Sunday, 27 October 2013

Alive & Kicking - The Ultimate Book of 90s Football Nostalgia

It's a rare event that we write about a book that's only just been published, but when the subject is nostalgia itself, then it would be churlish not to, especially given you can count the number of footy nostalgia books on one hand.

Alive & Kicking is the product of KiCK Magazine's Editor Ash Rose and bills itself as the "Ultimate Book of 90s Football Nostalgia". The question I can already sense on most people's lips is surely, "The 90s? Wasn't that last week?"*, which to people of a certain age (including myself) it certainly feels like it. In reality, it started 23 years ago and when it did, the Premier League was two years away from being born... even Italia 90 was yet to happen!

*Jay from DesignFootball.com asked this exact Q the other day... yeah, I stole his line.

Weighing in at nearly 160 pages, A&K covers pretty much everything you remember from the 90s as well as a whole lot more that this particular reader had forgotten about. It also has things we wish we could forget... Andy Cole's 'Outstanding' or Ian Wright's 'Do the Right Thing' anyone? No, me neither.


Rather than just being a chronological journey through the decade, the book is arranged into different subjects, which it covers in depth, interspersed with the major tournaments of the time from Italia 90, through Euro 96 and finally France 98. This allows each area to be covered in detail and in some cases, such as the music section, shows just how much the 90s was a transition period for football memorabilia. The majority of CDs (and the odd cassette or 7") covered are not official cup final or tournament releases, but a host of football-related songs. World in Motion raised the bar for football music, being an actual decent track and the rest of the decade built upon that with hit after hit of top quality music. Not really... Three Lions aside, the rest of the 90s saw the usual host of crappy cup tie ins and poor theme tunes.

The Toys & Games section has a raft of nostalgia gold. Starting us off is 'Sportstars', the "action" figure range featuring the (mostly-accurate) likenesses of the stars of the day such as Maradona and Gullit as well as someone from Nottingham Forest ;-)
Who else remembers the Official Football League Soccer Quiz? No?  Well it's here, alongside more famous 90s toys such as the Corinthians range of oversized-headed collectibles and also a section on toys given away with various cereals. It's the little things like this, the bits that make you go 'oooh yeah, I remember those!', that make this book that extra bit special. It's one thing reading about stuff you can easily find on eBay, but finding something you thought only you had ever owned is a real delight.

Kits are an obvious subject for any tome covering the 90s, given the depths (or heights depending on your point of view) some of the designs went to and the usual suspects can all be found here.

The section on TV again demonstrates the difference between the start and end of the 90s, with Saint & Greavsie still being a mainstay of the TV schedules - something one could hardly see finding such a prominent place alongside today's over-produced fayre.  The 90s also gave birth to Fantasy Football, Dream Team, 'soccer' cartoon The Hurricanes and a raft of football dramas, the most memorable, of course, being 'An Evening With Gary Lineker'. There's also a delightful few pages on the adverts of the time, from Gazza blubbing for Walkers Crisps and John Bar-nez (for that is how it's pronounced!) hoofing his isotonic can into a changing room bin. And of course, the crap-fest with Gareth Southgate and Stuart Pearce for Pizza Hut.

Also... Goooooooooooooooaaaaaaalllllllllaaaaaacccciiiiiiooooooo!!!!!!!!

Quick question for you: What huge thing that we use every day was born in the 90s? Clue for you... you're using it right now. Yep, the old internet only truly came into being during this decade and while it wasn't fully embraced by the world of football until perhaps the 2000s, the sheer number of magazines that came to an end in the 90s shows the way things were heading. Goal, 90 Minutes, Total Football, Four Four Two, When Saturday Comes and Match of the Day all started life in the 90s and by the time the new millennium rolled round, several had already disappeared or were on their way out. Shoot! and Match were also past it by this point, with once great mags now reduced to a dumbed down series of advertisements and naff cartoons.

Throughout the book, there's the print equivalent of vox-pops with little '90's Moment' boxes appearing every few pages, each detailing a random memorable event, such as Liverpool's white suits at the 96 FA Cup final or Norwich beating Bayern Munich.

Other topics covered are Video Games, Sticker Albums, Books and a whole load more, which I couldn't possibly do justice by waffling here. All I can say is, if you want to wallow in the warm glow of a plethora of memories from your childhood / early adulthood, go and buy it. Without wishing to wade knee deep into cliche (gonna do it anyway), this genuinely would make an ideal stocking filler for Christmas as it's only £9.99 and almost certainly cheaper on Amazon (yup, £7.19 at the mo...)

Want to know more about the book and its author? Then keep reading as I posed a few questions to Ash...


Q: So Ash...why the 90s?

A: As a generation I feel like we (and that’s me included) have refused to admit that the 90s are now ‘retro’, but it’s very much an era that is exactly that - and I felt it needed a retro celebration. I grew up in that decade and would consider it ‘my decade’ and know I would enjoy a look back at what made football in the 90s so memorable, and thought fellow football fans would too. It hasn’t been looked back upon in this way before, and it was a decade where so much changed in the game, what with SKY, the Premier League and Euro 96 so there was that to cove,r along with the classic kits, TV shows, boots and of course those stickers that were swapped throughout playgrounds up and down the country.


Q: How did Alive & Kicking get started?

A: I had already published a book with the History Press called The QPR Miscellany, and we decided to do a more general football book too. Various themes had been discussed, but after visiting my parents loft on the hunt for some old documents I came across a whole heap of football stuff from my childhood. It was then I had the urge to share these mementos with football fans of the same era. There were so many random collectable series’ and toys and games that were released when the football boom hit the country once again, that they needed to be collected in one book. I pitched the idea to my publishers, and thanks in particular one editor who firmly believed in the idea as much as I did it was decided we’d take this 90s nostalgia trip together. The title went through a few disguises but Simple Minds’ ‘Alive and Kicking’ is so synonymous with that era and the beginning of the Premier League it seemed like the perfect fit.


Q: What was the most enjoyable part about writing the book?

A: That’s hard as the whole book was so enjoyable as a whole, there were things I’d forgotten about myself like ‘The Football League Quiz Game’ and the vast array of football themed computer games, and they were fun to revisit. I enjoyed writing about USA 94, as that’s still my favourite World Cup – it’s hard to believe that was almost twenty years ago – and also the magazines as that’s the industry I work in generally. One of my favourite moments in the process was being sent an image of the players that made up Sky’s launch advert for their first Premier League season. I hadn’t seen that probably since that advert was on telly and it really meant a lot for it to be included in the book. I owe Sky a big thank you for letting me use that image and the others that appear in that section.


Q: What difficulties did you face along the way?

A: Images are always the trickiest thing with this kind of book, as they have to sell what you’re writing help the nostalgia trip. Thankfully I had an excellent photographer in Liam Sheppard (@Irishshep1) who took the majority of the pictures in the book, and was helped out by many picture agencies and companies for the rest of the book. I found dealing with the music industry (for the football song section) a whole different kind of experience as certain people and labels can be difficult to pin down and determine who is in charge of what. But I have to say once you get there, ninety percent of the clients I dealt with were very helpful even if I didn’t always end up in the outcome I’d hoped for.


Q: Was there anything you wanted to include, but had to leave out?

A: You could go to town on pretty much every section in the book, but I wanted to get as many different aspects in the book as possible. For example there’s a section on kits, and the 90s had so many crazy and garish designs that you could (and there already has been) a whole book on just them. I also included some ‘90s moments’ as titbits throughout the book, and again you could include absolutely everything that happened but I had to restrain myself. One thing I was gutted not to include, and that was only down to no one being able to find it was The Sun’s kit posters. Back in the 90s they used to produce posters illustrating all the new kits for that year that I used to put up on my wall. But not even the guys at the newspaper could find an image of it so that stayed locked in my memory instead – although I did mention it briefly in the book too.


Q: What would you say was the 90s most influential football moment?

A: There were so many, but for me Gazza’s tears in Turin and England’s performance at Italia 90 changed everything. English football was in a pretty bad way before then, what with the hooligan troubles of the 80s and Hillsborough, but it was Gazza and Bobby Robson’s boys really put the spark back in to football fans and the general perception of the sport. After that, things got bigger and bigger thanks to the Premier League, Champions League and the money sky ploughed into the game. Also Jean Marc Bosman’s role in the decade and the legacy of his case can’t be underestimated either.


Q: What would you say were the best and worst aspects of 90s football?

A: I think football didn’t seem to in so much of a bubble as it is now in the 90s, and somehow more fun. Players were more reachable in terms of the how the portrayed themselves on and off the pitch and ‘image’ wasn’t really a big thing at that time. After all, you can’t imagine the players of today posing for some of the ridiculous pictures we used to see in Match and Shoot at the time. It was colourful, it was ‘naff’ but in a good way, and was the first real time every industry got involved. Football was ‘born again’ if you like and everyone jumped on the bandwagon and meant there were so many different mementoes and pieces of nostalgia for me in includes in the book. As for the worst, it’s hard for to say as I’m promoting a book celebrating how great it was. However, there are obvious small things like the last remaining era hooligan culture at the start of the decade.


Q: As Editor of KiCK! Magazine, how would you compare kids football magazines of the past with what’s available now?

A: More different then you’d think actually. Growing up there was only ever really Match and Shoot that we as 90s kids used to buy. I being the magazine geek that I was collected them all, like 90 Minutes/Total Football/Goal and so forth. But generally it was the two big guns who were aimed a younger audience. Fast forward to 2013, and Match is still going, Match of the Day is its main rival and then KiCK! runs alongside them as monthly alternative. The biggest difference though, is the magazines of today are aimed at a much younger audience than Match and Shoot were in the 90s. The obvious reason for this is the rise of the internet, and that the teenage audience prefer to get their footy fix online, so kid’s football magazines are now aimed at that audience who aren’t quite ready for the net and much more interested in posters, fun features and puzzles. It’s interesting that other than Soccer Stars (which was a short spin-off from Shoot) there wasn’t the same type of magazines available to that same audience back in the 90s.


Q: What’s your most cherished piece of football memorabilia?

A: That’s a tough one, as there’s a lot I appreciate from that era and there’s stuff I forgot I even had. If I had to pick a couple I’d go with my 1990 QPRs shirt and 1994 USA away shirt. Being a bit of kit geek anyway, these also represent my first real memories of my own team and first hero Roy Wegerle. The USA 94 kit is also my favourite kit of all time, as nothing sums up 90s designs then a denim themed shirt covered in the stars from old glory. I’m also very proud of my completed 1994 Merlin Premier League sticker album too. That was my greatest achievement growing up!




Q: Rich has detailed how he stupidly threw away all his Shoot! & Match mags from the 80s/90s. Have you ever got rid of something you now painfully regret?

A:
Luckily I’m quite the hoarder, much to my fiancĂ©e’s disapproval, so there isn’t anything major that I’ve thrown out and wish I hadn’t. I did have an alarm clock when I was younger that when it went off played the Match of the Day theme tune. I never thought I’d need it again when I got rid of it, but I really wanted to include in the book. Luckily I tracked one down through Zeon and managed to get it in there. The same goes for Tomy Super Cup Football as well.


Q: If you could own any piece of football memorabilia in the world, what would it be?

A: Nothing that really stands out to be honest. I wish I’d collected more Corinthian figures as there are some random players I wish I had now, where I perhaps didn’t appreciate them as much when were first released in the mid-nineties. As I’ve mentioned I’m a big fan of both Italia 90 and USA 94 so anything that’s connected to that I’d love to add to my collection of stuff. I came across so much through this process that if I didn’t own it, I tried to track it down and nine times out of ten managed to find it. You can now imagine what my garage looks like - it’s like a 90s football haven. I’m thinking of opening a mini-museum in Kent!


Q: And finally...any plans for books about any other decades?

A: Not right now no. I’m too young to really go into as much passion and detail on the 70s or 80s  – and they’ve already been done through various channels. While it’s a bit too early to start calling the noughties ‘retro’ but that could happen one day. If there’s scope I’d be up for covering the 90s in a slightly different aspect but for the moment the focus is on KiCK! magazine and my recent new adventure KiCK! Mag TV. You can also keep reliving more 90s nostalgia on the books Twitter account @AK90s and myself on @AshRoseUK

Our thanks go to Ash for taking the time to answer our Q's in such detail. Now, go buy the book!!! :)


Friday, 25 October 2013

Football League Review, 30 April 1969

The young woman perched on the end of a factory bench may have sent a frisson of excitement through many a male football fan back in 1969. With the greatest of respect, it wasn't so much her as the kit that had the desired effect for this was an early chance to see what the England football team were going to be wearing at the 1970 World Cup Finals.

Further details were provided on the inside pages. "Umbro, who have been making all the new kit in recent years, have produced a new, classical shirt line in specially developed light cellular material. The shorts are in poplin, with single elastic waist, wide vents, and inset cotton cellular panels. It has all been designed to resist the hot climate. Even the stockings are made of light, nylon yarn." We knew the atmosphere at Mexico '70 was electric, but we never knew it was caused by the static charge of England's socks...

This was the cover story from the Football League Review, a 24-page programme produced by the Football League that appeared as an insert in the match-day programmes of many clubs between 1965 and 1975. Created to give supporters a wider awareness of issues from across the league structure, these programmes were a brilliant collection of interesting opinion pieces, factual items, colour pictures and numerous bits of froth and nonsense.

Leeds United team picture

In this issue, the last to be produced for the 1968-69 season, there were many thought-provoking articles that were sure to coax an opinion from even the most passive of fans. In 'Platform', Geoffrey T. Allman noted the success of Third Division teams in the early years of the League Cup and offered some reasons why.

"...Many so-called 'little' clubs have a far greater range of performance than their First Division counterparts. They can reach great heights, hit great depths yet their average performance is often no more than moderate. Division One clubs vary less from week to week; their average performance is usually good, but on days when they raise their game the difference is not so great. It is therefore possible for a good Third Division team to produce an optimum performance which is superior to a First Division team's average performance."

Football League Review's editor, Harry Brown, added fuel to the debate that there was a growing gap in ability between the clubs in England's top two divisions. He noted a comment from Sunday Times writer Brian Glanville that "promoted clubs should put off delusions of grandeur. An ability gap exists; and is likely to grow."



To that end, many observers had noted the plight of Queens Park Rangers, promoted from the Second Division in 1967-68 but ultimately relegated back again just after this issue of the Football League Review was published. Harry Brown concluded that this wasn't necessarily a reflection on the ability of Second Division clubs to survive, and offered evidence that Wolves and Southampton (both promoted in 1966) were still surviving after struggling initially.

"Perhaps Bert Head of Crystal Palace puts the Ability Gap into a nutshell. He says: "It all depends on your players. If they haven't got the ability, they haven't." AND THAT'S A FACT" said Brown, leaning heavily on his Caps Lock key.

Reading team picture

Plans for the 1970 World Cup were uppermost in the minds of organisers and administrators alike, and in 'League View' we find an interesting narrative that could chime with England's preparation for a winter World Cup in 2022.

"At the end of next season, England and, it is to be hoped, some of the other Home Countries, will be wanting to leave not later than May 1 for Mexico" said the editorial piece. "The Football League fixture list for next season has been arranged in consultation with the Home Associations with one object in mind... to get the League competition finished not later than the middle of April."

And so the details were given. The 1970 FA Cup Final would be moved to April 11, the Home International Championship would be played over one week from April 18, and many midweek fixtures were to be crammed into the early part of the 1969-70 season before the bad weather arrived to minimise the number of postponements.

Disagreements and inconvenience for the clubs was foreseen due to the number of matches having to be rearranged or fitted into such a short timeframe, but the Football League were pleading peace and understanding to ensure a happy outcome.

"It has to be done, but it is unlikely to be done without a great deal of heartsearching. Now is the time for everyone - legislators, clubs, players, press and public - to get the record straight."

Another important issue in the game of 1969 was player discipline. Football League Review crunched the numbers and spotted an upward trend in the number of bookings, yet the total number sent off appeared to be remaining steady.



"The amount of violent play is not substantially different from what it was a decade ago, but today there is much more petty argument, much more dissent, much more gamesmanship than there used to be." The inclusion of a picture showing Leeds player Billy Bremner remonstrating with a referee was no doubt coincidental.

Previous assumptions made in the national press were based on the fact that growing indiscipline was a result of 'bonuses' and 'the pursuit of a chance to compete in European competitions.' Football League Review, however, helpfully pointed out the flaw in the argument. "This season the percentage increase in cautions in Divisions Two, Three and Four are higher than in the First Division... If these figures prove anything, they prove that discipline is not related to the frenzy of the Big Game, the chance to compete in Europe, or the effect of cash."

In a lighter vein, 'Soccer's Sound of Music' considered the conflicting views of football fans regarding their choice of pre-match musical entertainment. While some were asking "whatever happened to the brass bands that used to entertain before a game in the old days?" others were clearly favouring the muffled pleasures of 'top ten records' playing out over a tannoy system.

"Stoke City went so far as to provide their fans with classical music, but assistant manager Derek Hodgson admits that the experiment "was not a success" and the idea was dropped after a few games" it said. Now there is a surprise...

Better, no doubt, was Coventry City whose Sky Blues radio provided fans with record requests and pre-match interviews with players and personalities. As for the more traditional types, there was always the old-fashioned brass band playing still at "Arsenal, West Ham and Southampton."


As it was nearly season's end, Football League Review announced the winners of two lesser-known competitions created to provide some silverware for clubs whose trophy cabinets might have been somewhat empty-looking.

Swindon Town, fresh from their League Cup win at Wembley over Arsenal, were also handed the John White Football League Supporters' trophy, having been assessed by a panel headed by League secretary Alan Hardaker. As well as that, they also had the undoubted privilege of being able to fly a special 'Crowd of the Season' pennant at their home ground - surely worth more than silverware every time.

As for QPR, they made off with Football League Review's award for Best Programme. Over a thousand readers sent in their comments and the Loftus Road club came out on top ahead of Manchester United and Wolves.



But the final word has to come from the Post Bag feature which has a wonderful correspondence from M. Ronsley of Potters Bar in Hertfordshire. We're filing this one under 'Never in this day and age'...

The reader says:

"I wonder whether any other supporters of teams who play in white shirts have noticed the confusion that sometimes arises.

"In two recent Second Division games, I have seen the team playing in white shirts accidentally passing the ball to programme sellers in white overalls who walk round the pitch while the game is in progress.

"It may sound an amusing situation, but I don't think it's funny. Can't something be done to end this possible confusion?"

Football League Review - tackling the tough issues of modern football since 1965.


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

The Football Attic Podcast 14 - Football Kit Special

Yes we've covered kits before (twice in fact), but we love kits and it's our podcast so we can do what we want! That a problem?? You starting??? Outside, NOW!!!!

Anyway, while we may have covered kits already, we've not done so with some very special guests. We hereby present Podcast 14, a football kit special with insight from True Colours legend John Devlin and the DesignFootball.com Daddy, Jay!

Oh and it's 1 hour, 40 mins! Yeah, we LOVE kits!

Enjoy it people!

p.s. Jay... you might want to get a decent lawyer ;-)

Subscribe on iTunes or download here

Monday, 21 October 2013

Focus On... Rich Nelson

The world of football is full of wonderful people doing good things without receiving the credit they deserve. Not players, of course - good god, no. We're talking about the people you see every day on Twitter or Facebook, many of which spend their valuable time perhaps writing blog articles or recording podcasts for your pleasure.

One such man is Rich Nelson, the brilliant blogger who skilfully created the go-to website for all things Finnish football, Escape To Suomi. Undoubtedly an authority on his chosen subject, you probably wouldn't no much about him other than his devotion to The Land of a Thousand Lakes and its footballing prowess... but that's about to change as we Focus On the man himself, Rich Nelson!

Full Name:
Rich Nelson

Current project(s):
Escape to Suomi

Birthplace:
Rich Nelson
London

Birthdate:
18 March 1980

Height:
5 ft 9 in

Previous blogs/podcasts:
Nelson's Column

Married:
Yes, to Hanne

Children:
No

Car:
Toyota Aygo

Favourite blogs/podcasts:
The Football Attic (of course!), In Bed With Maradona, The Sound of Football, Swiss Ramble, The Two Unfortunates, The False Nine

Team(s) supported:
Arsenal, Stranraer and KuPS

Favourite football player ever:
Dennis Bergkamp

Biggest thrill while blogging/podcasting:
The Finnish league hosted my season preview on their official website, with full credit and were very good hosts when I visited in the summer.

Biggest disappointment while blogging/podcasting:
Was specifically asked to write a comprehensive DVD review for a popular magazine on a documentary about Jari Litmanen, and was told it wasn't quite what they wanted - they didn't realise the film wasn't in English...

Best countries visited:
Finland, Australia, Germany

Favourite food:
Pulled pork sandwich

Miscelleaneous likes:
Catching villains, dogs, eBay

Miscellaneous dislikes:
Traffic, Sunday football

Favourite TV shows:
24, The Wire, Curb Your Enthusiasm, In-Betweeners, Thick of It, Family Guy, Alan Partridge

Favourite musicians:
Bruce Springsteen, Rolling Stones, The Jam

Biggest drag in blogging/podcasting:
People nicking posts/photos and not crediting

Personal ambition:
Blogging-wise, to feature on a podcast. Otherwse, speak fluent Finnish (it's pretty basic at the moment).

If not in your current career, which job would you do?
Guide Dog instructor

Which person in the world would you most like to meet?
Larry David

Favourite activity on a day off:
Taking dog to the park

So there you go, that's Rich Nelson and our thanks go to him for taking part in Focus On. If you'd like to appear in a future edition of Focus On, remember to visit our info page and find out how you can take part.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Brooke Bond Oxo 'Play Better Soccer', 1976

Mick Channon was one of the top football players in England back in 1976. An England international with a knack for scoring goals, he was highly regarded by peers and fans alike.

History may consider him the poor man's Kevin Keegan, but we won't hear a word of it. He remains Southampton's all-time top scorer and a much overlooked great from England's rich football history.

Who better, then, to put their full weight behind a football card collection called '40 Ways To Play Better Soccer', a title very nearly adopted by Paul Simon for one of his many songs and disregarded all too quickly, if you want our opinion.

Rather than depict the top players and teams of the day, this set of picture cards took the approach of instructing young football fans how to... well, 'play better soccer'.

There were 40 cards to collect and each had a hand drawn illustration on the front and some text on the back. Each illustration showed a footballing skill that youngsters were invited to practice and master. Whether it was diving in goal, heading for goal or executing 'the chip pass' (?), you can bet it was depicted in full colour in this collection.

If the pictures weren't self-explanatory enough (how many big black arrows do you need, exactly?), the text on the back would spell it out for you in tiny writing. But just who was providing the expert guidance on how to achieve such footballing greatness, exactly? You guessed it - the man himself, Mick Channon, along with his England chums Colin Todd, Gerry Francis and Ray Clemence.


Given the personnel enlisted by Brooke Bond Oxo, you wonder whether there were cards titled "How to do the 'windmill arm' celebration" as favoured by Channon or Ray Clemence's guide - "How to deal with a tear gas attack"... If anyone actually owns those cards, they're probably sitting on a potential fortune.

We mention Brooke Bond because these cards were distributed in boxes of PG Tips - an excuse to drink ten times your own body weight in tea if ever there was one. You could also get the album free from grocers if you bought ¾ lb of PG Tips or tea bags, or failing that, you could send off a coupon with a 6½p stamp. Thirty-seven years on, you can save yourself an abnormal number of visits to the grocer (or the toilet, after drinking all that tea) by visiting eBay where you'll find cards and albums available for not much money at all.

So there we have it. Football picture cards, tea bags and Mick Channon. What else would you need to Play Better Soccer?


Monday, 14 October 2013

Roy Hodgson: The Glory Years

Being given the job of England manager is like being told in the middle of a plane flight that you've got to take over from the pilot and ensure that everyone on board is gently guided to a safe landing. You’ll get a bit of time and you won’t have done anything like it ever before, but if you carry out your responsibilities well, you’ll be a hero forever. Make too many errors of judgement or just get things totally wrong, however, and you’ll end up as popular as a tandem parachute jump with Jedward.

Pity poor Roy Hodgson, then; the latest in a long line of men destined to fail spectacularly at some point or other but who selflessly signed on the dotted line at FA headquarters to much hoopla and fanfare. As things currently stand, he may be about to taste the glory of a successful World Cup qualification campaign with England, but just where did this journey to possible greatness begin?

As with so many things in life, the answer is provided by Shoot! magazine. In the issue dated 26 February 1977, there’s a curiously random article focusing on the little known Swedish club of Halmstad BK. But don’t be fooled by its randomness, for this was a brilliantly far-sighted look at the remarkable work of Roy Hodgson - ‘team boss’ and novelty wig wearer extraordinaire.

There he is; back row, far left, arms folded, mean, moody and struggling to cope with the Swedish dialect, we shouldn't wonder. Yet there he was, a man hell-bent on ripping up the league championship with a team that ten years earlier were playing down in the third tier. What a remarkable achievement for this 30-year-old, and what a glittering career lay ahead for this talented one-time resident of Croydon.

What a shame, then, that despite the success he experienced at Halmstad, Malmo, Switzerland, Inter Milan, Copenhagen and too many other places to mention, Roy Hodgson’s career is destined to end in undignified fashion when The Sun depicts him as a root vegetable on the back page of its newspaper.

Never mind, Roy - remember the good old days. We certainly do.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Focus On... Barry Dempsey

Continuing our series looking at the good, honest, decent people that make the football world go around, it's time to Focus On Barry Dempsey, better known to many on Twitter as @HMS Baz...

Full Name:
Barry Dempsey

Nickname:
HMSBaz

Current project(s):
Those Were The Days AMF

Birthplace:
Belfast

Barry Dempsey
Birthdate:
8 September 1970

Height:
6 ft

Married:
No

Children:
No

Car:
Renault Master Van

Favourite blogs/podcasts:
Football Attic, Got, Not Got, Stand AMF

Team(s) supported:
Spurs and Glasgow Rangers

Favourite football player ever:
Glenn Hoddle

Biggest thrill while blogging/podcasting:
Working with articles, etc, that represent the past

The Big Match Revisited
Biggest disappointment while blogging/podcasting:
None - all good

Best countries visited:
Spain

Favourite food:
Indian

Miscelleaneous likes:
All sports, retro football, 1970s 80s and 90s. Northern Soul, Scootering, Shoot and Match magazines, 1980s bobble ski hats!

Miscellaneous dislikes:
People with no patience, ignorance

Favourite TV shows:
Soaps, sports, The Big Match Revisited

Favourite actors/actresses:
Bruce Willis, Clint Eastwood

Paul Weller
Favourite musicians:
Paul Weller

Best friend:
Mother

Personal ambition:
To be happy... simple.

If not in your current career, which job would you do?
Footballer

Which person in the world would you most like to meet?
The Queen

Favourite activity on a day off:
Sleeping

Our thanks once again go to Barry Dempsey, and if you'd like to appear in a future edition of Focus On, remember to visit our info page and find out how you can take part.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Great Tracksuits of Our Time: No.16

Queens Park Rangers (circa 1975)

Throughout this long and illustrious series of ours, there's one tracksuit we've somehow forgotten to focus our attention on; a tracksuit that strode the footballing landscape like a giant back in the mid-70s and yet today has all but been ignored.

QPR's blue tracksuit with a big white V was a regular sight back then and stood out like a sore thumb with its bright colouring and distinctive motif. Anyone watching The Big Match four decades or so ago will have seen it often on their TV screens, especially if Brian Moore allowed a brief glimpse of the subs warming up on the pitch before the match started.

As you can see from this image taken from Shoot! magazine, the design was rather fetching when only the top half was worn, but there was also a matching pair of blue tracksuit trousers to go with it to complete the ensemble. The tops had a zip fastener and the cuffs and collar were striped in blue and white.

All in all, a very nice outfit. We're not sure who made it, but we can't help feeling they missed a trick here. Given that big white V on the top, perhaps it would have looked more appropriate if worn in different colours by a team like Port Vale or Aston Villa. The V would have had a bit more meaning if fans felt it was a reference to the latter part of their team name.

Or maybe it would have looked good in claret and blue to match the Burnley home strip of the same era. Here's Peter Noble (left) wearing it. Just imagine unzipping an identical tracksuit top to reveal a shirt beneath with exactly the same design! The very thrill of it! Oh we should have been fashion designers, you know...

Anyway, QPR's classic blue and white 'V' tracksuit is undoubtedly an absolute classic, and if you want to see some more, here are the previous 15 entries in our Great Tracksuits collection.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Focus On... Andrew Rockall

Have a look at all the people you follow or interact with on Twitter. How many do you know? How many people play their part in making the football world go round, yet appear only as mere names on your computer screen?

Here at The Football Attic, we're committed to bringing everyone together as one big happy family and generally promoting peace and harmony for one and all. That's why we've created our Focus On feature - an occasional interview in the style of Shoot! magazine that'll help you see the person behind the Twitter handle. If you'd like to get involved, visit our info page where you'll find all the details you need.

Meantime, let's start our series by telling you all about Andrew Rockall - football fan, occasional football kit illustrator and all round good egg.

Andrew Rockall (left) with former Tottenham
Hotspur manager Martin Jol.
Full Name:
Andrew Rockall (@Statto_74)

Nickname:
Statto

Current project(s):
Tottenham Football Fancast (guest)

Birthplace:
Leytonstone, London

Birthdate:
26 June 1974

Height:
6 ft 3 in

Previous projects:
Regular contributor to True Colours comments section, Twitter

Married:
Yes, to Jennifer

Children:
John, 18 months

Car:
Ford Focus

Favourite blogs/podcasts:
The Football Attic, The Football Ramble, Guardian Football Weekly, anything by Richard Herring.

Team(s) supported:
Tottenham Hostpur (season ticket for 25 years).

Favourite football player ever:
Glenn Hoddle

Biggest thrill while blogging/podcasting:
Being described as a friend of the show on the Attic podcast.

Biggest disappointment while blogging/podcasting:
Wish blogging / podcasting had been around before I was married as I'd have been far more active.

Best countries visited:
Australia, South Africa

Favourite food:
Italian

Miscelleaneous likes:
Refereeing, Cricket, Walking in the Lake District

Miscellaneous dislikes:
Idiots, American TV, American sport

Favourite TV shows:
Only Fools & Horses, Alan Partridge, Phoenix Nights, Auf Wiedersehen Pet, Life on Mars

Favourite actors/actresses:
Rachel Weiss

Favourite musicians:
Stone Roses, Squeeze, Madness, REM

Best friend:
My two best mates live in Dubai and China.

Biggest drag in blogging/podcasting:
Ill informed people having a platform.

Personal ambition:
To officiate in the FA Cup. Have had two appointments as an assistant, both had to be turned down due to injury.

If not in your current career, which job would you do?
Football adminstrator.

Which person in the world would you most like to meet?
Ever - Brian Clough; now - Richie Benaud.

Favourite activity on a day off:
Refereeing. Have been lucky enough to officiate at White Hart Lane 20 times for staff games or corporate hires.

Our thanks once again go to Andrew Rockall, and if you'd like to appear in a future edition of Focus On, remember to visit our info page and find out how you can take part.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Esso Top Team Collection (1973)

As we’ve already discovered, Esso were more than adept at luring Britain’s football-loving motorists onto its petrol station forecourts. Starting with the legendary World Cup Coin Collection in 1969, they went on to make several other items that kids would nag their parents for and parents would collect on the quiet when the rest of the family weren't looking.

One such item was the Top Team Collection, launched in 1973. Having decided that the novelty of authentic metal coins had probably worn off after four years, Esso opted to update the format with its new ‘photo-discs.’ These were circular pieces of thin metal coated in plastic with the image of one of Britain’s top football players depicted on one side. Having armed yourself with the three-part gatefold presentation board, all you needed to do was ‘moisten the back of the photo-disc and press firmly on to the appropriate ready-gummed circle’ to fix it in place.


There were 22 photo-discs to collect, each wrapped individually in its own packet and given away whenever you filled your car with three gallons of Esso’s finest. Many top players from the home nations were featured. Among them were John Toshack, Billy Bremner, Bobby Moore and a trend-bucking Kenny Dalglish who seemed insistent on re-enacting the opening titles from The Brady Bunch with his side-on profile picture.

One section of the presentation album was given over to describing each of the players in a generic and somewhat rudimentary fashion. The reverse had a colourful illustration showing what it would look like if all 22 ‘soccer superstars’ were brought together to pose for a team photograph. The artwork was rather nice, actually, and could certainly give The Sun a run for its money when it came to the accurate depiction of the subjects involved.

To complete the item, there were colour photographs showing all four British national sides and the players you’d have found in them at the time. Much like Wales, the England team were seen on the training field (including Rodney Marsh looking somewhat out of place in his red sweater), while Northern Ireland lined up all in green, ready to face yet another opponent.

As for Scotland, they appeared to be dressed in full kit while enjoying the hospitality of a local hotel. I say “full kit” - Willie Morgan was resolutely wearing his favourite red sneakers while Billy Bremner opted for white trainers instead. Really, lads… couldn't you find your slippers?

The Esso Top Team Collection was a smart attempt at trying to recreate the World Cup Coin frenzy around the time of Mexico ‘70, but alas it never quite reached those heights. The production values might have been better, but somehow the sight of Leighton James on a coloured disc was never going to compare with that of Gordon Banks on a proper commemorative coin. You’d have to go a long way to beat that, but at least you had the petrol to get you there.