Subbuteo Tribute Website.
The Unofficial Stuff.
Because footballers and hemispherical bases aren't copyright right?
The Team Colours Project (Ongoing illustrated team lists).
Subbuteo was such a successful and popular brand, that it stands to reason that it was a good bandwagon to jump onto. But why pay lots of money to Waddingtons or Hasbro, when you can just hint at the connection?
Tom Taylor's Streaker Sets.
Produced using figures from an old German railway manufacturer, and some specialized table football bases, these were Tom Taylor's headline grabbing Streakers (available from his website tablesoccer.co.uk). Tom showed them to a journalist who had asked about Subbuteo streakers as a joke (I think the journalist was supposed to be doing a serious piece on an upcoming event in Birmingham). Anyway, the story made the front page of the Birmingham Post, and spread far and wide across TVs and radio - even as far as South Africa. Best quotes came from a lovely BBC article which said "...the streakers... are unlikely to be sanctioned by Subbuteo's governing body" and my favourite, "Marketing experts dismissed the move as a publicity stunt, an accusation denied by Hasbro". Oh, if only Hasbro had enough interest in the game to stage a few publicity stunts. Did Hasbro even cash in on all that free publicity and interest in their game that Tom's inadvertent fame provided?
Even if Hasbro never managed to cash in on the fun of the Subbuteo streaker stories, at least Tom Taylor did. The interest prompted a second edition of the set, featuring new castings. The new version was sold in both a male and female version, with a police officer of the appropriate sex to pursue the rogue fan. Amusingly, the set also had a lovely set of rules, which actually do work in play. The basic idea is that "table soccer" has no added time, so wasting time with a Streaker has some value! The defending player flicks the streaker, and the attacker gets to flick the police officer in an attempt to intercept him/her. As well as wasting time, the streaker can also save a player if his spare goalkeeper is stuck outfield. Not only that, but as these figures are on professional sureshot bases, you could use one as a spare goalkeeper if you find yours is clashing with the opponents team. (if you don't mind odd looks from your opponent).
The continued success of the streaker sets led to even more "special" sets being produced, to represent famous streaks from history. My favourite includes a policemen holding his helmet out to cover the streaker's private parts.
Mind you, this is perhaps a more effective way to deploy a streaker in table soccer.......
1950's Metal Goalkeepers.
A major problem with the flat players of the 1950's is that the goalkeepers are not very sturdy, and once their ankles have bent they are next to useless. I bought these metal 'keepers from a gentleman who played Subbuteo in the 1950s. He was sure they were a real Subbuteo item (he purchased them with a pair of deluxe metal goals also in the above pictures). However, nobody else had heard of them, and I can't see where they would fit into the range, so here they are in the unofficial stuff. They are heavy lead figures, and you certainly can't throw them around the goal to make saves. However, they are a big target, and the widely spaced legs catch a 1950s football very nicely. They are a wonderful item and deserve a place on the website as some type of old tabletop football accessory. They are probably from a blow football game, or alternatively from a tiddly-winks style game called "Shoot".
1970s-1980s? - Cake Decorations
Collectors who've met me at swapmeets over the last few years might have a couple of these on their shelves (or more likely in a box of tat at the back of a cupboard). I've owned a couple of these guys since I was a child, and they came in a bunch of second-hand football figures, which included those for both Subbuteo and 4-2-4 (without bases). As I had lots of different Subbuteo figures at the time, I wondered whether these were from Subbuteo or some other rival game, and wondered what bases they might fit.
I've never found an answer, and nowadays I think they are just birthday cake decorations. As a child I only had a couple, but I acquired a big bag from one of my many car boot sale attending friends (hello Roy, if you are reading this). Because it was a really big bag, I've been giving them away ever since.....
I used to think that my green ones were Ireland, to go with Scotland and Wales. It seems more likely that they are goalkeepers.... What is interesting of course, is that the painters used exactly the same colours as Subbuteo did. Okay, these were probably the available Humbrol colours of the vintage, but they still look great. Note that I have a very few claret players among the red.
If you are having a Subbuteo themed birthday with the above mentioned cake decorations then how about an unofficial table soccer birthday card? This was given to me by my work mates about fifteen years ago. They were slightly apologetic that it was a child's card, but it was so appropriate that they couldn't turn it down and I was delighted with it. These days, with Subbuteo being a retro icon for men of a certain age, official Subbuteo cards exist. However, in the early 2000s it was a surprise to see this, and I wondered how many kids of the period even knew what Subbuteo was. Perhaps the card had sat unsold in the shop for decades! Note the 1990s backward baseball cap look. The cat-eared table soccer players are a nice touch. Having both hands over the table is technically illegal of course.... and that drink is really going to affect the performance of the players later in the game. Where did the slide go? Honestly....
Big thanks to my work colleagues for finding this wonderful piece of kitsch.
This illustration was sent some time ago, and I've only just rediscovered it. These were small chocolate Easter Eggs in the colours of famous Greek teams. Inside each was a player in the appropriate kit, on a very familiar style of base. Sadly, they are not to scale, but still....
I saw these on e-bay, and they are not an official Subbuteo item of course. But where else would they get the idea of putting a semi-circular base onto a footballer...
Professional Quartz Timer.
I'm not sure whether this is an official item or not. It is a cheap looking timer, in a cheap looking box. The box makes no mention of a Subbuteo (or indeed football) connection, but the logo looks fairly familiar.... Mind you, no registered trade-mark. A sneaky non-licensed rip-off seems likely.
Team Coaches (Corgi Classics 1995).
Okay, so these are not Subbuteo and are not pretending to be. However, if Subbuteo had produced a team coach or two, I would like to think that they would look like this. These sets from "Corgi Classics" recreated two famous "retro" cup parades (not sure if they actually made the details up though). The brown coach featured Manchester City's FA Cup win of 1956, and had the team in a "purple" colour to match the away kit worn in the final. 1956 was also Corgi's year of birth, and they were celebrating 40 years with this range. The second coach celebrated Burnley's unlikely League Championship from 1959-60. The Manchester City set featured a AEC Regal Coach, and the Burnley set had a Burlingham Seagull Coach, if you are interested in that kind of thing.
The Manchester City coach didn't want to come out the box (!!), and not wanting to force it, all my photographs are of the Burnley version, with a little bit of appropriate Subbuteo added for fun (it was a slow day). The little chaps on the top of the coach work well (but the plastic tray only balances up there - it isn't fixed). There are separate wing-mirrors that can be attached to the coaches to make them look even more accurate, but I didn't dare cut them off the sprues. My Airfix experiences in the 1980s have left a scar..... (if you ever tried to glue all the tiny bogies onto the Churchill tank, you know where I'm coming from)
Whilst there are plenty of modern football coaches available online in club colours, it is the care and detail of these sets that marks them out. If you use your old Subbuteo to look back at previous eras of football, then these sets are the perfect match.Glorious.
The Team Colours Project (Ongoing illustrated team lists).