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

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