From The FOX 162 – Oct/Nov 2008
They say you never forget your first time, and mine went like this: Billy Bremner playing for Scotland against Brazil on the cover, Jairzinho in the background; an article by Bobby Moore; You are the Ref; colour action from the 1974 World Cup featuring Australia, Scotland, Holland, Zaire, DDR and Yugoslavia; stats on the previous nine finals; a tearful article by Bremner on Scotland’s exit; ‘Goal Lines’ – letters to the editor; ‘Football Funnies’ chosen by Stewart Houston of Manchester United; Kevin Keegan revealing how he was beaten up by officials at Belgrade airport, smashing some attractive Bulgarian pottery he had bought for his family; ’Focus On’ Paul Gilchrist of Southampton (Miscellaneous Likes – Motor racing, oil painting, music); ’Bob Wilson Was Wrong to Retire’ by Alan Ball; Spotlight on the 73-74 season; At Home With John Radford of Arsenal and his Dutch wife Engel; ’Rangers Can Win the title next Season’ by John Greig; and a grinning Colin Bell of Manchester City on the back page.
I was allowed one comic a week, for as long as I can remember. Disneyland was my first choice; then I graduated to the Beano, followed by Roy of the Rovers when I shifted schools and fell in with football fans. Then, in July 1974, while immersed in the West Germany ’74 World Cup, I considered myself man enough to change to Shoot! (incorporating ‘Goal’). I was instantly hooked. For just eight pence the gateway to the wonderful world of Soccer opened up and you were inside. You could read the innermost thoughts of regular columnists Kevin Keegan, Danny McGrain, Billy Bremner and Alan Ball. You could puzzle over the fiendish problems posed in ‘You are the Ref’. Realise there were people just like you all over the country when you read ’Ask the Expert’: “Which goalkeeper has the biggest pair of hands in the First Division?” “I pronounce John Mahoney’s name as ma-ho-ney, but my father says it is an Irish name and should be pronounced Mar-ney. Who is right?” You could study the lavish full colour photos of these gods in action. And best of all were those too rare occasions when a photo of a Leicester City player would be featured, immediately to be removed from the magazine and stuck on the bedroom wall with a blob of blu-tac in each corner. And then, but once a year, came that most thrilling of days when Leicester were the team group featured in the centre pages. Three rows of City players, in crisp white socks and shorts, and shirts in the shade of Royal Blue that they don’t seem to make any more; the Double Decker brooding in the background… perfect. It is difficult to explain now why a simple colour photo was so prized, but this was in the days when the programme was nearly all black and white, newspapers were entirely in monochrome and, unless your family was particularly well off, you only had a black and white TV. Those eight pages of colour in Shoot! were like an oasis in a grey desert. For six years my Shoot! collection grew and grew by the week, filling several boxes, until 1979 when my head was turned by an attractive newcomer called ‘Match Weekly’. I dropped Shoot! like a hoody drops a knife before a stop and search, and kicked it away into the gutter. Match had some fresh new ideas; it’s full colour was somehow fuller; and they seemed keen on Jock Wallace’s City side, often featuring them on their way to the Second Division title. Despite my defection, and having to share the market with Match, Shoot! still enjoyed good circulation figures. Although in a general downward trend, in 1996 they were still selling 120,000 copies a week despite a new wave of competitors such as 4-4-2, Match of the Day, 90 Minutes and Total Football.. By 2007 however, they were down to 33,000. After nearly forty years as a weekly magazine (first launching in the 1968-69 season) IPC made the drastic decision to re-launch as ‘Shoot Monthly’. This didn’t work out and the axe finally fell in June of this year. Sadly the modern version of Shoot! was a terrible effort that deserved to die. Aimed squarely at a marketing man’s idea of ‘kids’, the thoughtful articles, sense of the game’s history and sparing colour had been replaced with shrieking luminous graphics; ‘20 MEGA POSTERS’ and an invitation to deface a poster of Ruud Van Nistilrooy entitled ’Make Ruud Rotten!’ A magazine designed for a generation whose attention span can apparently be measured in milliseconds, it wasn’t worthy of carrying it’s predecessor’s name.
So I won’t be mourning the Shoot! that has recently died, but the one that used to be the best football magazine in the world. The one that would have me running up to the newsagents on a Saturday morning in eager anticipation. So Shoot!, I’m sorry I dropped you for Match and I regret that the kids of today will never know the simple pleasure we found from thumbing through the latest issue.