19 April 2014

The Best of Bygone Football - The Search Begins!

About a month ago, we recorded our most recent podcast. It was all about the myriad of largely overlooked but much loved things that used to make up the world of football several decades ago. Many of you contributed memories of your own to our discussion (thank you!) and we had a wonderful time reminiscing about everything from rosettes and rattles to Elton Welsby!

(Well, almost a wonderful time...)

Such enjoyable chatter gave us an idea - to find the best thing ever about bygone football. Way back in July 2013, we carried out a similar exercise to find out The Worst Thing About Modern Football, but that proved to be far too depressing - not least because we forgot to add Joey Barton to our list right at the start of the campaign.

15 April 2014

Hillsborough - A Personal Reflection

I don’t often write personal pieces on here, but I posted something on Facebook this morning and wanted to expand on it. Given football formed such a large part of my childhood, I just felt a need to put down my own thoughts on the Hillsborough tragedy and moreover how, in a single moment, life can change forever for some, while for others that moment means nothing.

They always say you can remember where you were when major world events happen. It may at first seem odd to have a picture of Bamburgh Castle in a post about a football tragedy, but 25 years ago today, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, I started my first ever oil painting.

I'd been to town that morning and purchased a few random colours from the clearance bin at the art shop in Spon End. While I was busy deciding which colours to buy, miles away, families were saying goodbye to loved ones, off to cheer on their team to Wembley.

Later that day, as I sat hunched over the dining table, brushes in hand, in the background, that afternoon's Grandstand filled the silence, covering a variety of sports I cared little for. Shortly after 3pm, there was a mention of some crowd trouble at the Liverpool v Nottingham Forest FA Cup semi-final.

12 April 2014

Heads Up (Soccer Football), Vectrex, 1983

Once upon a time, arcade games ruled the Earth. Space Invaders, PacMan, Frogger - these titles and many more cropped up everywhere from your local pub to the fish-and-chip shop at the end of your road. Bright colours, synthesised music and quirky sound effects were the alluring qualities that invited you to insert a 10p coin and immerse yourself in an alternative reality.

The explosion in the popularity of video games was extraordinary. New home consoles such as the Atari 2600 and the CBS ColecoVision quickly appeared and merely had to be hooked up to a TV to enjoy an arcade experience of sorts, but one system went even further with a portable all-in-one system that had its own TV built in.

The Vectrex console was originally launched by American company GCE in 1982, but Milton Bradley (makers of children's games such as Operation, Guess Who? and Twister) soon took over the running of GCE and consequently made the games system its own.

3 April 2014

Changing your stripes

Thumbing through an issue of Football League Review the other day, I stumbled upon an article that caught my eye. 'Inquiry: Are the club colours getting too drab?' was its title, and it surmised that the day of the 'fancy' football shirt seemed to be all but dead and buried.

Written in the first few weeks of the 1968/69 season by Bob Baldwin, it opened with the line: "Whatever happened to the Turquoise Blues, the Gold and Royal Blues and the Claret Bodies with Amber Yolks?" It went on: "These descriptive colour blends are not taken from a Paris fashion catalogue. They come from a pre-war list of official League club strips. Times have changed. Two-thirds of the clubs now use the more sober use of reds, blues or whites. Colour has gone from the game."

Intriguing. Was I to believe that the early 20th Century was a technicolor carnival of a million rainbow hues?

30 March 2014

Football Special 79

Somewhere between the lunacy of FKS and the gold standard of Figurine Panini, you’ll find AVA Americana and their sticker collection, Football Special 79.

In an age where several manufacturers where vying for supremacy in the football sticker market, Panini were already the yardstick by which their competitors were being judged. To beat the best, sticker collections like Football Special 79 had to offer something a bit different - something… well, ‘special.’

AVA Americana were a Munich-based company that had dipped their toes into the UK sticker market twice previously during the 1970’s. On this, their third and last tilt at greatness, they created a set of 384 stickers to be housed in a 60-page album. Quite whether you’d call the collection ‘special’ is a matter for personal judgement, but it was certainly different from the equivalent being sold by Panini.

23 March 2014

The Football Attic Podcast 17 - Things You Don't See At Football Anymore

Thanks to Brian Brown for the suggestion - Things You Don't See At Football Anymore!

Prepare for an hour of heavy nostalgia as we look back at things from a bygone era that you no longer see and probably never will again.

It's all muddy pitches, long laces and crackly commentary from far off lands!

It's not always a bad thing though...does anyone really want the back pass law repealed?

Featuring a guest appearance from Rich's cat...

Subscribe on iTunes or download here. Alternatively, catch The Football Attic Podcast on Square One Football Radio.

19 March 2014

Waddington's Quiz Card Games - Football (1979)

When it comes to football card games, you’re nobody unless you have the words ‘Top’ and ‘Trumps’ on your packet. Yet if the passing of time tells us nothing, it shows that every once in a while, a new title would come along in an attempt to win the hearts and minds of young football-loving children everywhere.

One such title was made by Waddingtons, the iconic name linked with all-time classic board games such as Monopoly, Risk and er… Wheel of Fortune. In 1979, Waddingtons hit upon the idea of producing sets of cards featuring quiz questions on various subjects, one of which was Football. Others included Cricket, Pop Music and, bewilderingly, the Highway Code, but whatever the subject they all had the same basic gameplay.

15 March 2014

FC Football Graphics (1998)

Sometimes it seems that modern football is a purely visual experience. TV commentaries, tasteless hot dogs and noisy supporters aside, the game as we know it today really is a feast for the eyes. What we don’t realise is how much of this imagery we all take for granted, or how much work goes into creating the visual stimuli we see. For that reason, Jeremy Leslie and Patrick Burgoyne’s book, FC Football Graphics, is a worthwhile attempt to make us re-evaluate the things that we see.

Given the subject matter, it’s only natural that the book is comprised mainly of pictures, gloriously and tantalisingly presented with an invitation to dwell slowly on each one. Where text is concerned, most of it appears in the lengthy introduction where we’re reminded that the worlds of fashion, literature and music have all exchanged influences with the beautiful game. After that, however, it’s largely pictures all the way, save for a few descriptive sentences on each pair of pages.

To begin with, there’s a selection of English club badges - the motifs that appear everywhere from Sky Sports to the Daily Mirror. Then comes the MLS equivalent (as it was when the book was published in 1998), notable by its inclusion of several club badges that are no longer in use some 16 years later.

Later we see examples of World Cup mascots and logos, but fascinatingly we’re reminded of the everyday bits of ephemera that circle the world of football like the rings around Saturn. National Lottery scratchcards, betting coupons, food and drink packaging… these are the things that blend into the background of our everyday lives, but which we never stop to appreciate.

When it comes to the match-day experience, however, one cannot look much beyond football shirts and strips as the ultimate embodiment of design, style and colour. The book shows us fans wearing their team shirts outside the ground, various shirt designs of all types - even the sponsor logos and manufacturer logos that dominate the shirt itself. All of them contribute to the tidal wave of imagery that constantly washes over us, but here we’re reminded to stop and actually look - to willingly appreciate the detail and complexities that lie within.

If you throw in football websites, magazines, video games, TV presentation, advertising and everything in between, you soon realise that the very essence of being a football supporter and all the experiences and memories we've had are based on the graphics that this book highlights. Take all of it away, and our football world suddenly becomes very uninteresting and dull.

And just think: this is less than 100 pages of content that was put together over a decade ago. Now imagine how many more visuals could be included in a 2014 version. If nothing else, FC Football Graphics makes the mind boggle and trains the eye to see football visuals as art rather than the wallpaper we take for granted every day.

FC Football Graphics
by Jeremy Leslie & Patrick Burgoyne
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Publish date: 1998

9 March 2014

The Football Attic Podcast 16 - BALLS!

30 years (probably) on from Podcast 15, an aged Rich & Chris talk balls for an hour! What's new you say? A ha ha ha ha haaaaaaaaaaa... you're a funny guy!

Anyway, the old boys are discussing FOOTballs!

Which is the best all time football? The Tango or the Telstar?

Which is the worst? Easy... the Fevernova!

Ball ball ball!

Footy footy footy!

Subscribe on iTunes or download here. Alternatively, catch The Football Attic Podcast on Square One Football Radio.

8 March 2014

Up For The Cup 1987

As it’s FA Cup quarter final weekend, I thought I’d turn the clock back 28 years to a time when you’d have been able to buy this superb piece of football memorabilia - the Up For The Cup 1987 wallchart.

From what I’ve been able to make out, this was the third annual edition of the wallchart (the first being published for the 1984-85 season). I remember discovering my first one in a local newsagents sometime around the mid-1980’s. When folded up, it looked like an ordinary football magazine when sat on a shelf alongside other publications, but further investigation uncovered the extra dimensions that lay within. Once unpacked and unfolded, a huge, colourful, wallchart lay before you along with sheets and sheets of thumbnail-sized stickers, each one featuring club badges for every team imaginable.

The wallchart was an invitation to indulge in and engage with the world’s oldest football competition. As each round of matches were played, your job was to adhere the appropriate stickers to the spaces provided and fill in the score and scorers with a pen. The Third Round results ran around the outside of the wallchart while subsequent rounds appeared in the middle ‘pitch’ section.

And let it be said right here and now - the ability to hold sheets and sheets of mini club badge stickers in your hand was the sort of thing that was liable to create a strange tingling sensation in your nether regions as a football-loving young teenager in the mid-1980s. Individual club badge stickers were not uncommon to Panini collectors, but owning so many in such great quantities - small though they were - was almost obscene. With an apparent surplus at your fingertips, it’s hardly surprising that thoughts would turn towards other places where they could be stuck. School exercise books, bedroom walls, the frame of your bicycle… why wait until the FA Cup Final when there were so many places to stick them?

With a potential five rounds to feature in, it’s understandable that each team had five stickers each. Even some non-league teams were lucky enough to have a few, although in this 1986-87 edition, there were plenty of blanks provided that you could scribble your own names on. As you can see on this wallchart I purchased on eBay a few years ago, you can see one child’s attempts to ensure that the mighty Caernarfon wasn’t going to be left out.

To liven the whole thing up, lots of colour photographs decorated the piece featuring the star players of the day. On this edition, we get to see a snowbound Nigel Clough playing with an orange Tango ball, Arsenal’s “new wonder boy” David Rocastle and Southampton’s Colin Clarke, who was on his way to scoring 20 league goals in his first season for The Saints.

The reverse side of the wallchart contained mostly statistical and narrative information split up into individual pages. There was a list of previous FA Cup Final results, the overall performance of different teams in previous competitions and the results from the previous FA Cup competition in 1986/87. For those seeking an insight into the life of a top player, Alan Hansen provided a potted history of his career heretofore, and an Editorial by someone at manufacturers Statmill spoke of the growing number of top players like Gary Lineker and Ian Rush leaving the English game.

Stealing the show, perhaps, was a competition to win two tickets to the 1986 Charity Shield match at Wembley. By answering three tricky questions, “you and your Dad or other adult” could go and see Liverpool and Everton battle it out again in the traditional season curtain-raiser. Call me fickle if you like, but I think I’d have been happier with the runner-up prize of a Subbuteo Club Edition set with two additional Cup Final teams and FA Cup trophy. Hell, I’d have even lived abroad temporarily to win the Overseas Prize of a Subbuteo World Cup set ‘with Cup Final teams and trophy’.

As mentioned before, this was one of several FA-approved Statmill wallcharts to be made. All of them followed the same basic format and repeated a lot of the material included, but at 87 centimetres by 62, this was a monster of a wallchart that offered fun galore thanks to all those wonderful stickers. There was even an Up For the World Cup edition released in time for the 1986 tournament that I also owned at the time, but I’ll get to that in a future article.

For now, just salute the majesty of this wallchart and accept the fact that if you saw something like this in the shops tomorrow, no matter what your age, you’d buy it like a shot. Don’t feel ashamed. It’s purely natural.