Ten Premier League related things that you might remember from the 90s

As Back Page Football prepares to reveal its Top 50 Premier League Players of All Time, Neil Sherwin got a bit nostalgic about some of the things that made football great in the 1990s.

1. Shoot or Match?

The weekly football magazine industry peaked in the mid-90s with both Shoot and Match vying for the title of top dog, and most people were one or the other.

First published in 1969, Shoot offered freebies such as the Premier League ladders wall chart that was hung in many a bedroom every season, while Match, which started out a decade later in 1979, managed to make Wimbledon’s Peter Fear a cult hero.

Aimed at a younger market than the likes of FourFourTwo, both offered quizzes, interviews with players, and results from the Premier and Football leagues to go with somewhat juvenile humour.

Having been heavily impacted by the internet, Shoot moved to monthly in 2001, but Match has managed to keep going as a weekly publication.

The Shoot annual was a staple in many a Christmas stocking and is still being produced every year.

2. Spending hours trying to swap Kevin Pressman for a shiny

Merlin Premier League sticker albumThe Merlin Premier League sticker album was first released in 1994 with Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs and Paul Merson of Arsenal on the cover, and it was made up of 479 stickers.

They became the talk of the schoolyard as poor unfortunate souls tried desperately to get rid of the seven Shaun Teales and four Dean Austins that they had accumulated after blowing their pocket money on as many packets as possible.

While most of us tried desperately to find somebody with a Swindon Town crest that was burning a hole in their pocket, there was always that cheater who sent away for the last few stickers they needed to complete the album the bragged about finishing first.

Merlin continued to produce the sticker album on a yearly basis until 2008 when it was rebranded to Topps.

3. Fantasy Football League, the best thing on television

Frank Skinner and David Baddiel’s brand of football related comedy made Fantasy Football League a must watch show between 1994 and 1996 as they took the piss out of anything and everything.

Poor Nottingham Forest striker Jason Lee became the subject of much ridicule for having a pineapple on his head, while Phoenix From The Flames was a brilliant segment that recreated great moments from the past, and the “Big Hello” at the start of every episode always got a chuckle.

A combination of a great guests and a cosy apartment style setting added to the charisma, although later special episodes for major international tournaments never really hit the mark.

4. Ceefax page 302 was the bible

Before the internet was a thing for the average football fan, Ceefax was the best source for football news, and everything revolved around page 302.

On Saturdays, 303 would go from being the top news story to the minute-by-minute Premier League scores, while 312 was brilliant for random tit bits of information about teams and leagues you normally wouldn’t care about.

There was something so simple yet exciting about waiting for page 3 of 3 to come round again to reveal that your team had scored in the 89th minute.

Having started in 1974, Ceefax was finally turned off in October 2012 as the BBC completely its switch to digital.

Ceefax

 

5. Discovering Championship Manager

Championship Manager 9798The first few incarnations of Championship Manager were good fun but it was the 97/98 version that really sealed the deal for many, and led to plenty of days spent in a room with the curtains closed to the now insignificant outside world.

The Sports Interactive offering was the biggest selling game of 1997 and while the previous version only allowed users to manage clubs in England, Scotland and Italy, CM9798 also included Belgium, Turkey, France, Germany, Holland, Portugal and Spain.

Some of the must have players in the game were Sonny Anderson (Barcelona), John Curtis (Manchester United), Ibrahima Bakayoko (Montpellier), Tom Youngs (Cambridge United), Ilya Tsymbalar (Spartak Moscow) and Ruben Ruiz Diaz (FC Monterrey).

The best thing about CM9798 was that you didn’t actually need the disk to play (it could simply be loaded on to any PC for full use), and the data editor made it very, very easy to cheat.

6. Robbie Fowler nose strips

Robbie Fowler nasal stripsLiverpool legend Robbie Fowler’s nose got him into a spot of bother when he sniffed the touchline against Chelsea in 1999, resulting in a six-game ban, but it was the addition of a nasal strip that first brought that part of his anatomy to prominence.

The strip was supposed to facilitate a better intake of oxygen during exercise, something Dave from the local pub team was in desperate need of as he trudged around midfield on a Sunday morning.

However, research later revealed that the strip was rather pointless and it quickly disappeared into obscurity, along with the huge lump of Vaseline that was smeared just below the neckline of a jersey.

We wanted to see if the strips, when worn correctly, have any effect at this level of performance. The answer is they don’t.

Professor Frank Cerny, University of Buffalo

7. The Klinsmann dive

The 90s had some great goal celebrations, from the Sharpie Shuffle to Temuri Ketsbaia kicking the living daylights out of an advertising hording, but the Klinsmann Dive is arguably the best of the lot.

In 1994, Jurgen Klinsmann joined Tottenham Hotspur with a reputation for theatrics and, being a German star, he was expected to be easy pickings for boo boys up and down the country.

On his debut against Sheffield Wednesday, however, Klinsmann got in first by celebrating his goal with a full length dive across the Hillsborough pitch.

The celebration is still replicated by Sunday League players all over the world, and is especially effective in the wet.

I was received in a very funny way, they all had signs up with 5.8, 5.9 , a whole stand full because of this diving story and I was kind laughing about it, but I didn’t really know how to take it.

 

Then Teddy Sheringham said ‘you know what, if you score your first goal we’re all going to do the dive’. From that moment on, kids started to do the dives in the park in their games and everybody was really laughing about it.

– Jurgen Klinsmann

 

8. Every second bloke growing their hair like David Beckham

When David Beckham stuck one in from the halfway line against Wimbledon in 1996, he shot to superstardom as guys wanted to be him and girls wanted to be with him.

The floppy haired 21-year-old had the looks to match his ability and was soon adorning the covers of glossy magazines and newspapers when he got into a relationship with Spice Girl Victoria Adams.

In 1997, Beckham signed on to become the face of Brylcreem after they are believed to have offered him a four-year deal worth £4 million, and the company’s sales rocketed as spotted faced teenagers across the UK grew their hair out.

However, Beckham went for an extreme change in 2000 when he shaved his head completely, later revealing that he did so under instruction from Sir Alex Ferguson.

9. The Adidas Predator revolution

The football boot industry got a huge shot in the arm when former Liverpool player Craig Johnston joined forced with Adidas to release the Predator in 1994.

The idea of the Predator was to provide better control of the ball, and it wasn’t long before the game’s biggest stars had signed on to wear them.

David Beckham, who cut his teeth wearing Cica Blades, jumped on board and became one of the faces of the range, while John Collins had the honour of scoring the first goal in a pair of Predators when he netted a free kick for Celtic against Rangers in April 1994.

There were 12 different versions of the boot before it was discontinued earlier this year as Adidas opted to replace it with the Ace and X boots.

10. Pogs

Along with the Merlin stickers, pogs enjoyed a massive wave of popularity in schools in the mid-90s thanks in large part to its association with the Premier League.

Pogs were little round disks made from cardboard with a glossy finish and a slammer, usually made from rubber or metal, was used in the game itself where owners went one-on-one with an opponent having decided whether to play “for keeps” in advance.

Wikipedia kindly provides a breakdown of the basic rules:

  1. The players each contribute an equal number of pogs to build a stack with the pieces face-down, which will be used during the game.
  2. The players take turns throwing their slammer down onto the top of the stack, causing it to spring up and the pogs to scatter. Each player keeps any pogs that land face-up after they’ve thrown.
  3. After each throw, the pogs which have landed face-down are then re-stacked for the next player.
  4. When no pogs remain in the stack, the player with the most pogs is the winner.

 

Premier League aside, pogs were a global phenomenon for a number of years with the World POG Federation in particular recording massive sales worldwide.

Do you have any other fond memories from the 1990s? Let us know in the comments below!

The Author

Neil Sherwin

Co-editor of BackPageFootball.com. Writes mostly on Premier League and A-League with contributions to other sites including TheFootballSack, InBedWithMaradona and Bloomberg's BSports. Has featured on The Guardian's Football Weekly.

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