The title of Taschen’s recently released celebration of all things soccer 1970s is somewhat misleading. It’s easy to understand what the publisher is driving at by labelling their book as football’s age of innocence, it was an era when this was still the game of the working classes after all. Unburdened and unaffected by savage consumerism, over excessive ticket pricing and burgeoning pay packets for the average mercenary, football thrived as a spectator sport; escapism for the masses on a Saturday afternoon. But the 1970s may be better described as football’s golden era. A decade of sexy, a decade of bikini modelled, boutique opening, nightclubbing cool.
Spanning ten years that opened with the greatest World Cup of all time, the 1970s positively dripped with seductive hedonism and the iconic imagery that ensued meant that no other period in the sport’s history was more photogenic. In the sixties, George Best was a footballer, and a damn good one at that. His sepia tinged status as Beatle 5 was all about mop top haircuts, nicely ironed shirts and nutmegged full backs. However, by 1970, Best had transcended to a far higher plain and overshot football by a considerable distance. Also, he was in colour. The early stages of his alcoholism may have begun to take hold, but the spell he cast by just being in the proximity of a lens was unparalleled. Women wanted him, men wanted him and his move to the US confirmed his status as an international playboy.
Best wasn’t alone in the footballing beau monde as the sexual overspill from the sixties spread from music and media across the game. In Germany, the flowing locks and ‘come to bed’ demeanour of Günter Netzer captivated European schoolgirls while his performances on the pitch drew gasps of admiration from their male counterparts. Johan Cruyff was at the forefront of Total Football but just had to pop on a pair of sunglasses to achieve a level of libertine chic that the most nihilistic attendees of New York’s CBGB club could only aspire to. Franz Beckenbauer, a willing prop for many an outfitter throughout the decade, looked good, the record breaking Gerd Müller looked good, even Alan Ball in a natty neckerchief looked swish.
While the seventies was a decade of chisel cheeked fantasy heroes winking at Pan Am flight attendants, it was also a decade of superlative football on a global scale. Pelé’s 1970 all-stars, the rise of Schön’s West Germany, Revie’s Leeds, Clough’s Derby, Clough’s Forest, Shankly’s Liverpool, Paisley’s Liverpool, Cruyff’s Netherlands, the glittering NASL and the emergence of Platini and El Diego. Expertly curated by Reuel Golden, The Age Of Innocence captures all of these and many more in 300 pages of jaw slackening magnificence. The photographs alone, many of which you won’t have seen before, make this truly majestic beast of a tome a worthy purchase, but interjecting narrative from a supporting cast including Brian Glanville and Barney Ronay ensures that this book achieves essential status.
The Age Of Innocence is a catalogue of iconic imagery, a visual record of a time when football’s cup brimmed and overflowed and a wonderful reflection of an enthralling era. If you already own a copy, you’ll know how important this book is. You’d ensure it was retrieved from a house fire long before more trivial possessions were rescued, such as your children, perhaps. The 1970’s may have been an age of innocence, but football never looked more alluring.