Absolute beginners again

Co-editor Paul Hutton  mulls over The Absolute Game's revival and concludes the market for articles about Luncarty Juniors remains untapped

Sometime in April, presumably fairly early in the morning, a few hundred lovers of Scottish football will have had a bit of a fright. And that’s before having seen Craig Brown’s squad for the Poland game. Leafing through their morning mail they will have found a copy of The Absolute Game. Perhaps they gazed in a bemused way at the throwback design, wondering where they had last seen its like. And maybe they afforded themselves a wee smile as they realised their subscription money hadn’t been invested in some ropey dotcom after all.

The reason for any surprise is simple – the last issue of TAG was published in October 1997. After 55 issues and ten years covering the highs, lows and really lows of Scottish football, founding father Archie “Mad Mac” MacGregor took a job as executive editor of fledgling Scottish football glossy Fitba’ (its disappearance after three issues illustrates the perils of launching a Scottish football title that doesn’t pander solely to the Old Firm). An article in that issue spoke of the possibility of TAG continuing, but lack of contacts, will and ability soon knocked that idea out. In truth, TAG without Archie would be like a Scottish Third Division side without two lumbering perma-tanned centre-halves.

I’d like to say that TAG’s slide into slumber caused the nation to shed a tear, but in fact few people seemed to notice. We would occasionally get asked about the mag’s future, but after two years of telling people there’d be another one along any minute, I guess they stopped believing us.

With the benefit of hindsight, TAG’s slide into slumber wasn’t the smartest of decisions. In the three years between issues we missed the formation of the SPL, three (or is it four?) clubs entering liquidation, one club losing 15 points after its players went on strike, Scotland beating England at Wembley and drawing with the Faroes, and the end of Fergus McCann’s reign at Celtic.

Three years on, the state of Scottish football provides us with no shortage of material and the coverage the game receives in the Scottish media is no less superficial than it was. Subscribers have responded with some delight and (even more trustingly) renewed at a fair rate. And stockists have greeted us with the special warmth reserved for publications offering them a decent return on the cover price.

But you would have to be daft not to notice that the fanzine market has changed considerably in the past three years. As websites offer supporters quick ways of making their feelings known and TV, radio and newspaper phone-ins crackle, fanzines have been marginalised. If you were being pragmatic, you might argue this was a daft time to relaunch a fanzine, particularly one that devotes space to articles about the Southern Qualifying Cup and the recent history of Luncarty Juniors.

These “new media” arguments have no truck at TAG headquarters though. We might have an email address, but there’s only so much change you can take in three years.

From WSC 172 June 2001. What was happening this month