People On The Pitch #5: Blackpool v Blackburn Rovers, Football League Division Two, 04/02/1978

It was a beautifully dull and dreary 1978 day in Lancashire for the Division Two derby between Blackpool and Blackburn Rovers. We have dubbed it “The Battle of The ‘Blacks’ Where Neither Team Wear Black”.

The ‘burn’ part of Blackburn means stream and the ‘pool’ part of Blackpool means pool, so both names are descriptive of dark water features. The rain and mud that February day were therefore appropriate, along with the sparsely covered, windswept terraces which stood as an appropriately unglamorous poster child for everything that was glorious about old school football.

***For a fine Belfast battle covered in our previous edition of People on the Pitch, click here.***

Background:

The two towns are separated by Preston in the middle (along with some classically named English places such as Ashton-On-Ribble) and Preston North End are in fact Blackpool’s main local enemies. This rivalry apparently started in the quaint 1950’s with quaint arguments over whether Stanley Matthews was better than Tom Finney, but had sinisterly evolved by May ’78 (a sinister time) to the stabbing and death of a Preston fan during clashes between supporters of the two clubs at a Vibrators gig (a popular musical variety troop of the day).

The rivalry with Blackburn progressed similarly. In the simpler days of quaintness, the crowds at football matches looked very different to what you would soon come to expect of the terraces. This is evident by a 1960 crowd shot of Blackpool’s Bloomfield Road at a game against Blackburn where we see a selection of respectable gentleman, and even ladies, standing happily and politely:

But “the quaint” was already dead when the two sides met at the same venue eight years later. It is well known that the events of the 1966 World Cup final, where some people were on the pitch, single-handedly robbed the innocence from English supporter culture and unleashed a sort of demon that would writhe uncontrollably for the next few decades, and while most people associate hooliganism with the 70’s and 80’s, there were already many in the late 60’s who were going to games not for the football. This was certainly the case for the Blackburn supporter(s) who threw ammonia at the Blackpool Spion Kop during an October 1968 game sending several people to hospital. Further incidents occurred after the match outside the ground and the events of the day were deemed “alarming and frightening developments” in football hooliganism.

The demographic of football supporters at games changed drastically over the coming years as the presence of disaffected youth at games grew and the stern, calming older crowd phased themselves out as society evolved. It soon became commonplace for large mobs to rove through the open terraces and increasingly onto the pitch in search of adventure, mischief, trying to get games called off when their side was losing, and fighting each other. But like at the World Cup ’66 final, and the Wales-Scotland game the same year that we covered in People On The Pitch #2, some pitch invasions were just spontaneous expressions of pure joy. While our featured match contains just that rather than poisonous terrorist attacks, it also does a good job of highlighting the normality of supporter disobedience at the time.

The Match:

The first shot we get from the game shows the aforementioned Spion Kop end of Bloomfield Road. The home Blackpool supporters are on the left, visiting Blackburn supporters on the right. Although you wouldn’t know it from the footage, a roof covered a large part of the terrace further back up which may explain the open spaces at the front of the Blackpool section on this rainy day. Presumably the ammonia incident from ten years earlier hadn’t been forgotten, but enough that the two sets of fans don’t seem particularly interested in each other (although I’m sure there was plenty of unreported activity beyond our limited footage).

The first of many goals for the day, Blackpool score early on (a fine goal but since this website isn’t about the actual football, I refuse to comment on that). But the main thing here to observe is the activity in the Blackburn section, as we see a mini surge from what I can only assume was a firm of lads ether arriving late or just casually causing ructions:

After another Blackpool goal, we get a nice look at the elated abandon of some young terrace goers in the background as the players celebrate:

There are also some interesting things to note around the side of the pitch. By the corner of the ground in the Kop end there is a random alphabet which would make more sense if it corresponded to rows of seats or something, but not in a small corner of a terrace:

A magnificent photo of Blackpool playing on front of a packed Kop in the 60’s shows that the alphabet corner was in existence then, probably for many years before that, and only extends to letter P. Despite my feigned bafflement, I am sure there is a perfectly logical reason for all of this.

Edit: And we have our answer. Many thanks to reader Nicholas Young, among a couple of others, for supplying this perfectly logical reason for the letters:

I think the letters in front of the Kop are for giving out half-time scores. The back of that match program would give that days fixtures a corresponding letter. Then at half time man in white coats would come out and put the scores next to each letter. They used to do the same thing at Everton. In the days when all the games kicked of at 3pm on a Saturday and PAs didn’t work very well.

In the other corner of the same end we get something even better in the form of a series of luminous orange posters, advertising something called Klix System. This seems like a very modern name for a 1978 company, suggesting some sort of time travel back and forth between then and 2001. A copper dutifully stands guard:

A Google search reveals that Klix remains in existence today as a successful vending machine company who in fact still use the same font style for their logo as in 1978. Eccentric billionaire Mr Klix himself probably still laughs to himself reminiscing about the old, amateur adverting posters, which just appear as a confusing orange blur when the camera pans across that section of the ground:

But enough about unfinished alphabets and enduring vending machine companies, you’re here for some people on the goddamn pitch. By half time, Blackpool were 3-0 up and the onslaught continued as they shot into the Bloomfield Road South Stand in the second half. Unlike the Kop, the South Stand did not feature a containment fence at this time and as striker Bob Hatton scores his and his side’s fourth and victory is all but assured, some eager young supporters take advantage of this fact. We only get a brief, split second of this in the footage (as if a split-second could be anything but brief, unless you’re on acid), but we get definite person-to-pitch contact:

You’d probably feel robbed if this was all there was here, but of course there’s more. Blackburn pull one back to make it 4-1 and offer some glimmer of hope to their traveling support. This triggers some heroic scenes on the terrace including a one young man in a beige trench coat who immediately turns and sprints back up towards his colleagues:

But soon afterwards (to be honest Ive no idea of the exact time frame here) Blackpool were on the offensive again and put in number 5 to put the game beyond doubt. This time the South Stand supporters are poised to stream on en masse, or should I say POOL on, as soon as the goal goes in and do so with striking ease:

We get the beautiful image of wide eyed, supple, young supporters rushing towards their tangerine heroes with pure dopamine coursing through their brains. Several years later, many of these children would no doubt go on to be wild eyed, unfit, older supporters rushing towards opposing equivalents with pure cocaine coursing through their veins:

I’m not going to say that this was in the days before kids had video games and smart phones and such, because that’s bleedin’ obvious. But in a time before easy entertainment and general coddlement, moments like this meant something different. Just look at that joy from the lad on the left, bless (plus he’s got a nice coat on which to be fair probably also brought joy to his perhaps otherwise dull existence):

Blackburn would pull another one back through a late penalty (again, I have no actual idea of score times but it would have had to have been late in the game, right?) before the game finished 5-2 to the hosts. “Revenge for ammonia!” some may or may not have shouted, even though they had already played each other ten times since then. With countless episodes like the above at many games, ranging from innocent to devilish in spirit, it is no wonder that soon containment fences would be implemented fully in most grounds in the Football League. But not everywhere, as we shall soon see.

But the main thing I took away from this game is how good it would have felt for both players and supporters to get home and into a hot bath or shower. The thought reoccurred to me several times in fact. This would have been waiting for the players of course as soon as they entered the dressing room. But then, imagining myself a supporter, I realised with horror that this was in the days before people had power showers, or even smart phones to ring someone at home to turn on your water heating. My heart sank.

Youtube link

Retro Shirt Reviews #3

In today’s Retro Shirt Review we feature this saucy green and white Reebok affair of unknown club or year, but the sponsor suggests a German lower-league/amatuer origin. I like to imagine this shirt as from an alternate 90’s timeline where Ireland wore Reebok, as this template seems to me to be clearly inspired by the Adidas Equipment style at the time which Ireland employed. Some other companies blatantly ripped-off Adidas’ large over the shoulder stripe design, but Reebok borrowed the concept in a different way by plastering their own logo over the upper part of their shirts.

Like the two German shirts featured in Retro Shirt Reviews 1 and 2, this shirt is made with two large pieces of fabric sown together at the top of the shoulders and sleeves, rather than separate pieces for the sleeves like with most shirts. When laid out flat, the unusual cut of the shirt, particularly around the shoulders and wide sleeves, is evident, although not surprising given the style of the time.

In my alternate timeline fantasy, a company known as Sport Schneck has clearly beaten Opel to be Ireland’s shirt sponsor, and presumably Bayern Munich’s. Upon a quick translate search, it seems that Sport Schneck translates to Sports Snail or Sports Slug, which is a great name. Perhaps this is some tongue in cheek joke regarding the irony of a slow snail as an athlete, or something else lost in translation.

Tight shadow striping also hearkens to Irelands’s 92-93 shirt which featured a similar pattern. On the back is a white, felt, “boxed” number 7 (worn by the alternate timeline’s version of Andy Townsend no doubt), which looks slightly small in person.

The label displays a classic, clean Reebok logo with no other information, and frankly nothing else needs be said.

As noted earlier, this general motif was used by Reebok teams throughout the decade, most famously by Chile at the ’98 World Cup who in fact were using an altered, stripped back version (on a shirt also noteworthy for it’s huge front numbers) so as to abide by FIFA’s branding rules. Perhaps in a similar vein, my alternate timeline Ireland jersey doesn’t feature a crest due excessive marketing on the coat of arms of a new materialist, dictatorship of 1992 Ireland.

Bonus: International Selection

  • Country: West Germany (away)
  • Year: n/a
  • Make: Adidas

As teased in the previous edition of RSR, the bonus international shirt this time is a bit of a cod as it was never really worn by a German team. I look on it more as a modern re-imagining of a late 80’s West Germany away shirt, as it combines elements of both their away shirts used at World Cup ’86 and ’90.

The main geometric design is of course inspired by the 1990 away shirt and template used by many teams of the time, but in a blockier, less minty fresh form. The shade of green is more reminiscent of the ’86 shirt, as is the solid white and black crest as opposed to the white outlined used in ’90. But the positioning of the crest, laying directly opposite the trefoil, is more consistent with 1990 than ’86 where it was lower down.

I realise that shirts like this may outrage purists, which I would understand if I was trying to claim it as a style legitimately worn by West Germany. But of course it is not, and I would rather bore a friend explaining the differences listed above (and have done) then try to pass it off as an actually used shirt. Past our usual, obscure, lower-league/amateur German clubs shirts, we are not of the strict match worn shirt collector ilk here (as noble a pursuit that is). I look at this as a piece of football culture art fashion, which is really more the Pyro On The Pitch style. Although in saying that, some may have bought this shirt thinking it actually was used at one stage, so yeah, not cool for them.

Having now accidentally featured 3 German club shirts and (almost) 3 German national team shirts in a row (we like German things), next time we will take a break from our Teutonic theme.

Politics On The Pitch #1: Changing Eastern Europe and the World Cup ’94 Qualifiers

We had originally planned on only briefly discussing the topic for this very first edition of Politics On the Pitch (yes, another POTP acronym) as a prelude to an upcoming Champagne Kit Campaign (For the debut of Champagne Kit Campaigns, focusing on Norway in the same time period, click here).

However, it quickly became apparent that an in depth look was needed as we felt more and more compelled to delve into the crux of where politics and football met leading up to the UEFA qualifiers for the 1994 World Cup (We have no idea if one can “delve into a crux” or not but we’re bloody well doing it).

We look back on this campaign as THE all-time classic qualification phase in Europe, partly due to age and nationality, but the changing political face of the world at the time also created some unique situations and contributed to the general magic.

On December 8th, 1991, thirty seven national teams were entered into the UEFA section of the draw to decide groups for the upcoming World Cup ’94 qualifiers. Political turmoil in eastern Europe meant that three of these countries would either not compete in their current form or not take part at all: the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia.

But a further three in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania were freshly reformed nations competing for the chance to play at the tournament for the first time in decades. One side had already disappeared since the last World Cup as East Germany had been reunified with West on October 3rd, 1990.


Sepp Blatter and Franz Beckenbauer at the FIFA World Cup draw in 1991 for UEFA.

Some other former communist states such as Poland (1989), Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania (all 1990) had also already completed the transition to new “democratic”, capitalist regimes. These changes were first evident at an international tournament when Romania competed at World Cup ’90 under a restored, pre-communist flag and played in shirts devoid of a badge, the previous one being synonymous with the recently booted government.


Romania kit at World Cup '90, sans a crest.

Romanian supporters also displayed the banner of the revolution against President Ceaușescu; a Romanian flag with the coat of arms of the old regime literally cut out of the middle. Eight years earlier at a World Cup ’82 in a match against the USSR, Polish fans had displayed banners of the anti-communist Solidarity movement showing a sign of what was coming down the line, until Spanish police forced their removal upon pressure from Soviet TV.


Polish banners of the Solidarity movement at World Cup '82.

But the above were all nation states that had not been absorbed into into bigger unions. For countries within these unions, it would take a little more time to reemerge on to the international stage. Elections had taken place across the various republics of the USSR and Yugoslavia in 1990, but a complex sequence of events would still need to take place before independence could be achieved.

Eventually, after the chaos of the failed August 1991 coup, a weakened Soviet Union recognised the independence of the Baltic states on the 6th of September,  in time for them to join UEFA and enter the draw for World Cup qualifying.

On January 1st, 1992, the Soviet Union ceased to exist. The other former Soviet countries were not as lucky as the Baltic nations and would not be entered into World Cup qualifying, but a more pressing matter was the fact that the failed state had already qualified for the upcoming European Championships in Sweden.

The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) had formed in December ’91 by the soon to be former Soviet republics as a loose international confederation, but on January 11th, 1992, a football association of the CIS was also formed and swiftly accepted into UEFA to replace the USSR at the European Championships.


CIS shirt at Euro '92.

The CIS team represented the following 12 countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia (despite not entering the actual CIS until 1995), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. But at the Euros the team contained mostly Russians and Ukrainians, with one Georgian and one Belorussian.


CIS supporters celebrate a goal against Germany at Euro '92. The white flag with the red star, hammer and sickle, and blue bar at the bottom, is the former Soviet naval ensign.

Meanwhile, the situation in Yugoslavia had deteriorated into war. The Balkan state had been out been outside the Warsaw Pact and had been led by what may be as close to a benevolent dictator the 20th century had seen in Tito, and throughout the Cold War some eastern European players had used away games in Yugoslavia as a chance to defect to the west. Despite this, it’s exit from the communist era was the bloodiest of all and the ramifications of this rippled through to the sporting world.

Like the USSR, Yugoslavia had qualified for Euro ’92 in the midst of it’s socialist state dissolving. As Croatia, Slovenia and FYR Macadonia broke away, the remaining territory became the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, later known as Serbia and Montenegro.

Their football team was set to take the place of the original Yugoslavia at the Euros but just ten days before the tournament, on May 31st, 1992, the team was banned from competing and replaced with eventual winners Denmark. This was in accordance with the UN Security Council’s Resolution 757 which placed sanctions on the country as the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina went on.

The ban lasted until 1996, meaning Yugoslavia were also out of World Cup qualifying. They had originally been Pool 2 seeds and drawn in Group 5, fittingly along with top seeds the Soviet Union.


The original World Cup Qualifying Group 5, featuring the USSR and Yugoslavia.

The CIS concluded it’s brief existence in international football losing to Scotland at the Euros on June 18th, 1992. Ukraine had proposed a new tournament for the teams who had made up the CIS so they would have something to compete for in lieu of the World Cup. This was supported by Armenia and Georgia, but blocked by Russia.

In August, Russia was officially recognised by FIFA as the USSR/CIS successor state and take it’s place in qualifying Group 5 along with Greece, Iceland, Hungary and Luxembourg, but without the stricken Yugoslavia.

Most interesting to note was that in Russia’s first international since 1914, a friendly against Mexico in August ’92, they would in fact continue to wear what was previously the white away shirt of the USSR, now apparently repurposed as a home shirt. The only difference in the kit was that the Adidas trefoil-era shorts of the Soviets (white with red trim) were replaced with shorts of the new Adidas Equipment line (plain white but for a black brand logo).


 Left: USSR vs Italy, October '91. Right: Russia vs Mexico, August '92.

Russia playing in Soviet shirts vs Mexico, August '92.

The shirt would again be worn when Russia made their World Cup qualifying debut at home to Iceland in October but with blue shorts and red socks, amazingly meaning that the Soviet shirt was now part of an overall Russian flag. By the following game at home to Luxembourg, Russia finally wore their own shirts, albeit very bare.


 Russian kit vs Iceland, October '92.

Although plain, Russia finally gets it's own shirt against Luxembourg, October '92.

This unusual kit sequence clearly needs it’s own article, which will happen in due course. But back to the actual group and the absence of Yugoslavia, along with Russia’s smaller talent pool than it’s predecessor, meant that it was far weaker than when originally drawn. This paved the way for Greece to top the group and qualify for it’s first World Cup, with Russia joining them in second.

While their fellow former Soviet republics were denied the right to play competitively until Euro 96 qualifiers in 1994, the Baltic states were all happily placed as bottom seeds in Pool 6 of the draw.


Sepp Blatter draws Estonia as the first country out of the hat after the top seeds had been assigned their groups.

After original independence from the collapsed Russian Empire in 1917, Estonia had first competed as a national team in 1920, with Latvia following suit in 1922 and Lithuania the following year. Estonia and Lithuania had taken part in qualifying for the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, with Latvia also competing in the latter, so it would not technically be new ground for any of the three. However, as all were annexed by the USSR in 1940 and as UEFA did not form until 1954, the 1994 campaign would be their first as UEFA affiliated countries.

Estonia were drawn in a tough Group 1 along with Italy, Switzerland, Portugal, Scotland and Malta. Unsurprisingly, they only managed one point from a 0-0 draw away to Malta and only scored one goal in the entire campaign during a 3-1 defeat to Scotland.


Estonia score their lone goal of the campaign away to Scotland.

Latvia and Lithuania had been drawn against each other in a group of two back when they last competed in 1937. Since both were bottom seeds, it should have been impossible for the neighbours to clash this time. However, due to the uneven amount of teams in the draw, fate would have it that after the long wait to rejoin international competition they would again be drawn together in Group 3, along with an eastern country that we have not mentioned yet in Albania.

Spain, Ireland, Denmark and Northern Ireland made up the rest of the group, creating the unusual situation where this group had seven teams, while due to Yugoslavia’s suspension Group 5 only contained five (the other 4 groups had six each).


Albania, Latvia and Lithuania drawn together in Group 3.

Albania had originally been a Warsaw Pact member but broke away in 1960 and remained a deeply secretive and less well known state. Despite this, it had been a founder member of UEFA in 1954 and competed in Euro and World Cup qualification in the ’60s.

But then, due to internal political reasons, the country would not compete at all in ’68 and ’69, and again from ’74 until ’80 (apart from three Balkan Cup games against Yugoslavia in ’76 and ’77, and one friendly against Algeria in ’77). They would return for the World Cup ’82 qualifying campaign and remain in competition ever since.

Like the rest of the region, Albania held democratic elections by 1991, but the transition from communism was difficult and the country remained poor. The turmoil was evident when they visited Dublin to play Ireland in May 1992 without a kit (a shame as they had worn some beautiful kits in the 80’s and very early 90’s). For more information on this episode, and Lithuania ending up in a similar situation away to Ireland the following year, check out this Museum of Jerseys piece.


Albania in a hasitly prepared kit away to Ireland, May '92.

Lithuania, Latvia and Albania would unsurprisingly finish 5th, 6th and 7th in the group, mostly taking points off each other. But delightfully, Latvia did manage respectable 0-0 draws at home to both Denmark and Spain.


Latvia holding Spain to a 0-0, September '92.

Lithuania 1-1 Latvia, October '92.

The last of the former communist states to cover is Czechoslovakia. Over the course of ’89-’90, the communist government collapsed and the country formally transformed on April 23rd, 1990, from the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic to the Czech and Slovak Federalist Republic. This was seen in effect at the World Cup draw the following year as “CSFR” was used to represent the country on the group board.


Democratic Czechoslovakia of '89-'92, aka CSFR, seconds seeds in Group 4.

They were drawn in Group 4 along with Belgium, Romania, Wales, Cyprus and the debuting Faroe Islands (San Marino in Group 2 and Isreal in Group 6 were the other new sides added to UEFA’s system) and would compete as Czechoslovkia for the first three matches. But as 1992 progressed, Slovakian calls for greater autonomy resulted in the break up of the federation, and on January 1st, 1993, the Czech Republic and Slovkia both came into existence as independent states.

Like the the USSR becoming the CIS in ’92, the team completed the group as a new entity, the Representation of Czechs and Slovaks (RCS). Unlike with the CIS though, this was purely a sporting union and not representative of an actual political body.

Most notable was the team’s away shirt which saw use away to Wales in September ’93, a template also infamously used for Arsenal’s ’91-’93 away shirt.


RCS away shirt away to Wales, September '93.

A win on the last day of the group away to Belgium would have meant qualification through 2nd place, and presumably the continued existence of RCS until at least the following summer after the World Cup. However, the game ended 0-0 and Belgium took 2nd instead with RCS finishing 3rd.

Slovakia had previously competed while a Nazi puppet state in the World War 2 era and fielded unofficial teams again from 1992, but they would officially reemerge in February ’94 away to the UAE. The Czech Republic would go on to be official successor of the Czechoslovakian and RCS teams and play their first match, away to Turkey, three weeks after their new neighbours, in a way putting an end to the era we have disucssed.

Only 2 of the 6 groups for the World Cup ’94 qualifiers did not contain the results of states breaking up or gaining independence since the 80’s. This continued fragmentation meant that the draw for Euro ’96 qualifying would rise to 47 countries with the addition of the other post-Soviet European countries and former Yugoslav states. This would increase even more into the future as the Balkans further divided, and the likes of Kazakhstan eventually joined.

As Europe and the world in general continue to evolve rapidly, who knows how differently qualification groups of the future may look compared with today, as the addition or removal of even more states is as inevitable as it always has been. That is, of course, should the concept of modern states continue to even exist.

International Duty: Club Group Banners At National Team Games #3 (Gallery)

In this series, which to be fair wouldn’t exist without Italian games to carry it (I nearly called it “Italocentric” but there are a few other countries), we look back at a time where club banners were more prevalent at national team games. Click here for #1 and here for #2.

Italy vs Germany, friendly, 1986:
“Commando Green Stars Curva Sud” and “Bronx” of Avellino



Chile vs Yugoslavia, friendly, 1987:

Universidad de Chile

Italy vs Turkey, friendly, 1994:
“Rangers” (and “Rangers Visto”) and “Park Kaos” of Pescara



Germany vs Netherlands, friendly, 1998:

“Menden Sieg” of Schalke 04

Italy vs Northern Ireland, friendly, 1997:
“Brigate Rosanero” of Palermo