Friday 31 October 2014

Match Facts Football Yearbook 87/88

It's oft claimed that kids of today spend all their time in their rooms on their computers or consoles, while the youth of our day did nothing but play out from morn til night. I have a teenage stepson and while he does indeed spend a looooot of time glued to his computer (phrasing!), he also spends a good deal of time outdoors in that good old fashioned fresh air, playing good old fashioned football.

When I think back to my Saturday afternoons at his age, I recall with fondness that same fresh air...wafting in through the window of my tiny bedroom, where I sat listening intently to Mercia FM, following the fortunes of my beloved Coventry City. Now if the image of a teenage lad sitting alone in his bedroom listening to his team play out another goalless draw isn't depressing enough, imagine then that as well as listening, he's also making careful notes about the match...actually let me back up slightly's not like I was just making notes for my own amusement like a nerd or something! I had an actual reason to be noting down the team that day, subs, goal times etc...My life had some purpose!

So why was I painstakingly recording match details? Was it because, in pre-internet days, access to such info was regarded as a precious commodity? Was living in some eastern bloc with tightly controlled media access? Or was I just a nerd? Obviously not the last one...

The real reason was because I was truly obsessed with football and Match magazine had provided me with an official (it was given away with a magazine, so it had to be completed!) means to record such info.

The Match Facts Football Yearbook 87/88, to give its full, rather grandiose, title, was an A5 sized booklet, which allowed, nay encouraged, you to fill out your team's match details for the entire season. Being 12 and with nothing better to do, I took to this task with an intense amount of gusto.

On opening the booklet, you were presented with a space to fill in details of your team, their nickname, ground, manager etc, beneath which was an example of how to fill in the match facts. This was split into two parts, the top dealing with the basics - Opponents, Date, Score, Attendance etc and the bottom part reserved for the team list. This was before squad numbers of course, so it was easy to fill in positions 1-11. You were encouraged to write the player names diagonally, not only because the spaces were quite small (note the names in the example are all pretty Pickering or Ogrizovic for them to contend with!), but also to allow room for the Match Facts rating (the score given to each player in the following week's copy of Match). As you can see, that was something I never bothered with...mine was a more 'of the moment' sort of nerdiness...

The Yearbook had enough spaces for a full season (even accounting for the higher number of games in a lower league club's season), as well as special pages for the FA / Scottish Cup and the League (Littlewoods Challenge or Skol) cup.

What they didn't provide, however was space for any European competitions...but this was of course 1987, so no English clubs were playing in Europe. If you were a fan from North of the border (maybe, Dundee Utd) then that was just tough...this was dealing with domestic matters only! Even then, something was missing...with English clubs banned from European competitions, the Full Members Cup had been created, meaning teams in the top 2 divisions were now playing 3 domestic cup competitions in one season!

As it turns out, Coventry did very well in the FMC (sponsored that year by Simod, an Italian sportswear manufacturer) and nearly reached the final, only losing to eventual winners Reading on penalties...which you can see was lovingly recorded by myself in the space left by getting knocked out of the Littlewoods Cup early.

The empty match slots at the end of the season also come in handy as Coventry had one final cup competition to play that year. The mostly forgotten Anglo-Scottish Cup pitched the winners of the FA and Scottish Cups against each other in a 2 legged final. The first leg took place on 22nd December 1987 on a chilly night at Highfield Road. A 1-1 draw played out in front of a paltry attendance of just 5331. The return leg at Love Street was set to be played on 23rd March 1988...but it never happened. After the tiny crowd at the first leg, the whole thing was ditched, which must surely make this the longest ever 2 legged final in the history of the game?

As if filling in stats wasn't exciting enough on its own, to prolong your interest (and keep you buying the mag no doubt), the Yearbook also had spaces for stickers. Similar in size to the Daily Mirror ones, these brightened up what else would have been rather dull pages, rendered as they were in a pale green with darker green lines. Bizarrely, it would appear I grew tired of putting in the stickers much quicker than I did filling out details of 42 matches (plus those 3 cup comps!), perhaps lending the nerd theory extra weight.

Match produced another Yearbook for the 88-89 season, following exactly the same layout, but in shades of red. I clearly had outgrown my nerd status (I so hadn't!) by then as I seem to have given up halfway through the season...I think what finally killed it was having to write the following in the one and only entry for that year's FA Cup...

"Sutton Utd 2 - 1 Coventry City"

25 years on and the pain is still fresh...

-- Rich Johnson

Monday 27 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: The Final

And so it's come to this... Fifty of the greatest retro football video game titles have been whittled down to just two. Falling by the wayside have been the classic and the clumsy, the majestic and the 'meh', but now we arrive at the Final to find a monumental showdown between two giants of the home computer age.

On the one hand, we have Sensible Soccer, a playing simulation par excellence. 'Sensi' provided everything the football fan could ever want. After-touch control, editable squad lists and team kits, plus different pitch styles and goal replays were just the icing on the cake. What really made it a great game, however, was its sheer simplicity. There were no 3D graphics to render, no sluggish sprites to animate - just a brevity of detail that gave the game its slickness and playability. A masterpiece of arcade football brilliance.

And then we have Football Manager, the grand-daddy of all management simulation games. Originally made for the ZX81 and ZX Spectrum, your job was to manage a squad of players with enough élan to help them rise from Division Four to Division One over successive seasons. By selecting your best individuals and buying better ones where necessary. it was possible to enjoy each match (shown in isometric 3D) and steer your team to ultimate glory. Detailed without being confusing, this was another triumph for the 'less is more' school of video game programming.

But which one gets your vote? Which game had you gripped with addiction every time you played it, and which one is deserving of the title 'Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever'?

Simply select one of the two titles below, register your selection and in seven days' time, we'll announce the winner as chosen by you, our beloved football nostalgia lovers.

Make your decision, be brave, and may the best retro football video game win...

Thanks for taking part in our vote-off. You can see the result of the Final here!

Fantasy Nostalgia: Liverpool wear Admiral

When I recently read Bert Patrick's book all about the history of Admiral, legendary kit makers to the great and good of British football, one episode sent my mind into a tailspin. It was the section where Patrick, looking to grab the kit contracts for as many top clubs as possible, approached Bill Shankly at Liverpool and gained his agreement to provide them Admiral outfits.

Sadly for Bert Patrick, what would have been a huge name to add to his company's portfolio turned out to be a false dawn as Liverpool's board of directors overruled Shankly to prevent the deal from going through.

Yet it got my mind thinking: what would Liverpool have looked like in an Admiral kit back then, and thereafter?

Time to get doodling, I thought...

Kit 1: Circa 1973
If Bill Shankly had been backed by his board, this might have been the first pair of Admiral kits worn by his team. (Click on images for a larger version.)

Applying Liverpool's colours to the Admiral kit for Leeds United at the time, you get an all-red outfit with a flappy collar, oval badge and those famous Leeds number ribbons stitched into the socks. Well we can all dream, I suppose...

For the away kit, I've gone for the white and black that was preferred by the Anfield club at the time.

Not bad, but quite plain and basic as were many of the kits at the time.

Kit 2: Circa 1974

Admittedly this is the most 'out there' design of the lot, but this is Fantasy Nostalgia after all...

Here I've used Admiral's Luton Town kit template which would have originally used orange, navy blue and white. Given that Liverpool only wore two colours at home in the early 70's (red and white), I've had to use a bit of artistic licence by adding a darker shade of red on the first kit. As for the vertical band, I hardly think it would have been accepted by the Anfield faithful, but it was somewhat in vogue at the time!

Once again for the away kit, I've chosen a predominantly white and black colour scheme, but this time there's more red thanks to that red band flanked with black.

A more interesting pair of kits than the last ones, but perhaps better suited to, say, a Swindon or a Middlesbrough...

Kit 3: Circa 1975

By 1975, the England national team had an Admiral kit of their own, and that's the design I've used for this third version of what Liverpool might have been wearing around the same time.

Again I've employed a shade of dark red on the shoulders and shorts as an accent colour, but this time it's predominantly red with white trim for the home kit, and quite smart I think it looks too.

For a bit of variety in the away kits, I've provided two options - white/black again, but also an all-yellow version, even though Liverpool rarely wore that colour until 1979.

Personally I think these kits are the most believable of all those shown here and I think Bob Paisley's team would have looked quite fetching in them.

Kit 4: Circa 1976

Yet more flights of fancy now as we enter the era of the glorious Admiral tramlines. For Liverpool to have embraced this design would have meant a leap of faith of gargantuan proportions for club officials and fans alike, and yet it's not completely beyond the realms of fantasy to think of Liverpool in such a series of kits.

One shortcoming of the design, however, would have been exposed when Liverpool became the first top flight team to have an official shirt sponsor around 1978/1979. Having to fit 'Hitachi' onto the front of their kits would've broken up the tramlines motif somewhat, and yet according to my home kit design shown here, it doesn't destroy the whole look, in my view.

Could you imagine Graeme Souness or Ray Kennedy wearing any of these? Probably not, but it's worth remembering that if Shanks had got his way, that Admiral logo really would've been worn by the English champions rather than the Umbro diamonds...

-- Chris Oakley

Sunday 26 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game: Semi Final result

The last five days of voting are finally over and now we can announce who has reached our Greatest Retro Football Video Game Final!

Thanks to all the votes you registered, we ended up with a clear winner in Group A and a tie for first place in Group B!

Despite a neck-and-neck battle with Sensible World of Soccer over the first four days, it was Sensible Soccer that eventually stretched its lead towards the end of the Group A campaign to come out top, In Group B, however, there was a three-horse race that proved exciting right to the bitter end!

From the word 'go', Football Manager led from the front, picking up many of your votes, with Championship Manager very close behind. Then in the second half of the voting period, FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 rapidly gained in popularity, and in the final hours before the deadline picked up enough crucial votes to tie for first place with Football Manager. Championship Manager missed out on a three-way tie by just one vote.

Here are the total number of votes cast:

Group A

Sensible Soccer (1992, CA/AST) - 21 votes
Sensible World of Soccer (1994, CA/PC) - 13 votes
FIFA Soccer 95 / FIFA 95 (1995, SMD) - 10 votes
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988, C64/ZXS/AST/CA/AMS) - 4 votes
Match Day (1984, ZXS/C64/AMS/BBCM) - 4 votes
Tracksuit Manager (1988, ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 1 vote

Group B

FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (PC/NGB/SMD/SNES/PS1/N64) - 15 votes
Football Manager (1981, ZXS/ZX81/BBCM) - 15 votes
Championship Manager (CA/AST) - 14 votes
Kick Off 2 (1990, CA/AST/AMS) - 6 votes
Kick Off (1989, CA/AST) - 2 votes
Actua Soccer (1995, PC/PS1) - 1 vote

(Total responses: 54)

With 'FIFA 98' and Football Manager sharing top spot in Group B, we decided to go completely retro by tossing a coin to decide who should reach the Final. Then we realised that this was an outdated and highly unsatisfactory method and opted instead to count the votes gained by both titles in the previous round. It's not just UEFA that can lean heavily on a co-efficient system, you know... ;-)

Having totalled up all the previous votes, we found that FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 picked up 10 while Football Manager scored 26, so it's Kevin Toms legendary management simulation that goes through to meet Sensible Soccer from Group A in the Final.

And that's what's coming next on The Football Attic - the grand finale that will decide the Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever! Watch this space for details of how to vote soon!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Subbuteo: Short-Sided Variations

Think of Subbuteo and you think of eleven plastic men pitted against eleven on a big green cloth pitch. It was ever thus; in its simplistic form, Subbuteo was nothing if not a beguiling interpretation of football on a miniature scale.

What's not so well known is that the makers of this classic football game also made several other variations, each with their own quirks and foibles...

1. Fivesides

"The Replica of Indoor Soccer" as it proudly called itself, this game was launched in the 1950's as a complimentary edition to the regular Subbuteo 11-a-side format. Aimed at improving your playing techniques, Fivesides consisted of a half-size pitch with minimal markings, some tape to act as a low wall around the perimeter of the playing surface, two modified goals and a pea-sized football.

There were three different sets to buy, ascending in price - Introductory, Standard and Deluxe - and the first two of those didn't even come with any players. By using the players from your original Subbuteo set, you could save some money and still enjoy the essence of the game.

Monday 20 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: Semi Finals

Welcome back to the Greatest Retro Football Video Game vote-off where we find ourselves at the semi-final stage!

We had a great response to the First Round of our competition, so thank you to everyone that took part. The results were as follows:

Simulation: 1970's/1980's

Kick Off (1989, CA/AST) - 16 votes
Emlyn Hughes International Soccer (1988, C64/ZXS/AST/CA/AMS) - 14 votes
Match Day (1984, ZXS/C64/AMS/BBCM) - 10 votes
Microprose Soccer (1988, PC/CA/AMS/AST/C64/ZXS) - 9 votes
Match Day II (1987, AMS/C64/ZXS) - 8 votes
International Soccer (1983, C64) - 6 votes
Peter Shilton’s Handball Maradona (1986, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
World Cup / World Cup Carnival (1986, C64/ZXS/CPC) - 4 votes
Gary Lineker’s Superstar Soccer (1987, C64/ZXS/AMS) - 3 votes
Peter Beardsley’s International Football (ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 2 votes
Pele’s Soccer (1980, ATA) - 2 votes
‘Football’ (1975, BIN) - 2 votes
NASL Soccer (1979, INT) - 0 votes
World Soccer (1987, SMS) - 0 votes

Simulation: 1990's Group A

Kick Off 2 (1990, CA/AST/AMS) - 16 votes
FIFA Soccer 95 / FIFA 95 (1995, SMD) - 13 votes
Actua Soccer (1995, PC/PS1) - 9 votes
International Superstar Soccer (1995, SNES) - 7 votes
Italy 1990 (1990, ZXS/C64/CA/AMS/AST) - 7 votes
Manchester United Europe (1991, ZXS/AST/CA/AMS/C64/ARC) - 4 votes
Super Kick Off (1991, SMD/NGB/SNES) - 2 votes
World League Soccer ‘98 (1998, PS1) - 2 votes
Gazza’s Super Soccer (1990, C64/ZXS/AMS/CA/AST) - 2 votes
Dino Dini’s Soccer (1994, SMD/SNES) - 1 vote
Super Soccer (1992, SNES) - 1 vote
European Championship (1992, PC/AST/CA) - 0 votes
Olympic Soccer (1996, PS1) - 0 votes

Simulation: 1990's Group B

Sensible Soccer (1992, CA/AST) - 27 votes
Sensible World of Soccer (CA/PC) - 25 votes
FIFA: Road to World Cup 98 (PC/NGB/SMD/SNES/PS1/N64) - 10 votes
FIFA 99 (WIN/PS1/N64) - 6 votes
Multi-Player Soccer Manager (1991, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
FIFA International Soccer / FIFA 94 (PC/CA/SNES/SMD/SMS/SGG/NGB) - 4 votes
Actua Soccer 3 (PC/PS1) - 3 votes
World Cup Soccer - Italia 90 (1990, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 2 votes
Michael Owen’s World League Soccer ‘99 (PS1) - 2 votes
Striker (1992, CA/AST/SMD/SNES) - 1 vote
Champions of Europe (1992, SMS) - 1 vote
John Barnes European Football (1992, CA/AST) - 0 votes

Management / Hybrid

Football Manager (1981, ZXS/ZX81/BBCM) - 26 votes
Championship Manager (CA/AST) - 19 votes
Tracksuit Manager (1988, ZXS/C64/CA/AST) - 9 votes
Footballer of the Year (1986, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 7 votes
Premier Manager 2 (1993, PC/CA/AST) - 7 votes
Player Manager (1990, CA/AST/PS1) - 5 votes
Footballer of the Year 2 (1989, ZXS/C64/AMS) - 4 votes
The Boss (1984, C64) - 3 votes
Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes (1987, ZXS) - 2 votes
Kenny Dalglish Soccer Manager (1989, ZXS/C64/AMS/CA/AST) - 2 votes
The Double (1987, ZXS/C64) - 1 vote

(Total responses: 45)

And so to the Semi Finals where the top three from all of the above sections have now been drawn into two new groups - A and B. Your task, should you choose to accept it, is simply to pick your favourite video game from both groups. Once again, you have five days to cast your votes, after which the most popular video game from Group A and Group B goes through to our Grand Final.

Here's the voting form - now it's over to you... Good luck! :)

AMS - Amstrad CPC; AST - Amiga ST; BBCM - BBC Micro; C64 - Commodore 64; CA - Commodore Amiga; N64 - Nintendo 64; NGB - Nintendo GameBoy; PC - Personal Computer; PS1 - PlayStation 1; SMD - Sega Mega Drive; SNES - Super Nintendo; ZX81 - Sinclair ZX81; ZXS - Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Sunday 12 October 2014

World Soccer: August 1981

With less than a year to go until the 1982 World Cup, there was much concern among the writers of World Soccer. Concern over Spain's readiness to host the tournament, concern over England's ability to qualify, and concern over the standard of football being played by Europe's top clubs.

A survey of officials and observers in Spain suggested the twelfth World Cup hosts would indeed be ready when the tournament started in June 1982, however while the areas of transport and accommodation appeared to be in good shape, the upgrading of certain stadia appeared a little sluggish.

Despite having been appointed as hosts in 1964, work on improving the Balaídos Municpal Stadium in Vigo and the San Mamés Stadium in Bilbao was only just beginning, and a similar tale could be told for many of the other 15 venues too. Barcelona's Nou Camp was due to increase in capacity and have a new roof fitted, while elsewhere media facilities were being beefed up too.

Friday 10 October 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever: First Round

How do you like your video game football? Do you like the excitement of scoring goals out on the pitch, or do you prefer the cerebral challenge of managing your team to glory?

Either way, the world of computer soccer has offered much in the way of fun, thrills and spills down the years, from the basic battyness of Binatone's 'Football' to the ultra-realistic games we know today. But what's so fun about manipulating a not-quite-right version of Robin Van Persie when you can immerse yourself in the retro world of blocky pixels and badly synthesised music?!

Yes, where The Football Attic's concerned, the less realistic it is, the better we like it - a sentiment we're sure you'll agree with... And that's why we've decided to find out which retro football video game is the best with the launch of our cunningly-titled 'Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever' vote-off!

Over the last two weeks, you've been telling us which retro football games you think should make our starting list, and with thanks to all of you that did so, we can now begin Round 1.

We've arranged 50 titles into four groups: One for playing simulations of the 70's and 80's, two for playing simulations of the 1990's and one for management simulations. What we'd like you to do is to choose up to three favourites from each group. You've got five days to make your choices, and at the end of that period, the most popular three titles from each group will go through to the semi-finals. At that stage we'll have two groups of six where the winners will go through to the Final - more of which in due course...

For now, just pick up to three favourites from each of the groups below, and we'll fill you in on who's through to the next round in five days' time. Thanks for taking part!

AMS - Amstrad CPC; ARC - BBC Archimedes; AST - Amiga ST; ATA - Atari 2600; BBCM - BBC Micro; BIN - Binatone TV Master; C64 - Commodore 64; CA - Commodore Amiga; INT - Intellivision; N64 - Nintendo 64; NGB - Nintendo GameBoy; PC - Personal Computer; PS1 - PlayStation 1; SGG - Sega Game Gear; SMD - Sega Mega Drive; SMS - Sega Master System; SNES - Super Nintendo; WIN - Microsoft Windows; ZX81 - Sinclair ZX81; ZXS - Sinclair ZX Spectrum.

Thank you for all your votes in the First Round of our Greatest Retro Football Video Game vote-off. Here's how the voting went...