Once upon a time, Christmas day fell every week. Every Thursday to be exact, with the arrival on the kitchen table of Roy of the Rovers, Shoot! and Farmers Weekly. The holy triumvirate.
I wasn’t so fussed about Farmers Weekly to be honest. But Roy of the Rovers and Shoot! which my dad brought back from Macari’s newsagent in Forfar helped stoke a young football-obsessed boy’s dreams into a burning flame – to paraphrase a line from a certain Michael Marra song.
It’s now 50 years since Shoot! first emerged on the newsstands. That was three years after England won the World Cup and two after Celtic became the first British team to lift the European Cup. Frighteningly, it’s now ten since I remember writing about the magazine’s 40th anniversary and 11 years since it stopped coming out at all. Really, the end arrived as long ago as 2001 when it stopped being published on a weekly basis.
Shoot! carries on in the form of a website that sadly does nothing to augment its memory. A recently published annual, to mark the half century anniversary, does do it justice for the most part and even includes some of the moments those involved might have wished to forget but which are reflective of the times.
A feature headlined “The Black Explosion” deals with the impact black players are having on the game and includes Orient manager Jimmy Bloomfield’s take on things: “They have faults – but no more or less than white players. They have a co-ordination of mind and muscle which is a joy to watch.” A letter to Jimmy Greaves’ letters page – “straight shooting from Jimmy Greaves” – includes the complaint from a father that the day after having bought the new Spurs away strip for his son’s five-a-side team, he’d heard Greaves describe it as “poofy blue” on TV. “My lads are now terribly disheartened,” he reports. Greaves makes no apology, instead likening Spurs to the “chorus line of Swan Lake” and recalling his old team-mate Dave Mackay. “He’d have rolled in the mud a few times before stepping out wearing a kit like that,” he writes. Were it to exist now, it’s unlikely Shoot! would pay too much heed to Scottish football. But it did back in the day, though even then Lou Macari (no relation to a branch of Forfar newsagents) felt the need to go into bat for the game north of the Border: “If the average English fan watched a Celtic-Rangers game he’d probably never want to watch another match in England”.
Another feature invites readers to Be Scotland Manager For A Day and help Willie Ormond by naming the squad for the approaching 1974 World Cup finals. Among the choices is an up and coming star by the name of “Ken Dalglish”.
Now, of course, it would not be called Shoot! – “a word that has rung from the lips of fervent football fans ever since the first boot struck leather” an editorial in issue 1 of the eventual 1717 issues explains. It would be VAR! or Wait! or something else that sums up modern football’s struggle to adopt the technology many in the game have spent years demanding and are probably now regretting asking for.
Shoot! is definitely a reminder of more innocent times, when the gap between rich and poor clubs wasn’t quite so stark as now and English football’s top-flight was not all-consuming.
Now, where did I put those league ladders?
l 50 Years of Shoot! published by www.carltonbooks.co.uk, £18.99.