Subbuteo Tribute Website.
Marks & Spencer Special Edition - Christmas 2009.
A major surprise for Subbuteo fans and collectors was a range of Subbuteo branded products sold by famous British chain-store Marks & Spencer at branches, and online in the run-up to Chrismas 2009. .
The centre-piece of this collection was a brand new edition of the game, priced at £30. Unsurprisingly, this was simply another standard "Club Edition" style of set, but there are enough quirky items to warrant a "Focus". So using the same format as for the Parodi and Photo-real sets, here's a look at the latest member of the Subbuteo family.
The M&S Subbuteo range was not massively advertised, and was tucked away in my local store in a hard-to-find spot. Tellingly, the Subbuteo items were part of the "gifts for him" range, rather than being part of the "toys" or "gifts for children" ranges. It was a deliberate attempt at a "retro" product , and may well be the first Subbuteo game aimed at this market.
Possibly the main reason to own this set, the box is one of the best designs Subbuteo has seen. Sensibly sized, it has a thick card box in a creamy "paper-grain" finish. The lift-off lid is about a third of the height of the box, and is a delicious mix of cream, brown and green. Whilst the lid clearly illustrates the modern lightweight set contained inside, everything else about it screams "retro". The illustrated player figures on the right of the box lid are borrowed from the Football Express set of the 1970s.
The box is not shrink-wrapped, and the lid is simply held on with a couple of pieces of tape. Lift this to reveal the contents supported in a clear plastic insert. It looks great, but the one disadvantage with clear plastic is that you can see just how much empty space there is within the box.
In reverse order of interest, we have:-
In an act of generosity, the set has three balls, rather than the usual two. The balls are the usual size for the modern game, and have the Subbuteo logo on them in black. As with most 21st century sets, the patterning on the ball is a little bit thick, and the two halves do not seem to fit all that well (one in my set has a definite gap between the halves). I've seen worse though.
An annoying design fault shows itself here. The balls are housed in deep ball-sized holes in the plastic insert, and there is no way to get your finger around them. The only way to get them out is to either lift the whole interior and push from the bottom (possibly damaging the packing) or tip the box upside down! Either way, players and bits of goal are liable to scatter over the floor.
The goals are a version of my favourite Subbuteo goal from the Italia '90 set. These were also used in the USA and Euro 96 sets, and benefit from a simple, stable construction and a deep net. The ball is more likely to stay in a deep net, and you therefore get less query over whether the ball went in or not. Despite the front of the box showing the goals on green bases (as per the Italia 90 ones), the bases are actually white, as is the net - making a completely new variation of this goal.
Four Corner Flags.
Whereas the set has an extra ball compared with Subbuteo sets of old, the number of flags have been cut from six to four. (It makes sense really - do any sides have half-way line flags anymore?). The flags balance the interior of the set nicely (matched against the balls), but they are very basic, with no colour or markings at all. You'll break them first time you use the set anyway!
The Rule Sheet.
A very basic A4, black and white rule page, this covers the basics. Some of it could be clearer, but it is basically old-school Subbuteo.
Taking up the middle of the box, this is the standard single-sided felt playing surface seen in most 21st century table soccer sets. It is unique to this set though, in that the Subbuteo logos are absolutely huge.
At first glance, it is quick to dismiss the teams as simply the standard lightweights that have been seen for the last thirty years. Pleasingly though, these figures are also unique to the set. The most obvious change is the wording on the base, which has changed to show the 2009 Hasbro copyright. In addition the figures are slightly thinner than the lightweight of old, and have been produced on flesh coloured plastic, rather than white. It's not too exciting, but as someone who has already seen too many red and blue lightweight sets in this lifetime, it at least helped justify the purchase! The goalkeeper has returned to the bar connection of the late 1970s, and again is in flesh plastic. As you can see here, the top of his base is actually painted green to match the colour of the rod. Sweet.
The stickers in the set possibly give the game away. These are "la leggenda" stickers, and the instructions are in Italian. This suggests that the moulds for the players were also borrowed from the "la leggenda" range.
The Rest of the Range.
The other items produced by Marks and Spencer in their Subbuteo range were the usual mix of promotional products, which whilst amusing, has little to do with the original game. These included....
The Mug - A large mug with a simple "heavyweight player" logo in the M&S Subbuteo colours of green and cream. The box interior had a rather lovely heavyweight team sheet design.
Playing Cards - Sold in a cute little Subbuteo tin. The cards have a Subbuteo back of course, but the front are just a very traditional card design. Different players from the heavyweight list on the front would've been nice. Also, the cards only have the numbers in two corners, so they are a bugger to use if you are left-handed like me.
Vintage Style Football - A full size leather look football with Subbuteo logo. It was £29.50 though.
Rattle - One of those annoying things from old football matches, hopefully not making a comeback.
Flask - A lovely use of old Subbuteo logos to produce an attractive flask.
Wash bag - Ditto for the wash bag. Old logos well used.
Flick to Kick book - Daniel Tatarsky's entertaining history of Subbuteo in an attractive new cover to match the rest of the range.
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