If you haven’t stumbled upon ‘Got, Not Got’ yet, then you have missed out. We’d try to describe a body of work that transcends being ‘just a book’ by a considerable distance here, but we can’t do it justice.
What we did do though, is catch up with GNG authors Gary Silke and Derek Hammond for a chat this week…
What is Got, Not Got?
Gary: The subtitle sums it up very well - 'The A-Z of Lost Football Culture, Treasures and Pleasures.' You wouldn't believe how long it took us to nail that. GNG is all things to all men... as long as those men were little boys in the 60s, 70s, 80s or early 90s.
Derek: It's a book about the way it used to feel - the way it should feel - to be a football fan. There are around 250 entries, all aspects of the game which have gone missing in the past 20 or 30 years. And now we're respectfully asking the FA and the Premier League to start putting them back, thanks very much!
I can't believe I'm going to ask this *sounds cliché klaxon*, but what inspired you to put it together?
Gary: It seemed very obvious to us that it had never been done. Whenever a group of football blokes are together they eventually end up reminiscing about the game, in all its different aspects, and how it was somehow 'better' in the past.
Derek: Ultimately it was a product of our hopeless, helpless nostalgia. We wrote it to transport ourselves back to our childhoods, when we and football were both relatively innocent. And it's been wonderful to receive so much feedback from readers who have spent hours crying and laughing and pointing at the pages, telling their ever-patient wives 'I used to do that! I used to have one of them! I remember that - Willie Johnson selling a shed to a fan while taking a series of corners.' But it isn't everyone who could possibly understand. Only about 30 per cent of the adult male population of Britain...
It's enormously comprehensive, how long did it take to research?
Derek: There was no research on the entries as such. If we don't remember it, it isn't included. Then it's a case of sorting the rose-tinted memories from the facts. And the jokes.
Gary: It's difficult to put anything like an accurate date on it. We have been writing about this sort of stuff for decades. I suppose you could say we started researching when we bought our first sticker album in 1973 or first copy of Shoot magazine in 1974. It's a very blurred line between growing up with all this stuff and researching for GNG.
You've had some good news recently?
Gary: We were genuinely surprised and delighted to be nominated for the BSBA Football Book of the Year, especially as we are relatively new to producing football books. Can anyone lend Derek a dinner jacket?
Derek: I like the fact that it was a panel from the Football Writers' Association that nominated us. On first impressions, it's easy to get lost in the 1,000 images across the 224 pages, and somehow lose sight of the 80,000+ words reflecting the experiences and emotions of so many football fans, past and present. By spending so long filling the book with pictures and memorabilia, I thought there was a bit of a risk that it'd be mistaken for a picture book.
There's a lot to choose from, but what are your top 3 football related products *ever*?
Derek: The Peter Barnes Football Trainer has got to be in the Top 3 - a plastic ball on a length of elastic which you tie to the waistband of your shorts, start kicking around... and wait for your shorts to be deposited in next-door's shrubbery. That's timeless genius. And my personal holy grail is a pair of swivel boots - early 70s jobbies with a rotating turntable of studs under the ball of your foot, so you could turn on a sixpence. And, of course, break your ankle. Which is why I’ve only ever seen an advert, and never an actual pair. That was in 1971, and I’m still yearning.
Gary: I have an almost disturbing attachment to the Subbuteo TV Tower. I can still remember unwrapping it on Christmas morning and seeing that light green Subbuteo box. I love the little mini-John Motson in that set.
Do you spend entire weekends trawling through car boot sales and charity shops looking for stuff?
Gary: Yes, I have to admit we do. We have one of the biggest car boots in the region near us and usually come back with a bit of treasure.
Derek: Yes, there's loads of supporting bits and bobs in the book too, 'cos football fans don't just like football. There's loads of music, TV, films, books... and football-related stuff like car blankets and flasks; football pools adverts and Kays Catalogue pages - all building up a picture of the past, mostly via country churches' bring-and-buy sales!
Following on from that, what's the best thing you've turned up?
Gary: I recall buying two match worn Admiral Leicester City shirts. I asked the nice lady how much she wanted for them and she said: "Ten pee?" Before adding, hopefully: "Each?"
I hope they managed to stitch her arm back on.
Derek: Two 1980s synthesizers for £10 from East Farndon Village Hall. I even got Joanne the dancer/backing vocalist out of the Human League chucked in for free.
Did you ever complete a Panini sticker book?
Gary: I did quite a few in the mid-seventies. Although I got absolutely burned when I let it be known that I only needed Kevin Beattie to complete 1973-74. I had to cough up my entire swaps pile for it. I did 'Football 78' - the first Panini one - too but I think that must be the most completed one ever. Everyone had that. Even girls.
After 40 years I also managed to complete a 1972-73 album, thanks to the miracle of eBay.
Derek: No. I was always strictly a card man.
Not sure if you know this, but a huge number of schools in the UK have banned the trading of football cards on school premises. We've lost something there haven't we?
Gary: The lunatics have taken over the asylum. Bring in the European Court of Human Rights for that one.
What current products will people be dewy eyed over thirty years from now?
Gary: I'm struggling to think of anything? You can't buy Shoot or Roy of the Rovers any more. No one brings out a Sports Final newspaper edition any more. At least they have brought Subbuteo back. A pair of half neon-tangerine and half blinding-lime football boots? I doubt it.
Derek: Possibly an original snood. Already, I'm feeling nostalgic twinges for Robbie Fowler-style nostril bandages.
Who had the worst kit of all time?
Derek: The page on our blog about the Colorado Caribous got loads of hits. They were an NASL team who only survived a couple of years in the '70s - largely due to their coffee and chocolate coloured kit with a massive wild west style badge and number on the front, plus a row of leather fringes. Yee-har.
Gary: The early 90s saw a few shockers. Shrewsbury's explosion in a paint factory, Hull's tiger stripes, David Seaman's England shirt removed the dignity from being picked for your country. Didn't Bristol Rovers try and combine quarters and stripes, with hilarious consequences? I'd probably go for Birmingham City's space invaders shirt. I think they got rid of it mid-season because it was so awful.
What was the best Subbuteo kit?
Gary: Got to be Peru. With apologies to Scottish readers.
Derek: Either the Beatles from back in the day, or the streaker set produced by one of the modern specialists. A naked bloke and a naked woman. A handy addition to any subs bench.
What's next for you chaps?
Gary: Got Not Got 2 is at the development stage. So send us your stuff and ideas. We are especially after photos of you as a kid proudly wearing your beloved football kit and posing like they do in Shoot. Or photos of you meeting your footballing hero and what they said to you...
You really have to buy a copy don't you? Luckily you can, right here.