Monday, 24 September 2012

Match Magazine - August 30th 1997

1997 might not seem all that distant (to some of us anyway), but as you'll see in this excellent guest article from Luke constable of the awesomely named Ruud Gullit Sitting On A Shed (@RGSOAS), going back just 15 years, football still looks very different...

p.s. I've just found out where the name comes from... 

In August 1997 I was just starting secondary school. I would spend that summer mourning the loss of my junior school life, trying on ill-fitting blazers, and buying Match magazine every week.

A recent spring-clean unearthed a copy of the magazine dated August 30, 1997, and I have since been transfixed by its pages. Littered with nostalgic references, each turned page wafted the smell of pubescent hormones as it seized me with the inverse effect of Marty McFly's Gray's Sports Almanac from Back To The Future 2.

Hundreds of pounds' worth of hard-earned pocket money was spent on this magazine by my 9-14-year-old self, but every penny was worth it. I would read each one cover to cover, even forcing my impressionable eyes through the rigours of such dull features as 'Chris Armstrong's Secret Diary'.

Share my experience as the memories dazzle my retinas and scorch my fingertips. Come sit awhile as I read to you, and laugh at pictures that have dated horribly, much like Premiership footballers have after first discovering what Rohypnol is…

Look at this cover: Ryan Giggs innocently grinning before his stunning reinvention as a pilates-fuelled sex maniac. Appreciate the irony of a caption for a ‘LEEDS UNITED MEGA POSTER' directly above 'ESCAPE FROM DIVISION 1'.  Gasp at Dennis Bergkamp correctly predicting a league title win for Arsenal.  Marvel at Gianfranco Zola’s formerly bouffant hair.

Inside, I'm welcomed by the familiar visage of 'Matchman', spokesgit for a generation of youngsters raised on Britpop and incongruous references to Peter Fear. After Match, the imaginatively-titled mascot would later carve out a successful acting career under the name Joel McKinnon Miller.

There is also this image of a certain someone to inform me that this very article is the culmination of a destiny some 15 years in the making. It bought to mind the moment in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, when a time-travelling Ted urges himself to “remember a trashcan” to scupper his Dad's meddling. Ruud Gullit, my spiritual father, there to welcome me home, after so long.

The fun begins with Route One, a loose form introduction consisting of mostly ridiculous garbage, which was always hugely entertaining nonetheless. Even now, as a man that has read more than 12 (twelve) books, I can appreciate just how much fun this section was. With its combination of musical references (Kula Shaker! Way Out West! Sneaker Pimps!), puerile comedy features (Giggsy's Gig Guide! The Flash-o-Meter! Strange But False!) and colloquial anarchy, it is to the shame of many that the pages read like some vague blueprint for Soccer AM. But I digress, and to keep doing so would be to detract from the surreal comic devices that would make perfectly retweetable Tumblr pages today - 'Wot if Peter Fear was...(SOMETHING RANDOM)','Collyoaks', 'Broken Nose Corner'

A small boy is pictured with Arsenal's David Platt, who talks of his aborted summer move to Middlesbrough. Absolutely no explanation is offered for this, but paedophilia had not yet been invented anyway, so no problem there. ARE YOU THIS SMALL BOY? Can you find him? Why did you have your picture taken with David Platt? Please help.

Here is a review of the Bolton Wanderers website, from way back when Twitter was but a mere figment in the twee eye of Stephen Fry. “It looks a bit bland when you log-on” is something nobody ever says now, and probably didn’t say then, even if it was true. “Blimey, get a load of that browser!” < That’s how people talk about the internet. The article proffers the bored suggestion that you might want to design your own Bolton Wanderers website, when more truthful padding would’ve been a picture of the editor’s yawning face.

'10 Brain-Bustin' facts about Chelsea' mentions how Graeme Le Saux is the club's record signing at £5million. Unfortunately I've been too busy to check whether or not this is still the case. If anyone can inform me of the answer, I will pick a lucky winner at random to win a very special prize - a lock of Gianluca Vialli's scalp!

I’m sure I’m not the only misguided kid that ever convinced himself he could draw because he could copy Russ Carvell’s football caricatures. This was always on the first page of the Match Stats pull-out. Here, then-Leeds manager George Graham mocks Carlton Palmer for being tall and rubbish, a comic staple that survives to this day. According to his website ( Russ now lives in Italy and I was genuinely delighted to check out some artwork of contemporary footballers, in that style of his I remember so well. He can be found on Twitter too (@Russ_Carvell),if people who post three times then disappear forever is your sort of thing.

Behold! The original Adidas Predator boot! For men of a certain age, this is like seeing the pictures that prompted the first awkward fumblings in the discipline of onanism. Ah, what a boot! Those leathery fins genuinely made the ball defy gravity, as I’m sure we all remember. During a school football match I recall seeing someone wearing Predators hit the ball with such force that they recreated precisely the same geothermic dynamics in order to create gems. The game was postponed while the referee swept opals from the six-yard box. I’m sure we all have similar stories.

These boots, however, are not so magical. Sportswear firm Apta bravely commissioned these boots, which were designed by a tab of LSD. To think that manufacturers were allowed to do this in the 1990s! Crazy times.

This advert showcases Ronaldo, back in the days when we didn't have to specify which one we were talking about. "The athlete and the shirt are made of the same stuff" proudly claims Nike. Of course, by next summer's World Cup, the only thing the two would have in common is their shared dislike of uncomfortable fits.

Colin Hendry takes us on a visit to his house. The highlight is the picture of him wearing a hat, looking very much like a man that has never worn a hat before. He also reveals a shocking secret: "When I get the chance I like to sit on one of the sofas in the archway above the front door and have a think." I do hope today's generation of children are provided with a similar level of insight in their football magazines.

Finding this magazine reminded me of the innocent pleasure of cutting posters out to hang on my wall. I'm sure everyone remembers their first ever football posters. When I was roughly seven years old and had no team to call my own, I adorned my wall with the first posters available in the first football magazine I ever bought. This would explain why the first posters I would ever hang on my wall would be of Eddie Newton and Jan-Aage Fjortoft. I have kept up this fine tradition for uninspiring decor with this thrilling image of Arsenal’s Gilles Grimandi, which I'm clearly enjoying.

The last page would always be the Ultimate Challenge, which would pit two Premiership players against each other in a trivia quiz. Get a load of this scintillating 10-10 draw between Liverpool's Dominic Matteo and Wimbledon's Dean Holdsworth, both experiencing perhaps the most exciting game they'd ever been involved in.

I leave you with the familiar sense of a magazine well read, that peculiar blend of satisfaction and disappointment that it's all over. That bereft sense that there is only one thing to do - reluctantly go back and read Chris Armstrong's Secret Diary.

Our sincere thanks go to Luke for this. If you'd like to write something for the Attic, please get in touch at admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com or find us on twitter or facebook.

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