In my continuing collaborative series with @1888Letter, I will ask the experiences of Mr. Graham Denton @gtdenton, Author of The Odd Man Out: The Fascinating Story of Ron Saunders' Reign at Aston Villa (2017), Me and My Big Mouth: When Cloughie Sounded Off in TVTimes (2019)
Name: Graham Denton
Personal Description: Author of The Odd Man Out: The Fascinating Story of Ron Saunders' Reign at Aston Villa (2017), Me and My Big Mouth: When Cloughie Sounded Off in TVTimes (2019)
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: At what age did you become a Football fan and how long after did you start reading Football Magazines?
Response: I was 7 when I saw my first game (live on TV). The hook was firmly in from then on. I think it was the following season that I began reading about the game in magazines.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: What was the first Soccer (Football) magazine that you read as a new young fan of the game?
Response: SHOOT! In the days when it still had an exclamation mark in its title.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Were there other local magazines that you also read?
Response: I was aware of GOAL, because a cousin (slightly older than me) had some posters from that magazine on his bedroom wall, but no others. Football League Review (The Official Journal of the Football League) was a very thin magazine inserted between the pages of match day programmes but, although I did start going to games (with my father, from around the age of 8) and having a programme bought for me, I don’t recall reading the Review.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Describe the general format of these particular magazines? What was your favorite section(s) of these said magazines?
Response: SHOOT! was a mix of short and long features about certain teams/individual players, interviews, cartoons, snippets of news, match facts, stats, previews, etc. ‘Focus on’ was a staple. Plus there were both colour and black-and-white photos throughout. Early on I enjoyed the action photos the most, and often snipped them out for a scrapbook. I would only ever skim-read, but as I got older I started focussing more thoroughly on the written pieces.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Was the coverage of Football mainly local British or was International Football news covered as well in a meaningful way?
Response: In SHOOT! they did have the occasional round-up of news from clubs abroad – a devoted page, perhaps - but to be honest, I wasn’t that interested in it. Foreign football really was a mystery back then (early / mid-70s). As a young fan you had very limited knowledge about the make-up of club sides from other countries or international sides outside of the British Isles. When you watched, say, the World Cup, you really went into it with your eyes shut. Personally, that ignorance only made the game more blissful for me.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: In general on a typical newsstand, how many choices were available for reading Football?
Response: In my experience, it was limited to SHOOT! and GOAL. The latter had been launched on the 16th August 1968 (my later father’s 32nd birthday, coincidentally), and SHOOT! followed a year later. SHOOT! was far more children-friendly in its approach, whereas GOAL was written by actual journalists and took a more in-depth and ‘adult’ look at the game. Charles Buchan's Football Monthly Digest existed but I wasn’t aware of it. In 1974 that closed and became known simply as "Football" magazine. In the summer of ‘74 Goal also was officially incorporated into SHOOT! So the reading options became even less. Towards the end of the decade there was Football Handbook (a monthly rather than weekly publication), which I used to get a copy of, but SHOOT! was always my go-to magazine. I have to add, though, that I also read comics like Tiger and Scorcher, and then Roy of the Rovers, both of which covered not just football but a variety of sports.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Do you remember foreign Football publications at your newsstands as well? If so did you read any?
Response: If there were any, I never saw them.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: I will ask this from everyone, one of my best memories as a young football fan was the anticipation of the day when new issues were available on newsstands. It was a weekly ritual that would stay with me for decades. In your own words, can you explain your memories of these days?
Response: I used to get SHOOT! delivered from the local newsagents. I am reliably informed by Greg Lansdowne @Panini_book that when it first launched SHOOT! came out on Monday. By December 1969 it was then switched to Friday. At some point it then moved to a Thursday delivery, which is my memory of it. As a young child, when you had very few possessions or spending power, knowing that once a week you were guaranteed this glossy-covered paper gift was wonderfully thrilling and comforting, too. The moment of expectation, waiting for the evening paper (in my case, a large Hull Daily Mail) to be poked through the letterbox bulked out by your magazine, or to land on the porch mat with a hefty thud was a sensation I’ll never forget.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Did you enjoy your magazines for the scores/league tables, etc or did you prefer the writing? Or was there an evolution as when you aged you started to appreciate the deep written analysis more?
Response: As I said before, there was a gradual evolution. But, even then, I would usually check out the images first. That said, I do recall when Andy Gray (of the team I supported, Aston Villa) became a regular columnist in SHOOT! I was always extremely keen to read what he had to say, so would be drawn straightaway to that.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: How has the quality of your favorite magazines changed (for better or worse over the years)?
Response: Not a question I can answer. I stopped buying football magazines in my late teens. A long time ago now!
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Looking back what was the best era for your favorite magazines?
Response: I’m bound to say the 1970s/early 80s – more specifically, 1972-82, when my passion for the game was at its height.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: The daily newspapers play a big part in the coverage of the game. Can you compare these daily papers to the weekly/monthly magazines?
Response: My dad used to get the Daily Express every morning. As far as its football coverage was concerned, it was chiefly transfer news/gossip and match reports from the day/night before. That obviously contrasted fairly sharply with the weekly magazines.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Has your taste in magazines changed over the years or do you still read your favorite magazines?
Response: See my previous answers.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Looking back, do you feel these magazines kept you sufficiently informed about the events of the game as a whole?
Response: Yes, I do. I’m sure there were times when I did feel frustrations about being kept in the dark, but generally I was content. My enjoyment of the game wouldn’t have been increased by ‘knowing’ more about it through the written word. I was always more of a watcher and listener, anyway.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Did your interest in reading magazines wane with the advent of Internet and 24 Hour Sports Television channels or are you as interested as ever in reading?
Response: I stopped reading magazines long before then. For many years after my magazine-buying days ended, I would still read about the game in a Saturday and sometimes Sunday paper, but even that gradually decreased and then stopped altogether. I will now occasionally go to an online piece that’s somehow come to my attention, but only if it’s about the game from the distant past.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Are there publications that have since been defunct that you miss?
Response: No. I do slightly regret, however, no longer having the 100s of copies of SHOOT! that I once owned and kept in a wooden box beneath my bed. I either gave them away to a younger cousin, or they were donated to a local children’s home. I’d probably devour them with even more zeal these days if I still had them!
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Getting back to my earlier question about anticipating the release of magazines. Given that now many receive their magazines on PDF, do you feel that a level of excitement has been lost as a result?
Response: Having an actual magazine in paper form was a very sensual experience. It wasn’t just a feast for the eyes, but something tangible you could feel between your fingers. The newness of the pages had a certain smell. Even a sound as your turned over those pages. That experience can never be replicated by scrolling up and down on a screen.
Soccernostalgia/@1888Letter Question: Once again thank you for taking the time in participating in this project.