Sunday, 21 September 2014

FKS: Soccer Stars 80

It's my firm belief that FKS should probably have been renamed 'NCM' around the start of the 1980's. 'Non compos mentis' is a fair description of what their football sticker collections were like back then, such were the variable standards employed throughout.

The new decade should have brought about a new dawn for FKS and its sticker albums in the UK, but instead they continued to churn out yet more of their basic, plain-looking stickers that were not dissimilar to the ones they were making a decade earlier. Look closer, however, and you'd have marvelled at some truly laughable examples of photography in the images that were featured, setting FKS well apart from the equivalent merchandise being made by Figurine Panini at the time.

To begin, there was the eye-catching front cover of the Soccer Stars 80 album. Overall, it had a more modern look than the corresponding Panini offering, although the picture showing West Bromwich Albion seemingly playing St. Mirren may have been every bit as baffling as some of the stickers inside. Along the bottom, a caption indicated that the English First and Second Divisions were featured among the 48 pages, and for good reason as this was the first time that Second Division teams had appeared in an FKS collection.

Inside, each of the First Division team line-ups consisted of 13 players, confusingly spread over one-and-a-bit pages. The extra 'bit' meant that some double-page spreads actually showed players from two or even three different teams. You wouldn't have got that in a Panini album, but then perhaps Panini had a bigger budget or better designers.

Each team section was titled in a never-more-Eighties green bubble font, followed by some rudimentary facts relating to the honours won by that team. There was also a handy grid showing their results from the previous season, with spaces provided for results in the current season too.

Sadly, FKS didn't bother with the team pictures and foil badges that were made so popular by their rivals, making do instead with the regular white-bordered player stickers bearing a name along the bottom edge. As for the photos themselves, let's just say they were... idiosyncratic.

While Panini standardised on 'head and shoulders' shots for their stickers, FKS were nowhere near as conscientious. They instead opted to raid image galleries, reuse old pictures from previous collections, take some of their own pictures and even paint over old pictures to form a tapestry of lunatic inconsistency.

If ever you're feeling depressed, just turn the pages of this album in its complete form to quickly cheer yourself up. Smile at Brighton's Peter O'Sullivan pinching his nose as he runs out onto the field for Brighton. Be amazed at Martin Peters wearing his Norwich City shirt from 1976. Laugh at Middlesbrough's Stan Cummins sharing his picture with one of his team mates, or Terry Cochrane proudly wearing his Burnley shirt despite having moved to Ayresome Park in October 1978. As for Trevor Francis, his shirt has had more paint applied to it than the Forth Road Bridge.

Uniformity was a key element of this collection - in more ways than one. Players were shown in their home kits, away kits, old kits, new kits, training kits, tracksuits and in Terry Cochrane's case, wrong kits altogether. The whole thing was a total hotchpotch from start to finish and could be considered to be 'interesting' if it wasn't for the fact that it was actually rather deranged.

In similar vein, the Soccer Stars 80 album featured a dozen England Under 21 players - six shown in the middle of the album, and six at the very end. None of the full England squad were included, though - just 12 upcoming young stars such as Russell Osman (in a grey Ipswich shirt), Derek Statham (distracted) and Kevin Reeves (asleep).

Luckily, higher standards were restored with the excellent gallery of Second Division team pictures, before leading into the Scottish Premier Division team pages that used the same format as their English counterparts. Then at the very end of the album there was the customary 'Special Offer' - something not unfamiliar to Panini fans. In this case, FKS collectors were invited to send off for up to 22 bronze medallions "each representing an English First Division Club from the current 1978/79 season." The front of each coin showed a club badge while the honours and cups won by the team were displayed on the back. Think 'fancy 2p pieces' and you're pretty much there.

With that, you have a full picture of FKS and it's floundering attempts to keep their foothold in the UK sticker market. Though they'd make further collections for another couple of years, they were finally declared bankrupt in 1987, never to be seen again.

It's anyone's guess what their stickers might have looked like had they still been around today, but my feeling is they'd be virtually the same as they always were. A plain white border around a randomly chosen photo - that was the FKS way for years and years. Unable to stray far from that tried and tested formula, it was perhaps this reason and this reason alone that ultimately proved the undoing for Britain's very own answer to Panini.

-- Chris Oakley


  1. They have put Chris Jones in the wrong postion on the Tottenham page. It is supposed to be in alpabetical order, but they have Jones ahead of Hoddle and Holmes.


    1. Well spotted! I rest my case about the somewhat slack approach used in this album... :)

  2. Possibly a late replacement for another player? I'm guessing John Gorman...

  3. This album holds a place near to my heart as it was my first sticker album at 8 years old.The errors are funny though,I have always wondered why a Stan Bowles sticker is shown on the back cover yet there is no Stan Bowles sticker in the album.In my copy Liverpool comes before Leeds too.It has always amused me how they realised they were short of pics and sent a photographer to s ground to catch players coming out of the tunnel. Liverpool at Ipswich i think and Forest at QPR possibly spring to mind. Fks were brilliant collections though and along with my complete 83-84 Quadriga album this is a cornerstone of my collection great article by the way.

    1. Well said, Rich, and thanks for the kind words! Yes, the 'players running out of a tunnel' motif was an interesting one that Panini never seemed to want to match. As for the errors, well let's just say it gave the collections some character! :)