Greg Lansdowne: Football Collectors Interview
Greg Lansdowne is a leading authority on football sticker collecting in the UK, and especially the history of the iconic Panini brand. He also has a keen interest in (and an extensive collection of) football magazines, the major source of information about the game for fans growing up from the 1960s to the 80s. The ‘big two’ weekly UK publications were Shoot!, founded in 1969 and later merged with Goal, and Match – launched a decade later in 1979. Both titles continued to sell well into the Premier League era – by which time they faced competition from 90 Minutes (1990, weekly), FourFourTwo (1994, monthly) and a new monthly Goal (1995).
As an author, collector and expert, I asked Greg about football magazines and memorabilia in the pre-Internet days, and its ongoing popularity.
Which were your first football collections?
From the moment I got into football I was into football magazines and comics. I was very lucky to have generous parents so regularly bought Shoot!/Match Weekly/Roy of the Rovers from September 1979 and also dipped in and out of Tiger, Scoop and Top Soccer early on.
Did you continue to collect magazines, programmes or other memorabilia?
After making my early choices I continued to buy Shoot!, Match and Roy of the Rovers throughout the ‘80s and also began long runs of reading World Soccer and When Saturday Comes from 1986 and 1988 respectively. I bought the first issue of 90 Minutes in 1990 and never missed an issue until moving onto Goal in 1995. Again there were many others like FourFourTwo and Total Football I’d buy from time to time. I also have a very large collection of programmes – especially Arsenal – and my wife is very keen for me to downsize!
How important were the UK football magazines – primarily Match and Shoot! – for young fans growing up without the Internet in the 1980s?
They were a key part in hundreds of thousands of young football fans developing their love of football. Shoot! and Match were vastly under-rated in terms of the quality of the writing. Many writers used them as a stepping stone to long careers in national newspapers, including Christopher Davies, Bill Day, Louise Taylor and Mark Irwin. They were also brilliantly designed and stand the test of time decades later.
What were the key factors for Match and Shoot!’s success over many years?
Although primarily aimed at children, up to the point Match decided to pitch their content to a younger audience in the early ‘90s, there was still a lot of great content with high journalistic values. Obviously the use of imagery was also strong and many children would plaster their bedroom walls with posters detached from the pages of the magazines. The free gifts – especially the Panini sticker albums and League Ladders – were also highly memorable.
There were other, generally short-lived magazines, on the UK market at different points in the 70s and 80s – which of these were most significant?
Foul, in the early to mid-‘70s, was arguably the most significant as it was the forerunner to the rise of football fanzines in the mid-late ‘80s – inspiring When Saturday Comes, among others. It railed against much that they saw was wrong with the game at the time and the media coverage. Another iconic magazine linked to the fanzine movement was 90 Minutes, which started life as a serious, issue-led weekly publication. Over time it took itself a little less seriously and gave major publishers the confidence to launch monthly football magazines aimed at adults – FourFourTwo, Goal and Total Football – all of which came out within the space of 12 months in 1994 and 1995.
What is the extent of your own collection today – and are you still adding to it?
My wife wishes I was getting rid of them but I continue to add to my collection – especially with magazines from just before I started to collect in 1979. I’m more interested in getting hold of the more short-lived/unusual publications now as I’m not lacking for many issues of Shoot!/Match.
Which is the most valuable item you have – financial and/or sentimental value?
As with my first Panini album it would have to be my first issues of Shoot!/Match Weekly/Roy of the Rovers from September 1979. I remember reading them as if it was yesterday. It was a window into a world that I remain passionate about all these years later. They also inspired me to want to write about football/sport and specifically to write for magazines and matchday programmes. There’s no greater feeling to see your byline in a publication you have grown up reading.
Many thanks to Greg for taking the time to answer these questions – further information can be found on his website and he is also active on twitter. He previously contributed to the blog on the legacy of Panini stickers and his own books.