Read All About It
I was lost for ideas. I hadn’t written for efp for over a month, other things had got in the way, and as well as that, football had been rather underwhelming for me. Everton have improved in that time, Louis Saha has become one of the greatest players in the world (a private joke, sorry), but still there seemed little to whet my whistle.
I turned to a recent issue of FourFourTwo magazine in search of some inspiration. Surely, there would be some article or other to ignite my creative flair, some mention of an interesting focal point, a catalyst for my next literary reaction.
As it turned out, the main emphases within the pages were on Spanish and Italian football, which I’ve already written about. However, the magazine did offer a way out.
I decided to write about writing about football.
I have sent FourFourTwo a link to this article, as part of an ambitious mixed media approach to encourage cross-examination and comments on this debate. Some of the article is also missing, well, it can be found elsewhere, more of which later.
FourFourTwo is a monthly, grown-up magazine that started in 1994, I suppose a great time for a magazine to start, and although its style and content has changed direction somewhat – for example nowadays many of its cover stars seem to be part of a product placement project – I look forward to every new issue’s release and am often pleasantly surprised by what is in it. It can often take me a month to get through it due to my other commitments, but certainly, it is still a part of my life.
And so I decided once again to stroll down memory lane.
Throughout my life I have read and read about football. Match reports, player interviews, ghost-written autobiographies… and it all started with an issue of Shoot! magazine circa July 1986, I distinctly remember Maradona on the front kissing the World Cup amid the beautiful lush green of the Maracana pitch and the West Germany away shirts. But more than that I loved the stylish Shoot! logo, and knew I wanted more.
I soon arranged (courtesy of my parents, no doubt pleased that I was following in my father’s footsteps as he used to get Charles Buchan’s Monthly) a weekly order – do these still exist, I wonder? – at the local newsagents, where, years later, I was to gain employment sorting and delivering ‘papers on hungover weekend mornings. They wrote our surname on the front cover, and every week I looked forward to the day that Shoot! came out, whilst my sister collected her issue of Big! or Smash Hits.
Who would be on the front? Ratcliffe? Lineker? Gascoigne? Or Rush in an Everton shirt as part of an over elaborate cruel hoax for an April Fools’ day edition? I don’t remember much to read about in Shoot!, Paul Trevillion drawings, Ray Royce cartoons, occasionally an interview, and statistics such as results. How archaic that seems now – more of which later.
Of course, there were posters too. MATCH was the rival magazine, and arguably better for posters, but always seemed a bit more childish – and anyway, Shoot! offered league ladders. And, even at such a tender age, such a little thing, what a difference it made. MATCH did though gain popularity but grown up fans now are divided on its importance: one contributor to a thread on a Man Utd fans forum said “Match is shit these days. It tries to use “cool” language and just sounds gay” which is criticism indeed by someone who does the same.
As I grew up, and flirted with SOCCERSTARS (basically a mag full of posters of the likes of Beardsley, Cottee and Nevin which quickly adorned my bedroom walls whilst others tentatively began putting up Pamela Anderson et al), football developed, so did its media profile, and my own interests, and I moved on to the more adult 9o minutes magazine. Shoot! enjoyed continued success until last year when it finally folded, though the annual (a childhood Christmas Day staple) is said to remain. Apparently now, Match of the Day is also popular, though when I flicked through it in Tesco this morning, it looked rubbish, unless of course you’re an eight year old.
90minutes featured celebrity fans, regular sections such as ‘I was a winner with Welsby’ and ‘very much so’ plus of course the brilliant comic strip. Its name is now used by ‘America’s Premier Soccer Magazine’ but was very much of its time and as part of my Year 8 English project in which we had to examine a publication in detail.
(This article will now continue for six paragraphs on the wsag website, in an attempt to give both cohorts of readers of my verses a chance to see the complete picture that I’m going on about)
As I continue to contribute to both sites every month, I grow in confidence in my writing, and in my voice. I sometimes struggle for inspiration, and try not to overlap the themes I discuss so that there remains a freshness for both parties and audiences. These challenges are generally overcome; the quality of what I write I will allow others to decide, but when I get disillusioned with my day job, I dream of writing more regularly, that’s for sure.
With every newspaper seemingly offering football supplements, a plethora of fascinating books on football and footballers, new sports (and sports news) channels and web services, and those other magazines I have not yet mentioned but occasionally take (World Soccer, Football Italia, Champions etc) and of course the continental offerings like France Football, Gazzetto del Sport, the Spanish dailies and many many more) one would never be able to take in all that is available. Every boy’s (and some girl’s) dreams, surely?
But I also fear that new technologies may one day see the demise of the football magazine and whilst I am sure that fanzines will remain, to what will young lads turn when they first get interested in football and want to learn as much as they can about the beautiful game? I have questionable views for some people, I know, and I am aware that often I am a little too open and perhaps divulge too much, in the style of one of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads maybe, whose streams of consciousness reveal much about their inner personae.
But regardless of the future of the publications I have referenced, personally I simply have to continue to have my say: there is a therapy involved in writing what I do, especially when it is about something I love so much still. I will remain forever grateful to Tim for setting up this site and the opportunities it has given me.
To think I have come to having my ideas read online, fusing extravagant experiments with factual documentation of what it is like being a football fan nowadays, from a starting point of a weekly fix of photos of players in action or relaxing at home, will surprise many, but I honestly don’t think I could explain things half as much as I do if it wasn’t for those initial issues of a now extinct magazine I was keen to grow out of once upon a time.
Now, go out and buy a magazine and rekindle the excitement of turning the page