Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Golden Wonder 'All Stars', 1977

The worlds of football and savoury snacks are forever destined to meet and collide on a regular basis. Whether it’s Gary Lineker peddling the latest offerings from Walker’s Crisps or Peter Crouch urging us to buy more Pringles, you can be sure that The Beautiful Game will occasionally persuade us to devour half our own body weight in fat-laden comestibles.

The use of football to increase crisp sales is a subject we’ve not covered so far on The Football Attic (or any other football blog probably), but that’s about to change as we look back to 1977 and the launch of Golden Wonder’s All Stars.

It’s strange to think it now, but back in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, the UK crisp market was dominated by several big brands long before Walkers increased its popularity nationwide. As well as KP and Smiths, Golden Wonder were a major player and all three were happy to use imagery from TV, films and sport to sell more of their snacks.

This was proven conclusively 35 years ago when Golden Wonder's new range appeared in the nation’s shops. These bags of Bacon- (and latterly Salt and Vinegar-) flavoured corn and potato snacks would ordinarily have sold in small numbers were it not for an ingenious marketing idea. Those boffins at GWHQ figured they could apply the same trick used in boxes of cereal for years by including picture cards in their crisp packets. With a set of 24 to collect, kids couldn’t snap them up quickly enough.

In this initial range (a World Cup series would follow in 1978), the great and the good of British football were immortalised by the paintbrush of Doug Harker. As was often the case with the 70's mode of illustrating sports figures, some looked more realistic than others. Where the likes of Martin Buchan and the ubiquitous Don Masson were instantly recognisable, others (such as Paul Mariner and Leighton James) were not. In the case of Ray Clemence, a worse pose couldn't have been chosen; the England goalkeeper's head tilted back to the point where it could've been anyone in a yellow jersey.

A casual glance at the two-dozen cards gives an indication of which teams were uppermost in the public conscience back in the Queen's Silver Jubilee year. Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Manchester City were all represented, while special dispensation allowed the likes of QPR, Norwich and Leicester to appear by virtue of special players like Gerry Francis, Martin Peters and Frank Worthington.

North of the border, Rangers and Celtic weren't to be left out either. The unmistakable tresses of Alfie Conn represented The Bhoys along with Kenny Dalglish who, just a month after the release of this card collection, would move to Liverpool. Whether or not he took his strange black-and-white football with him, we're not quite sure.

As if 24 hand-painted pictures weren't enough, the reverse of each of the cards also contained a concise summary of each player's career. There were a few nuggets of information to be gleaned throughout, such as Frank Worthington's failed medical with Liverpool and Steve Heighway making his international debut before his league debut, but generally it was the usual 'Joe Bloggs is an expert in scoring goals with his head' kind of fare.

More interesting, however, was the insistence on specifying the full and original name that certain players were born with. Raymond 'Butch' Wilkins was often written out in full even back in 1977, but Luigi 'Lou' Macari undoubtedly wasn't, much like Joseph 'Joe' Jordan.

It was, at least, an attempt to give some authenticity and integrity to the piece and it's no worse off for it. The addition of a small booklet in which to store your cards was also a nice touch (if you were prepared to send off for it) completing a pleasant gallery of football figures that sums up the era nicely.