Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rich J's Top 5 90s World Cup Moments

I love the World Cup..who doesn't? Well, Sepp Blatter's trying his best to ruin it, but then that's pretty much what he always has done...allegedly, said Rich, unaware that it's not actually still the 90s er...not! Ha!

Anyway, every World Cup brings highs and lows...more of the latter if you're from these lands, but here I shall give you my own personal top 5 moments from the 3 tournaments that took place in the 90s. Take note, these are not just the best goals or most famous incidents, this is my personal selection of memories from Italia 90, USA 94 and France 98 so yes, John Aldridge kicking off against Mexico may have been funny, but it's been played out so often now, it's just no longer that special.


1. 1990 - Costa Rica V Scotland - Geovanny Jara's Backheel

Look everyone, it's Scotland at the World Cup...Yeah I know I've done joke before, but it's still funny! OK, so maybe not to everyone... Anyway, let's revisit the glory days when they used to get to Round 2...wait, what? They never did?  Ooooooooh....
But seriously, back in 1990, it was quite common for Scotland to be at the World Cup and it was only 12 years prior when those north of the border jetted off to Argentina while those 'back home' sat and watched Archie Gemmill tear Holland a new one.

Their opening match of Italia 90 came against a side with no great expectations and so in the sunshine in Genoa, Scotland, in their garish change strip, looked for a positive start. 4 minutes after the interval, that positivity was looking shakey.

Hector Marchena made a diagonal run before playing in the protagonist, defender Geovanny Jara. In the box, close to the penalty spot, it appeared Jara would turn and shoot, but no. Instead, he immediately rolled the ball into the open space directly behind him, allowing the incoming Juan Arnaldo Cayasso to carefully place the ball past the closing Jim Leighton. Costa Rica continued to defend resolutely and held on, Scotland unable to break through for an equaliser.

Ultimately, this early defeat cost them dear as they ended up exiting at the group stage once more as Costa Rica beat the group's whipping boys Sweden while Scotland lost to a single goal against Brazil in what was a much closer contest than the result could ever suggest.

For me, this just epitomised Scotland's World Cup campaigns. A combination of losing games they should have won, conceding a quirky goal and a brave, ultimately futile performance against a better side.

2. 1994 - Yordan Letchkov's header V Germany

One team who are always at the World Cup, and almost always in the final are Germany. Coming into USA 94 as title holders, they started off in their usual fashion...never looking brilliant, but somehow managing to progress. A lacklustre 1-0 victory over Bolivia in the opening match was followed by a stalemate against Spain. In their final group match, they were 3-0 up against South Korea before almost collapsing as Korea pulled 2 goals back, as they had done against Spain.

A jittery second round tie against Belgium saw yet another late scare and another 3-2 scoreline, which meant they would face Bulgaria in the quarters. While Bulgaria will be remembered as one of the best teams at this tournament, Stoichkov going on to share the Golden Boot with Russia's Oleg Salenko, the fact they were in the quarter finals was quite jammy. Opening the tournament with a 3-0 thrashing from Nigeria, they then dished out their own hiding against Greece...but then again, everyone was doing that. They booked their place after defeating a freshly Maradona-less and already qualified Argentina in the final group match and a penalty shoutout win over Mexico in the 2nd round.

Despite the Germans' shaky start, no-one really expected anything other than yet another semi-final appearance for Deutschland and sure enough, a 47th minute Matthäus penalty put them in the lead. Germany's failure to score a second seemed incidental until a fantastic Stoichkov free kick gave the Bulgarians a sniff of history-making. 3 minutes later, a cross makes its way into the German box. Letchkov escapes his marker and dives for the ball, sending it past the helpless Ilgner. Letchkov's celebration would suggest not even he thought it was going to work, but work it did and the nation of Bulgaria (and pretty much every other nation outside Germany) leaped to their feet with him as they looked forward to the first World Cup semi final without Germany since 1950!

3. 1990 - Maradona Cracks Brazil Open 

Like a nut...a Brazil nut...see!

Despite ultimately reaching the final, Argentina were a shadow of the team that had taken the trophy 4 years earlier in Mexico. Adorned in a rather dated looking Adidas kit, they'd lost their opening match to the totally unfancied Cameroon (an obvious Top 5 moment being Massing's attempted murder of Caniggia), beaten USSR thanks to another piece of Maradona handiwork and drawn with Romania, leaving them in 3rd place and scraping into Round 2.

There they faced Brazil, who conversely had won all of their group matches and were favourites for this all South American tie. A rather turgid game saw relatively few chances, when, with only 10 minutes left, Maradona, in a rare flash of his 86 best, rode several tackles on a run to the edge of the box, before threading a beautiful pass through to Caniggia, who made no mistake in ending the Brazilian dream once more.

Argentina would go on to drain the life out of the remainder of the tournament, playing for penalties in the 1/4 and semi finals, before ironically being defeated from the spot in the Final. Maradona may have ended the tournament in tears, but moments like these just confirmed what could have been.

4. 1990 - ITV Opening Titles & The San Siro!

Ah Italia 90! My first proper World Cup. Home from school on a friday, I sat down to watch the opening match and my mind was about to be blown!

Firstly, Rod Argent's awesome theme tune, Tutti Al Mundo burst onto my screen and I was in love. Cod opera, stirring synth strings and orchestra stabs accompanied bouncing footballs on a map of Italy, all in lovely red, white and green computer graphics. Hello the 90s!

Once the theme tune was over, I was barely recovered when this hoved into view.

This was in the pre-internet days when photos of foreign stadia were like gold dust and the only hint I'd had of what this would look like was my Merlin World Cup 90 sticker album, which only showed it mid construction. The behemoth that is the San Siro remains to this day the ground that has most bowled me over and set off an unhealthy obsession with football grounds that has remained with me ever since. Just look at it! Giant girders, endless spirals, pure brutalist / modernist architecture at its finest. Even now, 23 years later, it still makes me gaze in awe.

Typically, Blogger can't find the youtube clip that exists of the opening titles so it's here instead!

5. 1998 Dennis Bergkamp! Dennis Bergkamp!

This is my favourite memory from 1998, not because of the goal itself (I wanted Argentina to win), but for the Dutch commentary that accompanies it. Obviously, this is a retrospective memory as I wasn't watching this in Holland at the time, but who cares? It's still the 2nd best piece of commentary ever, after the excellence of Bryon Butler for Maradona's 'goal of the Century'.

I'll say nothing more about this...just sit back and enjoy the perfect combination of a sublime goal and raw emotion.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

World Soccer, (Sega) 1987

My mate Martin and his older brother Darren loved video games and video game consoles. The spare room in their house was like an Aladdin's Cave of computer-based entertainment, and I loved paying them a visit every weekend just to wallow in the splendour of it all.

Their shelves were packed with title after title - good, bad and downright peculiar - and yet strangely only one in particular has stuck in my mind after more than 25 years: World Soccer for the Sega Master System.

There's no reason why it remains so memorable with me other than the fact that the cartridge case was often displayed front-on rather than showing only the spine.

That minimalist cover with the grid and a cartoon-style leg obviously had enduring qualities in the way no manufacturer would dare emulate nowadays. I don't even remember playing the game either, although it's entirely possible that I did. Certainly the evidence that YouTube provides has stirred one or two long-dormant memories in the back of my mind.

So what about the game itself? Essentially this was arcade fare - bright, zingy colours, low resolution and squeaky synthesised music, but par for the course back in 1987. On boot-up, a cheery title screen preceded the playing options which offered the choice of either a regular game of football or a penalty shoot-out competition.

Choosing the former prompted a further screen in which you chose the nationality of your own team and that of your opponent. There were eight countries to choose from covering a wide range of credibility, depending on your viewpoint. Alongside the international heavyweights of Brazil, France, Italy, Argentina and West Germany were the USA and Japan (neither of whom had made any real impact on the World Cup at that point) and Great Britain, a team that didn't actually exist in football terms.

No matter. By selecting the two countries desired, you were treated to a Casio-keyboard rendition of the anthems for both - a nice touch, and one that certainly showed the attention to detail that the team strips lacked. West Germany in yellow shirts?

With the teams picked, it was on with the action as the two sets of six small players ran onto the pitch. The roar of the crowd was as confusing as it was loud. If you've ever held a rolled up newspaper to your ear and listened to a toilet flushing, you'll probably get fairly close to the sound that greeted the teams' arrival.

Once the game was under way, the players scurried around in an appealing fashion, chasing a nicely animated ball that give a simple depiction of rotation and movement. Unfortunately the bounce of the ball was so minimal that you'd have been forgiven for thinking it was filled with concrete. On the positive side, however, it was unlikely you'd have kicked the ball into touch, no matter how hard you'd kicked it.

Unlike the games of today, there weren't many special moves that the players could make other than dribbling, passing, shooting and slide tackling, but there was the possibility of executing an overhead kick in front of goal if you'd timed it right and if you were optimistic enough to think you could score from it.

If you did score, however, the crowd went wild!

(Sorry - 'a bunch of kaleidoscopic ants behind the goal did the lambada.' Well, it amounted to the same thing, really.)

You'd also get to see a digital scoreboard showing the current tallies for both sides, and just as well because the score didn't appear permanently on-screen during the match. The provision of double figures to display both teams' scores was rather redundant too, as the close interplay on the pitch was hardly likely to see one team score ten or more.

Upon completion of a game, there was a lovely little sequence showing a member of the winning team joyfully holding the World Cup trophy aloft while one of the losing team walked up to offer a gentlemanly handshake.

Drawn games were decided by a penalty shoot-out competition, but if you couldn't engineer the score to suit your needs, you could also play the penalties in isolation via the main menu screen. The same setup applied - pick two teams, enjoy the national anthems for as long as you could stand them, then try to plant the ball past the opposition goalkeeper more times than they did it to you.

In this instance we saw the players in all their full-size glory as you controlled either the kick taker or the goalkeeper. Again there was some nice (if basic) animation sequences in which the kicker was seen either sinking to his knees when his shot didn't go in or elatedly doing star jumps when they did.

And that was about it, really. All in all, World Soccer offered simple, easy fun. It wasn't perfect, that's for sure; the pace of the game could've been a little quicker and the ball ought to have rolled and bounced more than it did, but the graphics were vivid and the game was easy to play.

We therefore doff our hat to the imperfect qualities of World Soccer - a good arcade football game that used its charm to win you over in the end.

Check out our other football video game reviews:

Friday, September 6, 2013

James Taylor's Top 5 World Cup Shirts

There I was all set to create a Top 5 Kits article today and then I received this storming selection from James Campbell Taylor of the excellent site JCT. So sit back and enjoy a feast of kit loveliness!

Italy 1990

This kit will always be special for me, not least because it was the first I ever owned. What's remarkable is that it was the same shirt Italy had worn at the previous World Cup! The only difference that I know of (apart from variations of material based on climate) was that the red and green trim on the collar and cuffs was inverted, with red on the outside. But imagine a World Cup host today not cashing in on the occasion with a brand new kit! Unthinkable. In fact, the Italy shirt barely changed from '81-'91. Purists may opt for the cotton Le Coq Sportif version worn by Bearzot's triumphant '82 side (and it's hard to argue when I think of that Tardelli goal), but for me the "MADE IN ITALY" Diadora shirts were a more stylish fit worthy of the country they represented. This was the last major tournament before names and front numbers appeared on shirts, and the kit has a pure perfection for me. This was also before the FIGC allowed the manufacturer's logo to appear on the kit, a rule that was sadly lifted in 1999. The Azzurri had an excellent team that year too, and trooped out onto the Olimpico turf in dashing tracksuit tops (still trying to get one of these). As perhaps for many people my age, the summer of 1990 was a massive turning point for me in my appreciation of the game and all those other things that come along with it. In Italy they still refer to those World Cup matches as "notti magiche" after the official song of Italia '90.

Brasil 1986

Ironically when I bought my Italy kit in 1990 I'd actually had the intention of buying this shirt, only to find it had been replaced by the '90 version, of which I wasn't quite such a fan. Nineteen years later I finally got my hands on one through an ebay seller located in Malaysia. Sounds fishy, but I know a 100% genuine Topper jersey when I see one. Oddly I think Topper is actually an Argentine company. Like Italy in the same period, the Brazil kit saw minimal changes between '82 and '90, but '86 was always my favourite (although the '82 version could easily be number 3 on this list). Cool badge with the Jules Rimet trophy, great sleek fit and classic numbers too. Even the goalie shirts were great, with "B R A S I L" across the chest. Most of all I love the thought behind the colours themselves. A proper, deep sunshine yellow that darkens with sweat (the shirt is a polyester-cotton blend), forest green trim and shorts a sort of Napoli blue (not royal!) with the little stripes. That's my most consistent gripe with the modern Brazil kits, the yellow is too sterile, the green is too light and the blue is too dark. It's as if Nike's palette doesn't extend beyond the default primary colours that come with whatever primitive computer program they use to design their shirts. Yellow + green + blue = done. So sad.

Argentina 1978

I could have easily gone with the '82 or '86 versions (the less-celebrated '82 kit is probably the nicest if I think about it) but I'm including the '78 version for, well, obvious reasons. This was the last the last World Cup before I was born and I'm not sure if it was the handlebar moustaches, cynical tactics or the political situation in Argentina at the time but no subsequent tournament has been quite as... badass. Amid the ticker tape the hosts wore a now-classic shirt, but this was back when football shirts simply were what they were. I doubt kids in Buenos Aires were salivating at the prospect of what Kempes & Co. would be wearing at El Monumental — they just wanted the team to win. The tight fit, short shorts, long-sleeves and debut of the classic AFA numbers in the second round have sort of made it the model against which all future Argentina shirts have to be compared (I think it's why I liked the long-sleeved techfit version in 2010 so much... man, would I love to own one of those).

Spain 1982

The thing that irritates me most about Spain's recent domination of major tournaments is how suddenly the world is overrun with Spain fans. Where were these people when la Roja used to be routinely knocked out in lacklustre fashion at the quarter-final stage? While the team was less successful, Spain's kits in the '80s were glorious. I used to love the blue shorts (a similar shade to Brazil's actually) and black socks. So cool. I have a hunch that the black socks were a design feature imposed by Franco, which is why they were phased out, but I've never found any hard evidence to support this claim. The navy & navy short-sock combo adopted in the nineties was fine, now more recently they've started wearing red socks. It's just all so... bland and predictable. It's ironic that as kits become more elaborate and detailed so every trace of teams' personalities is being watered down and stripped away. Anyway, going back to happier times: the Le Coq Sportif kits worn in '86 and '90 were lovely, but you cannot beat the Spain '82 kit. I'm sure this outfit would be more fondly remembered by kit lovers had the team not flopped so miserably.

Mexico 1986

I've always been a fan of the Mexico kit, but I'm not sure why. Just always well turned out I suppose, even in recent years (except '98, which isn't so recent now). In 2002 they had a slightly darker green, and the away kit (while not used) was a fantastic burgundy with navy shorts like in 1970. In 2006 they had a cool chevron device on the front (later adopted briefly by Man U unfortunately) and fancy numbers. In 1978 their kit was manufactured by Levi's! Crazy! But if I had to pick one I'd go with '86. While a fairly standard adidas template what elevates the shirt is the wholly unprecedented and totally unnecessary inclusion of the word "MEXICO" above the number (where the player's name would go today). Circa 2005 Nike (then Mexico's kit provider) re-released a "version" of this shirt. There are probably a couple of other reasons why I love this kit. Besides loving that tournament (the long grass, the bright light, the saturated colours) there is also Manuel Negrete's goal against Bulgaria. Or maybe it's because I always think of this song.

So there you have it. I deliberately stuck to kits from the modern era, those pre-1970 didn't really change enough and are obviously too perfect in their simplicity. But surprisingly my choices represent a golden span of a mere twelve years. What's most interesting is that I've included the host nation for all four World Cups from that period! Proof that the hosts are always well-dressed I suppose — although that sequence came to an abrupt end in 1994. The hardest part was separating my appreciation for the kit itself from fondness for the team or era... I could have easily included Italy '94 or Brasil '82, and I am still grappling internally with my inexplicable exclusion of France's '78, '82 and '86 kits. So apologies that these choices are a little safe and hardly obscure. Maybe I should do an alternate list — the B-sides, if you will.

As I was compiling this list I realised that a lot of my favourite international kits are from European Championships. I feel another top five list coming on...

Huge thanks to James for a fine selection there...if you'd like to choose your Top 5 World Cup Kits (or any other tournament for that matter), drop us a line and let us know to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com...

More Top 5 World Cup Shirt lists as chosen by other people...

Chris O
Rich J
Al Gordon
Ed Carter
Rich Nelson
Steve Gabb

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Retro Round-Up: 6 September 2013

Greetings, friends, and welcome to what is sadly our last Retro Round-Up here on The Football Attic. We think you'll agree we've had a lot of fun and laffs since we started this feature six months ago and we've proven conclusively that football nostalgia is still alive and well out there on the World Wide Web.

With that positive thought ringing in our ears, let's do it all one more time with a final look at this week's top retro football picks...

...Starting with a revelatory look at Carlos Valderrama's haircut before he was famous. He didn't always look like he'd just been electrocuted, as proven by Old School Panini...

...More 'Before they were famous' fun can be found on this latest selection of old football stickers, courtesy of Who Ate All The Pies...

Over at The Goldstone Wrap, Christopher Worrall shows how easy it is to get the autographs of all your favourite players - just draw pencil sketches of them all and send your picture off to them...

...In the week when Liverpool FC and the wider world of football commemorated what would have been Bill Shankly's 100th birthday, Got, Not Got remembers the charismatic genius from Glenbuck...

...There's no doubting the football-playing brilliance of Cyrille Regis, and here he is personally dismantling Swansea City back in 1981 on another super video from FootballGaffesGalore...

...and finally, we come to our eBay Buy of the Week - probably the best one we've ever had, too. It costs £19,000 but you'll never spend your pennies more wisely - it's this truly unbelievable collection of Subbuteo equipment. Enjoy...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Football Attic Podcast 13 - Watching Football

What's it like going to a match? Is it any different from watching it on TV? Is not having Jonathan Pearce shouting crap down your audiohole a plus or a minus? (it's a plus!)  Have you ever left a game early? Do you like a pie and some Bovril?

All these questions and more are (sort of) answered in the latest exciting* episode of The Football Attic Podcast!

Oh and it's episode 13...unlucky for some? You decide!

*excitement not guaranteed.

Friday, August 30, 2013

News of the World Football Annual 1974/75

I've often argued that British football had far more in the way of strong personalities in the 1970's, and this little book proves my point nicely. It was published on the eve of the 1974/75 season and everywhere you looked there was an important someone somewhere doing something of note.

Frank Butler, Sports Editor for the News of the World was first up to sing the praises of Joe Mercer, one of the acknowledged nice guys of the domestic game in England. Mercer, nearing his sixtieth birthday, had just completed his spell as caretaker manager of England. With three wins and three draws from his seven games in charge (not to mention a shared British Home Championship with Scotland in 1974), some were wondering whether there was any need for Don Revie to take over permanently.

Certainly the players in the England squad at the time were happy to acknowledge his casual style of leadership. 'Uncle Joe' merely wanted them to enjoy playing and to express themselves with flair and skill on the pitch. "The side played with a new freedom" said Butler, "without tension and even England's most severe critics agreed the team would have done well in the World Cup."

Commendable though his reputation was, it's dubious to suggest that Mercer would have made a better job of qualifying for the Finals in West Germany than his immediate predecessor, Sir Alf Ramsey, or even his successor, Don Revie. For all that, the FA wouldn't have made many easier decisions than picking the former Leeds United manager, given his brilliant record with the Elland Road club. "[First Division] Champions in 1969 and 1974, they were runners-up on five occasions - 1965, '66, '70, '71 and '72" the Annual told us, "and never, during the last six years of the Revie regime, did they finish out of the top three."

Interestingly, the Annual was quick to point out Revie's acknowledgement that he'd been prejudiced against international football while at Leeds. "It was rarely easy for the last manager, Sir Alf Ramsey, to secure Leeds players for England games, and even Revie now admits that on the question of releasing players for the national team: 'Nobody has been more guilty than me personally at Leeds.'"

Revie's former club captain Billy Bremner wrote of his eagerness to take part in the European Cup, but even he couldn't have foreseen the eventful season that was to come. To begin with, he'd have to face the indignity of being sent off in the Charity Shield match along with Kevin Keegan in Brian Clough's first game in charge. Bremner's new manager would also face dismissal, only 44 days after replacing Revie, and with Jimmy Armfield finally picked to replace Clough, Leeds were almost eliminated in the Fourth Round of the FA Cup against non-league Wimbledon. Though they eventually reached the quarter finals, it was the European Cup that ultimately proved their main shot at glory. Sadly for Bremner, Leeds Unitedwere defeated 2-0 by Bayern Munich in what can only be described as a contentious Final for any number of different reasons.

Back on the international front, Scotland were having to regroup after a disappointing World Cup during the summer of 1974. Patrick Collins, writing for the News of the World, was philosophical about what lay in store for the Scots. "The next stage will be the important one, for it will tell us if they mean to learn from their experiences of Dortmund and Frankfurt, or if they are content to be known as the side which might have made a real impression if only goal average had been kinder."

He went on: "But, as events in West Germany demonstrated, there are genuine signs that they intend to live in the real world where games are not decided by tanner ba' players, and where they do not reward you with the World Cup because you happened to beat England. It may just be that Scottish football is about to set off in a new and exciting direction... the season ahead will show us how they are preparing for that journey." The records show that Scotland went on to win only three of their next nine games, and it wouldn't be until late 1975 that Willie Ormond's team would return to some truly convincing form.

A quick look through the statistical pages of the News of the World Annual provides the usual fascinating snapshot of who was at the top and bottom of their game as the 1974/75 season was about to start. Manchester United were gearing up for life in the Second Division after finishing 21st of 22 teams in 1973/74. Heading in the opposite direction, Luton Town and Carlisle United were set to begin a rare campaign in the First Division, and though they were both relegated at the end of it, they did at least bring a fresh feel to top flight football that season.

As for the previous season, 1973/74, the Football Diary feature in the Annual provides a great summary of the events that took place and the state of the English game. Here are a few highlights:

6 Sept 1973 - "George Best returns yet again to Manchester United, promising never to run away again and revealing that his return to football was prompted by a visit by Sir Matt Busby."

26 Sept 1973 - Scotland qualify "for the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1958 with a 2-1 win over Czechoslovakia"

15 Oct 1973 - "English football begins its most traumatic week for many seasons with the news that Brian Clough has resigned as manager of Derby County."

17 Oct 1973 - "England go out of the World Cup. Despite making all the running in the decisive Wembley match against Poland, they can only manage a 1-1 draw. Sir Alf Ramsey says: "If I could play the match again, I would do the same. The team played as well as it could have played.""

21 Oct 1973 - "Poland are beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in Dublin."

22 Oct 1973 - "Ipswich manager Bobby Robson turns down the vacant managership of Derby and Derby players deliver a letter to the directors demanding the return of Clough and Taylor."

23 Oct 1973 - "Astonishing scenes at Derby as the players demand to see the board, then Dave Mackay, manager of Nottingham Forest, is appointed new manager."

2 Nov 1973 - "Brian Clough becomes the new manager of Third Division Brighton at a reported £15,000 a year."

21 Nov 1973 - "Derby players pull back from the brink of another threat. They had threatened to boycott training sessions at the club before their match with Leeds."

29 Dec 1973 - "Leeds draw 1-1 at Birmingham and establish a new record First Division start to a season of 23 games without defeat."

3 Jan 1974 - "The first big shock of 1974 - Chelsea place Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson on the transfer list after a training row. George Best fails even to make training and goes missing from Manchester United again."

6 Jan 1974 - "The great Sunday soccer experiment - prompted by the power crisis - gets under way. Four FA Cup ties are played and each club attracts its biggest gate of the season."

20 Jan 1974 - "Sunday League football gets under way - and nine of the twelve home clubs are rewarded with their largest gates of the season."

24 Jan 1974 - "George Best, transfer-listed by Manchester United, decides to give up the game for good."

23 Feb 1974 - "Leeds lose their first League match of the season, by 3-2 at Stoke. Their run had stood at 29 unbeaten games."

14 Mar 1974 - "Bobby Moore leaves West Ham and joins Fulham for £25,000."

24 Apr 1974 - "Leeds are the League champions, securing their title by virtue of Arsenal's success over Liverpool at Anfield."

1 May 1974 - "Sir Alf Ramsey is sacked as manager of England. Joe Mercer takes over as caretaker manager."

...which neatly brings us full circle. 1974/75 would have to go a long way to match the rollercoaster of events of the previous season, but with the likes of Revie, Clough, Bremner and Keegan constantly in the spotlight, it would never be far away from the headlines.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Retro Round-Up: 30 August 2013

Welcome, everyone, and first of all an apology for not bringing you a Retro Round-Up last week. This is due to circumstances beyond our control and Rich J being too busy laminating his front room floor.

So with that out of the way, let's get on with the not insignificant business of bringing you those all important links to this week's top retro footy on the web...

...And we begin with The Goldstone Wrap's review of a famous 7-2 win for Brighton over York in 1976, a victory fondly remembered for five second half goals by The Seagulls and a rather splendid York City kit...

...If it's great football on video that you like, there's some great material on YouTube but we doubt that you'll find many better than this superb resource collated for your pleasure by Twohundredpercent...

...Having said that, FootballGaffesGalore continues to provide a wonderful daily selection of great videos of a similar high quality...

Over at Got, Not Got, there's a long overdue appraisal of the FKS sticker range, including your chance to vote for the annual collection you like the best...

Looking for something to do, er... I mean for your kids to do during the summer holidays? Then why not take them along to the National Football Museum today where they can polish up their Subbuteo playing skills...

...and finally it's time for our eBay Buy of the Week:
Pretend you were a member of the England team of the early 1980s with this splendid cap once owned by Graham Rix - yours for just £3,000...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Retro Random Video: Richardson, Costello and Football Italia

Chances are if you're a football fan and you live in the UK, you'll know who James Richardson is. As the host of The Guardian's Football Weekly podcast, he's entertained a great many of us for more years than we care to remember with his clever wit and his excellent presentation style.

He also houses a vast array of knowledge about Italian football inside that hairless head of his, and if you've forgotten how that came to be so well-informed, let us remind you.

For ten years, Richardson was the presenter of Gazzetta Football Italia, a Channel 4 TV show that brilliantly did what no-one had dared do before, namely bring us a weekly magazine show with news and features from one of the major football-playing countries of continental Europe.

While Gazzetta Football Italia was shown on Saturdays, there was also an accompanying programme on Sundays featuring a live match from Serie A. This was a real treat for those of us curious to see Italian football shortly after the 1990 World Cup had taken place there.

To get a sense of what the latter programme was like on those occasions, look no further than this superb clip in which James Richardson provides us with a half-time summary like no other.

First things first, the man's got hair and lots of it - a staggering sight for anyone to see.

Secondly, during his introductory scene-setting at Genoa's Marassi Stadium, we get to marvel at the sheer speed with which he talks to camera. No doubt up against the clock with the second half due to begin in a matter of minutes, his words at times fall from his mouth quicker than a drunk on a mountain bike.

And then there's Richardson's run-down of the half-time scores from Serie A. At this point you need to know (if you haven't already guessed) that the special guest for this edition of Football Italia is none other than the acclaimed musician Elvis Costello. Keep this in mind when you hear the Guardian Football Weekly presenter run through the scores and crowbars in EIGHT Elvis Costello song titles in the process. Such pretty words indeed.

As if that wasn't enough, Costello himself proves to be no stooge when it comes to talking about Italian football. He actually knows what he's talking about! Take note, Alan Shearer...

Though it only lasts for little more than five minutes, this clip shows how great TV presentation of football can be if you take the time to bring the right people in. Let's hope someone somewhere reads these words and takes inspiration from them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Football Attic Podcast 12 - Playing Football

Ooooooh Jumpers for goalposts, muddy knees, games teacher watching you shower after....aaah how the memories come flooding back!

Today we're talking about playing the game we all love, from your first memories kicking a ball in the back garden to any achievements or heights you may have reached (NB Chris and Rich have none).

Get all nostalgic as the smell of mud, sweat and beers (see what I did there) fills your senses, only to be brought back to reality with a ball smacking your legs on a cold winter morn.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Fantasy Nostalgia: League Ladders 1913-14

Ever keen to bring you football memorabilia that never actually existed in the first place (see 'Subbuteo 1900'), here's another born from our willing imagination and an abundance of time on our hands.

As today sees the start of another new Premier League season, our minds were taken back to the equivalent weekend years gone by when as kids we'd be ready and waiting to finally start using our Shoot! League Ladders.

For anyone that doesn't remember, League Ladders were a simple device. Essentially the main part consisted of a thin piece of cardboard with slits cut into it, on top of which was printed the empty league tables for England and Scotland. Into the slits you'd slot some thin cardboard tabs that displayed the names of all the English and Scottish league clubs. As the league tables changed each week, it was your job to pull out the tabs and place them in the right slots to show each team in their new position.

The process of updating your very own full colour league table display was addictive and hugely enjoyable up until, ooh, the third week of the season, by which time the novelty of rearranging 130 small pieces of cardboard had dramatically worn off.

And that was if you had a full set of tabs, by the way. Such was Shoot's ingenious ability to nurture your excitement for the new season (and for increasing revenue), they'd only give away two divisions worth of team tabs every week, thereby meaning you had to buy Shoot for four consecutive weeks to get them all. Chances are you'd fail to get a copy of Shoot for at least one of those four weeks, thereby leaving an aching chasm of emptiness where Queen of the South should be. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing, actually...

Anyway, now you know what League Ladders were all about, it's time to show you what they might have looked like had they been available 100 years ago, just before the start of the 1913-14 season.

Click for larger version

As you can see, we've tried once again to be as authentic as possible when it comes to the admittedly minimal styling (give or take the occasional bit of indulgence here or there), and rest assured the details and team colours shown are as accurate as we could get them.

Better still is the fact that if you download the PDF version of the graphic here and print it out onto thin A3 cardboard, you could have your very own working version of our 1913-14 League Ladders. All you need to do is cut out all the tabs and cut the slits where marked, and bingo - more post-Edwardian fun than an entire DVD box set of Downton Abbey. Enjoy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Retro Round-Up: 16 August 2013

Welcome, one and all, to the football nostalgia equivalent to supermarket shopping, i.e. it's something that bothers you once a week and it rarely gives you any satisfaction.

Yes, it's the Retro Round-Up - your Friday rundown of all the best links to football nostalgia stuff on the web from the last seven days. And a few other things thrown in your trolley when you reach the checkout.

First up this week: A fantastically comprehensive reminder of the 1987/88 Football League season from the Panini Football Yearbook, brought to you by Spirit of Mirko...

A candidate for our 'Great Tracksuits' series? A fine picture of Peter Taylor and Brian Clough at the 1979 European Cup Final, courtesy of Footysphere...

8Bit Football pixelates a colourful goalkeeper in the only way it knows how: it can only be Jorge Campos...

While this week's England v Scotland match is still fresh in your memory, here's a fine selection of photos from the same fixture down the years over at Who Ate All the Pies...

The Goldstone Wrap ploughs a familiar furrow to us here at The Football Attic - it's the quirky and often bewildering world of FKS stickers, focusing (as you'd expect) on Brighton and Hove Albion...

Some happy football memories immortalised forever for fans of West Ham, thanks to Same Old Subbuteo Brand New Kits...

Jimmy Greaves, Frank Worthington, Bobby Moore and Jimmy Armfield all feature in another On This Day selection over at the FootballGaffesGalore YouTube page...

Finally, it's our eBay Buy of the Week... If you've got £100 to spare and you can drive to Halifax, West Yorkshire, you'd be well advised to pick up this stack of 355 Shoot! magazines covering the best part of 16 years. Well worth the long drive, if you ask us...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

TV Times: 1982 World Cup preview

What possesses a top magazine to feature a bunch of grotesques on its cover in the hope that it will sell by the million? Ask the editor of Hello magazine... or better still, stop for a moment and delight at the colourful composition that graced the front of the TV Times for the opening week of the 1982 World Cup.

Inside, there was a six-page special feature on the big event, part of which contained the writing of Martin Tyler. First up, Tyler explained (not entirely convincingly) that the hundred or more members of ITV Sport bringing the World Cup to our screens were of the highest order. I say ‘unconvincingly’ on account of the paragraph that begins: “Ron Atkinson, one of our panel of experts in Spain, is always a stickler for the correct pronunciation; he’s sure to be overheard practising the names of foreign players...” Pity he kept saying ‘tourneyment’ instead of ‘tournament’ as that was one of the many English words he was supposed to have mastered.

Tyler went on to describe the other key personnel in the ITV Sport team. There were the pundits - Brian Clough, Mick Channon, Denis Law, Jack Charlton - not to mention Ian St.John, Jimmy Greaves and Brian Moore. There were a raft of top reporters doing the rounds in Spain, namely Jim Rosenthal, Elton Welsby, Gary Newbon and Nick Owen, plus any number of familiar commentators such as Gerald Sinstadt, Hugh Johns, Gerry Harrison and John Helm. Tyler was even keen to point out the highly-talented squad of secretaries as well as all the production crew. Quite right too, I say.

Martin Tyler wasn't the only writer brought in to put TV Times readers in the mood for Spain ‘82. Tottenham’s Osvaldo Ardiles explained how Argentina could no longer rely on the ageing Leopoldo Luque and would now look to Diego Maradona - still only 21 at the time - for any success. Though the Argentinean was correct to point out that Brazil were “better than ever before”, he was a little way off the mark in predicting that they, along with Argentina or West Germany would win the World Cup.

Francois Van Der Elst, West Ham’s Belgian striker, focused on the European team’s chances of glory. West German coach Jupp Derwall, said Van Der Elst, “has a brilliant squad, so strong that he could pick two separate world-class teams,” picking out Paul Breitner and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge for special attention. “Italy I’m not so sure about” continued the Belgian. “Their side has stayed the same for perhaps too long and their tactics are too defensive. Away from home they are less potent.” So much for unerring insight there, then.

Maybe that was provided by Bobby Moore who was asked to discuss England’s chances. Though the former World Cup winner felt England could progress to the second round and beyond, he was at pains to point out the areas for concern. “My chief worry is that they will play well but, as we’ve seen often before, not score enough goals” said Moore. A look back at England’s results in Spain show the number of goals scored per match went as follows: 3, 2, 1, 0, 0.

With Denis Law wondering whether the pressure of being at a World Cup would be too much for Scotland’s younger players and Billy Bingham fancying his Northern Ireland team to “reach the quarter-finals” that year (there weren't any quarter-finals, Billy), it was certainly shaping up to be an exciting competition.

Just as well, then, that the TV Times was on hand to provide more cut-out-and-stick pieces for their World of Sport World Cup Wallchart that was given away with the magazine some weeks previously. I actually owned that wallchart back in the day, and my one abiding memory of it was the small, fiddly name tags that had to be glued on where the second round matches were displayed. Even now I've probably got traces of UHU under my fingernails somewhere.

Elsewhere in this issue, there were features on Elizabeth Taylor and Julie Goodyear (Bet Lynch in Coronation Street) plus adverts for Boots (‘Ferguson 3V29 VHS Video Recorder - £465’) and Ex-Lax Chocolate Laxative ("What a nice way to take a laxative"), but during a World Cup it was the non-football programmes on TV that would prove most important to some.

If the sporting action from Spain wasn't for you, there was always The Cannon and Ball Show, Sale of the Century, On The Buses and Give Us A Clue to entertain you, if indeed 'entertain' is the word we're looking for there. As we've said before, when there's a World Cup happening, TV companies are hardly going to put their best programmes out, and this just about proves it.

All in all, then, a curious 'special edition' of the TV Times. Though this issue commemorated a World Cup featuring not just one but three British sides, the magazine makers couldn't even find the budget to print their six-page guide to the tournament in full colour.

Putting that to one side, however, ITV were clearly looking forward to the start of the competition, and as history proved, their coverage was every bit as good as that of the BBC's, if not better at times.

I just wish I could find that old wallchart...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Retro Round-Up: 9 August 2013

The new Premier League season is almost here... but you won't be interested in that because you're a retro football fan, aren't you? Turn your back on Arsenal, Manchester United and any other clubs that can't even complete a high-profile transfer and wallow in our selection of the past week's top football nostalgia links...

There are few things as timeless as a perfectly executed bicycle kick, and Who Ate All The Pies remembers one in particular. Step forward Trevor Sinclair...

Nothing says 'football nostalgia' like an article about a Brighton and Hove Albion lampshade... and that's precisely what we get over at The Goldstone Wrap...

Football Gaffes Galore has unearthed a special 'Texaco Cup' edition of The Big Match's opening titles from the 1974/75 season. Gotta love that theme tune...

If Shoot! magazine regularly found its way into your possession during your younger days, you won't need us to explain the legend that is 'You Are The Ref.' Now it's back in book form and updated for the modern era, as reviewed brilliantly by Lantern Rouge for The Two Unfortunates...

Our article this week on football kit manufacturers might have had you wondering whether Umbro's diamond motif will ever grace English football again. If that's the case, John Devlin has some good news for you over at True Colours...

KitNerdCollection has added another football shirt to his... er, collection - it's this rarely seen blue Dutch shirt from 1997/98...

Finally, it's time for our eBay Buy of the Week: Rarely will you see such a beautiful and desirable object of football nostalgia - it's this Russian tin-plate table-top football game... and it's starting price is LESS THAN TEN POUNDS...

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Football kit manufacturers: Trends, graphs and charts

As you probably know, we're rather fond of football kit design here at The Football Attic. We like nothing better than making broad sweeping statements about the brilliance of a particular kit, especially when we know we haven't got a clue what we're talking about.

What makes football kit design such a fascinating subject is the sheer number of great designs that have been produced over so many decades. In England, this began in earnest during the mid-1970's when production techniques improved and a burgeoning sense of commercialism finally dawned.

So many great manufacturers are associated with the football kits of English football - Adidas, Nike, Admiral, Umbro... the list goes on, but we wondered which ones have provided the most kits for top flight teams since the mid-1970's, and what the trends have been in the popularity of those manufacturers.

To find out the answers to these and many other questions, we plundered as much information as we could find from the website that's unparalleled in its knowledge of the subject, Historical Football Kits. Our research threw up a number of interesting findings.

The early days: 1974-1980

It's fair to say that before the 1970's, football kits were made to distinguish the colours of one team from another and very little else. Football kits were looked upon as 'equipment' rather than fashion items, but that was all to change.

That change has often been attributed to the Leicester-based firm of Admiral, and it's not hard to see why. In 1975, the classic 'tramlines' design arrived to bemuse and amaze the fans of Coventry City, Dundee and Wales, and by 1976 their logo seemed to be cropping up everywhere. They weren't, however, the domineering force in the English First Division.

Where our story begins in the 1974/75 season, it was Umbro that had the lion's share of all the top team's contracts, providing kit for eight of the 22 clubs. By the end of that campaign, the number had increased to nine because QPR had switched allegiance from Admiral in late January.

First Division 1974/75: Kit manufacturers
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Details of the kit manufacturers providing First Division kits are somewhat sketchy for 1974/75. More than half the club's suppliers are unknown, but we do know that Admiral only had three top clubs on their books at the end of that season - Stoke City, Luton Town and Leeds United. By the end of the decade, this figure had doubled, but Umbro were also adding more clubs to its portfolio. During the 1976/77 season, they provided the kit for 13 of the 22 teams including the top four - Liverpool, Manchester City, Ipswich Town and Aston Villa.

Queens Park Rangers 1976/77
It was in this season that Adidas made their First Division début well after their logo had appeared on shirts during the 1974 World Cup. Queens Park Rangers have the distinction of wearing the first Adidas kit in the top division and indeed they were the only club that did so at the time, but in 1977/78 another four teams wore the German marque - Middlesbrough, Birmingham City, Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest.

In the period between 1974 and 1980, the only other companies providing kit for First Division teams were Bukta and Le Coq Sportif, but they were struggling to make much of an impact during this time. Bukta, based in Manchester, were the suppliers of team kit for Newcastle United during much of the 1970s and also had their logo on West Ham's kit during the 1975 FA Cup Final. As for French firm Le Coq Sportif, their arrival in the First Division didn't come until the 1978/79 season when they provided the kit for Derby County. Tottenham and Aston Villa would soon follow suit when the 1980's finally arrived.

A sign of things to come: 1980-1989

In the latter half of the 1970's, only five companies had made football kits for England's First Divison teams. In the decade that followed, that number had increased to 14 but be in no doubt - Adidas and Umbro were far and away the main players. Admiral's star was on the wane and as new names like Hummel and Patrick began to get some traction, a few 'club brands' started to appear on the radar too.

Between the two of them, Umbro and Adidas provided the kit for 18 of the 22 First Division teams in the 1980/81 season. Only Coventry City and Leeds United (Admiral), Southampton (Patrick) and Tottenham Hotspur (Le Coq Sportif) bucked the trend, but as the 1980's progressed, more and more clubs were tempted to try alternative suppliers.

First Division: 1980-89 - Umbro & Adidas v The Rest
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Coventry City, in particular, adopted a different approach when they ditched the Admiral tramlines in 1981. Their famous 'Talbot' kit was the product of a company called Talbot Sports, and in the 1986/87 season they fashioned their own supply deal again by plumping for kits made by Triple S Sports. As luck would have it, the striped Coventry home kit ended up being worn during a successful 1987 FA Cup Final against Tottenham, but it was a one-season wonder and was replaced for 1987/88 by new strips made by Hummel.

Danish company Hummel had started making First Division in-roads after some useful exposure during Euro '84. Their clean, distinctive, Arsenal-style shirt had been worn by the Danes right through to their exit in the semi-finals of the competition, and it was in the following season of 1984/85 that Norwich City became the first club wear the famous double chevrons. By the end of the decade, they'd be joined by Southampton, Aston Villa, Tottenham and, of course, Coventry.

First Division 1980/81 - 1988-89: Kit manufacturers per season
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The arrival of lesser-known names like Henson, Scoreline, Strike and Spall in the late-80's was a portent of things to come. Adidas and Umbro's combined share of all the First Division kit deals was down to just 50% in 1988/89, and in the 1990's things got even worse for them as the race to supply outfits for the top clubs got even hotter.

Diversity: 1990-1999

Taken as a whole, the final decade of the 20th Century saw Adidas almost disappear from the English First Division football kit landscape. Having supplied outfits for as many as seven or eight of the 22 top-flight clubs during some seasons of the 1980's, they were down to just one team - Liverpool - in 1994/95. On two occasions later in the decade, only Newcastle United were on the German company's books.

This surprising fall from grace can perhaps be attributed to the growing prominence of the Champions League as Adidas' main priority and the need to have its kits on show there. The increase in football kit manufacturers in the UK was also growing - 27 used during the 1990's - but initially at least, Umbro didn't seem affected by either issue. Between 1990 and 1993, they were making the kits for almost half of the First Division's teams, including Everton, Nottingham Forest, Chelsea and both of the Sheffield clubs.

First Division/Premier League 1974-2014: Kit contracts for Adidas and Umbro
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By 1995, however, even Umbro were seeing their dominant grip on the market weakened. New companies were providing smart, stylish alternatives for England's top clubs; Asics, Puma, Reebok and even Nike wanted a piece of the action as the traditional giants of the kit world were forced to take a lower billing.

Apart from Umbro, there was one other company that made more First Division kits than Adidas - Pony. The American footwear firm arrived on the scene in 1993 with kits for Southampton and West Ham that both featured prominent 'reverse tick' elements on the upper part of the shirt. The tick came from Pony's logo, and while it looked fine on the West Ham kit, Southampton's red and white stripes struggled to form a harmonious complement with it.

Yet again smaller companies were snapping up the few crumbs that were left after the giants had fed. Clubhouse and View From were two names used by QPR in the early 1990's; Swindon's only season in the top flight saw them wear a kit by Loki; Avec came in to lend Sunderland a hand near the end of the decade, while Crystal Palace went for Nutmeg in 1994/95.

First Division/Premier League 1974-2014 - Kit manufacturers per season
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More so than ever, the fragmentation of the kit supply market was providing more choice for clubs and ever-more imaginative kit designs for fans to savour, but the 21st Century would see the trend slow down as the big companies returned to reclaim their territory.

Contraction: 2000 onwards

In 2004/05 and 2006/07, the 20 clubs of the Premier League in England used 14 different football kit providers - the greatest number in any one season. Adidas and Umbro were still there, but now Nike were pushing hard to join them at the top table. Not far behind were Reebok, a perpetual partner and shirt sponsor for Bolton Wanderers but now also a supplier of kit for Liverpool and Manchester City. Kappa and Puma were also a familiar sight in the Premier League around this time, while Le Coq Sportif were making something of a comeback too.

So many kit makers for so many clubs, and yet that all changed at a stroke at the start of the 2007/08 season. During the previous campaign, Umbro made kit for only one Premier League team - Everton. When the next season began, they had six clubs to their name - Birmingham, Blackburn, Everton, Sunderland, West Ham and Wigan.

Several kit companies disappeared from view that Premier League season - Airness, Diadora, Hummel, Joma, JJB and Lonsdale all found themselves without a contract for one of England's top teams, while Reebok's portfolio was reduced from three teams to just one - Bolton. Quite how or why Umbro had managed to snap up so many contracts is unclear, but their diamond-strewn designs of 2007/08 were certainly a common sight - even on the England kit of the time.

Click to see larger version

Umbro's dominance contracted again a few seasons later as Adidas and Nike consolidated their own exposure in the Premier League as once again a wider variety of manufacturers returned. Xara, Carbrini and Macron all wrote their names into the football kit history books, but a notable divide was slowly forming between the big companies and the smaller ones.

These days, we've come to accept this as the ongoing norm. On the one hand, Adidas, Umbro, Nike, Puma and Reebok struggling for overall superiority, well established and proven to create football kits of a high quailty. On the other hand, smaller and newer companies trying to make a positive impression but having to accept a limited impact among England's footballing elite.

Yet with this coming season, all that is about to change again. What Umbro did in 2007/08, Adidas have done on an even bigger scale for 2013/14, for they will start the next campaign providing kit for nine of the top 20 clubs in England. It is by far the strongest attempt by the German company to dominate the Premier League, and in the weeks to come you'll be seeing Chelsea, Fulham, Hull City, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea, West Brom and West Ham wearing those three famous stripes.

How have Adidas forced their way to the top of the tree with such ruthlessness? In part, the answer lies with the disappearance of two of their main rivals. Reebok's final season in the Premier League came in 2011/12 when Bolton Wanderers were relegated, but this came seven years after Reebok became a subsidiary of Adidas themselves. As for Umbro, they were bought out by Nike in 2008 and have since been sold on to Iconix Brand Group during the last year. Whether we'll see the Umbro diamonds again in future remains to be seen, but there are some encouraging signs beginning to appear.

With two such big names no longer competing for a share of the market, Adidas has seen an opening and taken advantage. Quite what you may think of this year's Adidas kits would be interesting to know, but it seems the football kit landscape - in the Premier League at least - will be a less varied (perhaps less interesting) place this season. With only three companies - Adidas, Nike and Puma - owning 75% of all the top clubs' kit deals, the likelihood for diverse design sadly seems all but doomed. We can only hope for better in the not too distant future.

Total number of 'kit seasons' for all manufacturers - 1974-2014
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Kit manufacturers used by First Division/Premier League teams (1974-2014)
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With special thanks to Dave Moor at Historical Football Kits for his help in providing the data for this article.