Sunday, 12 January 2014

ITV World Cup 78 magazine

You’ve got to hand it to ITV. They knew an opportunity when they saw one, and when the 1978 World Cup came around, they realised they could make a bob or two from merchandise.

At least that’s the assumption. Having thumbed through the ITV World Cup 78 magazine, I couldn't find any evidence of a sale price anywhere. Was it ever available in the shops, or was this simply a piece of publishing hutzpah on the part of London Weekend Television?

Either way, ITV managed to do what the BBC didn't, namely to produce a tie-in magazine that would enhance the World Cup experience for young fans across the UK. Running to 64 pages, this was a bold attempt to educate and entertain in an admittedly formulaic fashion. Team guides? Check. Quiz? Check. Player profiles? Check. Match report sheets and recipes for all the competing nations… WHAT?!?!?

More on that later… Yes, the reassuring presence of Brian Moore was right there on page 3 to welcome everyone to the greatest football show on earth, and to remind everyone that ITV would be doing its bit to bring all the action to the small screen in your living room.

This being 1978, there was much talk of ‘images being beamed live via satellite around the world’ which, of course, was a terribly exciting concept 36 years ago. As Moore himself said, “you will see more of the World Cup… from your armchair in Glasgow or Gillingham, Edinburgh or Exeter, than you would in Argentina itself.” Brian Moore’s cheeky mention of his favourite team aside, it was a truth that nowadays we all take for granted. Watching a football match that’s being played nearly 7,000 miles away while you’re eating your evening meal? Nothing special…

The reference to Glasgow naturally reminds us that Scotland were Britain’s only representatives in Argentina, and there’s a slight sense of Moore and co. trying to convince us they’d been interested in Scottish football all along. Shorn of the privilege of being England-centric since 1970, they relied to some extent on their Scotsport commentator Arthur Montford to talk with some gravitas on Ally McLeod’s team, and that he did admirably.

Each of Scotland’s key players was given his own mini profile from Alan Rough in goal to Kenny Dalglish up front. The details provided for each were generally useful and informative with Willie Johnstone picked out specifically for having had a “stormy career” up to the date of publication. Little did Arthur Montford know how portentous that comment was to become during the final tournament.

On a wider scale, the magazine provided substantial outlines of all 16 competing countries, and yet again all were written with an emphasis on facts rather than waffle. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough emphasis on correcting many of the spelling and punctuation mistakes that were found throughout. A regrettable observation that was only partly balanced out by the eight full pages that the team profiles spanned.

In the late-1970’s, if you found Brian Moore, Kevin Keegan was never far behind. Though the former Liverpool striker wasn’t able to grace the 1978 World Cup with his own goalscoring talents, he was at least able to provide some insight into the likely fortunes of the West German team. At the end of a tough first season with SV Hamburg, Keegan was in a position to talk in some detail about the players who, it was hoped, would retain the World Cup for West Germany.

Reading through his assessment of Helmut Schoen’s team, Keegan appeared cautiously optimistic of their chances, and in retrospect, justifiably so. With no Franz Beckenbauer or Gerd Muller, West Germany were always unlikely to match their peak of 1974 and their results in 1978 backed up Keegan’s frank views before the tournament started.

“Some of the players have been thinking that all they have to do is pull on a German shirt” he said in relation to friendly defeats against Brazil and Sweden. In Argentina, West Germany drew four of their six games and won just once - a 6-0 trouncing of Mexico in the First Round. This was to be a rare low point in West German football history and one that this magazine wasn't entirely surprised to witness.

With seven pages devoted to a history of the World Cup [check] and a three-page reminder of England’s victory in 1966 (for those who’d forgotten that England were once that good), it just remained to provide sustenance for the belly rather than food for the soul. Yes, what better way to round off than to give readers five pages of recipes from each of the competing nations!

It’s not worth dwelling on why this was included. Instead, allow your lips to water at the prospect of Mexican Chilli Con Carne or Tunisian Cous Cous with Lamb. A Spanish Omelette had to be on your list of culinary delights throughout Argentina ‘78, while a tasty Black Forest Cherry Cake made for an ideal Austrian-style dessert. As for Scotland, Herrings in Oatmeal was the offering.

It’s just a shame that the recipe writers ran out of inspiration at the same time as Helmut Schoen’s squad. ‘Traditional German Dish’ was the provision on page 61, a rather drab name that luckily wasn't a reflection of this well-written World Cup magazine.


  1. Hello Chris,
    Nice article. I can answer one question for you and that is why it had no price marked on the front. I remember as an excited boy of 8 watching the TV advert for this world cup pack. I bugged my Mum for a couple of weeks and she gave in and ordered it by post from ITV. It included a few more items, as well as this magazine. I vaguely recall a match by match poster and another poster featuring large drawings of the stars including Rivelino and Dalglish. Such fond memories.
    Best Regards

    1. Hi Glen,

      Thanks for your kind words and for your feedback. It's great to hear from someone that actually owned this back in the day!

      So the mystery is solved, then - you had to send off to ITV in order to receive this magazine. I guess that only added an air of exclusivity to the thing by not having it on sale in the shops!

      Thanks for adding another level of detail to what I'd written - it's much appreciated... :)

      Best wishes,
      Chris O.

  2. Great article
    I was 10 and my grandad got it sent to me as a surprise
    So excited to get something through the post
    Loved filling the sheets in and was the envy of my class
    Thanks for the memories