Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Golden Wonder 'All Stars', 1977

The worlds of football and savoury snacks are forever destined to meet and collide on a regular basis. Whether it’s Gary Lineker peddling the latest offerings from Walker’s Crisps or Peter Crouch urging us to buy more Pringles, you can be sure that The Beautiful Game will occasionally persuade us to devour half our own body weight in fat-laden comestibles.

The use of football to increase crisp sales is a subject we’ve not covered so far on The Football Attic (or any other football blog probably), but that’s about to change as we look back to 1977 and the launch of Golden Wonder’s All Stars.

It’s strange to think it now, but back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the UK crisp market was dominated by several big brands long before Walkers increased its popularity nationwide. As well as KP and Smiths, Golden Wonder were a major player and all three were happy to use imagery from TV, films and sport to sell more of their snacks.

This was proven conclusively 35 years ago when Golden Wonder's new range appeared in the nation’s shops. These bags of Bacon- (and latterly Salt and Vinegar-) flavoured corn and potato snacks would ordinarily have sold in small numbers were it not for an ingenious marketing idea. Those boffins at GWHQ figured they could apply the same trick used in boxes of cereal for years by including picture cards in their crisp packets. With a set of 24 to collect, kids couldn’t snap them up quickly enough.

In this initial range (a World Cup series would follow in 1978), the great and the good of British football were immortalised by the paintbrush of Doug Harker. As was often the case with the 70's mode of illustrating sports figures, some looked more realistic than others. Where the likes of Martin Buchan and the ubiquitous Don Masson were instantly recognisable, others (such as Paul Mariner and Leighton James) were not. In the case of Ray Clemence, a worse pose couldn't have been chosen; the England goalkeeper's head tilted back to the point where it could've been anyone in a yellow jersey.

A casual glance at the two-dozen cards gives an indication of which teams were uppermost in the public conscience back in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City were all represented, while special dispensation allowed the likes of QPR, Norwich and Leicester to appear by virtue of special players like Gerry Francis, Martin Peters and Frank Worthington.

North of the border, Rangers and Celtic weren't to be left out either. The unmistakable tresses of Alfie Conn represented The Bhoys along with Kenny Dalglish who, just a month after the release of this card collection, would move to Liverpool. Whether or not he took his strange black-and-white football with him, we're not quite sure.

As if 24 hand-painted pictures weren't enough, the reverse of each of the cards also contained a concise summary of each player's career. There were a few nuggets of information to be gleaned throughout, such as Frank Worthington's failed medical with Liverpool and Steve Heighway making his international debut before his league debut, but generally it was the usual 'Joe Bloggs is an expert in scoring goals with his head' kind of fare.

More interesting, however, was the insistence on specifying the full and original name that certain players were born with. Raymond 'Butch' Wilkins was often written out in full even back in 1977, but Luigi 'Lou' Macari undoubtedly wasn't, much like Joseph 'Joe' Jordan.

It was, at least, an attempt to give some authenticity and integrity to the piece and it's no worse off for it. The addition of a small booklet in which to store your cards was also a nice touch (if you were prepared to send off for it) completing a pleasant gallery of football figures that sums up the era nicely.


  1. I used to eat these when I was a kid. I used to end up with loads of Ray Clemence and once pulled out a complete roll of twelve Frank Worthington in one pack.

    1. Good grief! That was a stroke of luck, Mike! (Or was it?) :)

  2. Could never find Ali Parvin - rare in Southend-on-Sea.

  3. The recent sad death of Ray Wilkins reminded me of these cards. I became a Chelsea fan by default as I inherited my older brother's 'Chelsea' kit from the early 70s when Chelsea were top of the league. Unfortunately they weren't quite as successful by the late 70s when I began taking an interest.

    My shirt was just a blue, round necked sweatshirt similar to the early 70s Chelsea shirt. You couldn't get replica shirts before Admiral released a child's version of their England kit in the mid 70s.

    I was in junior school but I didn't realise it was quite as early as 1977 when we used to buy the All Stars from the school tuck shop. Most of the boys collected and swapped these cards.

    'Butch' Wilkins was my favourite because he was the only Chelsea player, but I remember that I was a bit disappointed to see that my blue sweatshirt no longer cut the mustard as a Chelsea shirt which now sported a white edged v neck and collar.

    I haven't seen these cards for 40 years and they bring back very happy memories. I love the fact that you can bring up stuff like this on the internet.

    1. Great memories indeed, Jason! We did our best to write about this kind of subject on a regular basis. This kind of minutiae should never be forgotten... :)