam to counterfeit gold coins.

Footballer doesn't open pub shocker!
Elsewhere, The Buying and Selling Game is remarkably prescient – a cautionary tale of clubs overspending while banking on competing in European competition which could have been lifted from one of this week’s newspapers – Hill bemoans that over a period of six years, 26 First Division clubs (how pleasingly those two words go together?) paid £15 million for 85 players valued at £100,000 or more apiece – although Hill is far too nice to put the boot in and name any specific failures (one suspects he’d be arguing the case for Andy Carroll today).

The slightly nutty ideas get an airing – Hill’s solution to the, at that time still unresolved problem of the professional foul is to institute a ‘second class penalty’ – a free shot from the edge of the 18-yard box for which specialist sharpshooters such as Peter Lorimer could be honed. Actually, maybe that isn’t that barmy...?

Kit - Class!
Colour pictures are dotted about including a mid-section featuring Tony Currie in a stylish Sheffield United away kit and the Home Championships are also featured. Players-wise, an analysis of Supermacs Malcolm MacDonald and Ted MacDougall stresses their ability to find the net despite meagre talents (check out the former’s five goal bunfight against Cyprus on youtube to see what Hill means), while Asa Hartford’s triumph over adversity after being diagnosed with a hole in his heart and being turned down with Leeds is an encouraging story in the light of the Fabrice Muamba incident. The news that Alex Stepney took a pay cut to move to Millwall from Tooting & Mitcham before eventually making his way to Old Trafford is also quite a nugget.

So it’s a less inconsequential run through that it might at first seem – especially for a teenager – and if there are occasional throwbacks – ‘when some European countries play teams from South America, problems can arise’ – Hill’s enthusiasm and occasional naïve faith in the game’s greatness shine through.

Evening Standard London 5-a-Sides, 1983

You don't see much indoor football on TV these days, and when you do, it's usually the Masters series in which one-time great players shake off their walking frames and career-threatening injuries to entertain a provincial crowd of a few hundred people.

Once upon a time, however, people in the Thames TV area could look forward to the annual treat of the Evening Standard London 5-a-Side tournament at Wembley Arena. Here, the other end of the football spectrum fell under the spotlight, namely those players trying to break into the first team at any number of clubs around the capital.

Here's a chance to see some of the action from the 1983 tournament featuring eventual winners Millwall. Keep your eye open for a future England team physio in goal for Arsenal, a legendary England striker in the making for The Lions and the scorer of the opening goal for The Gunners who, little did we know it, had a glittering future in club management ahead of him...

14 April 2012

Super Top Trumps: European Club Football

Good ideas never die, it seems - they just wait for nostalgia to catch up with them. That would appear to be the case with Top Trumps, the vintage card game that was once a staple for children in school playgrounds everywhere during the late-1970’s. By the time the 1990’s had arrived, Top Trumps was largely a forgotten phenomenon, but Waddingtons relaunched it with a new range of ‘Super Top Trumps’ aimed at distracting kids from their Nintendo Gameboys and Sega Game Gears.

It was 1992 and Waddingtons, the Leeds-based manufacturer of board games such as Monopoly, Cluedo and Sorry! released a second set of card decks to appeal to an even wider range of children. Presuming ‘Racing Trucks’ and ‘Dinosaurs’ weren’t to your liking, ‘European Club Football’ probably stood a fair chance of being an imminent purchase, but unlike previous decks of football Top Trumps, this one featured teams as their subject rather than players.

And what could possibly be wrong with that, you might ask? At first glance, nothing – in fact there were now eight categories on each card to choose from rather than the five previously as seen back in the late-70's. As we discussed previously, the old 'player' sets had categories such as 'League Appearances' and 'International Goals' as the criteria by which you'd win a hand in each game. Here, the categories were mostly club competitions. These included 'League Champions', 'Domestic Cups (FA)', European Champions' and so on, but here's where it became a victim of its own ingenuity.

Some categories, such as 'League Champions' had a wide range of values from Rangers' 42 down to Chelsea's 1. This made winning a hand nice and clear cut, but had you plumped for 'European Super Cup' or 'UEFA Cup', the team on your card would have a number no higher than 2 or 3. This would have meant a lot of tied rounds which certainly allowed the kitty to build up nicely, but only until the inevitable switch back to 'League Champions' again or the novelty category of 'Year of Formation'.

Anyway, perhaps this was only a side issue for the real joy of this Top Trumps set was seeing which teams were included as part of the game. Naturally enough, English teams were the best represented in the 30-card pack - 11 to be precise - and of those, some were rather dubious selections. Newcastle United were still in the second tier back in 1992 and had only won a single European trophy (the 1969 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup), but there they were, proudly represented by the still slim image of Micky Quinn.

Panathinaikos and Marseille seem to have been included purely on account of their domestic success having not won any European trophies between them while Borussia Mönchengladbach were relying solely on their two UEFA Cup wins, the last of which had happened in 1979.

Still, for every Panathinaikos there was a Real Madrid or a Juventus, and it was great to see their pictures on each of the cards. Mind you, some of the pictures were a little... well... odd. Some were the wrong shape and didn't fill the space provided (Bayern Munich, Feyenoord, AC Milan, etc) while one or two had quirky compositions (Man City's photo taken 50 feet away from the action, Tottenham's featuring three players of which two had their backs turned to camera).

All very nice, but two question remain unanswered: why 'Super' Top Trumps and why the index numbers in the top-left corner of each card? Simple: there was a second way to play the game. In essence, all the cards were dealt out to all players and everyone had to complete all their sets (i.e. they had to collect 1A, 1B, 1C, 1D and 1E, and so on). Each player would ask another player "Have you got 3C?" and if they did, they'd collect the card and get another turn. If not, they didn't. The first one to complete all their sets was the winner.

So there it is - Waddington's attempt to breathe new life into an old classic. It wasn't perfect, but it had plenty of interest for football-loving kids everywhere... until they wanted to play on their Gameboy again, at least.

8 April 2012

Heading For Glory - Official Film of the 1974 FIFA World Cup

If you like your classic football served up with a large side order of metaphor and floral narration, you can do far worse than watch the Official Film of the 1970 World Cup – Heading For Glory.  It’s a bit like watching a Royal Shakespeare Company production of Match of the Day.

Some official World Cup films provide a basic depiction of the key games, players and teams and underpins it with a sympathetically composed soundtrack. This one does all that and describes every scene as though it were a recitation towards a thespian scholarship.

Delivering the narration with fruity sincerity is Joss Ackland, an actor of considerable repute who, around the same time, was busily lending his vocal talents to a wide range of TV advertisements. Here, he becomes a star of the film in his own right, delivering each line with lightness and positivity. Married up with the footage and the music (to say nothing of the era), it’s difficult to find fault with anything put before us.

Heading For Glory has a fairly linear flow that doesn’t confuse the viewer by jumping backwards and forwards in time like the 1986 film did. That said, it does allow itself the one conceit of beginning at the end, so to speak. The film starts with referee Jack Taylor blowing his whistle to bring the 1974 World Cup Final to a close, after which we get a rip-roaring combination of brassy ragtime music and various images of a jubilant West Germany team celebrating their victory.

But it's not all triumphalism as the camera soon lingers in slow motion on the Dutch players looking sad and forlorn in defeat. The mood is maintained with the help of some appropriately melancholic music along with Joss Ackland who’s on hand to provide an urbane word or two:

“Johan Cruyff, natural heir to Pele, lonely as a mountain wind. Holland’s captain, an original Dutch master. He has tilted at windmills... and lost.”

Cruyff: Tilting at windmills
It’s not exactly Proust, but it is a foretaste of some ambitious wordsmithery to come.

As the game ends and the last remaining journalists tap away at their typewriters in the press box “like woodpeckers pecking away at the truth” (told you), we’re treated to the sight of hundreds of West German fans in celebratory mood the same night, swigging beer from their steins and splashing around in fountains as oompah bands play for all they’re worth.

The Dutch team, meanwhile, are heading home “on their big white bird” (cf. aeroplane). The camera catches sight of the star striker and his better half on-board awaiting take-off. “Cruyff and his wife” confirms Ackland. “He flicks a speck from his eye… or is it a tear?” No, Ackland, just a speck. This isn’t An Affair To Remember, you know…

This deliberate tug at the heartstrings is, if nothing else, a useful segue into the main part of the film – the football action itself. We’re transported back to start of the competition and a swift selection of highlights featuring the teams of most interest. First some highlights featuring the Netherlands, then West Germany, then Italy who we see conceding a goal against Haiti. “Is this voodoo at work as [the Haitians] dance to happiness, happiness, all the way to happiness?” remarks Ackland. No more so than the work of scriptwriter Geoffrey Green desperately trying to elevate the narration, we suspect.

West Germany v Poland:
Forecast - wet.
Into the Second Round, we see West Germany’s progress to the Final as they overcome Yugoslavia, Sweden and Poland. The highlights from the Polish match are remarkable on two counts. First we get to see arguably the most waterlogged World Cup match ever played (and the efforts of the ground staff to make the game playable), then the most staggering sight of a minute’s silence being observed during gameplay. Austrian referee Erich Linemayr halted the match mid-flow and called for a short period of reflection following the recent death of Juan Perón, President of Argentina.

"Even the left wing is silent for the right." Bet you can't guess who said that.

The final sequence from the Second Round shows the brutal and bruising encounter between Brazil and the Netherlands, and here the multiple camera angles and cameo close ups really come into their own. What started out as a game between two skilful sides eventually became a battle to see who could gain the most from kicking, pushing and diving. The camerawork in the film highlights this beautifully and is memorable as a result.

German police trial the world's
biggest ever mobile phone
And so the Final where the loop is closed and we return to where we left off at the start of the movie. A lovely sequence plays out where we see dawn breaking in Munich an the many workers in and around the stadium going about their duties. Men sweep the streets, women wipe clean the seats inside the Olympiastadion, and sunlight catches the intricate structure of the stadium roof. "A mosquito net where soon the gnats of fate will sting" comments Joss Ackland. ('Gnats of fate'?)

Jack Taylor, the English referee for the Final, is seen tucking into a pre-match meal with his assistants, Sir Stanley Rous is observed dealing with a few telegrams prior to his last engagement as FIFA President and the German police are seen scouring inside and outside the stadium for explosive devices. The world, it seems, had become a more vulnerable place and security was now a top priority at events such as this.

The Dutch celebrate scoring from
the penalty spot
When the match gets underway, there's excitement from the word go as the Dutch take a 1-0 lead through a penalty. The camera focuses on the wives of some of the Dutch players in the crowd, wracked with nerves and unable to look as the penalty is taken. A fine example of the drama happening off the pitch as well as on it.

The camera often lingers on the star players during the game, particularly glamour boy and superstar Cruyff during his frequent attempts to shake off the man marking of Berti Vogts. Another subject is Franz Beckenbauer, predictably described in flamboyant fashion by Joss Ackland:

"The Director General is Franz Beckenbauer, number five, captain and sweeper. He's the fingerpost pointing the way. Unhurried as a man strolling down the boulevard for an aperitif."

Good though John Motson is, you somehow can't imagine him uttering that sort of stuff.

Before long, the West Germans earn an equaliser through the second penalty of the Final, an event that signals the Dutch team's loosening grip on the match. This is picked up beautifully by the multiple camera angles used in the film, showing all the action and emotion from pitch side, behind the goal, above the pitch and in stark close-up on many players.

Gerd Muller: frozen in time
There's even an attempt at emulating the techniques used on TV when Gerd Muller has a goal ruled out for offside. Ackland introduces a slow-motion replay to show 'Der Bomber' was onside with the words: "Was he really offside? Watch it again in deep-freeze."  Obviously the terminology was more embryonic than the technology back then...

Ultimately, as the record books show, West Germany went on to get a winning goal through Paul Breitner to compound the misery of Rinus Michels' side. Despite their attempts to salvage something from the game (and yet more melancholy music on the soundtrack), the Netherlands lost 2-1 to the hosts, and with the victory celebrations having appeared at the start, it only leaves Joss Ackland to close the film in his own inimitable way:

"An orange sun dies bravely from the day. Germany and history have won. It's all over."

Eat your heart out, Kenneth Wolstenholme.

3 April 2012

Whatever Happened To... Long Laces?

Doh!

This photograph is possibly one of the most famous football images of all time. The smallest of details seem burned into the subconscious - the Seiko advert in the background, the sloping roof of the executive boxes, the expressions of both participants, one sheer effort, the other a mix of panic and futility.

There is one small detail however, that most won’t even realise is there, but one which only people of a certain age would even understand. Look at both Maradona’s and Shilton’s boots. They’re both wearing Puma... Kings I believe. This is clear due to the large Puma logo down the side of the boot.

But wait. There’s something amiss with that logo, for it appears to have a large black line right through the middle. Now, those of us of that certain age can immediately say what it is. In fact, you can probably still smell the mud falling away as you recall achingly removing the boots from your feet after a hard fought 1-0. Or feel the crispness under your fingers as you came to put on those boots for the next match, the laces still caked in turf from last time, for as we all know that black line cleaving in twain the Puma logo, is a lace... a football boot lace.

In the days of personalised, lighter than air, Himalayan Camel leather boots with self-triggering air bags (probably), the concept of laces longer than the Great Wall of China wrapped several times under the sole of the boot is completely anathema. Boots these days only seem content when the laces are kept hidden, concealed beneath aerodynamic, bullet proof Kevlar panels (maybe). Try wrapping a lace round a boot these days and it’ll just about make it to the other side!

The most important question I feel is not so much, why don’t they still do this, but why on earth did they ever?  Why make laces so damn long you had to wrap them round the boot? I’m sure there was a logical reason for it – maybe old style boots just weren’t secure enough? Maybe it was a FIFA edict brought in after the infamous* 1974 Boot Loss Incident, where Chile took its entire team off the pitch against France after 2 of their players’ boots came off and the French players hid them and refused to give them back. The simple fact is, I don’t know why as when I started wearing boots they fitted perfectly and could easily have stayed on with normal length laces.

Yet another thing the modern game has deemed unnecessary, but frankly one whose absence, I think, has barely been noticed.

*made up

1 April 2012

Future Nostalgia: Panini Euro 2012

I didn’t collect Panini World Cup 2010. I regret it now. I got to the party early, no-one arrived, so I went home. In my absence, the world showed up, had a great time and talked about it for weeks afterwards, every word lingering painfully within earshot. I wouldn’t make the same mistake twice.

As an adult, I’ve collected every Panini sticker album for a main tournament from Euro 2000 onwards except one - World Cup 2010. Why I ever felt it was a fruitless exercise two years ago I don’t know. The main thing is, I’m back. Not only that; many of the people I respect and admire in the football blogging community are joining me for the ride.

I bought my album last Friday, sealed as it was with three free packets of stickers inside its clear wrapper. It felt good. Really good. When I was a child, new Panini albums – those tied in with each domestic season in the UK - would typically be given away free with Shoot! magazine. Now they fight for shelf space in their own right with all manner of other magazine fodder in WHSmith's. Just as well the Euro 2012 album stands out with its vivid purple front cover.

This leads us to a strong element of the new album - the design. It permeates every page of the book, and that's largely due to the delightful way Brandia Central have branded this summer's tournament for UEFA. The floral device is very easy on the eye and allows for plenty of colour to be used without being too overpowering.

The next thing to notice is the layout of the team pages. No longer is each vacant sticker space accompanied by an abbreviated player profile below it. Most of that stuff's now on the sticker itself, remarkably. The player's name, club, date of birth, height and weight are all now below the player's face, thereby leaving each team page as a series of empty rectangles (save for a column displaying the appearances and goals for each squad member). A brave move by Panini, but one which works rather well.

And what about those stickers? Well they're beautifully designed as ever too. The usual high quality photographs feature throughout, and this year we have a few new ideas to liven things up. Each team includes three 'In Action' stickers showing full length images of three chosen players within a snazzy purple border. There are stickers showing the slogan 'Creating History Together' in the languages of each competing nation, stickers showing the mascots holding the team flags, a sticker for the UEFA Respect campaign - even a sticker for the official match ball.

But how did I fair out of all this?  Which stickers featured among those in the packets I opened first?  Well the first sticker I saw in my first packet couldn't have been more enigmatic, for it featured Italy's own Mario Balotelli. I got Liverpool's Daniel Agger, Spanish superstar David Villa and Manchester United's very own Ashley Young.

All very well, but I didn't get any shiny foil badges or team picture stickers, so the following day I did the decent thing and bought myself another half a dozen packets. At 50p each I realised that the option of flamboyantly buying a whole box was going to be out of the question (for now at least), but at least this new batch of stickers brought me the Portugal flag, Andrey Arshavin and Samir Nasri, plus a whole host of other well known football players gracing this summer's tournament.

And so it begins. A whole new collection is underway, only this time I have many friends to share the Panini love with. Already on board are Terry Duffelen (Football Fairground/Bundesliga Lounge), Chris Nee (The Stiles Council/Twofootedtackle), Andrew Gibney (French Football Weekly) and in the very near future, The Football Attic's very own Rich Johnson.

Between us, we'll be sticking our stickers like there's no tomorrow and sharing our experiences on Twitter (me included), so if you'd like to tell us how you're collection's going, send us a tweet! Better still, if you've got any doubles you'd like to tell the world about, make sure you use the hashtag #paninidoubles because you never know - someone might need it for their own collection...