Monday, October 30, 2006

Footy Book Review

It's been my good fortune recently to pick up four new books on different aspects of football nostalgia which, although small, are no less interesting to read.

I thought I'd tell you about them as they'd make a jolly good Christmas present for football fans of a certain age - that is if you don't steal them away to keep in your own collection first!

Studs!: The Greatest Retro Football Annual the World Has Ever Seen
By Barney Ronay
Amazon UK Price: £5.99

Anyone here used to buy Shoot magazine when they were younger? I certainly did - mainly for the big glossy team pictures that adorned the centre pages every week. I used to delicately detach them from the staples and stick them up on my bedroom wall, a habit which lasted all the way up to, ooh, last Tuesday, I should think.

Anyway, enough of my personal hell. Shoot magazine was the ideal comic for youngsters everywhere back in the 1970's and 80's. It featured the latest football news, big pin-up photos of all the big stars as well as interesting articles looking at their private lives away from the bright lights of stardom.

Looking back, it was all a bit limp and cheesy, but that was surely the one thing that was good about it. If you want to find out how limp and cheesy, you have two options: 1) Buy some old copies of Shoot which are still available via eBay (more of which on another blog post), or 2) Buy Studs, a new book by Barney Ronay which compiles the best bits from nearly 20 years of the classic footy weekly.

In this book, you can find out just what was going through Bobby Moore's mind when he was arrested for stealing that bracelet in Bogota, the person that Alan Hansen most wanted to meet when he was playing for Liverpool (and no, it wasn't the club's defensive skills coach) and what went on in an average day in the life of George Best.

Not only that, but there's all the regular features that kept us occupied every week, such as You Are The Ref and the all-important quiz page. If all that isn't enough, you can marvel at the hairstyles and erratically trimmed moustaches that were rampant in the game back in days of yore, so if a bit of happy memory-jogging is the sort of thing you like, you'll do far worse than putting this in your Amazon UK shopping basket.

Flick to Kick: An Illustrated History of Subbuteo
By Daniel Tatarsky
Amazon UK Price: £6.39

If I wasn't reading Shoot magazine as a kid, I was probably playing Subbuteo. The table football game that no-one ever played on a table was perfect for those wet Sunday afternoons when you wouldn't dare pull on a pair of boots and play football in the park.

As mentioned previously on SPAOTP, Subbuteo was the ideal combination of a collecting hobby and a game that was dead easy to play. All you needed was a pitch, a couple of teams and enough space in your bedroom to use both.

Subbuteo has a long and interesting history, starting off in the days when players were made of cardboard, through to its heyday in the 1970's when World Championships were played and sales were at their peak, even going through to the the 21st century when its existence looked to be virtually at an end due to lack of interest.

Author Daniel Tatarsky goes to great lengths to tell us about the game's creator and the many years of development that Subbuteo endured. There are lots of excellent photos to illustrate the story including some of that show how the Subbuteo brand even ventured into other sports such as cricket, rugby and angling (don't ask).

For anyone like me that used to play the game, this is a great book that fills in the gaps of Subbuteo's history that you were blissfully unaware of as a kid. Informative and entertaining in equal parts.

True Colours 2: Football Kits from 1980 to the Present Day
By John Devlin
Amazon UK Price: £9.89

Next up is True Colours 2, a book which, like it's predecessor, devotes itself to documenting the many and varied football strips worn by club and country alike from the 1980's through to the present day.

It's amazing how many fans are so interested in footy kits. When you think about it, they're just bits of fabric that help distinguish one set of players from the other, but therein lies the fascination. Over the many decades that the game's been played, every team has adopted it's own colours and designs resulting in a greater following from the fans through a stronger sense of identity.

To that end, John Devlin has skilfully put together a second book full of kits - 20-odd years worth for each team - which this time features the main teams from the lower divisions. After the success of book 1 which did the same for those teams in last season's Premiership, this one repeats the formula by not only showing the kits but also analysing the trends and reasoning behind the strips worn by each team.

As an added bonus, this book also shows the outfits worn by the five 'home' nations since the 1970's, so if you want to know when Scotland favoured a bit of tartan on their backs or when Wales showed off the biggest dragon since St George was a lad, this'll tell you everything.

Another fantastic book for all you kit lovers and a perfect accompaniment to the first edition, which is still available.

Swap Yer: The Wonderful World Of Football Cards And Sticker Albums
By Rob Jovanovic
Amazon UK Price: £7.19

Finally we have a book that should make former devotees of Panini stickers and collector cards break out in a broad smile. Rob Jovanovic tells us how the self-adhesive stickers of today developed out of a need to sell more cigarettes at the end of the 18th century to become the multi-million pound business that it is today.

It's a fascinating book which makes you realise just how long people have been striving to complete their sets of football player pictures. The cards given away with cigarettes 100 years ago were printed in black and white and were rather formal by today's standards, but as printing techniques improved, so did the quality and diversity of the images.

We see how the 1970 World Cup was used to kick-start Panini's long and illustrious place in football sticker history and how those little sticks of pink bubble gum played such a vital part in Topps' collector card range. There's also the chance to giggle mischievously at the frankly ridiculous hairstyles of yesteryear, just as you can with the 'Studs' book.

As with all the other titles featured above, this book is well-researched, well-written and packed full of pictures to maximise your enjoyment. No football nostalgist should be without it!

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