The Absolute Game Remembered – 1

December 11, 2010

(Note that this article was written and first published  in September 2009)

In the first couple of years of my previous blog I posted most of the articles I wrote for The Absolute Game (TAG) between 1988 and 2001 (omitting one or two real clunkers in the interests of good taste).

Ever since then I’ve really wanted to find the time to go back and properly review every single issue of TAG, in order to remind old timers, and alert new timers, to its modestly magnificent contribution to Scottish football and culture.

Now that I’m more or less confined to the house for a week or so, this is an opportunity for me to make a start.

TAG was the brainchild of Mad Mac, who is a regular commenter on this blog (along with his son Mad Mac 2).  In 2009, it is now virtually impossible to remember how dull the media coverage of Scottish football was pre-TAG, but Mac set out the stall with the very first editorial words in issue 1 in January 1987

Ever been bored to tears by the majority of the Scottish media’s outpourings on football? Well in our case the answer is yes, frequently, and we’ve got a sneaking suspicion that we may not be the only ones. The discerning football supporter in Scotland gets a pretty raw deal from the newspapers…………….Nobody seems inclined to look beyond the relative trivia of the day-to-day happenings at our largest clubs………………we hope that this magazine will at least provide a medium through which supporters can have arguments and debates  about some of the wider issues, as well as exchange gossip and, most importantly, have a great laugh at this sometimes farcical game“.

If that was the clarion call then it soon found its response amongst the intended target audience. If that was the the manifesto commitment, then it was fully delivered in spades over the next 60 issues. Thanks to the literally tireless efforts of Mac the fanzine flourished, particularly in unlikely outposts like Glebe Park, Brechin;  Station Park, Forfar;  Shielfield Park, Berwick; and in many other similar venues, including, of course, Boghead, Dumbarton, which was my own regular haunt.

In fact, I didn’t see TAG until issue 6 in February 1988. Another blog contributor, starpaulus, and I headed along one lunchtime to Renfield Street in Glasgow to visit the Strathclyde Programme Shop, which was situated about 4 floors up in a tenement. We knew that that shop sold football programmes which is what we went there to look at, but I knew nothing of fanzines.

As soon as I saw TAG I was hooked, and I immediately sought out the back issues that I’d missed.

So this is a review of issue 1 – and let it also serve as a plea to Mad Mac to consider having the whole thing digitised and made available on the Internet. It would be an enormous labour, but a richly rewarding resource for all former (and new) readers. There was some tremendous writing in the 60 issues, and it deserves to have a permanent electronic memorial.


First things first – obviously it’s home-produced in monochrome on A4 paper stapled at the side – so ‘Hello’ magazine it is not. But in the age of do-it-yourself fanzine production this was pretty reasonable quality production.

Let me give you an idea of the contents of this debut edition – There’s a long article by Estuardo Vasquez (real name??) entitled ‘There’s Only Ten Pat Nevins‘ (opening two sentences – “Andy Roxburgh is a nice guy. In fact when, in two years time, he gets the sack, the obituaries will no doubt say he was ‘too nice to succeed’, that good guys never win, and so on“). Estuardo then goes on to argue passionately that the ‘new realism’ whereby Scotland recognises itself as merely a very minor football nation is CRAP and that what is required is self-belief and romantic optimism – we need a goalkeeper and ten Pat Nevins, though “unfortunately, at the moment scientists can’t clone anything more complicated than frogs (even then there must be a few who can jump and head clear better than Maurice Malpas)…….

There are articles about Sponsorship (Forfar sponsored by Ramsay ladders, Dumbarton by Masonry Contracts, St Mirren by Graham’s Buses and the Strathkelvin junior league referees by The Shish Mahal Tandoori Restaurant), the 1986 World Cup (“French forward Papin blooters the ball everywhere except towards goal – does this man have Scottish ancestry ?“), Celtic v Dynamo Kiev, sub-titled ‘Get Into These Blue Bastards‘, and Rugby (why it’s pish).

Then there is the first of the type of article that came to define TAG – an affectionate portrait of one of the wee ‘diddy’ teams – in this case it was the diddiest of the diddies – Albion Rovers (“…notorious as being the worst ground in the Scottish league… easily surpassed all expectations. Make your way via the single entrance gate and a whole new world opens before you…….the grandstand, which had been closed after its roof blew off in a gale, was recently re-opened…….“).

Then Mac holds forth on synthetic pitches and the unlikely-named Wolfgang Needlematch leads us through recent developments in French football (including news that Racing Club de Paris had bought Luis Fernandez from Paris St Germain, a move so unlikely that Wolfgang’s only comparator was ‘imagine Rangers buying Mo Johnston from Celtic?’ – this while Johnston was two years away from becoming a Rangers player).

Book reviews and jokes wrap it up, including the inauguration of my favourite ‘Forgotten Ones’ series –


A superb start. But can they keep it up? Join me later (tomorrow?) for a review of TAG 2


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