Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Saint & Greavsie's DVD Football Quiz, 2006

What lucky people we are! As you probably know by now, we love bringing you guest posts written by fabulous writers, and here's another one penned by top blogger Rich Nelson!

Rich recently came up with the answer to the question: "Whatever happened to Saint & Greavise?" (whether you were asking it or not), and here he is to tell all...

As part of the buzz around last summer's World Cup, my local charity shops got involved and I was sucked in. The Heart Foundation shop were offering various football-related fare, so I parted with 199 pence for a box of childhood memories featuring TV stalwarts Ian St John and Jimmy Greaves acting as quizmasters. Perhaps fortunately, my wife, who was unaware of Saint and Greavsie as she had grown up in Finland, placed the box in the garage, before I could get around to watching it, in DVD board game heaven with a Jack Bauer-themed quiz and one about James Bond.

So eventually on a period of gardening leave between jobs, I found myself tidying said garage and deciding to give it a whirl. Well, after kicking the free gift football to the dog...

It didn't take long for the wave of nostalgia to rush over me like heroin. The opening credits roll with cigarette cards coming to life to the soundtrack of the ITV World Cup 86 theme. Greavsie drinking milk (for a change), some clips from Wembley games of the era and then we're away. Now I may have had my mind spoiled by the Skinner and Baddiel imitations of Saint and Greavsie, with the constant chuckling... But I was almost disappointed for St John to pile straight into the introductions.

The main menu screens fart out a choice of two sides - England or Scotland... It's as though the quiz itself is set in the 1970s. It's a game for one or two players (or teams), including the patronising option of playing with a cat. I opted to play against the dog. Thankfully for me he slept through the whole ordeal. Choosing England or Scotland makes little difference to the game itself, aside from the pre-recorded joshing between Saint and Greavsie during the rounds.



It's a very typical TV quiz once it gets going, following the formula quite closely of A Question Of Sport. For someone who grew up on the sparse fare of televised football in the 1980s, it was nice to watch the footage that formed the "What happened next" rounds, followed by, in the first case, a clip of Steve Bull scoring for England with some questions about Bully's career. I didn't realise he'd scored four times... I suppose those days passed me by.

Part of the drawback to a DVD quiz were the questions which displayed a league table, where you had to identify the year. You then click to reveal the answer, before confirming whether you got it right. If you're playing on your own, would you be honest enough? I'd never cheat against the dog, I couldn't forgive myself. Luckily, the painful memories at the end of the 1998/99 season remained.

That's pretty much it - quiz over, roll credits.

But if you float around long enough, you'll find a couple of Easter Eggs on the main menu - bloopers and memories feature heavily, but one of them contains the pair's efforts at creating an all-time World XI. There is some evidence of a wider view outside of the British Isles, although surprisingly it is Greaves, perhaps, with the benefit of playing abroad, who is more willing to look to players like Lev Yashin, Di Stefano and Puskas. The XI itself is certainly different from a lot of similar efforts. Can't imagine Ray Wilson featuring heavily.



And so that's it - I'm happy to send my copy to anyone who wants it, it'd certainly pass the time after a night on the pop. You may need a few beers to help get through it. Hit me up on Twitter - first come first served.

Such generosity - thanks Rich! So there you have it... if you want to play along with Saint & Greavsie, get in touch with Rich Nelson on Twitter (@EscapeToSuomi) and you could soon be receiving his very own copy of the game.

It also just leaves us to say a big thank you to Rich for writing us this guest post, and if you want to read more of his excellent writing, you can catch him over at the Escape To Suomi website at www.escapetosuomi.com.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Worst. Penalty. Ever.

No-one ever said it was impossible not to score from the penalty spot, but at the very least you shouldn't be far off if you miss. The penalty spot, after all, is only 11 metres away (give or take a few centimetres), and the goalmouth itself covers just short of 18 square metres. Having your shot saved by the goalkeeper is entirely possible, but missing the goal by a considerable distance? Well that's got to be virtually impossible, wouldn't you say?

Not if you're Diana Ross, it isn't, but surely the one-time lead singer of The Supremes has had a rough deal for the last 21 years? When she fluffed her big moment during the 1994 World Cup opening ceremony, she may have caused a collective sniggering up the sleeve of the watching millions around the world, but it wasn't her fault really. Prior to her unfortunate swing and miss while singing 'I'm Coming Out', she'd probably never even clapped eyes on a football, let alone be paid to kick one on a professional basis. Why on Earth did anyone expect her to put the ball in the back of that shoddily-made net?

Footballers, however, are different. They're very existence revolves around the ability to kick a ball straight, and, in a penalty situation, towards a largely open goalmouth.

With that in mind, we're inclined to scratch our heads until they bleed at the sight of this anti-skill on the part of Francis Lee in England's last international match of the 1960's...



And now let's recap to see just how bad that penalty was:


Yep. As we thought. Awful.


-- Chris Oakley

Monday, 13 April 2015

The Football Attic Podcast 23 - Best & Worst

Hi folks! It's podcast time again!

So which exciting subject are we covering this time? We're not... nope! Rather than talk endlessly about one subject we decided to have fund and do a 'Best & Worst' list type thing, seeing as that's what the interweb seems to like these days.

During the course of the show, we throw football nostalgia categories at each other (conversationally speaking) and discuss which are our favourite and least favourite things in those categories.

So for instance, you may hear Chris asking Rich for his best and worst items in the category of 'Football Kits'. Rich will obviously pick 'England '82' as his best and 'Coventry City 87' as his worst... Wait a minute... That can't be right... :-)

It's all entirely our opinion and therefore totally subjective, just the way it should be!

ENJOY MOFOS!!!!

Subscribe to The Football Attic Podcast on iTunes or download our podcast here.

Friday, 10 April 2015

The World At Their Feet - Official Film of the 1970 World Cup

It’s a little known fact that several decades ago, the United Nations passed a resolution whereby ‘all references to the 1970 World Cup must mention the 1966 World Cup at some point.’ Applying only to British journalists, publishers and film-makers, this ensured that England’s finest hour was not easily forgotten and was exploited for all its nationalistic hubris until the inevitable fall from grace followed swiftly thereafter.

The evidence of this UN resolution that I may have just made up can be seen everywhere in the memorabilia of the early-1970’s. Even the Golden Goals book I wrote about recently couldn’t help but remind England fans that ‘hey - we won the World Cup in 1966… remember?’

The Official Film of the 1970 World Cup does exactly that, right from the very start when Bobby Moore is seen raising the Jules Rimet Trophy to a Union Flag-waving Wembley crowd. They had to, you see. The UN said so, and that was that.

With the ‘66’ box ticked, it was straight onto the next item on the Official World Cup Film Checklist, namely ‘Teams setting off/arriving’. Here we see the 1970 England squad boarding their plane while Patrick Allen set the scene verbally for us. Our narrator, who would later gain notoriety as the voice of the UK government’s ‘Protect and Survive’ films and, consequently, Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s ‘Two Tribes’ video was the ideal choice to describe the visuals of the film. With a voice that resonated with integrity and trust, you knew that this wasn’t going to be some cheap epic knocked off by someone still learning to use a cine camera. This was a serious film about the World Cup, and Patrick Allen’s narration added all the dynamic urgency that was needed to make it great.

After the fabulous signature tune, ‘Mucho Mexico Seven-O’, and the dubiously-depicted flags of the title sequence, there’s no option but to screw up our Official World Cup Film Checklist because for the first time ever there’s a story to be told. That’s right - not only were we treated to the sight of the world’s greatest football players kicking a ball around a pitch, but also some people acting. You know - pretending stuff was real and that.

The story of The World At Their Feet centres on a young Mexican boy called Martin who dreams of seeing the likes of Bobby Moore, Pele and Franz Beckenbauer playing at the Azteca Stadium. So intense is his love of football that he decides to hitchhike his way to the opening game without telling his mother. “Mama - she wouldn’t let me. She wouldn’t understand… but if she didn’t know…” says the boy (or at least that of the voiceover artiste representing him).

And so we see Martin on the back of a pack mule, getting out of a Coke truck, dangling his feet off the end of a paddle boat and sitting in the back of a glamorous couple’s convertible as it cruised along the Mexican highway. His passage to the Azteca seamless and uncomplicated, this small boy of no more than eight years soon finds himself rubbing shoulders with the public masses arriving in Mexico City for the start of the tournament. Such cleverness at masterminding a plan so fraught with peril at every stage could only be applauded if it wasn’t such a load of old codswallop.

Inside the stadium, the opening ceremony begins and the flags of the competing nations are paraded to a vociferous crowd. We see balloons released and the teams of Mexico and the Soviet Union taking to the field for the first game. As we’ve all come to expect by now, the screen is emblazoned with searing sunshine-drenched hues that make you feel hot just watching it. Heaven knows what it must have been like playing in that kind of heat, and the fact that the opening match ended 0-0 is probably no surprise to anyone.

After that, highlights from several games rattle through at a snappy pace. Israel v Uruguay, England v Romania, Bulgaria v Peru… all treated with the same mix of camera angles, neat editing and informative narration. There’s also the attraction (if ‘attraction’ be the word I’m looking for) of hearing the occasional orchestral sting or percussive refrain whenever a player takes a tumble or thumps the ground with his fist in frustration. Such informal elements perfectly date the film, but you can’t help but feel that they’d have been better suited to a Norman Wisdom movie.

On with the relentless parade of match highlights. Brazil’s first game against Czechoslovakia is backed by an upbeat samba tune while West Germany’s opener against Morocco has a marching band playing an accompaniment. So much for predictable stereotypes… There’s also the occasional sight of a match scoreboard to present half-time and full-time scores, plus another old favourite from World Cup films - the  crowd sequence.

It seems to me that several decades ago, football crowds had much more character to them. Instead of replica shirt-wearing oafs shouting abuse at the referee, you had women with beehive hair-dos applying lipstick to their mothers or men wearing pork-pie hats smoking pipes. Where are they now, one asks oneself?

One sequence that lingers long in the memory is the one featuring Sweden’s game against Israel. Picked out for its litany of fouls and general bad behaviour on the part of the players, we’re left not with a feeling of negativity being glorified so much as the pathetic futility that some of the players employ. Rash tackling, kicking off the ball and general impetulance are all on show here, and there’s even an attempt by Patrick Allen at gentle humour: “The Swedes, who have abolished capital punishment at home, seem to want to make an exception for [Israel’s] Spiegler. Probably wish they had, because three minutes later, Spiegler scores the equaliser for Israel.”

Before the last game in Group 1 between Mexico and Belgium, there’s a return to the story mentioned at the beginning. (You’d forgotten, hadn’t you?)  Martin’s Mum, watching the game on TV , spots her boy following the teams out onto the pitch at the Azteca Stadium as the official mascot. “Oh Martin” she says, “That’s where you are.” You’d perhaps expect her to break down in tears at the thought of seeing her only son for the first time in a fortnight, but she doesn’t. You might also expect her to be speaking to the police or social services after ‘mislaying’ her little boy, but she isn’t. She’s sitting in her rocking chair at home, baby in her arms, and she couldn’t care less. And you wonder why this film didn’t get an Oscar…

Mexico’s 1-0 win in their final game was enough to see them through to the quarter finals, thereby prompting a short piece of film showing Mexican fans celebrating in the centre of Mexico City. After that, there’s a summary of the quarter final line-up using barely-legible cardboard name tags, then it’s back to the action which, as ever, combines pitch-level camera angles with the more familiar top-down view. It’s what the official World Cup films do best, and why they’re always so engaging to watch.

As the goals fly in with increasing regularity, the semi finals are quickly upon us and special attention is given to the second match between Italy and West Germany. Concise, yet balanced, we’re allowed to enjoy the excitement of Schnellinger’s last minute equaliser to force extra time, the Italians’ distress at being robbed of a place in the Final and the flood of goals that arrived in the additional 30 minutes of play. With Beckenbauer’s right arm strapped up after a heavy fall, it was Italy who took advantage and went on to win 4-3 - a classic game, nicely presented in distilled form for the purpose of the film.

And so to the Final, but first, what happened to Martin?  Why, that cheeky little scamp managed to sneak onto the pitch at the Azteca while the stadium was empty for a quick kick-around. Sadly for him, his mother arrives (finally) to drag him off home by the ear, never to be seen again… or so we’re led to think.

Luckily, all the pomp and hoopla of the match between Brazil and Italy is on hand to take our mind of the young boy’s prospects. But wait! Who should be taking their seats in the crowd but a formally-dressed Martin with his mum (who appears to have made a rapid reversal in her treatment of his behaviour), plus the couple that gave him a lift in their convertible earlier in the film! It’s smiles all the way as the boy enjoys a happy ending before the inevitable screaming and shouting that occurs after the match when all the adults have a violent fist-fight. Probably.

Brazil and Italy, fortunately, have nothing but entertainment on their minds as they take to the field for The Greatest Final Ever ®. Again, there’s no intent to speed through the action - every aspect of all the key moments is explored in great detail. Slow motion, rythmic samba music, close-up shots of the enthralled crowd… they all add to the thrilling finale. There’s even time for some dubious dialogue from Patrick Allen after Italy level the score at 1-1: “Felix [Brazil’s goalkeeper], trying to wipe away the taste of Italy’s equaliser. Italy feasts on it. The Brazilian crowd have indigestion.” Even Joss Ackland would have trouble matching that during the 1974 World Cup Film

And then after a tense second half, Brazil finally make the breakthrough and a 4-1 victory is assured. What’s more interesting than the sight of five goals being scored during the 90 minutes, however, is the chaos that ensues on the pitch afterwards. As the final whistle is blown, a thousand people spill onto the field to play their part in the celebrations.

We see from a first-person perspective fans trying to grab any available piece of clothing from the Brazilian players, referee Rudi Glöckner trying to leave the scene without being physically assaulted and an army of photographers, journalists and reporters all keen to relate the glory of this sensational Brazil victory as best they can.

In the middle of it all, Rivelino receives treatment from an injury, surrounded by the baying mob, Felix and Tostao embracing in tears at the sheer emotion of what’s happened and Pele, carried shoulder high by the fans that confirm his rise to sainthood in their eyes. All this captured on film by the cameramen that made themselves part of this impassioned scene. It’s a fabulous ending to a very enjoyable account of the 1970 World Cup.

And Martin? Leaving the stadium with his mother after the Final, he turns to her and says: “Mama - how far is it to Munich?”  Call me cynical, but I think she may have told him in no uncertain terms.

-- Chris Oakley

(PS - Since when did the Belgium flag have green on it?)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Preview: Football Attic Podcast 23

Greetings Podcast lovers and Attic dwellers!

Here's a quick message to let you know we're recording Podcast 23 in a couple of days' time, and this one has the simple working title of 'Best and Worst'.

Why? It's simple! During the course of the show, we're going to be throwing football nostalgia categories at each other (conversationally speaking) and discussing which are our favourite and least favourite things in those categories.

So for instance, you may hear Chris asking Rich for his best and worst items in the category of 'Football Kits'. Rich will obviously pick 'England '82' as his best and 'Coventry City 87' as his worst... Wait a minute... That can't be right... :-)

If all this still makes sense, we'd like to invite you to suggest some categories of your own. They can be as wide-ranging or as obscure as you like, as long as they have a football nostalgia element to them. (Don't make them too obscure, mind you - we're not that well-informed on Peruvian Second Division goalkeepers!)

Once you've done that, leave us a comment on the end of this post and we'll do our best to read out your suggestions during the recording. Simple!

Thanks very much as ever for your contributions. We look forward to hearing from you!


Thursday, 2 April 2015

Golden Goals (1972)

When I was a kid in the early 1980s, a trip to the local petrol station in my Dad's car didn't provide much in the way of excitement for me. Having filled up the tank and handed over his money in the forecourt shop, he'd return to the car with nothing more than a bunch of tokens for a free whisky tumbler and very little else. Had we been doing the exact same thing in the late 1970's, I might have been handed a small plastic Smurf as a special treat, or at the beginning of the Seventies, even an Esso World Cup Coin.

It seems I largely missed out on the petrol/football tie-ins that were so prominent in the early-70's. Everyone always thinks of Esso as being the masters of marketing where that's concerned (and rightly so), yet one little-known company had a go at cashing in on football fervour too - and made a decent job of it.

I say 'little-known company' - in fact it was a regional petrol company that was owned by Esso, not that anyone was really aware of that at the time. Cleveland Petrol had started out in the 1930's selling ethanol fuel in the north-east of England, but just before their forecourts were fully rebranded to Esso, they had the chance to embark on one or two football-related trade campaigns.

Golden Goals just happened to be a tie-in of sorts with ITV's The Big Match and it followed a familiar format. In the traditional manner, customers spending £1 on petrol at Cleveland stations were offered a free gift; in this case, a packet containing a solitary sticker. It doesn't sound like much, but the sticker was quite large and often split into two or three separate smaller images. Those images could then be stuck into an accompanying album (price: 20p) which doubled up nicely as a hardback reference book for the discerning young football fan.

If you lived in London or the South East back in 1972, you'd know that Golden Goals was The Big Match's answer to Match of the Day's 'Goal of the Month' competition on the BBC. Luckily for fans of 'Shoot' (the ITV football show in the north-east of England), they got to see The Big Match often during the 1971-72 season. That's because the Tyne Tees cameras were often sent away to cover horse racing at Redcar or Newcastle, so to fill in, they'd broadcast The Big Match instead.


The Golden Goals book was 'compiled by Jimmy Hill and Brian Moore', and following a brief foreword by The Bearded One, there were regular references to the Big Match goalfest throughout. More than 70 pages of illustrations were provided, showing how various important goals were scored and the players that were involved in scoring them. Coupled with the words of Martin Tyler, those aforementioned stickers completed many of the pages, showing the interplay between players, their positioning on the pitch and the importance of the match itself - three things that Jimmy Hill was always excellent at explaining on TV.



The 1966 World Cup Final and the following tournament in 1970 were, as you'd expect, still fresh in the memory when the book was created, but they were by no means the be-all-and-end-all of this interesting compendium. A wide range of subjects - and great goals - were explored and explained in full colour and fine detail, from FA Cup giant killing to the great strikers of the 20th Century.


Specific teams were also given special treatment. Manchester United's 'goal power' looked at the awesome strike partnership of Bobby Charlton, Denis Law and George Best, while Arsenal's route to double-winning glory was also brought into sharp focus. There was even room to look at local rivalries within British football and the great teams of international football - neither of which had anything directly to do with great goals, but were beautifully illustrated all the same.


The concept of Golden Goals as a book along with its accompanying stickers was beautifully executed in a very subtle way. Whereas Panini and their ilk introduced the concept of albums containing many hundreds of stickers in a single collection, Cleveland's version had only 41, yet there's never a feeling of 'if only there were more' about it. The stickers are not intrinsically vital to the book because the book is a fine piece of work in its own right. And yet although the stickers only played a complementary role, you still got that feeling of joy when your Dad handed you a pastel blue packet at a Cleveland Petrol station, and you still had the pleasure of sticking your stickers into the book, thereby making it even better than it was.


This 'less is more' approach showed how Panini might have developed their collections in later years, and may even have avoided their demise of the early 1990's had they done so. By producing a hardback book packed with lots of information and far fewer stickers, Cleveland showed cleverness in creating something more substantial than a basic sticker album yet still had the allure of building a collection within it.


And while everyone was waiting for the video recorder to be invented, what better way to remember great goals than to study them in illustrated form, page by page? This book had them by the dozen and celebrated them with real flare and integrity. Oh, and the petrol came in quite handy too.

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Field of Screens - Five Great Football Documentaries

It's been a while since our last guest post, but we're delighted to welcome Dave Burin to The Football Attic who tells us about five excellent football documentaries - all available to watch via YouTube....

Football and film crews have always been uneasy bedfellows.  From Graham Taylor's England predictably crumbling under pressure in Do I Not like That, to the spectre of Thatcher-era hardship limiting Sheffield Wednesday's crowds, in 1984's Steel City Blues, the football documentary has often provided an insight into the fractious, emotionally-charged nature of the game. Away from the blandly glamorous veneer of 'Super Sunday' and inoffensive post-match interviews, football has always existed as something more earthy and complex... as the following five documentaries illustrate.

1. The Crazy Gang (BT Sport, 2014)



For younger fans, the reverence towards Wimbledon's FA Cup triumph of 1988 might seem rather confusing. Was this not a team whose name became synonymous with dull, route-one football? Were they not resented for their overly physical approach? Does this mean people actually like Dennis Wise? Yes. Yes. Hopefully not.

Wimbledon's FA Cup triumph - and to a lesser extent their eventful tenure in English football's top flight - are so celebrated because of the unlikeliness of their success. A ragtag band of lower-league stalwarts and juvenile misfits combined to catapult Wimbledon from a Southern League side to worthy winners of the world's most famous cup competition, in less than 11 years.

It's a genuine footballing fairytale, wonderfully relived through BT Sport's recent documentary The Crazy Gang. Weaving together rare archive footage from muddy, scrappy fixtures at Plough Lane to anecdotes like Dave Bassett's precise attitude to goalscoring ("If we didn't have 18 shots a game, then we had an inquest") and unflinching recollections of dressing-room bullying, it's a film which evokes both the charm and the cruelty of Wimbledon at their peak.

Comprehensive and unflinching, whilst remaining entertaining, The Crazy Gang is, just as the Wimbledon side were, not without its flaws. There's too much focus on Fashanu and Jones using the documentary as a platform for hard-man bragging, but overall, this is excellent football filmmaking. From Sam Hammam's tales of tough negotiations, to Lawrie Sanchez's wondrous Wembley memories - all of it sumptuously filmed - The Crazy Gang is well worth a watch, whether you're a Womble, or just wondering what the fuss is about.

2. Steel City Blues (BBC North, 1984)



1984 was a year of mixed blessings for the proud industrial city of Sheffield. Whilst the bitter feud of the Miners strikes took hold, amidst rising unemployment, United and Wednesday were thriving on the pitch. The Blades rose from the old Third Division through the infeasibly tight margin of goals scored, whilst the Owls returned to the top tier for the first time since 1970. This incisive documentary from BBC North examines the remarkable rise of Howard Wilkinson's Wednesday, amidst a backdrop of economic gloom, and an increasingly derelict city landscape.

As with The Crazy Gang, the interview sources are again a strength of this documentary. Steel City Blues includes interviews with a young David Blunkett (then leader of Sheffield City Council), several members of the Sheffield Wednesday squad - most notably Martin Hodge - supporters, and even an Owls fanatic who showcases his love of symbolism by collecting ceramic owls. The amount of football footage on show is - reflecting the times - fairly limited. However, close focus on a decisive promotion win against Crystal Palace, and the subsequent jubilant celebrations upon the terraces, provide a stark contrast to the scenes of industrial decline.

Steel City Blues is very much a document of its time, and feels all the more unbiased and authentic for it. Set to a strangely eclectic soundtrack, including Joe Cocker and dyslexic local lads Def Leppard, this remains one of the best and most concise documentaries about the way in which football offers an escape from the frustrations of everyday life. And in 1984, Sheffield Wednesday offered an exciting and uplifting glimpse of what football could bring to a struggling city.

3. Big Ron Manager (Sky TV, 2006)



Ronald Frederick Atkinson. He of the remarkable suntan and the entirely baffling phrase "early doors". Winner of two FA Cups and two League Cups as manager. Reduced to ruining Steve Bleasdale's burgeoning managerial career for the sake of TV ratings. As the Posh slipped down the table during the bizarre experiment that was Big Ron Manager, the only real winners were the viewers of this unique and strange documentary. It was, if nothing else, a success of sheer entertainment.

Jeff Stelling narrates the show, taking time out from his usual role of impressing* (*scaring) viewers with an intimate knowledge of Stirling Albion's goalscoring woes and Exeter City's loanee midfielders. Opening the first episode, Stelling asks "will Big Ron being able to work his magic in this down-at-heel football world?"  The answer is a resounding NO. Mostly, he interferes in Bleasdale's perfectly competent running of the team, reels off 'Ronglish' platitudes to a confused dressing room and turns up at Barry Fry's gaff for lasagne. It's gripping TV, in its weird, slightly mundane glory.

The show's true gems, though, are a result of its behind-the-scenes access. Genial defender Mark Arber gets in hot* (*warm?) water as a result of tampering with a urine sample. Posh's youngsters misunderstand the contrasts of visiting a local factory as an excuse to act stupidly, and Bleasdale finishes a rousing team talk by telling the players "and the word I'm looking for, before the finish, is 'sloppy mode.'"  'Magic darts' and all that.

Big Ron Manager remains an interesting look at a footballing level and era where the gates are low, the ground is crumbling, and the measured old heads clash with brash young talents. It all happens at London Road, but in truth this could have been any contemporary lower league side. And it remains a fascinating watch for fans of any team.

4. City! A Club in Crisis (Granada, 1981)



Malcolm Allison's outspoken, frank manner means he's always been renowned as a footballing showman, as much as he has a managerial success. "There aren't many players who can do that", a City boardroom member tells Allison, after Kenny Dalglish scores a dipping strike against the Maine Road men. "What?  Make the ball bounce?" replies the acerbic, flamboyant boss. But, in a no-holds-barred piece of football filmmaking which turns many preconceptions on its head, Allison's increasing vulnerability is one of City!'s most fascinating facets.

As with Big Ron Manager, the behind-the-scenes access of this documentary gives it an authentic and refreshingly honest feel. After one defeat, the players congregate in the dressing room to analyse the fixture. This begins with a cry of "what about that fuckin' referee?", followed by noises of outraged agreement.  It's a world away from the lazy platitudes of glum midfielders with a microphone unwittingly shoved in their face by Geoff Shreeves.

It also shines a light on areas rarely seen by fans. The City team are seen training on the fields by Manchester's Platt Lane. John Bond's job interview is caught on camera. An incredulous narrator tells us how Allison likes any "new idea", trying "dancing teachers, psychiatrists, university lecturers and, now, he's planning music in the dressing room". It's a fascinating portent of what would become the revered footballing field of 'Sports Psychology'.

The most fascinating area of this production, though, is the battle between the aging master, Malcolm Allison, and his managerial replacement and childhood friend, John Bond. It's a narrative which Shakespeare would have been proud of, but the drama of it is low-key and emotional. When City meet Allison's new side, Crystal Palace, a seemingly desperate, shaken Allison faces the camera, and says, "I need to win badly. I need to win". He doesn't. It's the sign of a proud man having a genuine crisis, and as with everything in City! A Club in Crisis, there's that sense of intimacy and access which makes this a remarkable and engrossing gem of documentary making.

5. Football's Greatest Teams - Bayern Munich (Sky Sports, 2013)



Narrated by Hugh McIlvanney, whose voice sounds like a big bear hug, Football's Greatest Teams is one of Sky Sport's fleeting - but wonderfully produced - acknowledgements of football's existence prior to 1992.  Focusing on the Bayern team of the mid-1970s, which won three consecutive European Cups (bolded, because that's just ridiculous!), this superb piece focuses on game footage, but incorporates numerous player interviews - and perhaps most incredibly, fans' footage of the trip to Brussels for the 1974 European Cup Final at Heysel - Bayern's first ever appearance in the final.

As with the other entries here, there are some superb pieces of insight. Not least Bayern legend Rainer Zobel's slightly guilty recollection of that infamous European Cup tie against Leeds United.  "It was a goal" he admits. "It wasn't offside". It's not going to mean much to those at Elland Road, but it's a humble admittance which seems to rest uneasily with the brash, no-nonsense confidence of many of Bayern's stars of the period.

The footage, though, is probably the highlight here - especially for lovers of continental football. The rare, fuzzy footage of Gerd Müller smashing home goals from inside the box is enough to warm the heart, especially combined with McIlvanney's superb narration. It's a fitting tribute to a wonderful team.

Thanks to Dave Burin for his wonderful guest post. Seen any great football documentaries? Tell us about them! Drop us a line or do as Dave did - write us a guest post! We look forward to hearing from you...

Thursday, 12 March 2015

The Football Attic Podcast 22 - Panini Special

Football sticker enthusiasts: you have reached your aural Valhalla! The Football Attic is proud to present 80 minutes of discussion on the subject of sticker collecting featuring our very special guest, Greg Lansdowne.

Greg's currently promoting his new book, 'Stuck On You: The Rise & Fall... & Rise of Panini Stickers', which looks into the history of self-adhesive football stickers in the UK. Having spoken to the great and the good from Panini, Merlin and many other great names down the years, Greg has put pen to paper to document the fascinating story of how we all got hooked on the great collecting craze for football lovers young and old.

'Stuck on You' is on sale now, but if you haven't got your copy yet, never fear - The Football Attic managed to catch up with Greg recently to bring you a personal take on some of the fascinating stories you'll find in the book.

And if you sent in questions for Greg, you're in luck as our guest very kindly spent some time providing answers to all your Panini-related enquiries and disputes.

Belly dancers, newspaper moguls and striking TV broadcasters... You'll find out all about these, plus stickers, cards and much more besides on The Football Attic Podcast 22!

Subscribe to The Football Attic Podcast on iTunes or download our podcast here.


Stuck on You: The Rise & Fall - & Rise of Panini Stickers
By Greg Lansdowne
Pitch Publishing Ltd
256 pages
Paperback
Price: £12.99 (Amazon.co.uk)

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Friday, 6 March 2015

Panini: Football 83

In 1983, Panini did for football players what Morecambe & Wise did for Angela Rippon. Where before there was a tidal wave of heads and faces, now there were legs everywhere - hundreds of them adorning virtually every sticker on every page. This was a new approach: out went the head-shots of previous collections and in came full-length shots of every player in full team kit. Amazing.

It's difficult to know what people thought of this change back in the day. Speaking personally, I remember being a little confused but ultimately rather pleased with the sight of whole players, rather than just their heads and shoulders. Now we could see a complete team kit, and though we might have seen glimpses of it on TV, it was now possible to gaze eternally at the entire ensemble in all its detailed glory.

The shift to tall, thin stickers from the squarer, more squat shape was a seismic event in the history of Panini's UK domestic football collections. It's never been repeated (not to my knowledge, at least) and people still talk about it to this day. The obvious nod towards the old cigarette cards of the early-20th Century would have pleased the nostalgia lovers no end, but younger collectors may have missed the chance to see what a player looked like close up. As it is, they weren't missing much. Who wants to see sensible haircuts and dead-behind-the-eyes facial expressions in fine detail anyway?


The change in shape of the stickers could have posed one or two problems where the foil badges were concerned. Your average club crest tends not to be tall and slim by its very nature (Birmingham City's being one of the few exceptions), so how could you fill up all the empty space going spare? One idea was provided on the first page of the album with the shiny versions of the logos for the Football League and Professional Footballers' Associations in England and Scotland.


What Panini did for the team badges, however, was rotate them 90 degrees and add a cartoon illustration of the team's nickname. My 12-year-old self thought this was magnificent; an informal adjunct to the ruthlessly slick content found elsewhere in the album. More often than not, the cartoons were literal (Ipswich had pennants sporting the word 'Blues') while others were common knowledge to the regular football fan anyway. It was when I got to the Scottish teams that I struggled, though. My knowledge of football north of the border was considerably patchier, so why were Dundee United represented by a bunch of fans being noisy?

The illustrations, despite not having the nicknames provided, were good fun and very nicely drawn. In fact the whole presentation of the foil badges was very well done indeed, from the scarf-like team name banner to the inclusion of the year the club was formed.


But back to those player pictures. Despite Panini's usual meticulous efforts to get all the required photographs in a single shoot, their high standards were sometimes compromised by the players themselves - or specifically their attempts to dress appropriately.

The classic example of this was found on pages 38 and 39 of the Football 83 album where you'd find several of Swansea City's fine band of men devoid of any decent footwear. First there was Colin Irwin, captain of the side and a former Liverpool defender and yet, despite having been given a football to hold onto, didn't have any boots to wear. The same can be said of Bob Latchford, one-time Everton great yet now, at the ripe old age of 32, forced to pose for a picture with only socks on his feet.


Alan Curtis notched up the embarrassment levels even further by wearing a full kit and carpet slippers on his feet. Little is known about the Great Swansea Shoe Shortage of 1983, but this album will give historians a valuable insight into those austere times.

Over on the West Ham pages, Phil Parkes only just avoided humiliation of a similar nature by donning what appeared to be a pair of desert boot/football trainer hybrids, but even with the right footwear, other perils were abound. Take, for instance, the gentleman in the dark jacket and grey flannels walking accidentally into shot behind Birmingham City' Pat Van Den Hauwe. All very unfortunate...


At least Football 83 had its fair share of curiosities throughout. There was Arsenal in their first ever modern, shiny kit complete with Dennis the Menace socks; Dave Sexton wearing that rarest of things - a Coventry 'Talbot' tracksuit top; and a host of future Premier League managers from Martin Jol to Alan Curbishley all looking fresh-faced and free of the stress that was to blight their post-playing careers.


After the previous year's collection, Panini decided not to bother with a section on Division Three and stayed with the tried-and-trusted 'badge and team pic' format for the Division Two teams. As for the Scottish Premier Division teams, there were no full-length pictures for their players. Yet again, they were two to a sticker (head shots only), but as with the English First Division teams, there was room for an extra player on the page thanks to some skilful rejigging of the layout.


Finally, on the last seven pages of the album, we were treated to one of the more inventive and interesting features from Panini's rich canon. 'Laws of the Game' made great use of the longer-shaped stickers by giving us pictures explaining each of the laws of Football. Accompanied by full text descriptions of everything from the correct way players should be dressed to the offside rule, this was a genuinely useful and satisfying addition to the album - not least because of the 'Boys Own' style of illustration used on each of the pictures.


And that was that - a great end to a very good collection filled with new ideas that kept our love for Panini well and truly alive. But could it last, and what would the thousands of loyal Panini sticker collectors expect in 1984? All would soon be revealed...


-- Chris Oakley

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Preview: Football Attic Podcast 22

This Saturday, March 8th, we'll be recording Episode 22 of The Football Attic Podcast - and we'll be interviewing a very special guest, author Greg Lansdowne.

Greg's new book, 'Stuck On You: The Rise & Fall... & Rise of Panini Stickers', is a fascinating look at the heyday of football sticker collecting in the UK. Covering Merlin, FKS and many other manufacturers as well as Panini, it's the must-have book for anyone that's ever known the joy of swapping and sticking!

Ahead of the podcast recording, we're inviting you to send in your questions on sticker collecting. Whether it's a technical query about one of the Panini albums or you're just curious about which collection Greg likes the most, leave us a message below or email admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com.

We'll do our very best to read out your questions as we indulge in our love for one of the most a-peeling pastimes ever! Thanks for your participation!

And you can order your own copy of 'Stuck on You' via Amazon UK for just £12.99 (paperback) and many other great retail outlets.