My first set of Subbuteo was bought for me as a present for my 8th birthday in 1970. It was bought from Caltrop Sports in Shirley, near Croydon and I can still remember the excitement of opening it now. Off came the wrapping paper to reveal a Continental Club Edition. Of course I set it up straight away and started to perfect my skills.
About that time a few of my school friends were also bought sets and I specifically remember two of my closest friends having the Display Edition which came without a pitch, whilst the other was lucky enough to have the World Cup Edition. This set seemed to have absolutely everything in it. Another friend was the only person I knew to own a Football Express set. Ironically at the time this was considered to be a "poor man's" Subbuteo. Little did we know how valuable it would become...
I can remember the passion and excitement we all had for the game and on Saturday mornings when we received our pocket money or paper round money, we used to cycle to Young Folk Toys in West Wickham to buy a new team, or another accessory for our collection.
At this time we simply played friendlies against each other but about 4 years later eight of us formed a league. I think that six of us had our own sets and therefore our own grounds whilst the other two just had a team and therefore ground shared with someone else. I can remember now cycling to an important cup replay with my beloved team in my saddle bag!
The grounds varied from player to player, from the superbly mounted pitch on a sheet of chipboard on a dining room table in a very large room with plenty of room to manouvre around the table, to the pitch that was spread out on the floor thus endangering all the players with being knelt on.
This however somehow added to the excitement and strangely enough everyone performed better on their own grounds, giving a realistic home advantage.
As well as the league, we had two cup competitions and although no-one managed to do the treble, my team Brenton Albion did manage the League Title and the League Cup.
All the results were faithfully recorded in an exercise book that one of us had pilfered from school so that we could work out all the goal averages and other statistics.
As we grew older we forgot about Subbuteo and got into girls, motorbikes and then cars. Sets were given to jumble sales, stuck up in lofts or thrown away if there were too many breakages.
It's impossible to describe the passion and dedication that we had in the 70's for this game but anyone who played in this era will hopefully have their memories rekindled by the above. Sadly times have changed and no matter how hard we try, we can never re-create what we had previously.
Part Two - The Present
My renewed love for Subbuteo came about in 1996 after traipsing around boot fairs every week. I was looking for rare records and CD's for my mail order music business but I noticed that my friend was buying quite a lot of Subbuteo "for his son". I thought nothing of it until the following year when my own son reached his first birthday. I decided to start collecting again so that he would have some decent items to play with when he was older.
I built up a reasonable amount of teams and accessories and then thought that I had enough. At this time I wasn't interested in building a stadium, I just wanted to have a reasonable playing pitch and a few decent accessories. I stopped collecting in 1998 and stuck it all in the loft for a rainy day.
One day in February 2000 I decided to set up my pitch and I started teaching my son how to play. He was now 4 years old and just about old enough to understand what he had to do. This coincided with discovering Ebay and seeing all the items available on there. I immediately instructed Bridget (my wife) who was still going to boot fairs every week, to buy everything she could find that was any good. Fortunately she had learnt what to buy and what to leave alone, and also the values of the different items.
Ironically we recently went to a boot fair and saw my old school friend's mother selling off some junk and she was actually selling his original 1970 Display Edition! Of course I snapped it up for a fiver - perfect except for a small amount of writing on the lid.
It took about 6 months to get my collection to a stage where l am now happy with it. I more or less have all the accessories that I want and I'm not a completist when it comes to collecting teams - I prefer to have teams with nice kits.
So some of my collection has come from boot fairs, some from Pete at Subbuteo World, some from Stuart Hannah, and some from Ebay. I think I have almost everything I want or need now, but who knows what tomorrow will bring...