Football’s guilty pleasures

Danny Last, from the blog European Football Weekends talks about his footballing guilty pleasures.

A guilty pleasure is something one enjoys and considers pleasurable despite feeling a trifle of guilt for doing so. Should we fear others discovering our lowbrow fascination with Eastern European floodlights and Real Zaragoza’s “deepest goal nets in Europe” or is that “guilt” too much to bear!?

Well, if you promise not to tell, I’ll share some of football’s guilty pleasures that we’ve been discussing on European Football Weekends lately. We’ll kick off with a football shall we? The Stuart Surridge red and white panelled ball favoured by Ipswich Town and Norwich City in the 80’s was a rare thing of real beauty. Of course the Adidas Tango was rightly lauded but the Surridge had me mesmerized. It must have been Justin Fashanu’s goal of the season for Norwich against Liverpool in 1980 that set that particular ball rolling. I had an inferior plastic version of it that that used to sting like anything on a cold day up the rec when smacked into your legs.

And now for the classified (why classified I wonder?) football results read by James Alexander Gordon. James = genius. For the full effect one had to listen on the radio – preferably on a railway platform hundreds of miles from home. The way his voice went up to signal a surprising away win (Leeds United 2 BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION 3) , down in disapproving fashion for a careless 3 points tossed away (Bradford City 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 0) or the undisguised glee at the 3 points on his pools coupon afforded by Barnsley 2 Brighton & Hove Albion 2 was something to behold.

Wading through muddy pitches whilst listening to the theme tunes to Sportsnight and the Radio 2 Sport on 2 Theme tune we find ourselves at another guilty pleasure – Shoot Magazine’s (or was it Match? probably both) League ladders. Wealdstone fan JohnathanTaffel tells me they weren’t ideal when you supported a non-league team. So he simply turned the tabs around and wrote the names of the Southern League teams on the back.

Panini stickers. Of course Panini stickers. In our youth, the Italian word “Panini” meant more to us than Rossi or Tardelli. Walking around playgrounds or standing outside Spar with our pile of unwanted stickers of Coventry’s Mick Coop – resplendent in his chocolate brown kit – in a vague hope of finding that illusive shiny Liverpool badge and the second half of the Swansea City team sticker to complete our album.

Ski hats anyone? Why exactly did these go out of fashion as they were by a country mile the best ever genre of football headwear. Immediately after exiting club shop the excited buyer would carefully separate the twin peaks (nod to Kyle MacLachlan) to obtain the pleasing triangle effect . Wasn’t there some minor obsession with the Scottish Premier around this time? Might have been something to do with Hammers legend and darling of page 3 girls everywhere Frank McAvennie? Whatever it was it heralded the arrival of “half and halfers”.

I blame the Goldstone Ground, Brighton for my mildly disturbing infatuation with floodlights. I could see those enormous pylons from miles away as my Dad drove down the Old Shoreham Road to see the Brighton aces. I’d stand on another guilty pleasure “The milk crate” in the chicken run whilst he sipped on a cheeky beer, which he’d strategically placed in said crate without the knowledge of Mum. Before Multimap and Internet route planners. The only way to sniff a ground out from afar was to squash your nose up against at train window on the approach to Wolverhampton and keep ’em peeled for those floodlights which were the size of a bus and fantastically pleasing on the eye. New stadiums have done away with towering floodlights.

Why new sets of goal posts no longer incorporate the “stanchion” is a mystery to me. Who could forget Trevor Brooking’s famous goal against Hungary in which the ball got lodged in the stanchion. Who doesn’t immediately contemplate the amount of billowing one could produce upon seeing a new goal net? Those dreadful tight goal nets at The Dell, Southampton aesthetically ruined many a Matt Le Tisser wonder-strike. The ball would sometimes ping straight back out of said saving the goalkeeper the indignity of arching his back in front of the masses of fans wheeling down the terracing in cartwheels of delight.

The smell of cigars wafting across the posh seats, footballers with beards and big hair, silk scarves, 8 panel beanie hats, the orange ball and the artistic results of a groundsman’s mower. These are a few of the umpty thrumpty guilty pleasures of football and we haven’t even started on Subbuteo accessories and those Striker figures whose heads we used to pound down in the vague hope of catapulting one in the top corner. I’m off up to the loft to fetch my Panini Albums down – got any swaps?

You can read more of Danny’s work at

Beckham eager for his return to Old Trafford
Give us back our Orange Ball!