Sunday 31 May 2015

Book Review - A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects

To begin with, I feel I must start this review with an apology. I received this book before Christmas and fully intended to write this there and then, but as with a lot of things these days, the time to sit down and write anything that would do this book justice just never happened. So John, my heartfelt apologies that it's taken so long to get this on the site...

A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects (herein known as AHoBCAFCiO - the chemical symbol for AmberClaretide I believe) by John Dewhirst is exactly what the title says it is.

Often with these sort of books, there seems to be 2 possible routes to go down. The first is the text-heavy affair with either a few black and white photos scattered throughout, or a centre section where all pictures reside. The second is the reverse, where there's pictures aplenty, but one gets the feeling they're their to make up for a lack of substance.

This tome bucks both of those trends by managing to cram not only over 1000 pictures of memorabilia from the club's 112 year history, but also fills its 340+ pages with an inordinate amount of prose (67000 words in fact!) John makes the point in his intro that he could have followed the trend and written a history in 100 objects, but his rationale was 'why impose an arbitrary limit?' and anyone who owns this book should be grateful for that decision.

With the book broken down into related sections such as Club Crests, Playing Strips etc, rather than a chronological journey, it works perfectly well for those who devour their books in one sitting and for those (like me) who prefer to dip in and out when time allows.

One of the two largest chapters covers the expected subject of Merchandise & Memorabilia. Within you'll find a huge array of old skool staples such as scarves, pennants and badges and the more modern items of tat...BCAFC Energy Drink anyone? Don't worry, you can clean your teeth with an official BCAFC toothbrush after and stuff the lot in a Bantams bum bag! One of my favourite ads from this section is entitled Talking Shop and looks like it's from the mid 80s. Alongside your wool hats and scarves, you can also get a wall plaque for 50p, an acrylic jumper for £9.99 and a belt for 50p. Best of all, for only 75p, you can get not only Men's Pants, but Women's item I'm pretty sure never sold out.

The other big chapter is devoted to Club Documents and Publications, which, as well as providing plenty of examples of tickets, calendars and newspapers, also has a delightful selection of letters from the club on such subjects as acknowledging another club's interest in an outside forward and their application to rejoin the Northern Section of the football league. The main bulk of this chapter is reserved for the fittingly named 'The Evolution of the BCAFC Programme', which takes you from the earliest sheets of paper through to the modern day, glossy type. It's also interesting to note how often the name of the programme has changed in recent years, having operated under the standard title of 'Official Programme' for most of its historical life.

To sum up, there is a stickered quote on the front of my copy from Hunter Davis, which simply reads "this is the best illustrated history of any club I have ever read" and I have absolutely no reason whatsoever to disagree.

A History of Bradford City AFC in Objects is available via Amazon

--by Rich Johnson

Friday 29 May 2015

Ronnie Radford: Hereford Hero

The great thing about the FA Cup is that its exalted status hasn't come about solely because of the Final. The Final is merely the the cherry on the cake, the signature on the masterpiece. The reason that the words 'FA Cup' have become so venerable is because of the goals and the memories that are gathered each year, all the way from the first qualifying round to the conclusion at Wembley. Some goals add to the legend, whereas some become legendary in their own right.

If ever the dreams and the aspirations of everyone that's ever kicked a football were made manifest in a single moment, it must surely be the one that resulted in Ronnie Radford scoring against Newcastle United in 1972. Radford, a part-time player and a joiner by trade, had helped his Hereford United side earn a draw at St James' Park in the Third Round of the FA Cup in February that year. The replay became Hereford's own Cup Final - the culmination of a campaign that had begun in the Fourth Qualifying Round and now, in its seventh match, saw them play Newcastle United of the Football League First Division.

Hereford United were a Southern League side at the time, no match for the likes of Malcolm Macdonald, Frank Clark, Bobby Moncur and their ilk - or so it was thought. Ronnie Radford was just one of the white-shirted brigade for whom football was not a means of generating an income. It was a game, an engaging challenge for the mind and body that provided a release from the day job once a week, every Saturday.

What happened in that Third Round replay has cemented the name of Ronnie Radford into the foundations that today's FA Cup is built upon. His goal, as relentlessly accurate as an archer's arrow hitting the dead-centre of a bullseye, is rightly repeated and relished often and without apology. It is the goal every man Jack of us would've wanted to score, a thirty-yard bullet that crushed the spirit of Joe Harvey's men in an instant. It sent the game into extra time, whereupon Ricky George delivered his own fatal blow to finish off the Tynesiders.

It is a rare occasion when the simple actions of one man make him a local hero forever, but Ronnie Radford has managed to keep his feet on the ground ever since. Humble but grateful, he retains the air of a man who knows how lucky he was to let fly with that thunderbolt shot 43 years ago and rightly allows himself the beaming smile he earned that day whenever he sees it.

Evidence of Ronnie Radford's enduring humility can be found in a short film that's just been released which is well worth seeing. 'The Ballad of Ronnie Radford' catches up with the Hereford hero as he reminisces about that day in February 1972 and features music from the critically-acclaimed album 'Songs About Other People' by Harry Harris. All in all, it's a delightful reminder of why football can enrich your life with great memories and why the FA Cup itself is such a fine institution.

'Songs About Other People' is out now, and Harry Harris will be touring Ireland in June with fellow collaborator Anna McIvor, after headlining the final night of Home Farm Festival on the Folkroom Records stage.

The Ballad of Ronnie Radford

Directed by: Francis Newall & Matt Diegan
Produced by: Matt Diegan
All Music: Harry Harris
Grade: Steve Atkins
Sound Mix: Robin Clarke

Thursday 28 May 2015

FA Cup Memories Book

It's the Cup Final on Saturday...yes, the Cup Final...THE Cup Final! I don't need to add the 'FA' prefix of course...Or do I?  To those of a certain age, we all know what is meant by The Cup Final, but does that hold true so much now?

There's been much talk of the FA Cup being devalued in recent times. We've discussed it ourselves on our podcasts and covered it in posts and it could just be our own sense of nostalgia...we'll probably never know...

One thing we are certain of, however, is that 'in our day' (whenever that was), the FA Cup Final was something to cherish, something which occupied the whole day, with coverage starting around 3am (probably) and ending with the playing of the national anthem and closedown (maybe).

So what better way to relive those glory days than by diving into a book brimming with the recollections of those of a similar age? Time travel? Oh shut up!

Conveniently for both us and you, Matthew Eastley has created such a book - a series in fact, covering the 60s, 70s and now, with his latest release, "From Ricky Villa to Dave Beasant", the 80s!

My copy arrived last Friday and naturally I dived straight into '87. The chapters are comprised of fan memories and I can genuinely say it brought a tear to my eye, especially recalling the evening when we'd won, just hearing all the car horns and cheering across the city, even out in the suburbs as I was at the time. For anyone whose team won the cup during the decades covered, it's a must-read, but even for football fans in general, the sense of nostalgia will transport you right back to your childhood.

We spoke to Matt and asked what compelled him to start such a project...

I can remember precisely when we got our first colour television. It was Saturday 30 March 1974 and the first thing I watched was the Hanna-Barbera produced Josie and the Pussycats. I was seven years old and spent the entire day glued to this magic rectangle. Before acquiring the Bush-manufactured set, with its three clunky channel buttons, we’d had to go to our friends across the street to watch colour essential programmes like Top of the Pops or Jeux Sans Frontieres but now we had our own box. Yet, one more thing from that bright spring morning stays with me. It was my older sister coming into the room and saying: ‘Just think. Now you’ll be able to watch the Cup Final in colour, here.’

It was no coincidence that my sister had cited the Cup Final. It was the showpiece occasion of the year, an unmissable televised event. Deep in the recesses of my mind I had memories of watching the 1971 Cup Final in colour at some friends of my parents. I recall being spellbound by the green pitch below a glorious blue sky and the polychrome brilliance of red-shirted Liverpool against the yellow of Arsenal. I’d then watched the extraordinary 1973 Final between Sunderland and Leeds on a tiny portable black and white set at my grandparents but, come 1974 and the one-sided clash between Bill Shankly’s Liverpool and Joe Harvey’s Newcastle, our house was the meeting point. 
Throughout the 70s and 80s, FA Cup Final Day was, alongside Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and Bonfire Night, one of the most important and exciting days of the year.
It didn’t really concern me who was playing, it was the occasion that mattered. And it wasn’t just football fans like me either. The FA Cup Final had all the trappings of a state occasion with royalty, marching bands and the national anthem. That meant it drew in people who would never dream of going to a live game or tuning in to Match of the Day, The Big Match or On the Ball.
We hummed along with ‘Abide With Me’ and smiled at pun-laden banners like ‘Osborne Takes the Biscuit’ 'Channon Strikes More Times Than British Leyland’ or 'The Name is Bonds: Billy Bonds."
Whether you were lucky enough to be there or watching at home, it was a yearly ritual that transcended football.I heard on countless occasions people say they did not like football but they always watched the FA Cup Final. My granddads both used to wear a suit on cup final day because it felt special, different and important.
As a football-obsessed lad, FA Cup Final Day was sheer nirvana for me. The moment Zorro or Champion the Wonder Horse finished around 11am and the TV coverage began, I was there. FA Cup Mastermind, It’s a Knockout, interviews from the team hotels or the coach were the norm and I loved every second. 
In the 70s, the matches themselves usually delivered as well with memorable victories by Sunderland, West Ham, Southampton and Ipswich and players like Ian Porterfield, Jim Montgomery, Alan Taylor, Bobby Stokes and Roger Osborne becoming household names. They, like the matches they played in, are indelibly printed on my brain.

I was moved to write about the FA Cup, and specifically the Final, because I was saddened and frustrated to see the gradual decline of a competition which was woven so integrally into our social and footballing fabric.
Despite valiant attempts in recent years to breathe life back into the competition, I believe irreparable damage was done, chiefly during the 1990s, when the competition was mismanaged, under-marketed and devalued.
It’s fair to say that the media landscape has changed dramatically over the last quarter of a century. The FA Cup Final enjoyed its heyday when live broadcasting was comparatively rare.Apart from the FA Cup Final, the only live football matches shown were the England v Scotland Home International clashes, World Cup games and the occasional match such as England’s showdown against Poland in October 1973, which required complex negotiations on behalf of the broadcasters to screen.

I believe the 1980s represented the last great decade of the competition and that the dramatic Wimbledon v Liverpool final of 1988 is the last great classic of that era.
There have been some excellent matches since of course but a number of factors had already conspired to diminish the competition – and particularly the final.
The establishment of the Premier League, in 1992, is of crucial importance.It brought with it unprecedented financial rewards. Live matches became the norm, accompanied by clever, intense marketing (which some might say equated to ludicrous hype), which helped establish the Premier League as the only show in town.Whereas in the 1970s we had, at most, two or three live matches during an entire season, by the 1990s, that number was regularly being shown in a single week.
It’s also important to say that, over the preceding decades, no team had been able to exert a stranglehold on the competition so we were able to enjoy a whole host of so-called smaller clubs competing and, in several cases, actually winning, at Wembley.

Sadly, that largely disappeared in the 1990s and 2000s and a predictable succession of winners – for me a series of uninteresting finals invariably involving Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal which all merge into one – did not help.
The competition began to lose its romance.Winning the cup final became a ‘nice-to-have’, not a ‘must-have’.

As Mike Collett says in his indispensable The Complete Record of the FA Cup, it is wrong to suggest there was ever some kind of ‘golden age’. The top teams of the day frequently did reach the FA Cup Final but there was a perception that the competition was more open and the victories of clubs like Sunderland, Coventry and Wimbledon prove that.

Of course, there have been victories by so-called, less fashionable clubs in the new millennium and I take absolutely nothing away from the achievements of the likes of Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic for winning the competition and teams like Millwall, Cardiff, Stoke and Hull for reaching the final.
For me, however, the gloss went from the final many years previously. It was unthinkable that I would ever miss the FA Cup Final and, for every match between 1971, when I was five, and 1996, when I was 30, I could tell you exactly where I was and who I was with.It gets more difficult after that because, to my great regret, to me the FA Cup Final is now just another game.

One last thing is that I have never been to the FA Cup Final. Like millions of youngsters I sometimes dreamed of scoring the winner at Wembley.I thought if players like Ian Porterfield, Alan Taylor, Bobby Stokes and Roger Osborne could do it, then so could I.
I could play a bit but it was never going to happen.The next best thing for me was to see my team (FA Cup winners in 1947) play in the final.That has not happened either and, realistically, does not look very likely..

So I started living the experience vicariously.

A mammoth and hugely enjoyable project started when I began talking to a Chelsea fan who had been at the classic 1970 final and replay. His eyes lit up as he remembered the time.He could remember what life was like, what he was wearing, what songs were in the charts (Bridge Over Troubled Water) and what was in the news (the Apollo 13 crisis). He could recall minor details of the day, getting to the ground, seemingly trivial incidents and snatches of conversation that were still fresh after more than 40 years.That fascinated me and I found myself searching for more memories.Over the last six years, I have encountered in the region of 700 football fans all over the globe who have attended FA Cup Finals since 1960 and they, like that Chelsea fan, can recall it as though it was yesterday.

The third and final book of this series is the 1980s and I hope you will enjoy an unashamedly nostalgic trip down memory lane to a time when the FA Cup Final was still the only show in town.

A big thank you to Matthew for sharing his story with us...

"From Ricky Villa to Dave Beasant" is out now, priced £14.99 from Pitch Publishing...

-- Rich Johnson

Catalogue of Eras: Great Universal - Autumn and Winter 1985/86

And so to our final dip into the mail order catalogue archives to see what bounty lay in store for the young football fan. The trouble is, the period covering the end of 1985 and the start of 1986 was a fallow one for anyone looking for a must-own bit of kit to brighten up their lives.

The Great Universal catalogue of the time did its best to rustle up some interest, yet in many ways it seemed distracted by the technology boom catching everyone's eyes. Video recorders, hand-held games and digital watches all had a shimmer of excitement and glamour back then, so what chance did a second-rate pair of football boots have?

In short, not much. It's true that the pair on page 340 would have only set you back 50p per week over a five-month period, but that's about all one can say. In essence, they were cheap boots with moulded studs that probably gave you blisters right up to the point when they inevitably fell apart. And to add insult to injury, they also had the words 'World Cup' printed inexplicably in gold lettering on the sides, as if that was going to make any difference to anything.

Skip forward 140 or so pages and you'd have found a slightly better offering for any kids keen to portray themselves as the new Ian Rush. First of all, there was a nice pair of Adidas Pro 3000's that had screw-in studs, three shiny stripes down the side and a padded tongue featuring a ridiculously large Adidas logo. At a whopping £44.99, however (approximately £130 in today's money), you'd have been hard pushed to persuade your parents to give you those for Christmas.

A better option was possibly the Puma S.P.A. Real's (?!) which at least had the mark of respectability as well as being £10 cheaper than their Adidas equivalents, but as for the Gola's... No, Mum, NO!!!

But what use are football boots without a football to kick around?! Answer: No use at all... unless you turned to page 502 of the catalogue where you'd have found a Mitre Delta 7000.

I actually had one of these, back in the day, and it was a great football to play with. My friends and I played with it so much, the red 'V' markings faded almost completely and the firmness of those synthetic patches also disappeared to the point where the whole ball became spongy and rather absorbent. We played with it THAT much.

At just £11.99, it was well worth every penny, but how many kids would have got one as a result of a mail-order catalogue purchase? My local sports shop would almost certainly have sold Mitre Delta footballs when I was young, so I'd have dismissed my Great Universal catalogue without a second thought. If my favourite ball was only a bus ride away, there was simply no contest. Sorry, Great Universal.

A cheaper ball was also available towards the back of the catalogue... in the Toys & Games section, specifically. A bit unfair to be labelled in such a way. it might have been, as the Adidas Tango knock-off was actually of a decent standard for young kids. It was made of leather, came with a pump adaptor and also the staple of many childhoods - the yellow cotton goalkeeper gloves with black plastic patches.

Yes, I admit it, I also owned a pair of these when I was getting into football, and as many of you will remember, they looked a lot better than they performed. In the rain, they were of no use at all, the cotton getting soggy very quickly and the plastic providing no grip whatsoever. Actually, it's almost a redundant point to ask why there was a patch on the backs of the hands when you consider that the ones on the fingers weren't much better.

Better, then, to play Cup Final, Peter Pan's football equivalent to the ever-popular Test Match. A cross between Super Striker and Subbuteo, the joy of Cup Final was pressing the button behind every plastic outfield player and letting fly with a killer pass or shot on goal. Scaled down hoardings added extra authenticity along with goalies that could actually 'throw' the ball. Now if only they'd given us a Subbuteo-style scoreboard as well, I'd have surely put Cup Final at the top of my Christmas wish list...

Finally, to bed with a good book, and thanks to the Great Universal Autumn and Winter 1985/86 catalogue, you could get two for £6.50, namely the 1986 editions of the Shoot! and Roy of the Rovers annuals. Not really what you'd call a bargain, but in the run-up to Christmas 1985, parents up and down the land would have been only too happy to snap up this and many other stocking fillers.

This catalogue, and many others like them, had gifts in abundance - and you didn't even have to brave the bustling hordes in the shops during the festive season either. A salute, then, to the mail order catalogue: masters of convenience, and a pre-internet shop window for football fans to savour.

-- Chris Oakley

All images featured on this post copyright their original owners and used for the purposes of review and illustration. No attempt at superseding original copyright has been made or should be inferred.

See also:

Friday 22 May 2015

Videoblog 7: Football kit design folder

Way back in March 2012, I wrote an article called 'I was a teenage kit designer'. In it, I confessed that in my early-20's, I went through a short phase of designing football kits using nothing more than some paper and a set of felt-tip pens. Happy days they were, matched in many ways by the reaction to the article that saw lots of people confess to doing the same thing in their own younger days.

It's possible that you may have read my original article and felt short-changed by not being able to see more of my designs. (Possible, and unlikely, no doubt.) If that's the case, feel deprived no longer as The Football Attic Videoblog 7 showcases ALL of my existing football kit designs from two decades ago, just for you.

Experience the hilarity of my whacked-out juvenile imagination, the despair of not creating a single decent England kit design and the eternal hope that one day, just one day, a major manufacturer might be influenced by my efforts. A true rollercoaster of emotions awaits those of you daring to watch this extended-length video full of felt-tip fancies, of that you can be sure.

-- Chris Oakley

Friday 15 May 2015

England's Elusive Missing Moments: The 1966 Saga

Peter Prentice recently embarked upon an odyssey to find out what happened to some TV footage pertaining to England's finest football hour. Why did it disappear and what did it contain? Here, Peter presents his findings...

They thought it was all over...

...and so did I when I purchased the DVD of the 1966 World Cup Final only to discover the most complete version in the BBC archive fell some distance short of England's finest two hours. Short by a full nineteen minutes, not including footage masked by action replays.

Those missing minutes were to become an abiding source of curiosity, if not obsession. Nineteen minutes represented a significant portion of the game, especially as the extra-time period appeared largely intact. They had to have contained some action of note. After all, even the most uneventful midfield stalemate has its talking points.

So what were the incidents destined to remain unseen and undocumented for close to half a century?

Until a few weeks ago I thought that a question likely to go unanswered. But now, thanks to the uploading of a substantially longer German broadcast, itself incomplete, the secrets of those missing minutes can at last be revealed.

What they show is that while much of the missing material was inconsequential, there were one or two moments well worth preserving. Chief among them is a Bobby Charlton near-miss inexplicably left out of the BBC edit, and a Bobby Moore cameo that has even the German commentator salivating. They also appear to cast doubt on one of the many legends arising from the game.

Below is an embryonic listing of all the footage exclusive to the German broadcast, which would stand as the definitive record were it without cuts of unknown duration at 01:12:45, 01:24:08 and 01:32:43, and not shorn of a 22-second section at 28:39. It is also lacking some of the post-match scenes of its BBC counterpart.

First Half

00:16 – 06.00
Wembley in readiness – A sweep of the stands - Players and officials wait in the tunnel.

07:23 – 08:10
The teams line up for the national anthems.

10:38 – 11.04
The German players warm up – Seeler with pennant.

17:20 - 17:25
Cutaway to some pensive looking England supporters.

20:21 - 21:50
Tilkowski receives treatment after his aerial clash with Hurst.

22:37 - 23:07
Hurst shoots high wide and handsome from a Ball corner.

24:15 – 24:17
Extended cutaway to England supporters.

25:09 – 25:17
Extended German celebrations and additional footage of goalscorer Haller.

30:44 – 31.01
Hurst receives a congratulatory hug from Bobby Charlton - Cutaway to jubilant home supporters – The scorer jogs back.

49:20 - 52:20
Ray Wilson is forced to head behind after some patient German build-up - Haller's corner is punched clear by Banks – Schnellinger puts the ball out of play – Jack Charlton gets his head in the way of a Siggi Held strike - An England attack peters out.

54:51 - 56:08
A Haller corner is easily gathered by Banks - Cohen intercepts a Beckenbauer pass - A Hunt effort is blocked by Weber - Emmerich wins another German corner.

58:49 - 01:06:17
The teams make their way off and the Band of H.M. Royal Marines takes over – A dissolve to the Royal Box where the Queen refuses to let the half-time downpour dampen her spirits.

Second Half

01:07:27- 01:08:01
Cut-away to crowd – Throw-ins in quick succession from Stiles and Cohen.

01:10:58 - 01:14:28
Moore takes a return pass and flights a long floated ball into the box - Held is flagged offside - A Stiles cross is headed clear by Schulz - Jack Charlton wins a goal kick off Held yet still protests - The combative Stiles incurs the wrath of referee Dienst - Jack Charlton heads behind – A Schnellinger cross is headed to safety.

01:15:36 - 01:17:25
A poor goal-kick from Tilkowski - A misplaced pass from Haller - Some neat German interplay - A swift England counter ends with Peters shooting tamely wide.

01:21:30 - 01:25:20
Tilkowski punches clear – A moment to treasure - Schnellinger shoots over - Peters is again off-target - Moore miscues a clearance - Weber shuts the door on Hunt – Ball runs it out of play.

01:32:07 - 01:33:24
Tilkowski goes down following a collision with Beckenbauer – A Wilson cross is headed away - Bobby Charlton shoots narrowly wide.

01:34:31 - 01:36:20
Hurst just fails to connect with a Hunt through ball after good work by Ball - A Bobby Charlton piledriver is charged down by Schulz - Held hits the side-netting.

01:36:51 – 01:36:53
Additional footage of Ball getting to his feet.

01:38:33 – 01:38:46
Extended celebrations as England go in front.

01:50:43 - 01:50:58
The German supporters celebrate their last minute reprieve - Schnellinger delays the restart.

01:51:23 - 01:54:26
The inquests begin and the players take a breather - Ramsey rallies his troops - Stiles consults with Greaves - The German physios get to work on aching muscles.

(Note #1: If Ramsey really did tell his players to get up and not show the Germans they were tired, there is precious little evidence of it. His captain remains seated as he delivers his defining teamtalk and another England player can be seen sitting down close to the commencement of extra-time.)

01:54:40 – 01:55:10
The inquests continue as the teams prepare for another half-hour.

01:55:19 – 01:55:43
Extended footage of Gordon Banks and a lengthy wait for the game to resume.

Extra Time - First Period

02:06:37 - 02:06:57
Hurst makes his way back to the half-way line - England fans celebrate - The Wembley scoreboard operators are caught on the hop.

(Note #2: The BBC version includes an extra seconds worth of player celebrations.)

02:11:10 - 02:11:26
Hurst and Hunt share a few words before the restart.

Extra Time - Second Period

02:27:11 - 02:28:06
More England celebrations - Hurst and Peters trudge wearily back – Immortality beckons.

02:30:16 – 02:31:38
The German team collect their medals - Weber loses his footing – A well-deserved lap of honour – The England team await their turn.

02:32:07 – 02:32:10
The captain begins the victory parade.

02:32:18 – 02:32:50
England’s heroes take their bow.

-- Peter Prentice

Sunday 10 May 2015

The Football Attic's Hit Parade: We're Gonna Do It Again

It's a warm welcome back now to Dave Burin who continues our series on the great and not-so-great musical exploits of football teams down the years...
Who, or what, is Stryker?  He remains the Ali Dia of the mid-'90s rap scene, having somehow bumbled his way into the studio for Manchester United's 1995 FA Cup Final song, despite by all appearances, having no musical career before or afterwards. Much like the Stig, Stryker's identity is uncertain and possibly secretive. One Channel 4 documentary which focused on football songs claimed that he was an Arsenal fan from North London, though this has never been formally verified. And so, after 20 years of silence from this most enigmatic of one-time shouty football-themed novelty rap creators, We're Gonna Do It Again is the total sum of everything the world knows about Stryker. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

If Stryker did indeed write the lyrics to this bizarre musical hotchpotch, it might be fair to infer that he's gone into hiding. Like the music world's Salman Rushdie, Stryker probably has a bounty on his head from several United fans with long memories, still outraged by their club's name being associated with lines like
"Because we're up there - cream of the crop
You gotta get up early to keep us from the top."
Despite the Reds' dismal display in the ensuing final (they were beaten 1-0 by Everton), what this United squad put their name to on record was undoubtedly more shameful than anything they produced on the Wembley turf.

So, besides the lyrics sounding like a public schoolboy's painfully polite attempt at trash talking, what does Stryker and Man United's cliché-ridden hit (it reached #6 in the UK Singles Chart) actually sound like? Well... there's an aggressive, tuneless drum machine which doesn't fit the melody, and has very likely been left switched on in the background entirely by accident. There's a wall of inoffensive though slightly off-putting guitar wailing in the background. At some point a keyboard seems to drift into the forefront briefly, before fading away - in what is an entirely apt metaphor for Brian McClair's on-field performances.

Around the 2:37 mark, our host clearly decides that things are getting a bit too authentic, that somehow it might be nice to alienate those hardcore Reds who, unaware of what awaits, are queuing up to buy this on cassette (or, for the really trendy individuals, CD). So, he tells us "we'll leave you with a message, Man U for the cup". It's an abbreviation used only as a derogatory term by opposition fans, and lazily by clueless pundits. However, I'd be here for rather too long if I tried to quibble over terminology with a man who spells the word 'Stryker' as if he's only ever heard the word when said aloud by Andrei Kanchelskis.

And yet, for all that, I kind of like it. It's unpolished, it's rather naff, it's full of lines which seem like they might have been scribbled on the back of a shopping list or scrawled down as Stryker woke up at 3am, his head buzzing with puns that don't quite rhyme.  In an era of overly-slick, characterless club songs, or annoyingly ironic efforts (I'm looking at you, I'm From Wigan Me!), there's something decidedly fun and unashamed and cheerful about Stryker's effort.  Now, enough faint praise...onto the B-side.

The best way I can describe the B-Side as is 'listenable'. It is, more importantly than that, incredibly lazy. In 1994, United had reached Wembley with the sounds of Come on You Reds, a catchy collaboration with Status Quo, ringing in their ears. It was the first football club single to reach #1 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1995, they chose as their B-side... Come On You Reds (1995 Squad). That's right. This vastly different version was recorded by the same club just a year later, meaning that at least two different players were involved in recording this completely necessary re-recording of the previous year's cup final song. No version exists online of the '95 track, though if you listen the '94 version and just imagine something exactly the same, you'll know what it sounds like.

Objectively, United may have done better to simply re-release the '94 cup song, and not rope (supposedly) Arsenal mad Stryker out of his (alleged) North London home to rap about "scoring our way to victory". Still, We're Gonna Do It Again is a relic of its time, and for better or worse, it sounds exactly like a mid-'90s attempt at coolness from a football club desperate to repeat its chart success. The tinned drums are dreadful. The vocals are dire. The lyrics are ridiculous. And yet, it's destined to bring a smile to my face every time I hear its refrain:
"Here we go,
Here we go,
Here we go."
I can indeed say that this largely-forgotten hit holds far happier memories than the cup final itself. Just don't expect me to be so kindly nostalgic the next time an anonymous rapper tries to rhyme 'victory' with 'tree'.

-- Dave Burin

Our grateful thanks, as ever, to Dave Burin for a fine guest post. Want to write about football nostalgia for The Football Attic? Get in touch - we'd love to hear from you!

Friday 8 May 2015

Sitting Alongside - The Golden Age of Co-Commentary: Part 3

The final part of our look at the men who commented on football, but not well enough to sit in John Motson's seat.

Keegan, Kevin

An early example of the superstar footballer snapped up by TV to give a players-eye view of the action being watched. And very well he did so too, first of all joining Brian Moore in the ITV studio for coverage of the 1978 World Cup before taking his place alongside him in the commentary box throughout the 1980's and 1990's.

Polite and discreet while understanding and learning his role, Keegan allowed himself to chip in more often in later years without ever being as pointed or scathing as some of his peers. In trying to elevate his sense of self-importance, his comments occasionally backfired on him, most notably during the 1998 World Cup match between England and Argentina.

After 120 minutes of play and the score at 2-2, everything rested on the final England penalty to be taken by David Batty. When Moore put Keegan on the spot (sorry - couldn't help it) by asking him to predict whether Batty would score, he replied 'Yes' and promptly gave the first live demonstration of foot consumption to a large television audience.

Unfortunate, but by no means the only indicator of Keegan's abilities, for the former England striker was always able to use his managerial experience to give tactical insight where others couldn't. A reliable co-commentator, still in demand on TV today.

Insight - 7.5/10 Speak-when-you're-spoken-to-ability - 9/10 Humour - 5.5/10 Controversialness - 5/10 Delivery - 8.5/10. OVERALL - 7.1/10.

Pleat, David

Just a few years after galloping onto the Maine Road pitch in 1983 to celebrate Luton Town's avoidance of relegation to the Second Division, David Pleat was in an ITV commentary box, giving his views on the 1986 FA Cup Final.

Pleat was on the verge of becoming manager of Tottenham, but if anything it was his media career that was just taking off as his easy-going, informative style of co-commentary was deemed just the ticket for the independent broadcaster. From the late-1980's onwards, his voice and his honest, analytical views were regularly heard on ITV, providing a calming and credible adjunct to proceedings.

Unfortunately, as many in his position do, he became prone to ever more regular verbal gaffs as his confidence grew. Even now, he allows himself every chance to be witty and humorous, although the reality is often somewhat wide of what his intentions are.

Perhaps, however, he can be allowed such indulgence. Whether at World Cups, FA Cup Finals or internationals, Pleat understood the science of football tactics and could count upon such knowledge to bolster his discourse. While not being the most dynamic of personalities he remains, on TV and radio, a knowledgeable and experienced figure.

Insight - 9/10 Speak-when-you're-spoken-to-ability - 7.5/10 Humour - 6.5/10 Controversialness - 6/10 Delivery - 8/10. OVERALL - 7.4/10.

St. John, Ian

Everyone knows that Saint was half of 'Saint and Greavsie', but in fact Ian St. John was an active co-commentator for ITV going way back to 1978. Providing his take on the European Cup Final that year between Liverpool and Club Brugge, he did similar work at the World Cups of 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1990, along with numerous European and domestic cup finals well into the 1990's.

St. John's greatest quality was probably his way of speaking with confidence and conviction. In many ways, it wasn't what he said but the clarity and assertiveness with which he said it, and as a viewer you felt compelled to accept his views, no questions asked.

His delivery was often quite serious, but as someone used to working with the jocular Jimmy Greaves, he needed little persuading to drop his guard and enjoy any humorous moments that came about with a chuckle here and there. Because of that, viewers appreciated the warmer side to his character in contrast to his steely, determined delivery.

In general, however, St. John got the ITV co-commentating nod far more often than his partner Greaves because he could enhance the gravitas of an occasion. As a former player par excellence, he understood the importance of, say, an FA Cup Final from a player's point of view, and the need to take it seriously. This matched the revered tones of Brian Moore and therein you have the ideal partnership, as was shown by his many appearances behind the microphone.

Insight - 9/10 Speak-when-you're-spoken-to-ability - 8.5/10 Humour - 6.5/10 Controversialness - 6/10 Delivery - 8.5/10. OVERALL - 7.7/10.

And now a final look at some of the other names that have tried to convey the excitement of football... with different degrees of success...

Moore, Bobby: A highly underused contributor to ITV's coverage of Brazil v Uruguay and Italy during World Cup '70, Moore's comments were as entirely rational and polite as you'd expect from England's captain. Why ITV didn't bring him into the fold more for the big football occasions of the next decade or two, one can only wonder, but they should have done.

Ramsey, Sir Alf: Ironically, Moore's boss was used by ITV on a few occasions during the 1970's, but he seemed prone to tripping over his words and rushing through his delivery all too often. Lacking any humour and determined to retain as much dignity as possible throughout, Ramsey wasn't exactly cut out for co-commentary work and his appearances in the commentary box were rare beyond ITV's 1974 World Cup coverage.

Robson, Bobby: Another former England boss, although in the case of Robson, his co-commentary days began well before he got the national team job. Bobby Robson was still at Ipswich when ITV came knocking in June 1979, but he showed his versatility by doing well during their coverage of England's friendly match in Austria. Sadly he wasn't used much thereafter and his only other notable co-commentary work came during the Euro 84 Final for the BBC. Another case of 'what might have been'...

And there we have it - a selection of some, but not all of those individuals chosen for their ability to string a bunch of meaningful words together. These are the few that opened their mouths and spoke what was in their minds before their foot plugged the gap - a skill that is never as easy as one might think. 

Saturday 2 May 2015

The Football Attic's Hit Parade: Glory Glory Leeds United

And before you ask, that apostrophe in the title was put there to prevent all kinds of misinterpretation, for this is a new series looking at the world of football and its variable attempts to create music that sells in vast quantities.

Oh for sure we had 'Three Lions'. We even had 'World In Motion'. But what about those songs that barely grazed the lower echelons of the Top 40, or those stamped 'Rejected' by the producers of Top of the Pops?

Here at The Football Attic, we consider it our duty to remember all football songs, acknowledging their merits and failings with the sort of impartiality that an Eastern European voting in the Eurovision Song Contest can only dream of.

And so we begin with Glory Glory Leeds United, a song that was released in 1968 after Leeds won the 1968 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and League Cup, although some argue it was unleashed on an unsuspecting public prior to their appearance in the 1970 FA Cup Final.

Either way, it treads the well-trodden path that is 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic', a song that uses the music from 'John Brown's Body' and containing the familiar chorus 'Glory, Glory, Hallelujah'. Inherently catchy, it formed the basis for many other football team songs down the years, not to mention one particularly notorious offering by The Goodies in 1974.

Leeds United's own version was sung by Ronnie Hilton, and here an entirely correct approach to recording football songs was adopted, namely to keep the involvement of any football players strictly minimal.

Hilton, born Adrian Hill in 1926, was a British crooner who reached the peak of his success in the 1950's by singing cover versions of popular American hits of the day. Once considered one of the top singing talents in the UK, his success was eventually tempered by the incoming rock and roll bandwagon led by the incomparable Elvis Presley. Come the 1960's, Hilton was looking for other ways to put his vocal expertise to good use, and towards the end of the decade he was lucky enough to be approached by a football team with a song and no singer.

Glory Glory Leeds United was the song, and it gave a potted profile of the team's recent successes, the captain, the manager and even the fans in all of its two minutes and forty-three seconds. It even dared to mention rival players and teams in the opening verse:
Manchester can rave about the Summerbee and Best
And there's Liverpool and Arsenal and Spurs and all the rest
But let us sing the praises of the lads we love the best
As Leeds go marchin' on 
Glory, glory Leeds United
Glory, glory Leeds United
Glory, glory Leeds United
They're the greatest football team in all the land
And so the relentless march continued with a comic-book description of Billy Bremner:
Now little Billy Bremner is the captain of the crew
For the sake of Leeds United he will break himself in two
His hair is red and fuzzy and his body's black and blue
But Leeds go marchin' on
By now you're probably getting the general gist, but suffice to say the last verse provides a final rousing mention of the boss and even the noisiest parts of the Elland Road ground:
In the Paddock and the Scratching Shed let's hear the voices sing
Let's get behind United and make the rafters ring
We're a team we can be proud of and Don Revie is the king
As Leeds go marchin' on 
 ...all of which tells you everything you need to know about the song, in essence. Yes, the players can be heard singing on the record, but only for the boisterous chorus which is probably very wise, given the tunefulness of most football players' voices.

Yet if you thought the A-side of this record did well with its various football references and rough, chucking-out-time-at-the-pub-like harmonies, you'd be well advised to check out the B-side, We Shall Not Be Moved. Once again written and sung by Hilton and based on an old standard, this one has even greater player participation and mentions half the First Division league table in the process.

But let's not peak too early. This is but one fine example of the football song. More will follow, you can be certain of that...

-- Chris Oakley