Friday, 16 November 2012

Football Monthly (November 1983)

The perm or the straight-cut?  This was the question perplexing grown-up kids and young adults alike in February 1983 when they bought the latest issue of Football Monthly.

The subject, Bryan Robson, was seen on the front cover and on page two, the latter being an advert for New Balance boots. The Manchester United and England star claimed he’d helped the company to “shape, test and refine” their boots under every possible playing condition - “including World Cup competition.” Judging by the picture on page one, he’d had also had a similar involvement with the production of hair-straightening equipment too.

But let’s not be distracted for Football Monthly wasn’t all about the hairstyles of injury-prone internationals. It concerned itself with hard facts and copious statistics, and this was proven in the ‘Transfer Market’ feature on page five. Here we get an interesting snapshot of who was moving where 29 years ago.

Charlie Nicholas was top of the list, moving from Celtic to Arsenal for £750,000, but many other well known names were also changing clubs. Kerry Dixon had moved from Reading to Chelsea for a bargain £175,000 while in the sub-£30,000 bracket Sam Allardyce switched from Millwall to Coventry and Gerry Francis moved from Coventry to Exeter. There’s also an ‘R Savage’ leaving Liverpool for Stoke. Surely he’s not *that* old, is he?

Despite qualifying for the 1982 World Cup, England were struggling to qualify for the 1984 European Championships and this issue of Football Monthly was ruthless in its review of England’s recent games. When Bobby Robson’s men were defeated 1-0 by Denmark, the magazine claimed this was “without doubt England’s worst-ever performance at Wembley”. It went on to say “Apart, possibly, from the 1950 World Cup defeat at the hands of the USA, this was England’s most inept display in 111 years of international conflict.”

A look at the magazine’s Formscope scorecard, however, gave a different view. Peter Shilton was rated “7 out of 10 - Good”, Phil Neal “8 out of 10 - Very good”, Russell Osman “7 out of 10 - Good” and so it went on. Every player scored either 7 or 8 out of 10 with the exception of John Gregory (6) and Paul Mariner (5). A little confusing, to say the least...

Football Monthly was on safer ground when, for no explainable reason, they listed all 92 league club managers from Division One to Division Four. Unordinary though it may seem on the surface, it actually provides an interesting view of the experienced and not so experienced men in charge of their teams back then.

In Division One, Larry Lloyd was manager Notts County - just across the city from his old boss, Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest. Clough’s old partner Peter Taylor, meanwhile, was in charge at Second Division Derby County while elsewhere in the division, two former Leeds players - Norman Hunter and Eddie Gray - were learning the ropes at Barnsley and Leeds respectively.

One manager doing rather well was Terry Venables. Having guided QPR into Division One, he’d overseen the introduction of the Omniturf pitch at Loftus Road and, at the time of publication, was putting together a consortium to buy the club outright. All things considered, Venables was the recipient of much praise having seen his team into the FA Cup Final of 1982, a feat made possible thanks to some diligent purchasing. The record-breaking sale of Phil Parkes to West Ham had freed up lots of cash, and the former Crystal Palace manager spent it well on some decent players.

A mixture of flair, experience and youth was undoubtedly the hallmark of Venables’ side. Along wth old stagers Bob Hazell and Terry Fenwick, Mike Flanagan and Clive Allen had arrived from Palace like Venables himself. Utility player John Gregory was playing well enough to break into the England team (as we’ve already heard) and with the likes of Ian Dawes, Gary Waddock and Peter Hucker in goal, QPR clearly had all the talent they needed to eventually finish the 1983/84 season in fifth place. “The First Division is going to have more to worry about than just a plastic pitch” claimed Football Monthly, and with some justification.

Other articles in this issue included ‘Ron’s Reds Poised To Take The Title’ in which Man United’s Ron Atkinson was “quietly confident” of his side winning the title (they’d finish fourth) and ‘Ipswich Are Standing At The Crossroads’ in which the Portman Road club were assessed in the light of so many key players leaving (they’d finish 12th). In many ways, though, Football Weekly leaned heavily on the tried and trusted features of similar publications that were available at the time.

The centre pages featured a colour team picture of Manchester United in the style of Shoot! while at the back was ‘Scoreline’, a three-page statistical reference containing recent results, scorers and attendance figures as per World Soccer. There was even a ‘Classified Page’ containing the ubiquitous ad from Steve Earl Football Programmes to make you think you were thumbing through Match magazine.

All in all, then, Football Monthly appeared to be a publication of some distinction due to its lengthy no-frills articles and factual information. Clearly it was pitched at the youngsters that considered themselves a little too old for Shoot’s glossy colour pictures and easily digestible text, but seemingly there was a gap in the market for just such a title. It appeared in newsagents right the way through the 1980’s and despite its slightly cock-eyed England match reports, it rightly became a trusted source of football reporting throughout.


  1. I got into Football Monthly about 1986 and collected them for about a year. I used to love the article that concentrated on a striker at the time and broke down their goals and appearances by opponent and by season.

    1. Yes indeed, the player profiles were very detailed - much more than you'd have found in any other magazine.