Friday, 25 April 2014

Esso 'Squelchers', 1970

The squelch - not just, as you'd expect, the term for the watery noise you get when you tread on a frog. Squelch also means 'to silence someone in an argument'. Who knew?

Esso knew. The giant oil company with the phonetic name (S-O = Standard Oil) were riding the crest of a wave after the enormous success of their 1970 World Cup Coin Collection and were looking for a football-related follow-up to maintain the constant flow of drivers into their UK petrol station forecourts. What they came up with was another beautifully marketed collection, once again aimed at the younger market.

Squelchers were a set of 16 miniature books, each one covering a different aspect of British and world football. Standing at only 8 centimetres tall, every one had 26 pages of text and colour photos that were designed to end any possible football-related argument.

Because you see, Esso figured that up and down the country, people were at odds with each other over the most tenuous of disagreements. Men in pubs, boys in school playgrounds - they were all in dispute over which player was the best to have ever played for England or which team was the best to win a World Cup. A way of ending these petty squabbles was needed and an international oil company considered itself to be the best to provide the solution.

In reality, Esso's Squelchers weren't packed full of trivia facts so much as a concise narrative that discussed any of the subjects in the range. From 'Goalkeeping Greats' to 'Star Strikers' and 'Colourful Characters' to 'The Man in the Middle', each one provided a well written essay that formed a compact reference for those that were keen to extend their soccer knowledge.

To reinforce the argumentative back-story to the collection, each double page had in its footer a theoretical debate between one silly and somewhat backward person and another who was far more enlightened in the history of association football. Take for instance this example from the 'Up For Cup!' book:

'If the Cup Final hasn't always been played at Wembley, I'll eat my hat!'

'SQUELCH! Start munching! It has been played at Stamford Bridge, Crystal Palace and the '70 Cup Replay was played at Old Trafford.'

As mentioned before, there was even room for lots of full colour pictures throughout the 16 tiny books and they complemented the fine text nicely. Each one was well chosen and printed with quality, leaving one with the lasting impression that this wasn't some cheap and nasty gift set knocked out in the blink of an eye. Once again, Esso had put some thought and effort into creating something that people actually wanted and would treasure.

To top it all off, there were even some blue leather wallets to store your books in - a fitting flourish to this collection which, rather gratifyingly, is still freely available to buy inexpensively on eBay.

So there you have it: Esso once again comes to the rescue of football fans everywhere. I wonder if they've got anything similar up their sleeve for the World Cup this year?


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