THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

The A-Z of Lost Football Culture, Treasures and Pleasures
by Derek Hammond and Gary Silke
Pitch Publishing, £19.99
Reviewed by Roger Titford
From WSC 299 January 2012

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If you were born between 1960 and 1970 and still miss getting the Topical Times Football Annual for Christmas, this might be its ideal replacement. The book takes as its text the notion that "football used to be better in the past" and celebrates many of the juvenile and adolescent aspects of the game's culture.

At first the cheery bantering prose is a little wearisome and you can't quite make your mind up about how serious or jokey the authors intend to be. But I quickly warmed to their eclectic, personal and often left-field selections, which include entries on mud, fans on the roof and over-sized third-world stamps with players in made-up kit.

Even when major clubs are included, the reference is often to a weirdly inconsequential story. The entry on Manchester United features a film set in an executive box in 1967, while Manchester City's page is an excuse for a story about inflatables – like fanzines, they already count as football nostalgia items.

The real magic is the collection and display of the illustrative material of stickers, badges, programme covers, Subbuteo figures and other ephemera. It is astonishingly thorough, well-presented, inspired and indeed had me going "yes, got, got, not got, forgot, never seen". The authors may have had a little help from a big friend here as they are bloggers on the Daily Mirror football website, but there is no doubt this book is the work of true enthusiasts and lovers of the fripperies of the game.

They are also tapping into the growing quest for a return to football authenticity as manifested by the appreciation of old stadiums, the relative growth of the non-League game and the increasing use of the approving epithet "old school". I even heard Jamie Redknapp use the term after the recent game between QPR and Chelsea (and before the ensuing Terry-Ferdinand row). What is this "old school"? It has connotations of directness, physicality, traditional masculinity, unconstrained behaviour and possibly even fun. It applies to both the participants (players, managers) and to the supporters and is perhaps a coded, indirect way for people in the game to describe what they feel is wrong with it now. Of course it is all part of the well-attested mythical Golden Age phenomenon, the heroic past, the idea that the football you experience between nine and 19 is always better than today.

To check this applies to Got, Not Got, I skimmed through a few issues of Foul! It was the alternative football magazine of the early 1970s, appearing at the heart of the period that is now much loved. There was not a sign of any contemporary relish for these treasures and pleasures, but much about dirty play, dodgy boardroom deals, sycophantic press coverage and over-priced Admiral kit. This does not invalidate Got, Not Got. It just shows yet again that we do not value what we have until it is gone. Got, Not Got does a great job in bringing back some fond memories.

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