You’ve got to hand it to ITV. They knew an opportunity when they saw one, and when the 1978 World Cup came around, they realised they could make a bob or two from merchandise.
At least that’s the assumption. Having thumbed through the ITV World Cup 78 magazine, I couldn't find any evidence of a sale price anywhere. Was it ever available in the shops, or was this simply a piece of publishing hutzpah on the part of London Weekend Television?
Either way, ITV managed to do what the BBC didn't, namely to produce a tie-in magazine that would enhance the World Cup experience for young fans across the UK. Running to 64 pages, this was a bold attempt to educate and entertain in an admittedly formulaic fashion. Team guides? Check. Quiz? Check. Player profiles? Check. Match report sheets and recipes for all the competing nations… WHAT?!?!?
This being 1978, there was much talk of ‘images being beamed live via satellite around the world’ which, of course, was a terribly exciting concept 36 years ago. As Moore himself said, “you will see more of the World Cup… from your armchair in Glasgow or Gillingham, Edinburgh or Exeter, than you would in Argentina itself.” Brian Moore’s cheeky mention of his favourite team aside, it was a truth that nowadays we all take for granted. Watching a football match that’s being played nearly 7,000 miles away while you’re eating your evening meal? Nothing special…
Each of Scotland’s key players was given his own mini profile from Alan Rough in goal to Kenny Dalglish up front. The details provided for each were generally useful and informative with Willie Johnstone picked out specifically for having had a “stormy career” up to the date of publication. Little did Arthur Montford know how portentous that comment was to become during the final tournament.
On a wider scale, the magazine provided substantial outlines of all 16 competing countries, and yet again all were written with an emphasis on facts rather than waffle. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough emphasis on correcting many of the spelling and punctuation mistakes that were found throughout. A regrettable observation that was only partly balanced out by the eight full pages that the team profiles spanned.
Reading through his assessment of Helmut Schoen’s team, Keegan appeared cautiously optimistic of their chances, and in retrospect, justifiably so. With no Franz Beckenbauer or Gerd Muller, West Germany were always unlikely to match their peak of 1974 and their results in 1978 backed up Keegan’s frank views before the tournament started.
“Some of the players have been thinking that all they have to do is pull on a German shirt” he said in relation to friendly defeats against Brazil and Sweden. In Argentina, West Germany drew four of their six games and won just once - a 6-0 trouncing of Mexico in the First Round. This was to be a rare low point in West German football history and one that this magazine wasn't entirely surprised to witness.
With seven pages devoted to a history of the World Cup [check] and a three-page reminder of England’s victory in 1966 (for those who’d forgotten that England were once that good), it just remained to provide sustenance for the belly rather than food for the soul. Yes, what better way to round off than to give readers five pages of recipes from each of the competing nations!
It’s not worth dwelling on why this was included. Instead, allow your lips to water at the prospect of Mexican Chilli Con Carne or Tunisian Cous Cous with Lamb. A Spanish Omelette had to be on your list of culinary delights throughout Argentina ‘78, while a tasty Black Forest Cherry Cake made for an ideal Austrian-style dessert. As for Scotland, Herrings in Oatmeal was the offering.
It’s just a shame that the recipe writers ran out of inspiration at the same time as Helmut Schoen’s squad. ‘Traditional German Dish’ was the provision on page 61, a rather drab name that luckily wasn't a reflection of this well-written World Cup magazine.