Sunday 30 November 2014

The Football Attic's Top 30 Retro Football Twitter Accounts

If football nostalgia's what you live for, then indulging in your passion is what makes life so great - and where better to do that than on Twitter where the world is undoubtedly your oyster?

In the 33 months we've been on Twitter, we've marvelled at the huge community of people that share our love of football's magical past, whether their interest be focused on great players, great matches, great memorabilia or great football kits.

But with thousands and thousands of accounts to follow, which ones should you really be looking out for? The answer is not as difficult as you might think because we at The Football Attic have sorted the wheat from the chaff to bring you our list of the Top 30 Retro Football Twitter Accounts.

Here they are in no particular order, so enjoy - and get following!

1. @ChapmansArsenal
A delightful real-time account of all that was happening to Arsenal in 1930, full of period details about the players, goals and events from 84 years ago. Painstakingly crafted by Graham Sibley from The Sound of Football podcast.

2. @TheSkyStrikers
Photographic gems from an unending seam of match-day programmes are served regularly and with relish here. Lovers of 70's and 80's football will particularly delight in this eclectic parade of retro memories.

3. @ScotsFootyCards
A real giant on Twitter when it comes to classic photographs from a wide range of eras. Source material typically comes from Shoot magazine and Topps collector cards, but not exclusively so, and certainly not just for Scottish football fans!

4. @GoldstoneRapper
When it comes to single-club retro football accounts on Twitter, you won't find many better than this one, along with its accompanying blog site, The Goldstone Wrap. Covering every possible aspect of Brighton & Hove Albion's diverse history, this is a loving tribute to The Seagulls for everyone to enjoy.

5. @TheLeagueMag
One of the most comprehensive compendiums of retro football imagery on Twitter. The League Magazine focuses on everything from players and teams to old football programmes, printed adverts and everything in-between.

6. @OldSchoolPanini
French-language project with a superb accompanying website, but the Twitter channel alone provides lots of great sticker-related imagery. In particular, keep an eye open for 'Through The Years' - a medley of sticker pics focused on one player or coach at different stages of their career.

7. @Retro_Shirts
If you like collecting old football shirts, you'll know that finding a decent source is everything. Luckily, Retro World Football Shirts are on hand with lots of tempting items to purchase, many promoted on their Twitter timeline.

8. @Football_Retro
...or Football Nostalgia to use their proper name, are another fine purveyor of well-chosen imagery from football's rich past, covering great football shirts, crowd shots, well-known players and top matches throughout its archive.

9. @MaradonaPICS
Observe the life and times of arguably the greatest player that ever lived through this wide-ranging selection of photographs featuring Diego Maradona. On and off the field, there's plenty to wonder at and enjoy...

10. @PeleOutOfContxt
If, however, you like your legends ever-so-slightly ridiculed, you'll appreciate this Twitter feed that shows Pele in a variety of real-life scenarios. A nice combination of gentle humour and great pictures.

11. @TrueColoursKits
If you love talking about great football kit designs from the past, you need to follow the illustrator supreme, John Devlin! With links to his latest work on the True Colours website plus great insights into football kit production, John's your man for engaging chat on everything from Adidas to Xara...

12. @GoalPostBooks
Better known as 'Victorian Football', this is a splendid source for articles about Vintage Era soccer. Taken from the book 'The Victorian Football Miscellany' and its partnering website, you won't fail to be drawn into a world of football full of stories both captivating and illuminating.

13. @RetroPunishment
All the fun and humour of football nostalgia distilled into sublime videos and delightfully funny tweets. Retrospective Punishment is the perfect antidote to modern-day football and all its deplorable drivel.

14. @AdmiralSportsUK
Think 'classic football kits' and the name Admiral is sure to quickly follow. Now you can recall all those great designs worn by teams in the UK and across the world by following Admiral Sportswear themselves. With lots of great photos to feast your eyes on, you'll be glad you did.

15. @Football_Hist
Football & History - the perfect combination, amply proven on this Twitter account filled with random memories of all kinds. From newspaper cuttings to videos, cartoons to player photos, this plundering of the past is well worth a follow.

16. @ColdWarFoot
Being niche is never a bad thing, and that's proven unequivocally here as the spotlight is turned on retro football from behind the Iron Curtain. Something a bit different, but a worthwhile addition to Twitter's band of football nostalgia followers.

17. @MueFootballHist
If you've ever wanted to watch some great retro football on YouTube but needed some inspiration on where to start, look no further than Library of Football on Twitter. There's a regular supply of links to great games and heaps of stuff you didn't even know was online - a wonderful resource.

18. @HistoricalKits
Follow the efforts of Dave and Matt as they strive for the specific detail that goes into the illustrations on their excellent website, As if you needed an excuse to pore over vintage photos stretching back to the early 1900's...

19. @FootballMemorys
Yet another Twitter account dedicated to classic football imagery, but this one focuses on great teams and great players. Any era you chose to mention is covered with rare delights waiting to be discovered both in colour and in black and white.

20. @BCAFCobjects
Specifically of interest to Bradford City fans, you may think, but like all good clubs, a strong following is often gained by the memorabilia it produces. That's why all football fans will smile at this collection of bookmarks, pin badges and other ephemera, all with that special Bantams touch.

21. @FootballInT80s
Random memories from the 1980's in the form of photos and video clips, usually accompanied by interesting bits of information to timestamp their historical context. As enlightening as it is entertaining.

22. @90sFootball
If the following decade is more to your liking, however, 90's Football does a brilliant job of combining great pictures and video clips to recreate the era of Cantona, Baggio, Shearer and many others.

23. @Footysphere
This Twitter account is a must-follow for nostalgic Sheffield United fans, but the accompanying website provides an even more diverse and eclectic range of imagery including postage stamps, cigarette cards and fine photography.

24. @VintageFootClub
Another French Twitter account, and one that delves deep into the world of classic European (and particularly French) football. You'll find great pictures of top football superstars plus lots of team photos and links to the excellent Vintage Football Club blog site. C'est magnifique!

25. @AntiqueFootball
A nice selection of pictures from the very antiquated to almost the present the day, many of which you won't have seen before. European football features regularly alongside material from the UK but everything presented is likely to make you smile for a variety of reasons.

'Those Were The Days - Against Modern Football' isn't all about football, but The Beautiful Game does dominate this appealing collection of imagery covering everything from scarves and hats to kit design and memorabilia.

27. @MartinMarty1974
Leeds United Memories provides just that with a diverse and pleasing array of imagery that mainly focuses on the great Elland Road heroes of the post. From the 1930's right up to the present day, this is another well researched club-centric Twitter resource.

28. @Cardinal_Tales
There aren't enough retro football accounts on Twitter that take non-league football as their subject matter, but this one on Woking FC makes up for that with lots of great imagery covering many decades.

29. @MotherSoccerNL
A wonderful mix of football photographs spanning all eras and nationalities. Tweets are in Dutch as well as English, but the imagery is universal in its appeal, be it funny, thought-provoking or downright silly.

30. @ClassicoCalcio
A newcomer to the retro football blog scene, but already proving a worthwhile addition to the fold. Articles about George Best and Norman Hunter along with features on great kits and imagery get a mention on their Twitter timeline, with much more of the same surely to come.

Honourable Mentions

As always with trying to create a definitive list, there's always some that only spring to mind too late, but that definitely deserve a place. This is certainly the case with @tgbjimmy, who maintains the excellent site, The Glove Bag, which is dedicated to the niche subject of goalie gloves, featuring a huge archive of vintage ads for all things keeper related. Well worth a visit and a follow!

If Panini stickers are your thing, then you need to follow Classic Football Stickers - not least because you'll get regular updates on what's new at their beautiful website. Be warned, however... once you start browsing all those Panini page layouts, you'll be there for hours!

How we missed this one, we'll will never know...possibly the ultimate collection of "old shirts" on the net, with approx 55,000 shirts to date; the awesome Incredibly useful as a reference for shirt histories, especially for those rarer items, There's even a few of our own shirts on there!

With sincere thanks to all of you that submitted nominations for our list - we really appreciate it!

-- Chris Oakley

Friday 28 November 2014

Crimes Against Design: Shoot League Ladders

Where football nostalgia is concerned, there are few things that can rightly call themselves 'legendary' like Shoot's League Ladders. We've discussed them at length before and spoke of them in unashamedly exalted tones... but say it under your breath - certain elements of it were really badly designed.

Like the very best aspects of football memorabilia, perfection can be rendered cruelly unattainable due to an oversight in someone's artistic interpretation. An issue may arise with a detail so slight or insignificant, yet if it dealt with by a ham-fisted chimpanzee with sawdust for brains, it can quickly unravel all the good work done elsewhere.

In the case of those classic League Ladders, there was always one thing that bothered me as a kid that no doubt bothered many thousands of other young football fans too. It was those tabs. Not all of them - just the one or two here or there that for some reason weren't coloured correctly.

At this point, I call upon the Tottenham Hotspur fans of this world to answer one basic question: How annoying was it that for years the Tottenham tab was always coloured blue, just like those of Everton, Ipswich, Birmingham and sundry other blue shirt-wearing teams?

It was ever thus from the first Shoot ladders in 1969/70 right through to 1987/88 when someone at IPC Magazines finally realised that Spurs actually played in white. But Tottenham weren't the only offended party throughout the annual cavalcade of cardboard conviviality. Preston and Bolton also had a case of the blues for many years, when white would have been more appropriate.

A quick look at that original set from 1969 reveals other abnormalities. Bradford Park Avenue (confusingly shortened to 'Bradford' while their City neighbours played one level higher in the Third Division) were given a green-coloured tab. This smacked somewhat of laziness as Bradford Park Avenue had ditched their white shirts with green trim two years earlier in favour of their traditional white with red and yellow hoops. Hardly a fitting tribute for Avenue's last year in the Football League.

To add insult to injury, Orient suffered in a similar way that season too. Though famous for wearing red throughout much of their history (including the 1969/70 campaign), Orient wore blue for 20 years, but that all ended in 1967... so why the blue tab?

The colour blue was in fact the root cause of many tab-related Ladder issues of the 1970's and early 80's. Ask any fan of Coventry or Man City - they'll tell you that Shoot only used to have one type of blue ink, and it certainly wasn't the 'sky' variety.

There also appeared to be a glut of black ink doing the rounds for a long time, and it was often used in a bewildering number of situations. To explain, the general rule of thumb for designing each of the tabs went as follows:

  • Main/background colour of the tab = the predominant shirt colour for that team
  • Name of the team on the tab = the secondary colour on the shirt of that team
So far, so logical, but what happened with Watford, Wolves, Derby, Port Vale or Fulham? None of those teams played in black shirts (although who did?), so why not give Watford a yellow/red tab, or Fulham a white tab with black writing? It certainly wasn't unheard of for Shoot to make white team tabs (although the practice seemed largely reserved only for Leeds for a fair while), so why so many black ones?

In the mid-70's, it became particularly clear that Shoot had little idea which colours ought to be used for certain teams, and reserved the right to celebrate that fact in whatever way they deemed fit.

Southport in yellow and black? No way - Shoot says 'black and pink'! Crystal Palace in red and blue? Certainly not - Shoot says 'purple and white'! Northampton in white and claret? Nonsense - Shoot says 'dark lavender and white'! And so on, and so on...

Now you may be thinking that this is all futile nonsense of the highest order, but I'd put money on any number of young children writing to Shoot every year to ask why their team wasn't shown in the right colours. The act of identifying teams by the hue of their kit always was and always will be a key stage of every young fan's football education, so it's fair to say errors of this kind could have caused confusion on a massive scale. And we haven't even discussed teams that wore stripes and hoops yet.

What's done is done, however. Despite the ongoing cult worship of Shoot's League Ladders in the modern era, their legend-like status, based on the evidence above, is no doubt flawed much more than anyone ever realised. Then again, no-one ever kept their ladders updated for an entire season because we all got bored with them after a few weeks, so who said they were perfect anyway?  How the passing of time plays tricks with your memory...

-- Chris Oakley

With sincere thanks to Football Cartophilic Info Exchange for allowing us to reproduce the images shown.

Friday 21 November 2014

Whatever Happened To... Nasal Strips?

Tunes, it seems, are not the only things that help you breathe more easily. For a short spell in the mid- to late-1990's, another ingenious device - some say a fad - proved just as adept at opening your nasal passages as the sweet lozenge of yore. Or was it?

Robbie Fowler was a Liverpool striker with an incredible talent for scoring goals, but one thing was letting him down - his ability to breathe in more air through his nose than he'd have liked. Despite the fact that his nostrils seemed perfectly capable of doing their job properly, he searched for a way to increase his 'intake yield.' *

What he found was the Breathe Right nasal strip, a "spring-like band" that sticks to the top of your nose and gently opens the nasal passages. For an all-too-brief spell back in the mid-90's, every athlete on earth seemed to be wearing one, all seemingly encouraged by their ability to take in more air during physical activity.

And so it was that Brer Fowler felt obliged to join the ranks of the world sporting elite who were decorating their noses with these funny-looking plasters. It was said that these nasal accoutrements improved air flow by 31% and even helped reduce snoring for those that were so afflicted. Sadly their introduction came too late to be tested on fans of Graham Taylor's England team, but their popularity was beyond question only a few years later and for many years hence.

As it is, there was much doubt poured on this revolution in assisted breathing, some claiming the whole thing to be complete hooey. Dr. Beat Villiger, a Swiss sports specialist invited by FIFA to test the viability of nasal strips, claimed that when the human body was really exerting itself, breathing usually switched from the nose to the mouth anyway, in order to pull in more air.

So in other words, the benefit of wearing one only became apparent if you were doing anything less than a full sprint. Or to put it another way, wearing a nasal strip was a way of telling people that you were so unfit, you needed a bit of help from a plaster to get you through 90 minutes of occasional exercise. Hardly surprising, then, that we don't see them worn much today.

That said, perhaps they just haven't been marketed right, or indeed aimed at the right people? For a device that gently opens up small apertures to improve performance, surely they could be worn on the anus to help TV commentators get more of their words out, or across the eye sockets to give World Cup hosting administrators a wider view of what's going on. Just a thought...

* Made up terminology.

-- Chris Oakley

Thursday 20 November 2014

Videoblog 6: The Encyclopedia of World Football (Marshall Cavendish, 1980)

Way back in July 2013 when we recorded our podcast on Football Books, Rich asked Chris whether there were any books he loved enough to warrant him running back into a burning house to rescue from its raging inferno. Chris answered that one particular title would be worthy of that life-threatening course of action, namely the Encyclopedia of World Football.

Sixteen months on, Chris finally tells you all why he loved the book so much in Videoblog 6 (see below). For fans of football kits, badges and general miscellanea, this is a great old book that's well worth hunting down on eBay and other online auction sites.

Sunday 16 November 2014

Got Not Got CCFC & Kit Book Review

Last year we reviewed the 2nd incarnation of the retro football bible, Got, Not Got and a few of the spin off titles that were starting to appear alongside it. There's no new version this year as instead, Derek & Gary have been busying themselves creating a wealth of club specific volumes, ranging from the giants of Man U and Liverpool, to the smaller, but no less loved clubs such as Norwich.

Falling neatly into that last category is The Lost World Of Coventry City.

This book holds a very special place in my heart, not only because of the team in question, but also because I was able to contribute lots of my own memorabilia collection to its hallowed pages. NB...most of the pics in this review might just well be of pages with my stuff on, cos...hey, it's my review ;-)

On top of that, anyone who's listened to our podcasts will know how often I've bemoaned the sheer lack of attention Coventry has had down the years, so to have an entire book all to ourselves is bliss!

Following the usual GNGLWoF format, this is just chock full of pretty much everything you could imagine that's ever been produced with the CCFC name on it, from the standard club programmes, Subbuteo & Panini, through the more obscure stuff like myriad pin badges and CCFC gnomes, culminating in what must be the nadir of Coventry City memorabilia, the Cup Final 7", "Go for it City".

OK, so the single itself may not be all that bad and of course, anything to do with that Cup Final will always be endearing to any CCFC fan, but the B side, "Go for it Cupid" (my heart, shooting to win) is possibly one of the worst pieces of music ever set down on vinyl!

There are pages dedicated to Coventry's kit manufacturers down the years including the iconic Admiral & Hummel and the possibly less remembered Ribero, covering the infamous chocolate brown kit and of course, the test card shirt from the late 80s.

As with every other Got Not Got book, the joy is not only in the sheer wealth of material covered, but also the depth of knowledge shown in the writing. If you are a Coventry City fan, you simply have to own this book and the same goes for fans of the other clubs who have also had the "Lost World Of..." treatment thus far,

The second book on review here is another that has me firmly within its target demographic. If I wasn't spoilt enough by a book all about Coventry, "Shirt Tales & Short Stories - The Lost World of Football Kits" is surely the icing on a book shaped cake.

Covering English clubs from Arsenal to Wolves, it also features a selection of Scottish teams and a page for each of the home nations.

Each team is given a double spread featuring several kits from their history, covering both much loved classics and also the ones some would rather forget along with text detailing the selections and a brief history of the clubs' shirts.

A large amount of the photos are from the vast collection of Neville Evans who runs the National Football Shirt Collection, and these lend a real air of quality to the book, with each of his shirts lovingly and professionally photographed.

As well as the shirts themselves, scattered throughout the book are kit adverts from the 70s, 80s and 90s as well as shots of the kits in use from the time.

As with the CCFC book, if you have any interest in football kits whatsoever, this is an absolute must! It may not cover every club going, but those that it does are given the VIP treatment...and of course, that means there's room for a Volume 2!

- Rich Johnson

Saturday 15 November 2014

Panini: Football 82

Let's see who's looking through the... ROUND window...

Yes, Panini's 1982 collection featured players gurning, grimacing and squinting through a circular frame on many of its 516 stickers. It was the fresher look that the Football 82 album was based upon, although many familiar features remained throughout.

Once again, the front cover changed colour, this time using pale blue to top and tail a great action photo from a match between Tottenham and Manchester United. Though the picture was nicely composed, however, one has to wonder how many kids had sleepless nights over the thought of Sammy McIllroy's gruesome missing right hand.

Inside, the old double-page spread was employed for each of the English First Division teams, the major change this time being that the player biographies were now enclosed in two columns either side of the fold, rather than underneath each sticker. And then there were the new stickers themselves which now featured the name of the league and division in the top corners and a slightly restyled bottom section to show off the name of the player.

From Arsenal to Wolverhampton Wanderers, the bright new face of English football came shining out. Silky shirts with pinstripes, smart haircuts and smiles were all in plentiful supply as players old and new adorned Panini's pages. Check out Southampton's army of ageing greats such as Alan Ball, Chris Nicholl and Mick Channon - all comfortably in their thirties - situated a turn of a page away from Stoke's youngsters including Lee Chapman (20), Adrian Heath (20) and Paul Bracewell (19).

Elsewhere, we had our first ever sight of Swansea City in the First Division, along with Notts County who were back in the top flight for the first time since 1926. For Leeds United, however, this would be their last season at the highest level of English football until their next tilt at the League Championship came along in 1990.

The foil badges in Football 82 were spruced up in all their gold finery with clearer lettering and a pleasantly contrasting silver border providing an improvement on the previous year's efforts. They added a decent splash of glitz not only to the First Division and Second Division pages, but also now the Third Division pages too, albeit in a half-size format. This meant your average junior collector was likely to get a rare glimpse of the impish Lincoln City badge or Reading's building society-esque depiction of some trees and a river.

For the Scottish Premier teams, two players yet again had to share a single sticker, although the manager of each team was now given one of his own in full size format, and again the Scottish First Division teams were each given their own team picture.

Yet apart from the opening 'Players of the Year' section that mirrored Football 81, there was no main feature showcased in the middle of the album. Granted, the 1980 FA Cup Final section in the previous year's collection wasn't the most exciting thing ever, but at least it provided a contrast to the usual 'badge-team-player' routine found on all the other pages.

Instead, the album closed with a tantalising message telling us to "Look out for Espana 82 - Panini's great World Cup collection" due to appear in shops in April 1982, and a back cover promotion for Subbuteo's six-a-side game, Top Scorer.

Despite continuing the high standards of previous efforts, it could be argued that with Football 82 Panini used the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' approach by barely straying from its tried and tested format.

But that, however, was about to change. For Football 83, some new ideas were set to bring a breath of fresh air to Panini's annual stickerfest, and for the more traditional fans, they may not necessarily have been for the better...

-- Chris Oakley

See also:

Monday 10 November 2014

Help Fight Cancer & Win a Kit Collection Book!

Earlier this year, Rich finally got round to photographing his ridiculously large kit collection. He then spent far too much time creating a photobook of them all (reviewed here by kit book legend John Devlin).
It was limited to a run of about 20 books and they sold pretty quickly so if you wanted one, alas it's no longer available...however...

We have a special copy to give away...sort of...

Rather than just make this a competition, we thought we'd do something good and raise some money for charity and sticking to the football theme, we've chosen the Bobby Moore Fund for Cancer Research UK.

To this end, we've set up a Just Giving page to make the process nice and easy.

All we ask is you make a £2 minimum donation. You can donate more if you wish - for each multiple of £2 you donate, you get an entry into the draw to win the kit book. So if you donate £6, you'll get 3 entries, trebling your chance to win...

The event closes on Sunday 14th December, after which we'll draw the winner and try and get it to you by Christmas!

Please leave some form of contact details when you donate so we can contact you if you win.

So...what are you waiting for? Get donating!

Monday 3 November 2014

The Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever - Final result

After nearly a month of voting, we can now finally announce the winner of our contest to decide The Football Attic's Greatest Retro Football Video Game Ever... and here's how you voted!

Yes, friends, you've voted Sensible Soccer to be the top retro football computer game of all time, comprehensively beating Football Manager with almost three quarters of all the votes cast in the Final.

Over the last week, only one winner ever seemed likely, although Kevin Toms' management sim had Sensible Soccer on the rack for the first couple of days. In the end, however, it was the playing sim that stormed through to claim its place in the Football Attic Hall of Fame as your favourite football video game title.

Our huge and sincere thanks to all of you that took part in our vote-off from start to finish. It's been great fun seeing who you've been supporting during each round!

And now, let's remind ourselves of why Sensible Soccer is such a worthy champion... Once again, many thanks to you all!

Saturday 1 November 2014

The Game (ITV, 1991)

I have no experience of playing non-league football myself. I was always let down by a less than sylph-like physique and was perpetually, to use the common parlance, 'carrying too much timber' in my younger days to be of any use. Little did I know it mattered not a jot.

Having watched The Game, I realise I had nothing to worry about. Danny Baker's six-part series for LWT proved the point more than satisfactorily as the spotlight was turned on men young and not so young who didn't allow their physical shortcomings stop them from enjoying a game of amateur football.

Shown late on Friday nights in London and the South East back in 1991, The Game portrayed life in Division Four of the East London Sunday League as if it were Division One of the Football League. Every week, ITV's cameras would focus on one match at Hackney Marshes or a nearby venue while Baker provided the commentary and interviews with players and managers alike.

Given Baker's comedic reputation, it's easy to think that this was his attempt to embarrass and humiliate a bunch of pot-bellied men possessing only the merest hint of footballing ability, but this simply wasn't the case. Every aspect of the programme was played straight down the line without a trace of demeaning condescension. If there was any humour to be gleaned from what was put before us (and there was plenty), it was earned simply by holding a mirror up to Sunday League football itself.

The first episode of the series featured a match between two pub teams, Coborn from Bow, and The Cock Hotel from East Ham. Rooted to the bottom of the entire East London Sunday League, Cock Hotel hadn't won a single game during their two-year existence and had recently appointed a new manager when the programme was made. They chose John Smythe, apparently, because he just happened to be in the pub on the night when the issue was raised.

As for Coborn, third in Division Four, they relied heavily on John Priestaff (right), already the scorer of 25 goals that season. Priestaff, hair slicked back, two rings in his left ear and a gold chain around his neck, told Baker about his proven pre-match preparations:

"Last time I went out and got drunk on a Saturday night, we had a game against Tesco's and I scored six against them and I had a terrible hangover. So every time I have an important game, I go out on a Saturday night and get well slaughtered, and I'm alright in the morning!"

Talk soon gave way to action, and for that Danny Baker was joined on commentary duties by Terry Franklin, an experienced Sunday League player in his own right. Between them, they described the play on Pitch 88 where 22 players, many with stomachs escaping the paltry confines of their team shirts, were doing battle in very windy conditions.

The difference in quality between the two teams was soon apparent, and after a flurry of goals, the final score of Cock Hotel 1 Coborn 8 confirmed the gloomy prospects for the team from East Ham.

Episode 2 of The Game once again provided the stories that added depth and interest to a fairly ordinary football match played by ordinary people. Chris Mostyn of the Young Prince 'B' team was supposedly getting married a day ahead of their match against Thomas Neale. Would the inevitable party the night before detract from Young Prince 'B's performance on the Sunday? Not necessarily, as it turned out. "The more drunk we get, the better we play" said one of their players.

And so it proved to be. Jamie Sykes, their centre forward (see below), claimed two goals in a 3-1 victory the next day. Interviewed ahead of the game, Sykes told Danny Baker: "I got sent off in a game about eight weeks ago... Their left back came across and gave me the old elbow in the mouth and cut me lip, so I reacted quite violently." When asked what he'd done, Sykes replied: "I chased him around the pitch. He was running backwards and I was running forwards and I still couldn't catch him. I got a 6-match ban."

In the following episode, Sykes found himself 'sans boots' just before an important match against Gascoyne O's. "I cleaned 'em up for TV and left 'em on the balcony" he confided, before being told to find some spare ones elsewhere in the dressing room. Such tales were rife in The Game, and it was these and many other vignettes that brought home the simple charms of football at this level, a world away from the big-name superstars, the sponsorship deals and the glamour.

Every game seemed to have something that brought a smile, if not a laugh, to your face. Whether it was the bulldog that got angry with any player taking a throw on in its close proximity, or the ball being kicked right off the field and under the axle of an oncoming P3 bus, the real-world brilliance of non-league football just kept on giving.

Without Danny Baker, the series wouldn't have been kept on such a rolling boil as it was, and his observations while commentating only left you wishing the likes of Clive Tyldesley or Peter Drury could be every bit as amusing.

At one point during a break in play, the cameras aimed their gaze at a woman sitting out on the balcony of her council flat overlooking the pitch. "This was one of the executive boxes they've recently built here at Mabley Green" said Baker. "It is for one and you get your own front room and Council flat with it" he brilliantly suggested. When the camera glanced across at a nearby match, he proffered: "Yes, as ever, ITV have gone and chosen the right game to cover..."

The series ultimately ended with the championship being sown up by Gascoyne O's and the Dick Coppock Cup (strictly for Sunday League Division Four teams only) being won by Young Prince 'B', but in many ways, it wasn't the winning that was important. What really worked about The Game was its focus on the people that played and their love for playing. Even now, some 23 years on, you can't fail to enjoy this series, and it's every bit as relevant today as any game involving Ronaldo or Messi - take my word for it.

-- Chris Oakley

Our sincere thanks to Revelation Films Ltd for permission to reproduce the above images.

Danny Baker's 'The Game' is available to buy from for £3.99.