Sunday, 27 October 2013

Alive & Kicking - The Ultimate Book of 90s Football Nostalgia

It's a rare event that we write about a book that's only just been published, but when the subject is nostalgia itself, then it would be churlish not to, especially given you can count the number of footy nostalgia books on one hand.

Alive & Kicking is the product of KiCK Magazine's Editor Ash Rose and bills itself as the "Ultimate Book of 90s Football Nostalgia". The question I can already sense on most people's lips is surely, "The 90s? Wasn't that last week?"*, which to people of a certain age (including myself) it certainly feels like it. In reality, it started 23 years ago and when it did, the Premier League was two years away from being born... even Italia 90 was yet to happen!

*Jay from asked this exact Q the other day... yeah, I stole his line.

Weighing in at nearly 160 pages, A&K covers pretty much everything you remember from the 90s as well as a whole lot more that this particular reader had forgotten about. It also has things we wish we could forget... Andy Cole's 'Outstanding' or Ian Wright's 'Do the Right Thing' anyone? No, me neither.

Rather than just being a chronological journey through the decade, the book is arranged into different subjects, which it covers in depth, interspersed with the major tournaments of the time from Italia 90, through Euro 96 and finally France 98. This allows each area to be covered in detail and in some cases, such as the music section, shows just how much the 90s was a transition period for football memorabilia. The majority of CDs (and the odd cassette or 7") covered are not official cup final or tournament releases, but a host of football-related songs. World in Motion raised the bar for football music, being an actual decent track and the rest of the decade built upon that with hit after hit of top quality music. Not really... Three Lions aside, the rest of the 90s saw the usual host of crappy cup tie ins and poor theme tunes.

The Toys & Games section has a raft of nostalgia gold. Starting us off is 'Sportstars', the "action" figure range featuring the (mostly-accurate) likenesses of the stars of the day such as Maradona and Gullit as well as someone from Nottingham Forest ;-)
Who else remembers the Official Football League Soccer Quiz? No?  Well it's here, alongside more famous 90s toys such as the Corinthians range of oversized-headed collectibles and also a section on toys given away with various cereals. It's the little things like this, the bits that make you go 'oooh yeah, I remember those!', that make this book that extra bit special. It's one thing reading about stuff you can easily find on eBay, but finding something you thought only you had ever owned is a real delight.

Kits are an obvious subject for any tome covering the 90s, given the depths (or heights depending on your point of view) some of the designs went to and the usual suspects can all be found here.

The section on TV again demonstrates the difference between the start and end of the 90s, with Saint & Greavsie still being a mainstay of the TV schedules - something one could hardly see finding such a prominent place alongside today's over-produced fayre.  The 90s also gave birth to Fantasy Football, Dream Team, 'soccer' cartoon The Hurricanes and a raft of football dramas, the most memorable, of course, being 'An Evening With Gary Lineker'. There's also a delightful few pages on the adverts of the time, from Gazza blubbing for Walkers Crisps and John Bar-nez (for that is how it's pronounced!) hoofing his isotonic can into a changing room bin. And of course, the crap-fest with Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce for Pizza Hut.

Also... Goooooooooooooooaaaaaaalllllllllaaaaaacccciiiiiiooooooo!!!!!!!!

Quick question for you: What huge thing that we use every day was born in the 90s? Clue for you... you're using it right now. Yep, the old internet only truly came into being during this decade and while it wasn't fully embraced by the world of football until perhaps the 2000s, the sheer number of magazines that came to an end in the 90s shows the way things were heading. Goal, 90 Minutes, Total Football, Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes and Match of the Day all started life in the 90s and by the time the new millennium rolled round, several had already disappeared or were on their way out. Shoot! and Match were also past it by this point, with once great mags now reduced to a dumbed down series of advertisements and naff cartoons.

Throughout the book, there's the print equivalent of vox-pops with little '90's Moment' boxes appearing every few pages, each detailing a random memorable event, such as Liverpool's white suits at the 96 FA Cup final or Norwich beating Bayern Munich.

Other topics covered are Video Games, Sticker Albums, Books and a whole load more, which I couldn't possibly do justice by waffling here. All I can say is, if you want to wallow in the warm glow of a plethora of memories from your childhood / early adulthood, go and buy it. Without wishing to wade knee deep into cliche (gonna do it anyway), this genuinely would make an ideal stocking filler for Christmas as it's only £9.99 and almost certainly cheaper on Amazon (yup, £7.19 at the mo...)

Want to know more about the book and its author? Then keep reading as I posed a few questions to Ash...

Q: So Ash...why the 90s?

A: As a generation I feel like we (and that’s me included) have refused to admit that the 90s are now ‘retro’, but it’s very much an era that is exactly that - and I felt it needed a retro celebration. I grew up in that decade and would consider it ‘my decade’ and know I would enjoy a look back at what made football in the 90s so memorable, and thought fellow football fans would too. It hasn’t been looked back upon in this way before, and it was a decade where so much changed in the game, what with SKY, the Premier League and Euro 96 so there was that to cove,r along with the classic kits, TV shows, boots and of course those stickers that were swapped throughout playgrounds up and down the country.

Q: How did Alive & Kicking get started?

A: I had already published a book with the History Press called The QPR Miscellany, and we decided to do a more general football book too. Various themes had been discussed, but after visiting my parents loft on the hunt for some old documents I came across a whole heap of football stuff from my childhood. It was then I had the urge to share these mementos with football fans of the same era. There were so many random collectable series’ and toys and games that were released when the football boom hit the country once again, that they needed to be collected in one book. I pitched the idea to my publishers, and thanks in particular one editor who firmly believed in the idea as much as I did it was decided we’d take this 90s nostalgia trip together. The title went through a few disguises but Simple Minds’ ‘Alive and Kicking’ is so synonymous with that era and the beginning of the Premier League it seemed like the perfect fit.

Q: What was the most enjoyable part about writing the book?

A: That’s hard as the whole book was so enjoyable as a whole, there were things I’d forgotten about myself like ‘The Football League Quiz Game’ and the vast array of football themed computer games, and they were fun to revisit. I enjoyed writing about USA 94, as that’s still my favourite World Cup – it’s hard to believe that was almost twenty years ago – and also the magazines as that’s the industry I work in generally. One of my favourite moments in the process was being sent an image of the players that made up Sky’s launch advert for their first Premier League season. I hadn’t seen that probably since that advert was on telly and it really meant a lot for it to be included in the book. I owe Sky a big thank you for letting me use that image and the others that appear in that section.

Q: What difficulties did you face along the way?

A: Images are always the trickiest thing with this kind of book, as they have to sell what you’re writing help the nostalgia trip. Thankfully I had an excellent photographer in Liam Sheppard (@Irishshep1) who took the majority of the pictures in the book, and was helped out by many picture agencies and companies for the rest of the book. I found dealing with the music industry (for the football song section) a whole different kind of experience as certain people and labels can be difficult to pin down and determine who is in charge of what. But I have to say once you get there, ninety percent of the clients I dealt with were very helpful even if I didn’t always end up in the outcome I’d hoped for.

Q: Was there anything you wanted to include, but had to leave out?

A: You could go to town on pretty much every section in the book, but I wanted to get as many different aspects in the book as possible. For example there’s a section on kits, and the 90s had so many crazy and garish designs that you could (and there already has been) a whole book on just them. I also included some ‘90s moments’ as titbits throughout the book, and again you could include absolutely everything that happened but I had to restrain myself. One thing I was gutted not to include, and that was only down to no one being able to find it was The Sun’s kit posters. Back in the 90s they used to produce posters illustrating all the new kits for that year that I used to put up on my wall. But not even the guys at the newspaper could find an image of it so that stayed locked in my memory instead – although I did mention it briefly in the book too.

Q: What would you say was the 90s most influential football moment?

A: There were so many, but for me Gazza’s tears in Turin and England’s performance at Italia 90 changed everything. English football was in a pretty bad way before then, what with the hooligan troubles of the 80s and Hillsborough, but it was Gazza and Bobby Robson’s boys really put the spark back in to football fans and the general perception of the sport. After that, things got bigger and bigger thanks to the Premier League, Champions League and the money sky ploughed into the game. Also Jean Marc Bosman’s role in the decade and the legacy of his case can’t be underestimated either.

Q: What would you say were the best and worst aspects of 90s football?

A: I think football didn’t seem to in so much of a bubble as it is now in the 90s, and somehow more fun. Players were more reachable in terms of the how the portrayed themselves on and off the pitch and ‘image’ wasn’t really a big thing at that time. After all, you can’t imagine the players of today posing for some of the ridiculous pictures we used to see in Match and Shoot at the time. It was colourful, it was ‘naff’ but in a good way, and was the first real time every industry got involved. Football was ‘born again’ if you like and everyone jumped on the bandwagon and meant there were so many different mementoes and pieces of nostalgia for me in includes in the book. As for the worst, it’s hard for to say as I’m promoting a book celebrating how great it was. However, there are obvious small things like the last remaining era hooligan culture at the start of the decade.

Q: As Editor of KiCK! Magazine, how would you compare kids football magazines of the past with what’s available now?

A: More different then you’d think actually. Growing up there was only ever really Match and Shoot that we as 90s kids used to buy. I being the magazine geek that I was collected them all, like 90 Minutes/Total Football/Goal and so forth. But generally it was the two big guns who were aimed a younger audience. Fast forward to 2013, and Match is still going, Match of the Day is its main rival and then KiCK! runs alongside them as monthly alternative. The biggest difference though, is the magazines of today are aimed at a much younger audience than Match and Shoot were in the 90s. The obvious reason for this is the rise of the internet, and that the teenage audience prefer to get their footy fix online, so kid’s football magazines are now aimed at that audience who aren’t quite ready for the net and much more interested in posters, fun features and puzzles. It’s interesting that other than Soccer Stars (which was a short spin-off from Shoot) there wasn’t the same type of magazines available to that same audience back in the 90s.

Q: What’s your most cherished piece of football memorabilia?

A: That’s a tough one, as there’s a lot I appreciate from that era and there’s stuff I forgot I even had. If I had to pick a couple I’d go with my 1990 QPRs shirt and 1994 USA away shirt. Being a bit of kit geek anyway, these also represent my first real memories of my own team and first hero Roy Wegerle. The USA 94 kit is also my favourite kit of all time, as nothing sums up 90s designs then a denim themed shirt covered in the stars from old glory. I’m also very proud of my completed 1994 Merlin Premier League sticker album too. That was my greatest achievement growing up!

Q: Rich has detailed how he stupidly threw away all his Shoot! & Match mags from the 80s/90s. Have you ever got rid of something you now painfully regret?

Luckily I’m quite the hoarder, much to my fiancĂ©e’s disapproval, so there isn’t anything major that I’ve thrown out and wish I hadn’t. I did have an alarm clock when I was younger that when it went off played the Match of the Day theme tune. I never thought I’d need it again when I got rid of it, but I really wanted to include in the book. Luckily I tracked one down through Zeon and managed to get it in there. The same goes for Tomy Super Cup Football as well.

Q: If you could own any piece of football memorabilia in the world, what would it be?

A: Nothing that really stands out to be honest. I wish I’d collected more Corinthian figures as there are some random players I wish I had now, where I perhaps didn’t appreciate them as much when were first released in the mid-nineties. As I’ve mentioned I’m a big fan of both Italia 90 and USA 94 so anything that’s connected to that I’d love to add to my collection of stuff. I came across so much through this process that if I didn’t own it, I tried to track it down and nine times out of ten managed to find it. You can now imagine what my garage looks like - it’s like a 90s football haven. I’m thinking of opening a mini-museum in Kent!

Q: And finally...any plans for books about any other decades?

A: Not right now no. I’m too young to really go into as much passion and detail on the 70s or 80s  – and they’ve already been done through various channels. While it’s a bit too early to start calling the noughties ‘retro’ but that could happen one day. If there’s scope I’d be up for covering the 90s in a slightly different aspect but for the moment the focus is on KiCK! magazine and my recent new adventure KiCK! Mag TV. You can also keep reliving more 90s nostalgia on the books Twitter account @AK90s and myself on @AshRoseUK

Our thanks go to Ash for taking the time to answer our Q's in such detail. Now, go buy the book!!! :)


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