For this interview, I look back at the history of English Football (Soccer) Magazines.
The Blog written Interview will be with a video link companion.
The Interviewee is:
English Author, Mr. Greg Lansdowne
Mr. Lansdowne is the author of ‘Stuck on You: The Rise & Fall…& Rise of Panini Stickers’ (2015)
‘Panini Football Stickers: The Official Celebration: A Nostalgic Journey Through the World of Panini’ (2022)
‘Stuck on You: The Rise & Fall…& Rise of Panini Stickers’ was made into an ITV docuuentary.
Mr. Greg Lansdowne’s contact info:
Link to books:
My contact information:
on twitter @sp1873 and on facebook under Soccernostalgia.
Soccernostalgia Question: Would you please introduce yourself and your trajectory into Football?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: My name is Greg Lansdowne, I grew up in, and still live in, Essex. As the son and brother of professional footballers I grew up in a football family. From the age of five I was immersed in the game and still remember my first copies of Shoot! and Match in 1979 as well as my first Panini football sticker album the same year.
My first football writing experience came with fanzines of the late 1980s/early 1990s and then I became a football researcher from the mid-1990s (for Swedish TV and then the Leicester University Football Research Centre). From there I became a football writer from the late 1990s (initially for websites such as Sportal, onefootball.com and Umbro.com and then more in print) before moving into primarily working in cricket for a decade from 2003. In 2014 I was commissioned to write ‘Stuck On You – The Rise & Fall…& Rise of Panini Stickers’ and a new career as a football nostalgia writer was born!
Soccernostalgia Question: Everyone knows you as the Author of the Panini Related Books. Those who follow you online also know you for your impressive collection of English Football magazines. Please discuss your passion and how you amassed such a collection?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: As I mentioned above, I still remember buying my first copies of Shoot!/Match/Roy of the Rovers in 1979 – which was a real boom time for football publications over here in the UK. I didn’t get every single one each week (my parents didn’t have that much money!) but I would also dip in and out of magazines/comic such as Top Soccer, Football Weekly News, Scoop, Tiger, Soccer Monthly, Football Handbook and Football Monthly. I was addicted and have remained in love with print ever since. Although I am running out of space I have never thrown away any of my football magazines/comics/programmes.
Soccernostalgia Question: Most English Football fans our age routinely recall reading ‘Shoot’ and ‘Match’ as their favourite magazines in their formative years. Can you describe the format of these magazines and why do you think yourself and other young football fans gravitated towards these two?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: They were the two that had the most budget thrown at them by two rival publishers (IPC and Emap) fighting for supremacy on the weekly magazine market – at a time when weeklies were far more relevant than they are in the digital age. Most importantly they both had outstanding writers, many of whom went on to long careers writing for national newspapers (Christopher Davies, Bill Day, Mark Irwin, Louise Taylor are just four of many). If you look back on both Shoot! and Match from the point Match came into the market (1979) both were far more grown-up than people give them credit for. The length of the articles, big-name interviewees and quality of content stands the test of time in both. As time went on they both sought to cater for younger age groups and it was ultimately Match that did that better.
Photo From: Shoot, May 31, 1975
Photo From: Match, September 16, 1989
Soccernostalgia Question: There was ‘Goal’, a weekly magazine in the 60s and 70s. How did it compare with Shoot/Match and why did it not last?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Goal came just before Shoot! and was a more grown-up version of Shoot!, done by the same publisher (IPC). Once Shoot! arrived, sales of Goal dropped and there ultimately wasn’t a need to have two weeklies covering similar ground. As a result Goal was merged with Shoot! in 1974.
Photo From: Goal, Issue 216, October 21, 1972
Soccernostalgia Question: Do you remember other magazines in the 70-80s that deserved better recognition but could not compete with Shoot/Match? (There are some I remember Soccer Monthly, Football Monthly, etc)
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: They all had something of merit but there were just too many of them to all be successful. It should be remembered English football was in a bit of a slump in terms of general popularity in the late 70s/early 80s due to hooliganism and some of the uninspired football on the pitch (despite English clubs dominating the European Cup). Soccer Monthly and Top Soccer were both done by the same publisher as Shoot! (IPC). Top Soccer was a weekly aimed at a slightly younger audience to Shoot! and it was launched in the same month as Match Weekly and Football Weekly News (September 1979). Not surprisingly Top Soccer was gone by January 1980 and Football Weekly News went the following year. Soccer Monthly had some really good long-form articles but that had also gone by the end of 1980 as it just would have made sense to pool all the resources into the hugely successful Shoot!
Photo From: Football Monthly, August 1980
Photo From: Soccer Monthly, January 1979
Soccernostalgia Question: In the pre-internet days, do you think the likes of Shoot/Match kept you fairly informed about the game?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: More than fairly well-informed – they were essential reading. Newspapers invariably only covered football over two or three pages at the time so the likes of Shoot! and Match were a lifeblood for young fans (and even older fans) wanting to know more about the game.
Photo From: Shoot, March 26, 1994
Soccernostalgia Question: As Shoot/Match were catered to younger fans, what magazines (if any) did older fans read?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: From the late 1970s through the 1980s at various times there would have been Football Weekly News, Soccer Monthly, Football Monthly, Football Today and World Soccer (the one that has endured the longest). All of them had excellent writers, covering aspects of the game that were generally under-served at the time. These days every minutiae is analysed to death – not in those days.
Photo From: Match, February 1995
Soccernostalgia Question: In the 1990s, there seemed to be a proliferation of Soccer magazines. Was this a direct result of Italia’90 and the launch of Premier League or were there other factors?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Both Italia 90 and the Premier League encouraged publishers to enter the football sector (or grow within it) as had been the case after England won the World Cup in 1966. 90 Minutes came just before Italia 90, along with some shorter-lived titles (a different Football Weekly News, Inside Football and Free Kick). At its launch, 90 Minutes was a bit of an antidote to Shoot! and Match, both of which were targeting increasingly younger audiences. It even dubbed itself ‘The Serious Football Magazine’ at the start. That eventually changed and it became less of a campaigning publication, much more light-hearted.
Once it became clear the Premier League was a big hit, publishers couldn’t wait to launch magazines – FourFourTwo in 1994, Goal and Total Football in 1995, Match of the Day (initially a weekly) in 1996. FourFourTwo was the only one that had much longevity in terms of the adult football magazine market, though Match of the Day is now a successful magazine aimed at kids.
Soccernostalgia Question: There was a weekly called ‘90 minutes’ in the 90s. How did it compare to Shoot/Match in terms of writing and format/content?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: It began life as ‘The Serious Football Magazine’ (emphasising it was like nothing else in the weekly football magazine market) but then changed to being the magazine that doesn’t take football that seriously. It was still more grown-up than Shoot! and Match but the contrast between the first year or so of 90 Minutes and what came after is massive.
Photo From: 90 minutes, March 12, 1994
Soccernostalgia Question: ‘Four Four Two’ was launched in 1994. Was it self-evident that it would be successful and have such an impact?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: The adult football magazine market wasn’t very big before FourFourTwo (certainly not compared to the children’s football magazine/comic sector) so it certainly wasn’t clear at the time that it would be a success. They managed to secure a number of big-name cover stars early on and it then became obvious from early on that a magazine like FourFourTwo was what adult fans had been long waiting for. Their success meant rival publishers had to respond (which they did 12 months later with Goal and Total Football).
Photo From: Four Four Two, Issue 6, February 1995
Soccernostalgia Question: What was ‘Four Four Two’’s appeal in terms of its format?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: It provided in-depth interviews with players at a time when they didn’t really exist in newspapers or other magazines. World Soccer was probably a bit heavy for many fans but FourFourTwo managed to find a balance between brevity and accessibility.
Soccernostalgia Question: One of my favourite magazines of the 90s was ‘Goal’ (not to be confused with the weekly 60s-70s version). What are your memories of it?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Yes, it was also my favourite monthly of the era (though all of them had good points). I don’t think Goal paled in comparison to FourFourTwo but it probably didn’t last as long because there were too many monthlies by the time it closed in 1998 (Football Monthly had also made a comeback by then and don’t forget the likes of World Soccer and When Saturday Comes were established titles). FourFourTwo had the advantage of having been first to market and they were the only one that stayed the course.
Soccernostalgia Question: Was ‘Goal’ regarded as a knock-off of ‘Four Four Two’ or was it seen as a decent magazine in its own right?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: See above.
It was definitely a quality magazine – started by many of the team responsible for the rise of 90 Minutes. The peak of football magazine sales was over by 1998 with the internet starting to become more prominent – it was purely circumstances that meant it didn’t survive, certainly not the quality.
Photo From: Goal, Issue 1, October 1995
Soccernostalgia Question: Another magazine similar in format to ‘FF2’ was ‘Total Football’. What are your thoughts on that magazine and was that also regarded as a ‘FF2’ Knock-off?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Of the football magazines launched in the mid-90s, Total Football was the one that most wanted to tap into the ‘lad’ culture of Loaded (and those that then attempted to occupy the same space). Total Football was of its time; there will be elements that probably don’t sit well now but you can say that about a lot of popular culture from times gone by. As with the other football monthlies of the time, there was still a lot of good content in Total Football, produced by top writers.
Photo From: Total Football, June 2001
Soccernostalgia Question: Around 1995, I bought a few copies of a new magazine called ‘The Game’. The format was like a cross between ‘FF2’ and Shoot/Match. What are your memories of its trajectory?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: I’m struggling to recall that one – can you please send me an image of the cover to remind me?
Photo From: The Game, August 1995
Soccernostalgia Question: Why has ‘FF2’ lasted as long as it has while the likes of Goal/Total Football/The Game and others folded within a few years?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Being first to market definitely helped but it still had to maintain a certain quality and the ability to secure big name interviews for stand-out covers. Even all these years later they remain the football magazine that gets the biggest names to be interviewed in it.
Photo From: Four Four Two, Issue 119, July 2004
Soccernostalgia Question: Were there other magazines that most would not be aware of but deserve some recognition?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: I thought Soccer International (which started and finished in 1984) had a lot of potential. It had all the elements that other magazines used to become successful years later – in-depth features, fusing football with fashion and music – but it was ahead of its time. Similarly, Action Replay – which focused on retro football – was essentially Backpass done a decade earlier.
Soccernostalgia Question: Let’s shift to International coverage, ‘World Soccer’ was and is the benchmark in terms of journalism and coverage of the international game. As someone living in USA, I can attest to the depth of coverage in the pre-internet days. Can you describe your own experience with the magazine?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: I first bought it on a regular basis from 1985 and have barely missed a copy since. I have also been collecting copies from before my time of reading World Soccer so I have a vast collection of that title. It is invaluable for research purposes – especially from a time when there was little coverage of football outside of one’s own country. Its relevance has decreased due to the internet (you don’t have to wait a month for a round-up of what’s gone on in other countries anymore) but it still has great writers and the ability to educate and enlighten while most of the content online doesn’t.
Photo From: World Soccer, July 1966
Soccernostalgia Question: When I speak to some British football fans, I get the feeling they mostly stuck with Shoot/Match and occasionally read World Soccer. Is this a true depiction?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Shoot! dominated the 1970s, before it got a credible rival in Match throughout the 1980s, while 90 Minutes and FourFourTwo both had their moments of setting the agenda during the 1990s. World Soccer has always served a niche market but still a sizeable niche – in fact more people are interested in global football in the UK now than ever. It’s just many prefer the internet to sate their appetite.
Soccernostalgia Question: As a follow -up there is the stereotype of insular characteristic of football in England. Was that reflected in the description in the previous question?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: See above
Soccernostalgia Question: Apart from World Soccer, were there any international Football magazines/outlets?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: Club Europe in the mid-late 1990s (from one of the original editors of 90 Minutes, Dan Goldstein) has probably been the biggest direct competition World Soccer has faced over the years. Due to the niche interest (certainly at the time) there was never really going to be room for both of them – especially as the more UK-focused football monthlies were also starting to cover the game outside Britain to a greater extent. There has also been a Champions League magazine but that focuses on one tournament – not quite the same as having a commitment to ‘World Soccer’.
Photo From: World Soccer, October 1997
Soccernostalgia Question: Do you remember other magazines from the 80s and 90s that folded that you liked (as for myself, I already mentioned Goal)?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: All of those mentioned above had their merits. Of the publications that only lasted a few years (or less) I would say Goal. Most of my favourites stood the test of time.
Soccernostalgia Question: Given the ubiquitous nature of football in Social Media, TV, Internet, etc, was it inevitable that magazines would lose their lustre?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: It was inevitable there couldn’t be as many – certainly not as many as there were from the mid-90s for a few years after. But there remains a demand for a select group of good quality adult football monthlies covering different aspects of the game (FourFourTwo/When Saturday Comes/Backpass/World Soccer/She Kicks). Long may it continue.
Soccernostalgia Question: Has football writing in magazines (442 or others) improved or gotten worse over the years?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: A lot of the top magazine writers of times gone by have now moved on to the newspapers and/or the internet while many of the football magazines that do survive are unable to pay enough to attract the very best (that’s a general issue for magazines though, rather than just in football). Nonetheless the magazines still out there are doing a good job and providing a service to their particular market.
Soccernostalgia Question: As a follow-up how was writing different in 80-90s compared to today?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: There is less need for straight news in publications these days – it’s all out there online and has been for days/weeks/months. The point of magazines is to move a story on and/or give us something we can’t already get online. That remains eminently possible. Furthermore, a long-form feature looks far more attractive – and is much easier to read – in print form. And that will never change.
Soccernostalgia Question: On a personal level, during which years did you enjoy reading Football magazines the most. The formative years when you are becoming a fan or as an adult, when you are more knowledgeable?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: My period of learning about the game from scratch – from 1979 onwards – can never be beaten. I was also lucky to have such publications as Shoot!, Match and Roy of the Rovers to accompany me on that journey from the start; then World Soccer, When Saturday Comes and 90 Minutes later on (not to mention many many more). These magazines inspired me to become a writer and the satisfaction of seeing my name attached to an article in print still generates the ultimate buzz, career-wise.
Soccernostalgia Question: In closing, in England, which decade was the halcyonic days of Football magazines?
Mr. Greg Lansdowne Response: I am sure it will differ depending on who you ask. Many will choose the era from their childhood because these publications were a journey of discovery into the beautiful game. Although I wasn’t born then, I can imagine the 1960s was exciting – especially after the World Cup when there were a number of publications by the end of the 1960s (Football Monthly, Soccer Star, Jimmy Hill’s Football Weekly, Goal, World Soccer). The 1970s and 1980s were mainly about Shoot! and Match when it came to magazines but those decades also coincided with the golden periods of Roy of the Rovers and Tiger comics. But if I had to choose one decade it would probably be the 1990s. Match and Shoot covered the younger market; 90 Minutes came and went in a blaze of glory; fanzines were at their height; the adult monthly sector exploded. In the end it imploded but it was fun while it lasted!
1-Please refer to the video link at the top of this blog upload for the interview.
Photo From: BBC Match of the Day-June 1998