Friday, 20 September 2013

The Sun Gallery of International Soccer, Soccercard Album No.4 (1978/79)

I'm not going to sugar coat what I'm about to say. This is without doubt one of the worst football picture card collections you will ever find.

Because of that, however, it is also one of the best card collections you will ever find, because from the moment you set eyes on it, you'll hardly stop laughing.

Almost everything about this item is wrong. Essentially a modern-day collection of football cigarette cards, The Sun, in its infinite wisdom, decided it was time to bring back the once popular nicotine-related pastime for kids - even though they were already being tempted by self-adhesive stickers. A noble move by the popular tabloid, but that would be the very peak of any credibility the project would attain.

Something doesn't add up...

"There are 1,000 different cards... Each card is a full colour drawing" proclaimed The Sun. So many cards to collect, and perhaps that's why they had to be sold in packs of FIFTY at a time. As a proud member of the Panini generation, my mind boggles at the prospect of a pack of football pictures containing ten times the normal amount. Oh to see some pictorial evidence of that...

Such a large number of cards needed not just one album to display them in but four. At this point, you're probably already doing the math... 1,000 cards divided by four albums = 250 cards per album, right? Wrong. The Sun, ever attentive to detail, allowed only 150 cards to be mounted in each of their albums. Nice work.

Fun with gum

Although each of the albums and the cards themselves were individually numbered, the spaces inside the albums were not, which meant you could affix any cards you liked, wherever you liked. In addition, each card had a biography of a player on the reverse, thereby inviting you to be particularly creative with the glue if you wanted to read the blurb after the card was fixed in place.


Somewhat helpfully, each of the cards was listed inside every album so you could check which ones you still needed to collect. Unfortunately it only served to expose the highly dubious way some of the players were categorised. Take the 'International Stars' section, for instance. There were 200 of those, among which were worldwide stars such as Joe Harper of Scotland (4 caps), Pat Sharkey of Northern Ireland (1 cap) and Eric Pecout of France (5 caps). There were also Brazilian players that were so famous, they didn't even need to be spelled correctly, like Riverlinho, Dirceau and Emerson Leoa.

The humorously entitled 'International Stars' listing

The rest of the listing continued in much the same vein. In the 'All Time Greats' section were 347 players including such legends as Paul Edwards of Stockport County, Kevin Bird of Mansfield Town and Alan Dugdale of Charlton Athletic. After assessing the selection of 'Midfielders' and 'Strikers' (goalkeepers and defenders weren't worthy of inclusion, apparently), there was also a subset of 60 national flags to collect, because that was absolutely essential in a collection of football player cards.

A case of mistaken identity

But what about the actual picture cards themselves, we hear you cry? What unfettered joy were they capable of bringing into our lives during the late-1970s? In short, they were as bewilderingly awful as they were hysterically funny. One can only assume some poor amateur artist was approached by a Sun employee and asked if he could paint pictures of almost 1,000 football players in the space of a day and a half, on account of it being 'a bit urgent.' The poor fella no doubt weighed up the situation and figured it was more important to get them all done rather than make them lifelike in any way. The results were, let's say... 'interesting.'

Oi... Narey... get your hair cut...

To begin with, several of the players were situated so low down in the frame that you'd be mistaken for thinking they'd been cut off at the knees. For others, a curious selection of colours was applied to render many a club shirt unrecognisable in a psychedelic sort of way.

The part of Peter Springett will this evening be played by
Sean Connery in Zardoz.

If the colours were right by some strange quirk of fate, many a detail on the shirt wasn't. On occasions, a player was seen wearing a shirt for a completely different team, but hey, we're just splitting hairs here.

No, you're not mistaken... that really IS Mick McCarthy
(top right)

Look at his face! JUST LOOK AT HIS FACE!

But let's not kid ourselves. The real reason to point and laugh uncontrollably up our sleeves wasn't anything to do with the shirts. It was the mangled, often contorted-as-if-reeling-from-an-accident-with-a-food-blender depiction of the face and hair.

At what point can a man with the grooming and elan of Watford goalkeeper Andy Rankin be robbed of his self-esteem purely because The Sun's resident artist thought he looked like a grapefruit wearing a wig?

Wait a minute... haven't we seen him before somewhere?

Oh yeah - thought so.

If a player had grey or even blonde hair, heaven help him. Chances are he'd end up looking like he was balancing a small whitewashed mammal on his head, such were the limitations of our esteemed painter.

Les Chapman? For an extra £20, we could have got an
Old English Sheepdog...

Got a player whose face is caught in heavy shadow? Not a problem! Let The Sun depict him as a man with a seriously contagious skin condition. It's the least you deserve as an 'International Star...'

Alan Stevenson, a.k.a. The Singing Detective

...and so it goes on. Page after page of brightly coloured, erratically drawn football players providing a never-ending parade of mirth from cover to cover. But let's be mature and stop for a moment to consider the serious content provided for us by The Sun's professional band of football writers.

Don't make me laugh...

Throughout this album were articles on everything from the World's Biggest Stadiums to Soccer Development Around The World. There was even a lengthy series of texts charting the history of international football from the Second World War onwards. And if that was too challenging for you, there were also quizzes, puzzles and trivia features.

World's Biggest Stadiums: Insert glorified list of statistics
Geoff Hurst is the only man to score a hat-trick in a
World Cup Final?!? Amazing!

Football from a bygone era, and Gerry Daly:
an accidental juxtaposition.

But let's be honest - all these articles, no matter how noble they have been in their efforts to educate the reader, were never going to be the main focus. This was purely and simply an attempt to bring comedy to the masses through the medium of art, and we use the term 'art' very, very loosely.

So to close, here's some more badly painted football players of the late-1970's as we salute the ridiculous delusion of a national newspaper that thought it didn't need to pay for some proper photographs. How wrong they were.


  1. Andy Rankin. Good memory!

    Never collected these and wouldn't bother buying them today, even in an ironic, so bad they're good.

  2. Ha ha. Excellent stuff, still chuckling. "A grapefruit wearing a wig" Bravo!

  3. I love how the answer to the first two quiz questions is "Sweden".

  4. Ha had hundreds of these as a kid, yes they certainly had a cult value attached, happy memories