Friday, 29 August 2014

Videoblog 5: World Cup Soccer (Macmillan Software)

If you thought all football computer games were about moving pixelated players around a pitch and scoring goals, think again. Back in 1986, one piece of software tried to entertain and educate kids with a two-in-one offering that was ambitious, if a little timid in its overall quality.

The title was World Cup Soccer and its combination of football statistics, team management and mini-game action caused one magazine reviewer at the time to liken it to Don Johnson with a wardrobe limitation.

To find out exactly what this means and to see whether England are capable of winning the World Cup, join Chris O as he brings you The Football Attic's fifth videoblog review.

Friday, 22 August 2014

The Ford Sporting League (1970/71)

The first full football season of the 1970's was a turning point in the history of the English game, for it was at this point that companies first started sponsoring club competitions. With ticket sales dwindling and hooliganism rising, it seemed football in England was going through a crisis of sorts, but that didn't stop corporate entities queueing up to put their name to the competitions which, it was hoped, would turn its fortunes around.

One such idea was the Ford Sporting League - not a competition in the traditional sense, moreover a one-off attempt at promoting and encouraging positive aspects of the game. The premise was simple: every time one of the 92 Football League clubs scored a goal during the 1970/71 season, they'd receive one point. When they scored away from home, they'd score two points. If a player received a yellow card, however, they'd be deducted five points, while a red card came with a ten-point penalty.

The team with the most points after 42 League games would earn a prize of £50,000, with smaller prizes of £2,500 given to the team with the most accumulated points at the end of each month. The money was to be spent not on new players or a refit for the Chairman's office but facilities to improve the match-day experience for the fans, such as a new stand or a scoreboard.

So, more goals and fewer bookings - that was the key, and just imagine what you could buy with all that lovely money. Taking inflation into account, £50,000 then was the equivalent of around £750,000 now. Such riches were highly desirable, especially for clubs at the lower end of the league spectrum, and one man had his eyes on the prize - Jimmy Frizzell.

A former full back turned coach of Oldham Athletic, Frizzell took the managerial reigns at Boundary Park in December 1969. His immediate priority was to steer Oldham away from the foot of Division Four, and this he did quickly and with great success. The end of the 1969/70 season saw The Latics finish mid-table and the following season they went one better by finishing third, thereby gaining promotion to Division Three.

Those of an impish disposition could argue that this was not his greatest achievement, however, for in that successful campaign of 1970/71, Oldham Athletic also won the Ford Sporting League. They did so by scoring 88 goals in their 46 games, just one less than the highest number across all four divisions set by Notts County, the team that topped Division Four that season. As for bookings, Oldham had only four in the 42-match period for which they were assessed, and sendings-off amounted to none.

Such was the clinical efficiency of Jimmy Frizzell's side during the 1970/71 season that they picked up not only the Ford Sporting League's £50,000 first prize, but also all of the £2,500 monthly prizes because their points total was always the highest. A grand total of £70,000 eventually found its way into Oldham Athletic's bank account and it wasn't long before a new stand was built on the north side of Boundary Park for the fans to enjoy.

Just four bookings all season - that's all Oldham had. How does that stack up against modern-day football, and who might have won the Ford Sporting League last year, had it taken place? As ever, The Football Attic is on hand to crunch the numbers, make wild generalisations and stick two-fingers up to scientific accuracy...

'Ford Sporting League 2013/14'

Back in 1970/71, the Ford Sporting League gave every Football League club an equal chance by calculating its figures over the first 42 games for everyone that season. For First and Second Division teams, those were the only 42 games of the season, however the remaining teams in Divisions Three and Four played 46, so the last four were discounted for them.

For our 2013/14 comparison, however, we haven't got the appropriate data for the cut-off point of 38 games which would have applied, so you'll just have to accept that the following calculations are based on the full season. In real terms, that matters very little because the champion team would have been Liverpool, and that despite playing eight games fewer than those clubs outside of the Premier League. The team that just pipped them to the title last season, Manchester City, finished 33 points behind them in second place on -99 with Southampton third on -124 points.

Yes, that's right - none of the top 92 clubs in English league football finished with a score above zero, but that's as much down to the punishing penalties given for yellow and red cards rather than anything else.

Certainly where goals scored are concerned, there doesn't seem to be much to choose between most of the teams, with the possible exception of Man City who easily scored more goals at home than the other 91 teams.

Specifically, it's the yellow cards that do all the damage in this system as Watford found out to their cost. They picked up 102 of them during the 2013/14 season, and that undoubtedly led to them finishing bottom of our Overall points table.

The highest-ranked Premier League team in the Yellow Cards table was Stoke City, and they're well down the list in 30th with 71.

On the Red Cards scale, Blackpool were the supreme champions last season - the only team to pick up ten in total. Sunderland were the highest-ranking Premier League team with seven red cards.

But all this statistical analysis merely distracts us from the tremendous achievement of Liverpool being the winners of our virtual Ford Sporting League for 2013/14. Will they spend their £750,000 prize on building a new stand at Anfield, we wonder?

(Source for data:,

-- Chris Oakley

Saturday, 16 August 2014

The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts & Feats (1979)

There was a day, long, long ago, when the name of Guinness loomed large in the literary world. You could buy The Guinness Book of Car Facts & Feats, The Guinness Book of British Hit Singles, The Guinness Book of Wild Flowers... I'm also led to believe there was a long-running series of books about people breaking records, too, but let's not get sidetracked by that. Back in the 1970's, if you wanted to feed your brain with morsels of football-related knowledge, The Guinness Book of Soccer Facts & Feats was the book to read.

The first edition of Jack Rollin's kick-and-run compendium was published in 1978 and four more were released, the last of which arrived in book shops in 1983. I was recently lucky enough to purchase a copy of the second edition, and as you'd expect, it really does pack in more facts than Stephen Fry on speed.

The level of detail at times is staggering, right from the moment you peruse the inside front and rear covers displaying the winning records of all League Championship-winning sides from 1889 onwards. Not only do you get the final points tallies and goal difference stats, but also the number of players used in each squad and the number of ever-present players they contained. And that's before you get to the Introduction.

The first main section of the book is 'Milestones' which uses as its basis the original laws of football from 1872. This in itself is a revelation as one discovers some elements of the game that have long since been changed or removed altogether. Who knew that after a goal was scored, the teams would always change ends? And the rule that states "No player shall wear nails, except such as have their heads driven in flush with the leather... on the soles or heels of his boots" only makes the mind boggle further at the way football used to be.

Further revisions of the laws are detailed and the wonderment continues. The two-handed throw-in? That arrived TEN years after the first rules were formed. Goal nets didn't arrive for a further eight years after that. And when were numbers first worn on shirts in an FA Cup Final? In 1933 - SIXTY-TWO years after the first FA Cup competition took place.

This fire-cracker set of facts and figures gets the book off to a great start, but it's swiftly followed by another great section called 'British Soccer - League Club Stories'. Here, each of the clubs in the English and Scottish Leagues has a paragraph devoted to it and a notable story from its history. Some of the tales told by Rollin are delightfully entertaining and brilliantly worded. Here's my favourite one, all about Hartlepool United:

"On 27 November 1916 a doomed German Zeppelin, caught in the glare of searchlights and in flames from the fire of a persistent Royal Flying Corps pilot's armoury, jettisoned its remaining bombs as it made for the sea. Two of them shattered the main stand at Hartlepool United's ground. After the war the club claimed £2,500 compensation form the German government. The claim was relentlessly pressed by correspondence, but the only tangible reply was another bomb on the ground in the Second World War."

What then follows is an admittedly drier section that details the highest and lowest number of league wins, league goals and league defeats by various teams, but relief quickly comes in the eight pages of colour photographs that succeed it. Although the focus here is on the important figures of the day - Brian Clough, Trevor Francis and Ron Greenwood among them - there's also a lovely double-page spread showing a montage of football programmes from around the world.

With that out of the way, it's back into a seemingly unending mass of rudimentary facts and figures about British league clubs and international cup competitions. It's here that the informal tone from earlier in the book gives way to serious statistics, but reading this as a kid, you'd have been soaking up all this knowledge like a sponge. It's what you did when you were younger, and if your juvenile self was keen to learn who Manchester City played during their 1976-77 UEFA Cup run or something just as irrelevant to the average man on the street, this book came up trumps again and again.

After a second selection of colour photographs (this time from the 1978 World Cup) and an assessment of world football and its key players and competitions, the book ends with a Miscellany that again makes one smile with its detail. We learn that Robert Howell of Sheffield was the only gypsy to play for England and that Albert Iremonger of Notts County was, at 1.96 metres, the tallest player to appear regularly in the Football League. (Think Peter Crouch, but seven centimetres shorter.)

Surely, though, the final word about this excellent book has to go to its feature on the 'Football League's Foreign Legion' - those players born overseas that were plying their trade in England during the 1978-79 season. If anyone's curious to know what football was like 36 years ago, just be aware that all 13 foreign players were listed in a space no bigger than three inches by ten on one of its pages. Time marches on, but books like this provide the context by which we judge modern-day football, and beautifully so.

-- Chris Oakley

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

League of Blogs 2014

Yes folks it's League of Blogs time again!

What's 'League of Blogs' I hear some of you ask? Well, you can have a look at the entire history of the project here or take a look back at last year's and 2012's to get a quick overview, but in short it all started with a love of designing kits and a desire to share that with other bloggers.

Once again, we've not rested on our laurels and have striven to come up with something different for 2014.

As such, the theme for this year's League of Blogs is the "Turn of the Century" (the 19th/20th Century, that is, not the year 2000!). Now, that doesn't mean your designs have to reflect the style of that era (though the little Subbuteo man does have a rather 1900's look about him this year), but what it does mean is instead of a wallchart or sticker book, League of Blogs 2014 will be presented as old-timey cigarette cards. Genius!

As with last year, we'll be allowing badges as well as kits, though again, just a Home and Away kit... they didn't have 3rd kits in 1900 so we're not having them now ;-)

There's also a great prize this year! Whoever we choose as having our favourite kit design will win a whole Subbuteo team hand-painted in their winning design, courtesy of the awesome Adam of Fantasy Flicker. (Last year's winner & several other LoB entries can be seen here)

So here's what you need to do:

  • Create a 'club badge' for your blog or podcast. You may have a logo already, but if you want to create a new one anyway, that's fine.
  • Create a kit. You can create an 'away' one as well if you wish... we've made room for one. No '3rds' this time though :)
  • Create a tagline for your blog. This should be a single sentence explaining what your blog or pod is or what it aims to achieve.
For the kits:

Choose a template to download by clicking on the JPG or GIF images below. When the full-size version opens up on your screen, save it to your computer.

.GIF template

.JPG template

Get colouring! You can design your strip digitally with a graphics package like Adobe Photoshop or you could print the template out, colour it in with your felt-tip pens and scan the finished article. Either way, you should have a .JPG or .GIF file at the end of the process for each strip you're designing.

Send your .JPGs or .GIFs to admin [at] thefootballattic [dot] com along with your website's name and URL.

Oh and if you're not much of a designer or you don't own any felt-tip pens, why not tell us what you'd like your kit to look like? Email us at the address shown above with as much detail as possible and we'll try to turn your ideas into reality!

For the badge:

Freestyle is the name of the game here! :) You can create a traditional coat of arms/shield-based badge or you can create a modern-style logo. Of course if you already have a logo for your website or podcast, you can submit that as your 'club badge.' If you need any help creating anything, just give us a shout and we'll see what we can do.

Once you've done that, we'll present them in the following style in the League of Blogs Gallery.

Right... that's our efforts... now over to you!

Any questions, give us a shout in the comments below, via Twitter or on Facebook.

P.S. If you've entered the League of Blogs previously, you can use your old badge / kits if you wish... just let us know.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

The Football Attic Podcast 20 - A Football Attic Retrospective

The Football Attic is nearly 3 years old and we've reached the milestone that is our 20th Podcast... so what better way (any?) to celebrate than with a bit of good old fashioned back slapping?

So, for your aural entertainment, sit back and let Chris and Rich guide you on a journey into the darkest corners of the Attic.

Find out how it all started, hear what our favourite things have been and just enjoy the sound of two middle aged men indulging in self love... er...

Subscribe on iTunes or download here. Alternatively, catch The Football Attic Podcast on Square One Football Radio.

See also:
The Football Attic Podcast archive

Friday, 8 August 2014

Football Tat We've Owned Number 1 - Euro 96 Plasters

While both of us here in the Attic love football ephemera (in fact, that was nearly the name of this blog), Chris tends to stick to the, shall we say, quality end of the scale of football collectibles. I, on the other hand, am notorious for collecting what could best be described as "utter crap".

It struck me just how much of this I've bought down the years, while trying to describe my latest acquisition that falls easily into this category to Jay from :

Me: "Here's my life in a nutshell: tonight I spent £16 on a Japanese Coke can because it comes with a World Cup Trophy clock inside it"

Jay: "How do you get to the World Cup trophy clock?"

Me: "It's a fake can"

More on that particular beauty when it arrives...

To kick off this occasional series, the marvel of marketing that is Euro 96 plasters!

Sunday, 3 August 2014

League Ladders

It won't be long before the domestic football season starts again. Hopes of success will be uppermost in our minds as we finally put to one side the pre-season tournaments given hollow reverence by Sky Sports or the endless prattle of  'experts' on Twitter in favour of real, proper football.
As children, there were no such distractions to impede our excitement of the new season. Entertainment was provided in the form of flimsy cardboard, decorated in bright colours and perforated purposefully by the makers of Shoot! magazine. Their annual gift to us was the League Ladders, an offering that never failed to cause excitement in our juvenile lives, if only for a few short weeks.

Back in the day when comics and sticker collections took precedence over seemingly everything else, the acquisition of Shoot! every week brought about a feeling of quiet contentment. Our thirst for football knowledge was satiated by the news, interviews and features held within its pages, to say nothing of its team pictures and player profiles. In short, it was a pocket-money package of football delight.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Podcast 20 - We Want Your Memories!

No it's not a new podcast...yet... Also, no, it's not some kind of mid-80s Twilight Zone episode!

We'll soon be recording the 20th Football Attic podcast and, as that's some kind of important number (ish) and we're almost 3 years old, we thought we'd get all self indulgent and do an Attic retrospective.

This actually stemmed from a conversation between Chris and myself about what we've really enjoyed about putting this whole thing we decided to spend an hour engaging in hearty slapping of backs and warm hugs all round, though court orders may inhibit the latter ;-)

We'll be talking about our general memories of the last 3 years from our first, virtually unnoticed posts, to the heights of getting a mention on the Guardian website, making several other proper blog sites' lists of top blogs and generally getting to know a whole bunch of decent people :)

And hey, if we're being all self indulgent, why not get you to join the love in?  Because that's sickening you say? Shame I can't hear you la la la!!!

To that end, we'd like to hear about your own memories & thoughts on the Attic - what you've liked, what you haven't, what we could do better, what you'd like to see more / less of etc etc etc

So, please leave your comments below, tweet us or leave a message on Facebook and we'll do our usual and try to read them all out...except the horrible ones of course, we're not mental!!! ;-)

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Chris O's Favourite 5... Commentators

It's been a long while since we've had a 'Favourite 5' on the Football Attic website, but it struck me the other day that there's been a glaring omission from the series that's covered everything from World Cup Shirts to Subbuteo Accessories That Never Were. So far we've overlooked the great TV commentators from the golden era of British football, but that's all about to change. Here, in no particular order, are my Favourite 5...

1. Barry Davies

Surely every TV football commentator has a responsibility to deliver on various promises. He needs to be well-informed, entertaining and capable of knowing when to let the pictures do the talking rather than himself. Barry Davies did exactly that, but his patter was also interesting... VERY interesting.

Not only could he fill you in on the background information relating to a team's recent form or a player's goalscoring record, but he could also lend his opinion to a refereeing decision, the condition of the playing surface or even the suitability of a team's kit. His views weren't always guaranteed to tally up with your own, but they were always delivered in such a way as to make you think beyond the images you were seeing on your screen.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Review: 'Admiral: Kit Man' by Bert Patrick

These days it seems perfectly acceptable to discuss football kit design without having any knowledge of its bounteous history. The trouble is, few people can speak with any authority about the production of football kits in Britain, which is why the release of Bert Patrick's new book has caused such a ripple of excitement.

'Admiral: Kit man' is a rare chance to find out how one of the great football brands rose to prominence in the 1970's and disappeared almost completely thereafter, as described by its figurehead and managing director. What you'll gain from reading the title depends largely on your prior knowledge of football kit design, but even a self-imposed expert will find something of note to take away from this pleasant paperback.

The story of Admiral, the Leicester-based football kit makers, begins in the 1960's when Patrick became the owner of a local underwear manufacturer, Cook & Hurst. Sensing a need to diversify in order to generate greater profits, the company rightly gauged an increase in football fanaticism after the 1966 World Cup and began making plans to produce and supply kit independently for teams far and wide.

What follows is a remarkable story of success forged through the amiable nature and astute dealings of the author. Starting off with the securing of a kit contract to supply Don Revie's Leeds United team in the early 70's, we learn of Patrick's impressive ability to gain further business with many other clubs thereafter. National team contracts also followed as England and Wales jumped on the Admiral bandwagon.

Two of the many photos seen in 'Admiral: Kit Man'
As Bert Patrick added more and more domestic signings to his portfolio, he started looking further afield and soon teams in Europe, the Middle East and the USA were adopting the Admiral brand. Yet just as business was truly booming for Patrick and his company, the growing market for cheap foreign imported merchandise started to impact greatly on Admiral's once bulging revenues. Within a few short years, Patrick was forced to sell Admiral to a Dutch Oil company and by the early 1980's, their name had become a virtual non-entity in British football.

The tale is an interesting one and well worth telling. We hear of Patrick's many meetings with important figures from British football history and his occasional dealings with the BBC and the Football Association, to say nothing of the many business trips he made around the world. All very fascinating, but after reading the book I was still left with a hunger to get a bit more detail. What of the kit designs that were never adopted or the fine details of some of the contracts he helped to rubber-stamp? What were Bert Patrick's favourite kit designs and what did he think of the work of Admiral's competitors?

Unfortunately these are watered down by the copious colour photographs showing off all too many Admiral kits. On average, there's a photo on every third pages of this book, and that's too much given that most readers will already know what the great Admiral kits looked like. John Devlin's excellent kit illustrations also make an appearance to expand on the imagery further still, but I'd have kept those and cut the photographs by at least half in return for more of Bert Patrick's dialogue.

John Devlin's kit illustrations, as featured in the book
Though the text is fine, in and of itself, it's sadly let down by the obvious misspelling of the names of players and managers. With references to Keith Bircumshaw, John Lyle and Franz Bechenbauer, the book loses a little of its credibility - something that could have been easily avoided if someone had bothered to double-check the details. The flow of the narrative is also vague at times, not always following a chronological order and liable to diversion at odd tangents.

For all that, though, it's still a very nice book, and it leaves you feeling an undeniable admiration for the author and the way he brought so much colour and interest to British soccer throughout the 1970's. Many happy memories of Admiral's fine kit designs are brought to mind as you turn every page, and you can't help wishing the company was still as prominent today as it was all those years ago. Perhaps one day it will be, but for now it's nice to know that Bert Patrick's achievements have been proudly recorded for future generations to read.

'Admiral: Kit Man' by Bert Patrick is available via Amazon UK, Waterstones and all good book stores. RRP: £10.99