THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Studs! The Greatest Retro Football Annual the World Has Ever Seen
edited by Barney Ronay
Ebury, £9.99
Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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Football Handbook – The Glory Years
Marshall Cavendish, £9.99

Reviewed by Taylor Parkes
From WSC 239 January 2007 

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As the Premiership becomes an increasingly remote circus, the primary colours and brutal joy of Old Football seem more appealing by the day. The fan of a certain age starts keening for the past – because at least it’s our past – and Christmas offers the chance to indulge in nostalgia without the slightly queasy feeling of having to go out and buy it ourselves.

Marshall Cavendish’s Football Handbook, sold in instalments, was as much a training manual as a conventional football magazine, which made it tremendously popular in the late 1970s (when serious writing on the game itself was in short supply), but which rather lessens its worth for the backwards traveller. Anyone randy for bell-bottoms and archaic haircuts will be disappointed to find long articles on man-to-man marking, tips on how to increase your stamina and “Bob Latchford on chest control”.

The rest of it contains potted histories of clubs and humdrum “pro-files” of players, unlikely to raise more than the occasional chuckle (Alan Gowling on being a footballer with a degree: “I’ve talked about this with Steve Heighway and he agrees. You don’t have to discuss Marx to have a good chat with someone”). All of which makes Football Handbook – The Glory Years something of an oddity. While it might still be of some practical use to young people learning the game, they’ll hardly be interested in taking tips from ugly bastards they’ve never heard of – while those of us old enough to remember those ugly bastards might require a more satisfying form of nostalgia than being advised by Joe Corrigan to “get your body firmly behind the ball and form a cradle with your hands and arms”.

Hence Studs!, a selection of reprinted pages from the 1970s and early 1980s archives of Shoot! that’s pretty hard to top for an afternoon of sweet regression. Unapologetic about playing the past for laughs, but compiled with genuine love, it looks a bit skimpy next to Football Handbook’s mighty 580 pages (and the scaled-down size renders some small print almost unreadable), but it’s a hell of a lot more fun.

Each page is hand-picked for its appeal to the modern thirty/fortysomething: Q&As with a beaming Terry Venables (Best friend: “My bank manager”) and a slightly ingratiating Ossie Ardiles (Person you’d most like to meet: “Her Majesty The Queen”); posters of a hilariously corpulent Franny Lee and an alarmingly hunky Martin Jol; articles headlined “Donny Osmond Was Smuggled Into Spurs Looking Like A Tramp!” and “Women’s Football Is No Joke Now”; some choice adverts for Bullworkers and the Peter Barnes Football Trainer; regular blasts of “You Are The Ref”; and countless “at home” pieces with unstyled stars posing in slacks outside shabby semis, with their cheerfully unglamorous wives (the exception being Wolves’ Frank Munro, who appears to have married Bobbie Gentry). If you’re looking to reconnect with the smaller, muddier version of yourself for a few hours, this is pretty much perfect.

Entirely ephemeral and utterly compelling, Studs! is a wonderful thing, if just for informing us of Jack Charlton’s rather alarming “miscellaneous likes and dislikes” – respectively, “guns” and “silly dogs”. So, if you lost a spaniel in the Leeds 11 area roughly 35 years ago, at least you now have closure.

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