The Absolute Game Remembered – 10

January 28, 2011

Top 10

The cover price has increased to 50p, but there’s a letter from Mrs G Peabody from Fochabers (aka Mad Mac) saying, “I think in fact that TAG is now even better value for money than ever. and have no hesitation in enclosing a big cheque to renew my subscription“.

STV’s Controller of Sport, unlike his counterpart at the BBC, responds to the criticisms of the coverage of Scottish football made in TAG 8.

TAG wildly celebrates Scotland’s World Cup qualifier win against Norway in Oslo (“Oh shit, Roxburgh’s job is safe for another few months“).

Everything you wanted to know about the Bundesliga and the rest of German football but were afraid to ask is covered in a 2 page special.

The Tannadice terrors get a run out, and there’s a review of  ‘that book’ (ie the one that’s obliquely referred to on the front page of this edition – ie Bill Murray’s 100 Years of the Old Firm, a book notorious for the atrocious gaffe on its own front page – for further details see (in fact, this link won’t take you anywhere – see instead the very end of this article ).

Crumbling football grounds are investigated by Mad Mac, unsurprisingly illustrated by pics of East Stirling’s Shires Park and Ochilview, Stenhousemuir.

jstmThere’s a look at ‘soccer casuals’ – not all they’re cracked up to be – Aberdeen casuals at Ibrox spend the second half crapping themselves as to how they get back to their bus….”one spindly youth turned to another and saidGod I hope Aberdeen don’t score – they (ie the Ibrox Bears) will be mad

There’s a lengthy article about Yugoslavian football ahead of Scotland’s world cup ties with that country (and, of course, 20 years later there is no such thing as Yugoslavian football because there is no such thing as Yugoslavia).

There’s more on Dutch football, and Mad Mac waxes lyrical on his beloved St Johnstone who are about to depart from their traditional home at Muirton Park for pastures new (Starpaulus and I actually went to Perth for the last ever game at Muirton, though I cannot recall who the opposition were or what the score was).

There’s the fanzine round-up and reviews of the Maurice Johnston story (yet to take its most sensational turn) and the Scottish Football League review.

As for my own contribution, well, you’ll remember my vow after the Dumbarton article that I would never write another thing – well here it is – my contribution to TAG 10 – to read it now makes me cringe with embarrassment, but in fairness, I could not have anticipated just exactly how quickly computer technology would move on – the height of sophistication when I wrote this article was the much-missed Sinclair Spectrum, bristling with 48 Kilobytes of Random Access Memory –



The fevered world of the computer whizz kid may seem to be a million miles away from your average wind-swept and rain-lashed terracing. Football junkies can however continue to thrill to the heady excitement of big-time soccer action at any time of day or night simply by investing in one of Clive Sinclair’s magic boxes and the appropriate “software.”

In the privacy of your own bedroom you can live out the agony and ecstasy of the world’s greatest game, all courtesy of the ubiquitous micro-chip. This article is by no means a “Which” type consumer guide to the football games available as I can’t claim to have road-tested any more than a handful of them. The software manufacturers were quick to exploit the seemingly insatiable appetite of some people (i. e. you and me) for all things connected to football. Consequently there are quite a large number of games on football on the market. They seem to fall into 2 categories. On the one hand there’s the action type game where you control the movements of graphically represented players on the screen via the computer keyboard or the inappropriately named and slightly risque sounding “Joystick”. Alternatively, there’s the “adventure” type game where you are cast in the role of team manager and become embroiled in the murky world of team selection, transfer negotiations etc.


Personally, I’m not too keen on the action type game, mainly because, if you haven’t got a joystick, it requires the type of manual dexterity more usually associated with performing open-heart surgery. It your brain and your fingers are not syncromeshed, then you are likely to become an impotent spectator as your opponent runs up a cricket score.

One such game is “Match Day 2″ which purports to be “the best football action game for micros”. I haven’t played this game but I’m intrigued by the advertising for it which claims that “Just like the real game, players react against each other with deflections, volley shots and sneak passes.” Has this been translated from an ancient Chinese dialect or and I just going to the wrong matches? It’s certainly quite some time since I saw any of my team’s players reacting against anybody with a sneak pass. The advertisement also claims that the game is a “startling simulation that allows players to make headers, back heel the ball, and even barge opposing players.” The programmers must’ve been watching Miller and McLeish in action. If you’re into sneak passes and barging opposing players then this is the game for you.

Of the adventure type games one that’s worth a look at “Brian Clough’s Football Fortunes“. Quite what Brian (England will win and I fancy young Webb to get a goal) Clough has to do with it, other than presumably receiving a large cheque for having his name associated with it, is difficult to fathom. It could equally well be named “Ally McLeod’s Football Fortunes” though perhaps at the risk of losing a certain something in consumer appeal.

A monopoly-type board is provided with the game and there are player cards supplied, each of which has the name of a well-known player on it, together with a star-rating of between 1 and 5. The star-ratings are slightly eccentric and seem to have been allocated by Jimmy Hill. For example, Kenny Samson and Gary Stevens both inexplicably attract a rating of 5 while Alan Hansen merits only 4 and David Neary (sic) rates a measly 3. Obviously the higher your combined ratings, the more powerful your team is. In “real life” which forward line would you choose -MARK HATELY (3), KERRY DIXON (4) and MARK HUGHES (5) – (TOTAL 12), or PAUL STURROCK (3), NIGEL CLOUGH (2) and JOHN BARNES (3) – (TOTAL 8).

It would be far too boring to further explain the mechanics of this game, but one feature which is quite entertaining and realistic is the transfer market. The more of your mates who are playing, the better it is. Each of you has control of a separate team and when a high rated player comes up for sale there is a frenetic scramble to try and buy him. This takes the form of an auction and the transfer price quickly becomes inflated beyond all common sense. This is particularly so if you are all fuelled by a few pints of, for example, McEwens Lager. Eventually, all the bidders drop out bar one. After the excitement of the auction you experience a realistically sickening sensation when you realise that you’ve just parted with £1.5million for, say, Richard Gough. Thereafter, when you lose the very next game it makes you feel like kicking the T.V. set.

One irritating flaw in “Football Fortunes” is that there is no relegation from the league as a punishment for making an utter bollocks of the manager’s job. You can cheerfully be cuffed 5 or 6 nothing every game secure in the knowledge that you will get another shot next season. To that extent it’s a bit like our own Division 2. This can be contrasted with another similar game – “Football Manager” where you can move from the English 4th to the English 1st division and back again just like Swansea City or Wolves. In both “Football Fortunes” and “Football Manager” the weekly league results are presented on your T.V. screen in the style of the B.B.C. teleprinter. This loses something when not accompanied by David Coleman’s ever-interesting interjections along the lines of “That’s Aldershot’s seventeenth away match without a win of any kind“.

Talking of the B.B.C. results service, how many West of Scotland readers have chuckled along while listening to Paul Cooney reading the results on Radio Clyde straight off his portable T.V. screen switched to B.B.C? Although Paul tries manfully to pretend that this is Clyde’s own exclusive service, he gives the game away when he goes too fast and finishes English Division 3 ten seconds or so before the telly man. The bold Paul then has to indulge in Italian-like time – wasting tactics by droning on about “That’s an interesting result there for Rochdale. A 1-1 draw at Stockport. Never an easy place to pick up league points. Em, Derek Parlane’s old team of course. Derek’ll no doubt be listening to Radio Clyde’s results service. So, there you are Derek, a good point for your old team. Or maybe it wasn’t Rochdale Derek played for. He did play for quite a few clubs down that way, but maybe Rochdale wasn’t one of them. Anyway, onto English League Division 4…….

An amusing feature of some of the computer games is the facility to alter the names of the teams and/ or players supplied by the computer. Thus you can pilot Albion Rovers to the Premier League Championship and on to eternal glory by defeating Juventus to lift the European Cup. Alternatively, you can insert your own name as Liverpool’s free scoring number 9 shirt.

The main problem with computer games is of course that only so much information can be included on the software tape. I’ve only ever played these games on a 48K machine. No doubt the games could be more sophisticated on larger computers. I’m sure there must be some way of incorporating such refinements as ‘ hotly disputed penalties, red cards, punch-ups in the dressing room, and the odd Sheriff Court appearance



At lunch-time in the office today we were talking about the Old Firm, and I mentioned Bill Murray’s 1988 book ‘Glasgow’s Giants – 100 years of the Old Firm‘. I promised Bill and Dougie that I would hunt it out tonight – well I’ve searched high and low but I cannot find it, which is bloody annoying because the point I was making about it concerned the front cover of the book.

But, never fear, I found the TAG review from TAG 10, October 1988, and although TAG was in monochrome, and the picture was a small one, it will admirably serve the purpose – so here is a black and white version of the front cover of the book –

A book about the Old Firm, with an action scene from an Old Firm game on the front cover? What’s so remarkable about that?

Well, astute readers noticed pretty well straight away that the ‘Celtic’ player was in fact Mark Fulton. A singular fact about Mark Fulton’s career is that, although he put in sterling work at St Mirren, Hibs and Hamilton Accies, he never in fact played for Celtic.

So, what gives with the photograph?

Well, think of the Hamilton Accies strip (pictured right).

Now think of what it would look like in black and white.

Now take a black and white picture of an action scene from a Rangers v Hamilton Accies match around the time when Mark Fulton was playing for Accies.

Now colour it in, in approximately the undernoted cack-handed amateurish fashion.

And slap it on the front cover of a book about the Old Firm.

No-one will suspect a thing.

Although I haven’t got the actual book to hand, the above coloured illustration made by photo-shopping the old black and white pic from TAG, is startlingly similar to the book cover. It is faintly surreal to use this photograph in preference to the ten squillion action photos of Old Firm games available. Apparently the person who selected the photograph thought that Mark Fulton looked even more like Murdo McLeod than Murdo McLeod.

PS Mark Fulton later became a police officer in West Lothian. Bill Murray faded into the obscurity of academia and never lived this faux pas down.


2 Responses to “The Absolute Game Remembered – 10”

  1. Scarlett Says:

    Bill Murray faded into the obscurity of academia and never lived this faux pas down.

    There is only one Bill Murray?

  2. Scarlett Says:

    “No-one will suspect a thing.”

    Cough Cough. Number on back of the shirt is a giveaway.

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