The golden age of football magazines was undoubtedly the period between the late 1960s and early 1970s, although in the game’s renaissance in the early 1990s, a spate of publications came onto the market, many of which have since bitten the dust.
Over the past 40-odd years, the following 10 magazines/publications should have been on your reading list at some point:
1- Soccer Star. Not necessarily the best written of all the publications, but very much of its time. If you wanted a magazine that featured the likes of Bobby Ham as its cover star, this was it. Fairly democratic, was Soccer Star.
2- Goal. Started out in 1968, included such ghost-written gems as Bobby Charlton’s Diary. Goal had excellent pieces like Leslie Vernon’s Soccer World and its cup final editions were superb. But on the other hand, what about Goal Girl, its beauty parade?
3- Book of Football. A 75-part encyclopaedia that was expensive, well written, beautifully designed and a tribute to early 1970s appreciation of the game. Quality stuff, with top football hacks penning the material. A publication for the thinking man’s fan.
4- FourFourTwo. A breath of fresh air when it came out (in 1994, I think), emerging on the back of the 1980s fanzine boom. FFT, for a long while, represented a bright new era for the written game, but developed into the “Jack the Lad” style of football writing, full of inaccuracies and generalizations on past eras that the writers could only have heard about. Until then, however, it was decent quality. It may have regained its poise, but it has lost a few people down the years.
5- World Soccer. The Dr. Who of football magazines, continually regenerating and refusing to die. Represents the only English-speaking magazine to report on the game across all continents, and as such should be treasured. For years, its headlines were , to quote Basil Fawlty, “too bleeding obvious”, but that was then.
6- When Saturday Comes. Graduated from a fanzine to a mainstream publication, in much the way that “alternative comedians” from the 1980s became establishment figures. Has become less “smart arse” and more the guardian of pragmatism. They’ve become very respectable – they are virtually based in the City of London, for Christ’s sake!
7- France Football. The sort of publication that makes you wish you spoke fluent French like Joey Barton.
8- Kicker. The German language publication you want sitting on the passenger seat in your leather-lined BMW or Audi.
9- La Gazzetta dello Sport. Makes you wish Italian flowed from your lips with consummate ease. The Financial Times of football. The type of paper to have with your Espresso, a la James Richardson!
10- Shoot! This may surprise some people, but the early Shoot (launched 1969) was innovative and very readable. The League Ladders, a Shoot perennial freebie, were a big favourite. Goal had Charlton, Shoot had Bobby Moore. But it was, essentially, Goal for the Boys’ Enclosure.