Saturday 31 August 2013

News of the World Football Annual 1974/75

I've often argued that British football had far more in the way of strong personalities in the 1970's, and this little book proves my point nicely. It was published on the eve of the 1974/75 season and everywhere you looked there was an important someone somewhere doing something of note.

Frank Butler, Sports Editor for the News of the World was first up to sing the praises of Joe Mercer, one of the acknowledged nice guys of the domestic game in England. Mercer, nearing his sixtieth birthday, had just completed his spell as caretaker manager of England. With three wins and three draws from his seven games in charge (not to mention a shared British Home Championship with Scotland in 1974), some were wondering whether there was any need for Don Revie to take over permanently.

Certainly the players in the England squad at the time were happy to acknowledge his casual style of leadership. 'Uncle Joe' merely wanted them to enjoy playing and to express themselves with flair and skill on the pitch. "The side played with a new freedom" said Butler, "without tension and even England's most severe critics agreed the team would have done well in the World Cup."

Commendable though his reputation was, it's dubious to suggest that Mercer would have made a better job of qualifying for the Finals in West Germany than his immediate predecessor, Sir Alf Ramsey, or even his successor, Don Revie. For all that, the FA wouldn't have made many easier decisions than picking the former Leeds United manager, given his brilliant record with the Elland Road club. "[First Division] Champions in 1969 and 1974, they were runners-up on five occasions - 1965, '66, '70, '71 and '72" the Annual told us, "and never, during the last six years of the Revie regime, did they finish out of the top three."

Interestingly, the Annual was quick to point out Revie's acknowledgement that he'd been prejudiced against international football while at Leeds. "It was rarely easy for the last manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, to secure Leeds players for England games, and even Revie now admits that on the question of releasing players for the national team: 'Nobody has been more guilty than me personally at Leeds.'"

Revie's former club captain Billy Bremner wrote of his eagerness to take part in the European Cup, but even he couldn't have foreseen the eventful season that was to come. To begin with, he'd have to face the indignity of being sent off in the Charity Shield match along with Kevin Keegan in Brian Clough's first game in charge. Bremner's new manager would also face dismissal, only 44 days after replacing Revie, and with Jimmy Armfield finally picked to replace Clough, Leeds were almost eliminated in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup against non-league Wimbledon. Though they eventually reached the quarter finals, it was the European Cup that ultimately proved their main shot at glory. Sadly for Bremner, Leeds Unitedwere defeated 2-0 by Bayern Munich in what can only be described as a contentious Final for any number of different reasons.

Back on the international front, Scotland were having to regroup after a disappointing World Cup during the summer of 1974. Patrick Collins, writing for the News of the World, was philosophical about what lay in store for the Scots. "The next stage will be the important one, for it will tell us if they mean to learn from their experiences of Dortmund and Frankfurt, or if they are content to be known as the side which might have made a real impression if only goal average had been kinder."

He went on: "But, as events in West Germany demonstrated, there are genuine signs that they intend to live in the real world where games are not decided by tanner ba' players, and where they do not reward you with the World Cup because you happened to beat England. It may just be that Scottish football is about to set off in a new and exciting direction... the season ahead will show us how they are preparing for that journey." The records show that Scotland went on to win only three of their next nine games, and it wouldn't be until late 1975 that Willie Ormond's team would return to some truly convincing form.

A quick look through the statistical pages of the News of the World Annual provides the usual fascinating snapshot of who was at the top and bottom of their game as the 1974/75 season was about to start. Manchester United were gearing up for life in the Second Division after finishing 21st of 22 teams in 1973/74. Heading in the opposite direction, Luton Town and Carlisle United were set to begin a rare campaign in the First Division, and though they were both relegated at the end of it, they did at least bring a fresh feel to top flight football that season.

As for the previous season, 1973/74, the Football Diary feature in the Annual provides a great summary of the events that took place and the state of the English game. Here are a few highlights:

6 Sept 1973 - "George Best returns yet again to Manchester United, promising never to run away again and revealing that his return to football was prompted by a visit by Sir Matt Busby."

26 Sept 1973 - Scotland qualify "for the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1958 with a 2-1 win over Czechoslovakia"

15 Oct 1973 - "English football begins its most traumatic week for many seasons with the news that Brian Clough has resigned as manager of Derby County."

17 Oct 1973 - "England go out of the World Cup. Despite making all the running in the decisive Wembley match against Poland, they can only manage a 1-1 draw. Sir Alf Ramsey says: "If I could play the match again, I would do the same. The team played as well as it could have played.""

21 Oct 1973 - "Poland are beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin."

22 Oct 1973 - "Ipswich manager Bobby Robson turns down the vacant managership of Derby and Derby players deliver a letter to the directors demanding the return of Clough and Taylor."

23 Oct 1973 - "Astonishing scenes at Derby as the players demand to see the board, then Dave Mackay, manager of Nottingham Forest, is appointed new manager."

2 Nov 1973 - "Brian Clough becomes the new manager of Third Division Brighton at a reported £15,000 a year."

21 Nov 1973 - "Derby players pull back from the brink of another threat. They had threatened to boycott training sessions at the club before their match with Leeds."

29 Dec 1973 - "Leeds draw 1-1 at Birmingham and establish a new record First Division start to a season of 23 games without defeat."

3 Jan 1974 - "The first big shock of 1974 - Chelsea place Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson on the transfer list after a training row. George Best fails even to make training and goes missing from Manchester United again."

6 Jan 1974 - "The great Sunday soccer experiment - prompted by the power crisis - gets under way. Four FA Cup ties are played and each club attracts its biggest gate of the season."

20 Jan 1974 - "Sunday League football gets under way - and nine of the twelve home clubs are rewarded with their largest gates of the season."

24 Jan 1974 - "George Best, transfer-listed by Manchester United, decides to give up the game for good."

23 Feb 1974 - "Leeds lose their first League match of the season, by 3-2 at Stoke. Their run had stood at 29 unbeaten games."

14 Mar 1974 - "Bobby Moore leaves West Ham and joins Fulham for £25,000."

24 Apr 1974 - "Leeds are the League champions, securing their title by virtue of Arsenal's success over Liverpool at Anfield."

1 May 1974 - "Sir Alf Ramsey is sacked as manager of England. Joe Mercer takes over as caretaker manager."

...which neatly brings us full circle. 1974/75 would have to go a long way to match the rollercoaster of events of the previous season, but with the likes of Revie, Clough, Bremner and Keegan constantly in the spotlight, it would never be far away from the headlines.

Friday 30 August 2013

Retro Round-Up: 30 August 2013

Welcome, everyone, and first of all an apology for not bringing you a Retro Round-Up last week. This is due to circumstances beyond our control and Rich J being too busy laminating his front room floor.

So with that out of the way, let's get on with the not insignificant business of bringing you those all important links to this week's top retro footy on the web...

...And we begin with The Goldstone Wrap's review of a famous 7-2 win for Brighton over York in 1976, a victory fondly remembered for five second half goals by The Seagulls and a rather splendid York City kit...

...If it's great football on video that you like, there's some great material on YouTube but we doubt that you'll find many better than this superb resource collated for your pleasure by Twohundredpercent...

...Having said that, FootballGaffesGalore continues to provide a wonderful daily selection of great videos of a similar high quality...

Over at Got, Not Got, there's a long overdue appraisal of the FKS sticker range, including your chance to vote for the annual collection you like the best...

Looking for something to do, er... I mean for your kids to do during the summer holidays? Then why not take them along to the National Football Museum today where they can polish up their Subbuteo playing skills...

...and finally it's time for our eBay Buy of the Week:
Pretend you were a member of the England team of the early 1980s with this splendid cap once owned by Graham Rix - yours for just £3,000...

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Retro Random Video: Richardson, Costello and Football Italia

Chances are if you're a football fan and you live in the UK, you'll know who James Richardson is. As the host of The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast, he's entertained a great many of us for more years than we care to remember with his clever wit and his excellent presentation style.

He also houses a vast array of knowledge about Italian football inside that hairless head of his, and if you've forgotten how that came to be so well-informed, let us remind you.

For ten years, Richardson was the presenter of Gazzetta Football Italia, a Channel 4 TV show that brilliantly did what no-one had dared do before, namely bring us a weekly magazine show with news and features from one of the major football-playing countries of continental Europe.

While Gazzetta Football Italia was shown on Saturdays, there was also an accompanying programme on Sundays featuring a live match from Serie A. This was a real treat for those of us curious to see Italian football shortly after the 1990 World Cup had taken place there.

To get a sense of what the latter programme was like on those occasions, look no further than this superb clip in which James Richardson provides us with a half-time summary like no other.

First things first, the man's got hair and lots of it - a staggering sight for anyone to see.

Secondly, during his introductory scene-setting at Genoa's Marassi Stadium, we get to marvel at the sheer speed with which he talks to camera. No doubt up against the clock with the second half due to begin in a matter of minutes, his words at times fall from his mouth quicker than a drunk on a mountain bike.

And then there's Richardson's run-down of the half-time scores from Serie A. At this point you need to know (if you haven't already guessed) that the special guest for this edition of Football Italia is none other than the acclaimed musician Elvis Costello. Keep this in mind when you hear the Guardian Football Weekly presenter run through the scores and crowbars in EIGHT Elvis Costello song titles in the process. Such pretty words indeed.

As if that wasn't enough, Costello himself proves to be no stooge when it comes to talking about Italian football. He actually knows what he's talking about! Take note, Alan Shearer...

Though it only lasts for little more than five minutes, this clip shows how great TV presentation of football can be if you take the time to bring the right people in. Let's hope someone somewhere reads these words and takes inspiration from them.

Sunday 18 August 2013

The Football Attic Podcast 12 - Playing Football

Ooooooh Jumpers for goalposts, muddy knees, games teacher watching you shower after....aaah how the memories come flooding back!

Today we're talking about playing the game we all love, from your first memories kicking a ball in the back garden to any achievements or heights you may have reached (NB Chris and Rich have none).

Get all nostalgic as the smell of mud, sweat and beers (see what I did there) fills your senses, only to be brought back to reality with a ball smacking your legs on a cold winter morn.


Subscribe on iTunes or download here

Saturday 17 August 2013

Fantasy Nostalgia: League Ladders 1913-14

Ever keen to bring you football memorabilia that never actually existed in the first place (see 'Subbuteo 1900'), here's another born from our willing imagination and an abundance of time on our hands.

As today sees the start of another new Premier League season, our minds were taken back to the equivalent weekend years gone by when as kids we'd be ready and waiting to finally start using our Shoot! League Ladders.

For anyone that doesn't remember, League Ladders were a simple device. Essentially the main part consisted of a thin piece of cardboard with slits cut into it, on top of which was printed the empty league tables for England and Scotland. Into the slits you'd slot some thin cardboard tabs that displayed the names of all the English and Scottish league clubs. As the league tables changed each week, it was your job to pull out the tabs and place them in the right slots to show each team in their new position.

The process of updating your very own full colour league table display was addictive and hugely enjoyable up until, ooh, the third week of the season, by which time the novelty of rearranging 130 small pieces of cardboard had dramatically worn off.

And that was if you had a full set of tabs, by the way. Such was Shoot's ingenious ability to nurture your excitement for the new season (and for increasing revenue), they'd only give away two divisions worth of team tabs every week, thereby meaning you had to buy Shoot for four consecutive weeks to get them all. Chances are you'd fail to get a copy of Shoot for at least one of those four weeks, thereby leaving an aching chasm of emptiness where Queen of the South should be. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, actually...

Anyway, now you know what League Ladders were all about, it's time to show you what they might have looked like had they been available 100 years ago, just before the start of the 1913-14 season.

Click for larger version

As you can see, we've tried once again to be as authentic as possible when it comes to the admittedly minimal styling (give or take the occasional bit of indulgence here or there), and rest assured the details and team colours shown are as accurate as we could get them.

Better still is the fact that if you download the PDF version of the graphic here and print it out onto thin A3 cardboard, you could have your very own working version of our 1913-14 League Ladders. All you need to do is cut out all the tabs and cut the slits where marked, and bingo - more post-Edwardian fun than an entire DVD box set of Downton Abbey. Enjoy.

Friday 16 August 2013

Retro Round-Up: 16 August 2013

Welcome, one and all, to the football nostalgia equivalent to supermarket shopping, i.e. it's something that bothers you once a week and it rarely gives you any satisfaction.

Yes, it's the Retro Round-Up - your Friday rundown of all the best links to football nostalgia stuff on the web from the last seven days. And a few other things thrown in your trolley when you reach the checkout.

First up this week: A fantastically comprehensive reminder of the 1987/88 Football League season from the Panini Football Yearbook, brought to you by Spirit of Mirko...

A candidate for our 'Great Tracksuits' series? A fine picture of Peter Taylor and Brian Clough at the 1979 European Cup Final, courtesy of Footysphere...

8Bit Football pixelates a colourful goalkeeper in the only way it knows how: it can only be Jorge Campos...

While this week's England v Scotland match is still fresh in your memory, here's a fine selection of photos from the same fixture down the years over at Who Ate All the Pies...

The Goldstone Wrap ploughs a familiar furrow to us here at The Football Attic - it's the quirky and often bewildering world of FKS stickers, focusing (as you'd expect) on Brighton and Hove Albion...

Some happy football memories immortalised forever for fans of West Ham, thanks to Same Old Subbuteo Brand New Kits...

Jimmy Greaves, Frank Worthington, Bobby Moore and Jimmy Armfield all feature in another On This Day selection over at the FootballGaffesGalore YouTube page...

Finally, it's our eBay Buy of the Week... If you've got £100 to spare and you can drive to Halifax, West Yorkshire, you'd be well advised to pick up this stack of 355 Shoot! magazines covering the best part of 16 years. Well worth the long drive, if you ask us...

Sunday 11 August 2013

TV Times: 1982 World Cup preview

What possesses a top magazine to feature a bunch of grotesques on its cover in the hope that it will sell by the million? Ask the editor of Hello magazine... or better still, stop for a moment and delight at the colourful composition that graced the front of the TV Times for the opening week of the 1982 World Cup.

Inside, there was a six-page special feature on the big event, part of which contained the writing of Martin Tyler. First up, Tyler explained (not entirely convincingly) that the hundred or more members of ITV Sport bringing the World Cup to our screens were of the highest order. I say ‘unconvincingly’ on account of the paragraph that begins: “Ron Atkinson, one of our panel of experts in Spain, is always a stickler for the correct pronunciation; he’s sure to be overheard practising the names of foreign players...” Pity he kept saying ‘tourneyment’ instead of ‘tournament’ as that was one of the many English words he was supposed to have mastered.

Tyler went on to describe the other key personnel in the ITV Sport team. There were the pundits - Brian Clough, Mick Channon, Denis Law, Jack Charlton - not to mention Ian St.John, Jimmy Greaves and Brian Moore. There were a raft of top reporters doing the rounds in Spain, namely Jim Rosenthal, Elton Welsby, Gary Newbon and Nick Owen, plus any number of familiar commentators such as Gerald Sinstadt, Hugh Johns, Gerry Harrison and John Helm. Tyler was even keen to point out the highly-talented squad of secretaries as well as all the production crew. Quite right too, I say.

Martin Tyler wasn't the only writer brought in to put TV Times readers in the mood for Spain ‘82. Tottenham’s Osvaldo Ardiles explained how Argentina could no longer rely on the ageing Leopoldo Luque and would now look to Diego Maradona - still only 21 at the time - for any success. Though the Argentinean was correct to point out that Brazil were “better than ever before”, he was a little way off the mark in predicting that they, along with Argentina or West Germany would win the World Cup.

Francois Van Der Elst, West Ham’s Belgian striker, focused on the European team’s chances of glory. West German coach Jupp Derwall, said Van Der Elst, “has a brilliant squad, so strong that he could pick two separate world-class teams,” picking out Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for special attention. “Italy I’m not so sure about” continued the Belgian. “Their side has stayed the same for perhaps too long and their tactics are too defensive. Away from home they are less potent.” So much for unerring insight there, then.

Maybe that was provided by Bobby Moore who was asked to discuss England’s chances. Though the former World Cup winner felt England could progress to the second round and beyond, he was at pains to point out the areas for concern. “My chief worry is that they will play well but, as we’ve seen often before, not score enough goals” said Moore. A look back at England’s results in Spain show the number of goals scored per match went as follows: 3, 2, 1, 0, 0.

With Denis Law wondering whether the pressure of being at a World Cup would be too much for Scotland’s younger players and Billy Bingham fancying his Northern Ireland team to “reach the quarter-finals” that year (there weren't any quarter-finals, Billy), it was certainly shaping up to be an exciting competition.

Just as well, then, that the TV Times was on hand to provide more cut-out-and-stick pieces for their World of Sport World Cup Wallchart that was given away with the magazine some weeks previously. I actually owned that wallchart back in the day, and my one abiding memory of it was the small, fiddly name tags that had to be glued on where the second round matches were displayed. Even now I've probably got traces of UHU under my fingernails somewhere.

Elsewhere in this issue, there were features on Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch in Coronation Street) plus adverts for Boots (‘Ferguson 3V29 VHS Video Recorder - £465’) and Ex-Lax Chocolate Laxative ("What a nice way to take a laxative"), but during a World Cup it was the non-football programmes on TV that would prove most important to some.

If the sporting action from Spain wasn't for you, there was always The Cannon and Ball Show, Sale of the Century, On The Buses and Give Us A Clue to entertain you, if indeed 'entertain' is the word we're looking for there. As we've said before, when there's a World Cup happening, TV companies are hardly going to put their best programmes out, and this just about proves it.

All in all, then, a curious 'special edition' of the TV Times. Though this issue commemorated a World Cup featuring not just one but three British sides, the magazine makers couldn't even find the budget to print their six-page guide to the tournament in full colour.

Putting that to one side, however, ITV were clearly looking forward to the start of the competition, and as history proved, their coverage was every bit as good as that of the BBC's, if not better at times.

I just wish I could find that old wallchart...

Friday 9 August 2013

Retro Round-Up: 9 August 2013

The new Premier League season is almost here... but you won't be interested in that because you're a retro football fan, aren't you? Turn your back on Arsenal, Manchester United and any other clubs that can't even complete a high-profile transfer and wallow in our selection of the past week's top football nostalgia links...

There are few things as timeless as a perfectly executed bicycle kick, and Who Ate All The Pies remembers one in particular. Step forward Trevor Sinclair...

Nothing says 'football nostalgia' like an article about a Brighton and Hove Albion lampshade... and that's precisely what we get over at The Goldstone Wrap...

Football Gaffes Galore has unearthed a special 'Texaco Cup' edition of The Big Match's opening titles from the 1974/75 season. Gotta love that theme tune...

If Shoot! magazine regularly found its way into your possession during your younger days, you won't need us to explain the legend that is 'You Are The Ref.' Now it's back in book form and updated for the modern era, as reviewed brilliantly by Lantern Rouge for The Two Unfortunates...

Our article this week on football kit manufacturers might have had you wondering whether Umbro's diamond motif will ever grace English football again. If that's the case, John Devlin has some good news for you over at True Colours...

KitNerdCollection has added another football shirt to his... er, collection - it's this rarely seen blue Dutch shirt from 1997/98...

Finally, it's time for our eBay Buy of the Week: Rarely will you see such a beautiful and desirable object of football nostalgia - it's this Russian tin-plate table-top football game... and it's starting price is LESS THAN TEN POUNDS...

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Football kit manufacturers: Trends, graphs and charts

As you probably know, we're rather fond of football kit design here at The Football Attic. We like nothing better than making broad sweeping statements about the brilliance of a particular kit, especially when we know we haven't got a clue what we're talking about.

What makes football kit design such a fascinating subject is the sheer number of great designs that have been produced over so many decades. In England, this began in earnest during the mid-1970's when production techniques improved and a burgeoning sense of commercialism finally dawned.

So many great manufacturers are associated with the football kits of English football - Adidas, Nike, Admiral, Umbro... the list goes on, but we wondered which ones have provided the most kits for top flight teams since the mid-1970's, and what the trends have been in the popularity of those manufacturers.

To find out the answers to these and many other questions, we plundered as much information as we could find from the website that's unparalleled in its knowledge of the subject, Historical Football Kits. Our research threw up a number of interesting findings.

The early days: 1974-1980

It's fair to say that before the 1970's, football kits were made to distinguish the colours of one team from another and very little else. Football kits were looked upon as 'equipment' rather than fashion items, but that was all to change.

That change has often been attributed to the Leicester-based firm of Admiral, and it's not hard to see why. In 1975, the classic 'tramlines' design arrived to bemuse and amaze the fans of Coventry City, Dundee and Wales, and by 1976 their logo seemed to be cropping up everywhere. They weren't, however, the domineering force in the English First Division.

Where our story begins in the 1974/75 season, it was Umbro that had the lion's share of all the top team's contracts, providing kit for eight of the 22 clubs. By the end of that campaign, the number had increased to nine because QPR had switched allegiance from Admiral in late January.

First Division 1974/75: Kit manufacturers
(Click for larger version)

Details of the kit manufacturers providing First Division kits are somewhat sketchy for 1974/75. More than half the club's suppliers are unknown, but we do know that Admiral only had three top clubs on their books at the end of that season - Stoke City, Luton Town and Leeds United. By the end of the decade, this figure had doubled, but Umbro were also adding more clubs to its portfolio. During the 1976/77 season, they provided the kit for 13 of the 22 teams including the top four - Liverpool, Manchester City, Ipswich Town and Aston Villa.

Queens Park Rangers 1976/77
It was in this season that Adidas made their First Division d├ębut well after their logo had appeared on shirts during the 1974 World Cup. Queens Park Rangers have the distinction of wearing the first Adidas kit in the top division and indeed they were the only club that did so at the time, but in 1977/78 another four teams wore the German marque - Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest.

In the period between 1974 and 1980, the only other companies providing kit for First Division teams were Bukta and Le Coq Sportif, but they were struggling to make much of an impact during this time. Bukta, based in Manchester, were the suppliers of team kit for Newcastle United during much of the 1970s and also had their logo on West Ham's kit during the 1975 FA Cup Final. As for French firm Le Coq Sportif, their arrival in the First Division didn't come until the 1978/79 season when they provided the kit for Derby County. Tottenham and Aston Villa would soon follow suit when the 1980's finally arrived.

A sign of things to come: 1980-1989

In the latter half of the 1970's, only five companies had made football kits for England's First Divison teams. In the decade that followed, that number had increased to 14 but be in no doubt - Adidas and Umbro were far and away the main players. Admiral's star was on the wane and as new names like Hummel and Patrick began to get some traction, a few 'club brands' started to appear on the radar too.

Between the two of them, Umbro and Adidas provided the kit for 18 of the 22 First Division teams in the 1980/81 season. Only Coventry City and Leeds United (Admiral), Southampton (Patrick) and Tottenham Hotspur (Le Coq Sportif) bucked the trend, but as the 1980's progressed, more and more clubs were tempted to try alternative suppliers.

First Division: 1980-89 - Umbro & Adidas v The Rest
(Click for larger version)

Coventry City, in particular, adopted a different approach when they ditched the Admiral tramlines in 1981. Their famous 'Talbot' kit was the product of a company called Talbot Sports, and in the 1986/87 season they fashioned their own supply deal again by plumping for kits made by Triple S Sports. As luck would have it, the striped Coventry home kit ended up being worn during a successful 1987 FA Cup Final against Tottenham, but it was a one-season wonder and was replaced for 1987/88 by new strips made by Hummel.

Danish company Hummel had started making First Division in-roads after some useful exposure during Euro '84. Their clean, distinctive, Arsenal-style shirt had been worn by the Danes right through to their exit in the semi-finals of the competition, and it was in the following season of 1984/85 that Norwich City became the first club wear the famous double chevrons. By the end of the decade, they'd be joined by Southampton, Aston Villa, Tottenham and, of course, Coventry.

First Division 1980/81 - 1988-89: Kit manufacturers per season
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The arrival of lesser-known names like Henson, Scoreline, Strike and Spall in the late-80's was a portent of things to come. Adidas and Umbro's combined share of all the First Division kit deals was down to just 50% in 1988/89, and in the 1990's things got even worse for them as the race to supply outfits for the top clubs got even hotter.

Diversity: 1990-1999

Taken as a whole, the final decade of the 20th Century saw Adidas almost disappear from the English First Division football kit landscape. Having supplied outfits for as many as seven or eight of the 22 top-flight clubs during some seasons of the 1980's, they were down to just one team - Liverpool - in 1994/95. On two occasions later in the decade, only Newcastle United were on the German company's books.

This surprising fall from grace can perhaps be attributed to the growing prominence of the Champions League as Adidas' main priority and the need to have its kits on show there. The increase in football kit manufacturers in the UK was also growing - 27 used during the 1990's - but initially at least, Umbro didn't seem affected by either issue. Between 1990 and 1993, they were making the kits for almost half of the First Division's teams, including Everton, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and both of the Sheffield clubs.

First Division/Premier League 1974-2014: Kit contracts for Adidas and Umbro
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By 1995, however, even Umbro were seeing their dominant grip on the market weakened. New companies were providing smart, stylish alternatives for England's top clubs; Asics, Puma, Reebok and even Nike wanted a piece of the action as the traditional giants of the kit world were forced to take a lower billing.

Apart from Umbro, there was one other company that made more First Division kits than Adidas - Pony. The American footwear firm arrived on the scene in 1993 with kits for Southampton and West Ham that both featured prominent 'reverse tick' elements on the upper part of the shirt. The tick came from Pony's logo, and while it looked fine on the West Ham kit, Southampton's red and white stripes struggled to form a harmonious complement with it.

Yet again smaller companies were snapping up the few crumbs that were left after the giants had fed. Clubhouse and View From were two names used by QPR in the early 1990's; Swindon's only season in the top flight saw them wear a kit by Loki; Avec came in to lend Sunderland a hand near the end of the decade, while Crystal Palace went for Nutmeg in 1994/95.

First Division/Premier League 1974-2014 - Kit manufacturers per season
(Click for larger version)

More so than ever, the fragmentation of the kit supply market was providing more choice for clubs and ever-more imaginative kit designs for fans to savour, but the 21st Century would see the trend slow down as the big companies returned to reclaim their territory.

Contraction: 2000 onwards

In 2004/05 and 2006/07, the 20 clubs of the Premier League in England used 14 different football kit providers - the greatest number in any one season. Adidas and Umbro were still there, but now Nike were pushing hard to join them at the top table. Not far behind were Reebok, a perpetual partner and shirt sponsor for Bolton Wanderers but now also a supplier of kit for Liverpool and Manchester City. Kappa and Puma were also a familiar sight in the Premier League around this time, while Le Coq Sportif were making something of a comeback too.

So many kit makers for so many clubs, and yet that all changed at a stroke at the start of the 2007/08 season. During the previous campaign, Umbro made kit for only one Premier League team - Everton. When the next season began, they had six clubs to their name - Birmingham, Blackburn, Everton, Sunderland, West Ham and Wigan.

Several kit companies disappeared from view that Premier League season - Airness, Diadora, Hummel, Joma, JJB and Lonsdale all found themselves without a contract for one of England's top teams, while Reebok's portfolio was reduced from three teams to just one - Bolton. Quite how or why Umbro had managed to snap up so many contracts is unclear, but their diamond-strewn designs of 2007/08 were certainly a common sight - even on the England kit of the time.

Click to see larger version

Umbro's dominance contracted again a few seasons later as Adidas and Nike consolidated their own exposure in the Premier League as once again a wider variety of manufacturers returned. Xara, Carbrini and Macron all wrote their names into the football kit history books, but a notable divide was slowly forming between the big companies and the smaller ones.

These days, we've come to accept this as the ongoing norm. On the one hand, Adidas, Umbro, Nike, Puma and Reebok struggling for overall superiority, well established and proven to create football kits of a high quailty. On the other hand, smaller and newer companies trying to make a positive impression but having to accept a limited impact among England's footballing elite.

Yet with this coming season, all that is about to change again. What Umbro did in 2007/08, Adidas have done on an even bigger scale for 2013/14, for they will start the next campaign providing kit for nine of the top 20 clubs in England. It is by far the strongest attempt by the German company to dominate the Premier League, and in the weeks to come you'll be seeing Chelsea, Fulham, Hull City, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea, West Brom and West Ham wearing those three famous stripes.

How have Adidas forced their way to the top of the tree with such ruthlessness? In part, the answer lies with the disappearance of two of their main rivals. Reebok's final season in the Premier League came in 2011/12 when Bolton Wanderers were relegated, but this came seven years after Reebok became a subsidiary of Adidas themselves. As for Umbro, they were bought out by Nike in 2008 and have since been sold on to Iconix Brand Group during the last year. Whether we'll see the Umbro diamonds again in future remains to be seen, but there are some encouraging signs beginning to appear.

With two such big names no longer competing for a share of the market, Adidas has seen an opening and taken advantage. Quite what you may think of this year's Adidas kits would be interesting to know, but it seems the football kit landscape - in the Premier League at least - will be a less varied (perhaps less interesting) place this season. With only three companies - Adidas, Nike and Puma - owning 75% of all the top clubs' kit deals, the likelihood for diverse design sadly seems all but doomed. We can only hope for better in the not too distant future.

Total number of 'kit seasons' for all manufacturers - 1974-2014
(Click for larger view)
Kit manufacturers used by First Division/Premier League teams (1974-2014)
(Click for larger view)

With special thanks to Dave Moor at Historical Football Kits for his help in providing the data for this article.

Sunday 4 August 2013

Soccer 88 - Daily Mirror Sticker Album

Continuing my theme of writing about non-Panini sticker albums, I'm doing it again and this time it's a sequel. Having covered the Daily Mirror's first foray into football stickers with 1987's Stick With Soccer, what we have here is their follow up from 1988.

There are some noticeable changes from the 86/87 album and, perhaps sadly given how different that album had been from the usual Panini fayre, most of them seem to have been done to fall more in line with the accepted version of the sticker book format. What I'm saying is, they Paninified its ass!

The 2 most obvious changes come with the name. While "Stick With Soccer" had followed the numbering format to match the league season it related to (86/87), Soccer 88 adopted the traditional (i.e. Panini) approach of the year the book was released in.

Secondly, "Soccer 88" is now the actual title (as opposed to the last one being officially titled "Stick With Soccer - 1986/87 Season"). This one does however, have a nice subtitle - "Britain's Top Sticker Album". Note, there's no asterisk there linked to a footnote with something like "in the Gateshead area for 3 weeks in March", nope this was apparently Britain's top sticker album. One can only assume that to be true as it's highly unlikely a tabloid newspaper would print any outlandish claims without facts to back it up. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is satire.

There's also been a price reduction...from 25p to FREE!

some words
One thing that hasn't changed is the foreword, blandly presented again by Bryan Robson...pretty sure he didn't write it though the sheer moribundness of it all maybe suggests he did. I have a lovely image of him, chewed pencil in hand, tongue sticking out as he concentrates oh so hard to fulfill the 200 word brief.

The intro does reveal that in the 87/88 season the top flight was in one of those transition phases between 22 and 20 other words, 21.
There's also 360 stickers in total, up from 286 the previous year (thanks Bryan).

Wot no Villa?
An extra little nugget from the inside cover shows that Daily Mirror stickers came not in packets, but in "envelopes" - 6 stickers (surprised they didn't call them sticky-pics or something) costing 12p...

As with 86/87, we dive straight into the teams (all 26 of them...I'll come to the other 5 later) and of course it's perennial sticker book openers, boring boring Arsenal. These are of course followed by...Charlton. Eh? Where are Aston Villa? This is 1988, they're in the 2nd Division...which is funny...much much funnier than being in the 3rd tier with no home and -10 points oh yes! (SISU OUT!).

Sansom it midnight?
One other new feature where the Mirror have, er, been inspired by Panini, is the introduction of foil stickers. That doesn't mean we get club badges (copyright issues anyone?), but instead the foils are reserved for the Team Manager and the Captain. The foils shall I put this...crap?

Where the Italian foils are lovely and magpie-temptingly shiny, the Mirror's are just...dark. Sure if you shine a bright light on them they just about display their wares, but they're hardly what you'd call a mirror finish (and there we have ourselves a whole plate of pun...a punnet even...I'm on FIRE!)

CCFC...because I can...
Also making its debut is the player profile shot. 86/87 was all action, but this time round there's a strange mix of almost all action and then the odd player's mug appears. It all adds to the rather cheap feel that dominated the previous album and somewhat lets down the clear attempt to be taken more seriously. They should have stuck with one or the other and given the quality of the photos in this album are much better than before, the unique angle provided by the action shots should have been used as a USP. Speaking of the stickers, the quality level may have increased, but the stickers themselves have shrunk...down to normal Panini size, therefore allowing for more per page (hence the increase in number).

Super indeed!
The middle pages detail a rather bloody good competition to win a 10 day holiday to watch Euro 88 in West Germany. No doubt funded by the Mirror newspaper group, this was nevertheless something you wouldn't have found in any Panini album. Naturally, this is advertised heavily on the front wait...there's no mention of it anywhere prominent. Another opportunity missed! Contrary to competitions these days, to win this you had to choose your England XI to win Euro 88. Wonder how many entries would have done better than the real 11.

Rangers? Rings a bell...
After the 21 English Division 1 clubs are covered, there's time for some north of the border action. And by some, I mean 3 teams. Aberdeen, Celtic and some team called Rangers? Nope, me neither...

The final pages are taken up with a quite-common-at-the-time World Stars selection, featuring the best of the football world at the time, from Josimar and Maradona to Sanchez Hysen and the ultimate England squad as chosen Sir Alf Ramsey. One can't really argue with his choices, although the choices do seem to be either 1966 or 1988...the 2 decades in between seem to have been skipped over. Keegan, Brooking? Nope, but we do have Alvin Martin...nah, I'm kidding...he's not there.

Class from home and abroad
And that's your lot. As with the previous album, Soccer 88 was to the point with little in the way of superfluousness, but in my opinion, it was better for it. Despite the obvious lean towards sticker album conformity, it's a clear level above its predecessor and one can't help but feel that if they'd made another, which I'm pretty sure they didn't, it would perhaps have been a decent rival to the great Panini. As it is, they ducked out of sticker albums and so these two serve as the Mirror's sole efforts from the 80s. Around this time, Merlin were just getting started and would go on to provide a serious rival to Panini with the introduction of the Premiership. Perhaps this newcomer finally convinced those at the Mirror that there just wasn't room for a third top flight sticker collection. I guess we'll never know...

Friday 2 August 2013

Retro Round-Up: 2 August 2013

Welcome aboard the good ship Round-Up where once again it's time to take another sail through the calm and pleasant waters of this week's football nostalgia on the internet...

We begin with the happy tale of a young Brighton mascot that didn't get to meet Jimmy Saville, brought to you by The Goldstone Wrap...

A mesmerising piece of skill from Ronaldo at Inter, remembered fondly by Old School Panini...

Steve Mitchell recalls some happy childhood memories of Butlins' soccer coaching camps over at Got, Not Got...

If you heard our podcast on computer football games, you'll also like Who Ate All the Pies' round-up of their own favourite football video games...

A touching tribute to a young player that sadly died this week, courtesy of 8Bit Football...

Something we just missed out on last week, Falcon of Fury is a short film all about one boy's desire to be accepted as a Subbuteo master. It's written by David Quantick and stars Michael Spicer...

eBay Buy of the Week: A classic programme from a curious football match - Watford v Vancouver Whitecaps in 1981, and yours for a starting fee of just 99p (+ postage and packing)...

...and finally, a bonus item which isn't new nostalgia but is certainly right up our street, brought to our attention by Spirit of Mirko - it's, the place where all bad football records go to die...