a football leg-end

This originally featured in MEHSTG No.11 Winter 1991

From the moment you become interested in football, your heart becomes set on owning your first pair of boots. It's as though these items of footwear will turn you into the new Gazza in the style of those comic strips, All they achieve in doing is turning you into the same player but with the added bonus of having blisters!

In the old days, the game was based around the big boot! The large toe cap that could punt a ball the length of two pitches without your toe feeling a thing, was the main feature of the old boot. The high ankles on the boots meant that you were protected from the most vicious of Vinny Jones-like tackles and the reinforced heels could provide you with the power of Peter Lorimer should you back-heel the ball. Sometimes these boots did not even come with studs - they had bars to provide a grip on the grass, mud or players leg. The laces were like rope and were about five miles long, which took an hours Herculean effort to put into the boots in a tug-of-war battle.

Most kids first pair of boots came from Woolworths. They bore the 'Winfield' mark and three white stripes down the side to parody the Adidas trademark. These 'Woolies Wonders' were plastic and hard plastic at that. Their unwillingness to bend probably led to the generation of footballers that failed to qualify England for the 1974 World Cup Finals.

Around the time I started getting interested in football, the name in boots was Gola. I remember Stevie Perryman sporting these with an orange stripe along the side, but their popularity didn't last long. They are making a comeback nowadays, to the extent of going into shirt design with the blue/ red leopard-skin Stockport County kit ! Adidas were starting to move up in the market with Puma also gaining a foothold . I took up a paper round and saved for ages to buy my first proper pair of boots - Puma Hat-trick. Why I chose these I can't remember. It must have been in terms of comfort, as it was to be another twenty years before I scored three goals in a game! I probably didn't feel that a pair of Puma Pele could really be justified by my meagre skills.

There were some strange innovations in boot designs in the late Sixties and early Seventies. The Stylo'George Best' boots which looked like a pair of bowling shoe s with a white stripe from top to toe on each side. I could never work out how you would lace them up! The white boots pioneered by Alan Ball and also worn by Terry Cooper, were novel, inspiring the most fashion conscious member of the team (Oh, you mean The Team Poser!-Ed) to purchase a pair. Then further to that there were the boots with the studs on the front part of the sole arranged in a circle and they were rotational. Therefore when you turned, they stayed in the turf and you could swivel without wrenching your ankle/ knee ligaments - maybe they are due for a revival!?

The George Best boot

As the German boot makers took over the market, various other companies tried to get their foot in the door. Amongst Spurs players, we've seen Le Coq Sportif boot as part of our kit sponsorship. These had a horrible low heel that gave you blisters and an odd stud formation that made them very difficult to bend. Of course, after Le Coq, came Hummel. The multicoloured Hummel insignia and South American names of their styles actually belied the fact that the boots were well made and very comfortable (Shock! Horror! Hummel in semi-decent product scandal!) We know that Umbro do manufacture boots and very good ones at that. They have produced a pair of boots suitable for hard or soft ground, which may seem to be cutting their sales by half, but are very good and successful. Spurs stars have boot deals which have resulted in Gazza's horrendous purple and orange concoction by Brooks and a scandal over the fact he'd doctored a rival's pair to look like his sponsors. A similar scandal has been exposed by the Sunday Times where Paul Allen was wearing Puma boots made to look like Hi-Tec. Goalden Gary's deal launched 'Quaser' virtually single-handed and are slightly more tasteful than some boots on the racks in sports shops.

The sleek and miniscule carpet slippers used by players these days bear no resemblance to those of only 20-30 years ago. The Puma/Umbro/Gola/Diadora/Adidas/Hi-Tec/Lotto/Nike/ Reebok/Hummel/ Mizuno/Asics modes of today provide the players with means to display skills and abilities which would not have been possible in the past, which may have meant the old timers were just as skilful. But to the heavy clod-hoppers of yesteryear, the new boots stick out a long floppy tongue.


The Screw In Stud

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