Thursday, 17 October 2013

Brooke Bond Oxo 'Play Better Soccer', 1976

Mick Channon was one of the top football players in England back in 1976. An England international with a knack for scoring goals, he was highly regarded by peers and fans alike.

History may consider him the poor man's Kevin Keegan, but we won't hear a word of it. He remains Southampton's all-time top scorer and a much overlooked great from England's rich football history.

Who better, then, to put their full weight behind a football card collection called '40 Ways To Play Better Soccer', a title very nearly adopted by Paul Simon for one of his many songs and disregarded all too quickly, if you want our opinion.

Rather than depict the top players and teams of the day, this set of picture cards took the approach of instructing young football fans how to... well, 'play better soccer'.

There were 40 cards to collect and each had a hand drawn illustration on the front and some text on the back. Each illustration showed a footballing skill that youngsters were invited to practice and master. Whether it was diving in goal, heading for goal or executing 'the chip pass' (?), you can bet it was depicted in full colour in this collection.

If the pictures weren't self-explanatory enough (how many big black arrows do you need, exactly?), the text on the back would spell it out for you in tiny writing. But just who was providing the expert guidance on how to achieve such footballing greatness, exactly? You guessed it - the man himself, Mick Channon, along with his England chums Colin Todd, Gerry Francis and Ray Clemence.

Given the personnel enlisted by Brooke Bond Oxo, you wonder whether there were cards titled "How to do the 'windmill arm' celebration" as favoured by Channon or Ray Clemence's guide - "How to deal with a tear gas attack"... If anyone actually owns those cards, they're probably sitting on a potential fortune.

We mention Brooke Bond because these cards were distributed in boxes of PG Tips - an excuse to drink ten times your own body weight in tea if ever there was one. You could also get the album free from grocers if you bought ¾ lb of PG Tips or tea bags, or failing that, you could send off a coupon with a 6½p stamp. Thirty-seven years on, you can save yourself an abnormal number of visits to the grocer (or the toilet, after drinking all that tea) by visiting eBay where you'll find cards and albums available for not much money at all.

So there we have it. Football picture cards, tea bags and Mick Channon. What else would you need to Play Better Soccer?


  1. You beat me to it! Got the full set - both loose cards and filled book! Was gonna post them in my blog! Might do still...

  2. You'd have thought they'd have got "Mike" Channon's his name right...

    1. It's when you see 'Michael' Channon mentioned in his early years that things really start to jar, James! :)

  3. Was there a card telling the youngsters how to grow luxurious sideburns like Mick? :-)

    1. They certainly were very big, weren't they Graham?!! :)