Saturday, 29 December 2012

Panini: Football 80

I’m a big fan of the ‘white album’. Some say it epitomised the peak of popular culture around the time of its release but I have a more balanced point of view. For me, It was experimental in certain areas but also rested heavily on its obvious strengths to provide a combination that’s rarely been bettered. Perhaps we’ll talk about The Beatles later, but for now, let’s stick with Panini.

Football 80 was their third domestic sticker album for the UK and was the first one I ever owned. It had many familiar aspects retained from previous collections, but you could sense a notable intent to try out the occasional new idea and tweak a few things here and there too.

Take the stickers, for instance. Compared to Football 79, they were squarer in shape once again and had a simpler design. Now, below the main picture, there was only the player’s details and a triangular pennant framing the club badge.

Speaking of badges, the silky, silvery fabric that had been so innovative the year before had been replaced for this edition by the now traditional shiny foil. It was a shame in many ways, but fabric was never really going to be able to convey the special status of silver on those wonderful club badge stickers.

As far as the album was concerned, the opening page was allocated to England manager Ron Greenwood’s introduction where he discussed his hopes for the coming season. England were on the verge of qualifying for the 1980 European Championships, and Greenwood reflected on the achievement of getting the national team to its first major tournament in ten years. An interesting way to get the album off and running, but an altogether more sober approach than the sticker-based map of the UK we’d had the previous year.

On the team pages, however, it was business as usual with every First Division team enjoying a two-page spread containing 17 stickers and among the sights to see were Brighton and Hove Albion appearing in Division One for the first time. Alan Mullery had taken over from Clough and Taylor at the Goldstone Ground and moulded together a squad featuring such luminaries as Mark Lawrenson and Brian Horton. They’d finish a commendable 16th out of 22 in the 1979-80 season that followed and would become something of a fixture in the top flight during the following seasons.

Then there was Coventry City who, with their six moustaches and two beards, were the hairiest of all the First Division teams featured in the album. Granted, Les Sealey’s beard was still a work in progress and Mick Ferguson probably had more hair than the rest of the team put together, but nonetheless this was a terrific display of hirsuteness.

A change of tack was applied for the Second Division pages. Previously, Panini collectors would have been looking to get the team picture and team badge for each of the twenty-two clubs, but for Football 80 it was possible to collect pictures for 11 players, plus the manager. Admittedly they all appeared in pairs on each sticker, but this was an excellent opportunity to get to know some of the players plying their trade outside the English top flight - especially in conjunction with the page of Second Division badges that preceded them in the album.

It could be said that Division Two was a land of sleeping giants. There was Birmingham City, led by Jim Smith and full of great players like Archie Gemmill, Alan Curbishley and Keith Bertschin. Chelsea, managed by Geoff Hurst, were trying to get back to the First Division with the likes of Ron Harris, Micky Droy and Clive Walker. Luton Town were on the rise with eye-catching talent such as Ricky Hill, Mal Donaghy and Brian Stein while FA Cup holders West Ham still had an eclectic mix of youth and experience managed by John Lyall - and that’s without mentioning teams like Newcastle United, Watford, QPR and Sunderland.

Anyone suggesting Division Two was equally as good as the Scottish Premier Division might have had a case, judging by the Football 80 album. That’s because for the first time, Panini had reduced the space allocated to each team from two pages to just half a page. To do this, they adopted the same approach as for the Second Division teams, i.e. putting a pair of players on each sticker and have all the badges on one page.

Almost certainly it wouldn’t have gone down well with fans north of the border, but luckily we weren’t to be totally denied the sight of a tracksuited Alec Ferguson, the Bukta sponsored Hibernian team or the reassuringly Dad-like Jimmy Bone of St. Mirren.

With a full-colour picture of the ‘Football League Official Ball’ on the back cover, this was the 66-page Panini album for the 1979-80 season. Unlike other albums, it lacked the occasional set-piece flash of brilliance but it made up for it with a consistently high standard from beginning to end. A good collection and one worth owning if occasional eBay purchases are your thing.

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  1. Christian Savill1 January 2013 at 00:19

    Great article. Football 78 was my first collection, but 80 is my favourite. Classic layout. The only album that featured players from division 2 (as was). Football 83 is my second favourite with the full length player stickers. In later years the albums got progressively worse (sadly).

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Christian. It's certainly fair to say that the early albums had more charm due to the simpler design and layout. And Football 83 was definitely a great collection due to those full length stickers, as you say!

  2. Does anybody know the date the album was published/distributed in England?