The first August issue of Shoot included the league ladders for the English Division One and the Scottish Premier League. Each tab showed the name of the club in the two principal team colours with the name of their ground below. The tabs slipped into slots so that you had a league table running from top to bottom. As league positions changed from week to week, you took the tabs out and put the teams in their new slots. The first month of the season was hard work; clubs could go from top to mid-table with one defeat, but as the league settled down the tabs were rarely shuffled more than a few places. It took a few weeks to collect the tabs for all four English and three Scottish divisions. Once I had them all, I made my own Highland League Ladders out of a shoebox. I wrote out the names of the 16 clubs and the grounds they play at on the box, cut them out with scissors and then put slits into the lid of the box for the tabs to slip into.
Apart from these free gifts, the best thing in Shoot was the interviews with the players:
Who would you take on a date? Victoria Principal.
Favourite food: Steak and Chips.
What car do you drive? Ford Capri.
Who would you most like to meet? The Queen.
The responses rarely varied. In each edition, players would say at least fifty percent of the above. Steak, with its protein, was considered good strong food for footballers in the days before high carbohydrate diets. But why did so many want to meet the Queen? Were there a lot of committed monarchists among the footballing fraternity? Perhaps it was a reference to making the FA Cup final where they could shake hands with royalty. Either that or they just couldn’t be bothered to think of anything else and called last week’s featured player for the set answers. Sometimes, meeting Pele was a variation on Her Majesty. At least they could talk about football. What would they say to the Queen? The conversation might go something like this:
Queen Elizabeth II: More tea, Kenneth?
King Kenny: No thanks, Ma’m. I’ve had two cups awready. If I have any more I’ll hae tae go for a slash.
Queenie: How quaint, Kenneth. So do tell me, have you won many cups of the non-China variety?
KK: Aye, a few.
Queenie: And scored a lot of goals?
KK: I have.
Queenie: How wonderful. Another scone?
KK: Dinnae mind if I do.
Queenie: It was such a disappointing World Cup, wasn’t it? Too little, too late. I felt terribly sorry for Ally McLeod. Such a nice man too.
KK: Nightmare. But I’ve got a lot tae look forward tae wi Liverpool the now. We’ll be defendin the European Cup and we have tae try tae wrestle the Championship back fae Forest. That’s no gonnae be easy.
Queenie: Any up and coming talent the Dukie and I should look out for?
KK: My teammate Alan Hansen. And there’s a young laddie fae Breogan I met last week. Nice first touch. He’s wan for the future…
Once the league ladders were sorted, I was free to choose between Shoot and Scoop depending upon which magazine had the more interesting material on any given week. The best thing about Scoop was an imaginary British superleague featuring real players in regional teams: London, North West, Midlands and so on. I followed the results of Glasgow Wanderers; a combination of Rangers and Celtic stars with Alan Rough of Partick Thistle thrown in for good measure. Supposedly the information was fed into a computer but it may have been dreamt up by a couple of guys drinking beer in an office somewhere. Nonetheless, I looked forward to reading about these imaginary games and went along with Mam to the newsagents on Thursdays to pick up the comics. Before we were out of the shop, I turned to my favourite page: Glasgow Wanderers 1 North West 1. Not a bad result. North West were a good side with players from the Liverpool and Manchester clubs. There was a short match report along with the league table and Wanderers were usually near the top. In retrospect, this was a forerunner to Fantasy Football. I’ve never seen the attraction of it. The beautiful game is full of fantasy anyway and keeps us young at heart.
Excerpt from the novel Countries of the World by Steven Porter ©2010