Friday, 30 August 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, 29 August 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, 20 August 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.

On Paper.

   I must begin with a confession. 

   In 1994, I took an A4-size banner to a football game. 

   I was sat at the very top and rear of the main stand. The game wasn't even televised. I'd even taken the trouble of writing my incendiary message in the native language of the visiting foreign side. "Welcome to Hell" it was not. The game finished 0-0.

   Anyway, having faced up to my shameful past, I feel qualified to comment upon the recent revival in quaint (but very, very earnest) A4-sized football banners. 

A polychrome effort from disgruntled Chelsea fans.
   What first strikes you upon seeing these pitiful printed protests (usually against some perceived crimes against football administration) is the person holding it aloft. A middle-aged, stern-faced man. A middle-aged, stern-faced man who took the conscious decision before the game to conceive, type and print a message of protest on to a piece of A4 paper and take it with him to a football game, to hold it up for nobody in particular to read. Furthermore, the accessibility of A4-size paper notwithstanding, this man knew he'd need to get this banner on TV to have any chance of it being noticeable or legible to any more than half-a-dozen people. It is the minuscule size of these banners that set them apart from vandalised bedsheets in the cringeworthiness stakes. 

Advice for economics graduate Arsene Wenger.
   Word processing advances have gradually phased out the hand-written A4 banner which was often hampered by a misjudgment of the available space, leading to the last few letters having to be squeezed in by their (surely now crestfallen) amateur designer. A3-size paper is now increasingly common, saving those who really want to make their opinion heard the arduous task of printing two separate A4-size segments and taping them together, as if their dignity wasn't blown to quite enough smithereens.

   We are yet to see the widespread use of iPad-based banners, which would offer the most fickle fans the real-time capability of targeting the overpaid underperformer of their choice, while the Etch-A-Sketch has survived over half a century without (to my knowledge) being used to declare someone a wanker at a Football League ground. But can these A4 banners do it on a cold, wet Wednesday night in Stoke?

   Homemade, hand-held displays of allegiance do not necessarily have to be negative in their outlook. Tin-foil-and-cardboard FA Cups, which make up for their lack of bile in sheer preparation time, continue to be a vital component of the magic of the FA Cup. However there has been a disappointing lack of progression to 3D forms, particularly given the malleability of the foil. 

   So, if you're sat at your computer on a Saturday morning, mulling over an A4-sized banner to take to your game that afternoon, think some more. Really? Is it really worth it? 

Sunday, 18 August 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, 17 August 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, 16 August 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...