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Peter Upton's

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The Team Colours Project.

The Original Heavyweight 1962-68.

Refs 1-54 and 1966 World Cup.

Clearly one of the key developments in Subbuteo history (and for table soccer in general) was the introduction of 3-D OO scale footballers in place of the flat card (or celluloid) figures. These new figures first arrived in the 1961-62 catalogue. I believe the sets were rushed out for Christmas 1961, with the individual teams arriving a few months later. These new figures were more realistic and more colourful than the earlier figures, and were clearly more attractive to the youth market. In addition, unlike the celluloid flat sides, these teams were sold complete in attractive and practical boxes. Another boon for Subbuteo Sports Games was the 1966 World Cup. Footy fever swept the country and Subbuteo's legendary status was assured.

Mind you, this change in player type wasn't without its detractors. The new figures did not have the delicate balance (and therefore touch and control) of the flat teams. Although the bigger bases pack a decent shot and are better at traveling in straight lines, overall the player is not as good. This meant that the old timers and more serious adult players stuck to the original flat game, while the new OO version was adopted by kids everywhere.

This first heavyweight casting is not a particularly attractive one, although it has some period charm. The player is wearing a short sleeved shirt with a v-neck, both of which are usually highlighted in the painting (although not always). There isn't a lot of detail, and the pose is still a bit flat when viewed from the side. The player's arms are rather thin, and the left hand is often missing. Although all this was probably due to casting limitations at the time.

This first short sleeved design was replaced in the team sets around 1967, when the legendary classic heavyweight first appears. This new long sleeved design was finely detailed, and altogether a more robust figure. If you compare the earlier sets of Airfix soldiers to the later ones, you find the same improvements. Plastics technology was advancing, and so was Subbuteo.......

Box Types.

Box 1. Box 2. Box 3.

Box 1: White Box - This is the original box, and only had a very short period of production. A number of Subbuteo histories have dated this to 1959, but that makes no sense if the arrival of OO scale teams is 1962.
Box 2: - The first green box (although the green is restricted to a panel on the lid and the insert). This box shows the new improved logo, but the layout of the writing remains the same as the previous box. The white, printed top layer is stuck onto a thick rough card box, which is lacking in flaps. The white layer (plus corner strengthening tape) holds the box together.
Box 3: - The layout of the box top was redesigned, and the box was printed onto a better quality card. The lids have flaps that are stapled. The staples can be horizontal or vertical, and there can be two or four staples to each end. There are also variations in the green colour of the box. This box lasted into the classic h/w era, and the final versions of this box have folded ends, and no staples.

The Team Colours.

For this page, the team names up until reference 40 come from the 1963-64 catalogue. After reference 40, I've quoted the year of introduction and the name of the original team (as I've done with the flat team page). With the new improved heavyweight arriving in 1967, it was thought that the teams of that vintage (i.e. refs 51 and 52) were the last ones to be produced in the short-sleeved figure. However, a reference 54 Plymouth from 1968 recently passed through ebay, and seemed to be a genuine side. So at present, this is the limit of this list. A Subbuteo dealer has also mentioned having a white 54 Plymouth in this figure that he thought looked okay, but further proof is awaited. The white version comes from 1970, which would seem much too late a date, but this outfit does exist as a celluloid figure (and Plymouth wore it in the mid-1960s), so maybe it is earlier than the catalogues suggest.

Of course, Subbuteo production is haphazard, and a batch of the old figure could've been found and used up later than the rest. Then again, a white 54 would be easy enough to paint onto a plain reference 21. 

February 2023: Whilst I am aware of making things too complicated, I can't say no to more photos. So included are extra variations mainly to do with socks. Peter Adolph did not have to worry about socks in the previous card/celluloid range, where they were always printed in black. As sock details were not printed in the catalogue, it seems that these could vary. Sometimes sock variations are all that differentiates 1950s league teams from each other. In general, I think there might be a simple reason. A lot of teams in the 1950s wore hoop socks. A lot of the early "white box" teams seem to have been done in this style, and it looks really pretty. However, it must have been time consuming, and difficult to do well. It makes sense to drop it.

Another oddity which isn't really shown here is the strange early use of flesh plastic teams. In later years, these were only used for teams with no (or very little) white in the kit. However, I've certainly seen refs 1 and 2 painted onto flesh in early sets. I've also seen ref 20, and really oddly ref 10 (with hoop socks). It didn't look like a repaint anyway...

  1. Bournemouth, Barnsley, Bristol City, Charlton, Crewe, Doncaster, Exeter, Liverpool, Man Utd, Middlesboro, Notts Forest, Rotherham, Swindon Town, York City, Walsall, Workington, Wrexham, . Scottish sides: Aberdeen, Third Lanark, Clyde. International Colours: Wales, Switzerland, USSR, Czech. Benfica
  2. Birmingham, Cardiff, Chesterfield, Chelsea, Everton, Gillingham, Halifax, Leyton Orient, Leicester, Portsmouth, Shrewsbury Town Scottish Sides: Albion Rovers, Cowdenbeath, Dundee, Glasgow Rangers, Raith Rovers, St. Johnstone, Queen of the South. International Colours: Scotland, Italy, France.
  3. Brighton & Hove Albion, Bristol Rovers, Huddersfield, Southend, West Bromwich.
  4. Stoke City, Sunderland
  5. Coventry City, Manchester City.
  6. Mansfield Town, Newport County, Oxford Utd. Torquay, Southport, Watford, Wolves.
    • The illustrated example is clearly Subbuteo Old Gold, but the team is advertised as "old gold (or yellow) (or amber)", so variations might exist.
  7. Aldershot, Aston Villa, Burnley, West Ham Utd.
  8. Newcastle Utd, Scottish sides: Dunfermline.
  9. Brentford, Lincoln City, Sheffield Utd, Southampton.
  10. Darlington, Derby County, Fulham, Luton Town, Notts County, Rochdale, Stockport, Scottish sides: Ayr Utd. International sides: England, West Germany, Austria

Sock variations, and the alternate ref 18 with long sleeves.

  1. Carlisle, Millwall, Reading, Queen's Park Rangers. Scottish Sides: Kilmarnock, Morton. Also Racing Club de Paris.
  2. Nobody was on this number in 1963-64 It was usually Bristol Rovers.
  3. Blackpool. International Colours: Holland.
    • Seen with black hair/boots and brown
  4. International Colours: Belgium, Spain, Jugoslavia
  5. Plymouth Argyle. Scottish Sides: Hibernian. International Colours: Eire, Southern Rhodesia.
  6. Arsenal.Scottish Sides: Stirling Albion.
  7. Ipswich Town, Peterborough Utd.
  8. Barrow, Bolton W, Bury, Scunthorpe, Tottenham H, Preston N.E.
    • Long sleeved version also spotted.
  9. Introduced 1963 - Barcelona. The original version of this number was Bradford (Park Avenue). This version had red, Amber and black hooped shirts, and white shorts. However, this figure was replaced in the catalogue that introduced the OO scale figures, and has not been seen in OO scale to my knowledge. The kit had not been used for a number of years, and it seems likely that it was replaced in the new range for that reason. Why produce an obsolete kit in the new figures?
  10. Scottish Sides: Hamilton Academicals.

  1. Bradford, Swansea Town, Tranmere, Leeds Utd.Scottish Sides: Airdrie. Also Real Madrid and Red Banner.
  2. Colchester, Chester, Sheffield Wednesday, Hartlepool. A rare spell of being busy for ref 22.
  3. Bradford City. Scottish Sides: Motherwell
    • Although claret and amber in the catalogues, the old heavyweight is usually painted in red and yellow.
  4. Scottish Sides: East Stirling, Dundee Utd
    • As with many of these sides, this has also been seen with hooped socks.
  5. Scottish Sides: Celtic.
    • I've also seen this side with green sock trim.
    • ...and green socks with white trim (illustrated).
  6. Bangor and Drumcondra (although rather oddly it is also Brazil in 1963-64)
    • Has also been seen with hooped socks.
  7. Northampton Town. Scottish Sides: Hearts, Arbroath, and Stenhousemuir. International side: Hungary.
  8. Norwich City. This is the original version of Norwich and has black shorts. International side: Sweden.
  9. Scottish Sides: Partick Thistle.
  10. Hull City, Port Vale. Scottish Sides: East Fife.

Original black shorts version of ref 40.

  1. Blackburn Rovers.
  2. Scottish Sides: Alloa, Dumbarton.
  3. Bishop Auckland.
  4. Scottish sides: St Mirren, Queens Park. International side: Juventus
  5. Barnet. International side:Milano
    • Variation: Has been seen on both white and flesh plastic.
  6. Was empty in 1963-64. Previously another version of Bradford (Park Avenue).
  7. Introduced 1963 - Oldham Athletic.1966-67 was Oldham replaced by Kilmarnock.
  8. Introduced 1963 - Grimsby Town. Empty by 1965-66. Kit histories for Grimsby Town suggest that this outfit was incorrect - Grimsby switched to plain shirts in 1960 when they adopted red shorts. However, Subbuteo are in good company, as the Roy of the Rovers Annual from 1960 also has this look. Grimsby were back in black shorts by 1963.
  9. Introduced 1963 - International Side - Germany. Not sure how this ties in to West Germany on ref. 10
  10. First Version. Introduced 1963 - Crystal Palace. Black Shorts.
    Second Version. Introduced 1965 - Crystal Palace. White Shorts. Seems to be the most common version in this figure
    Third Version. Introduced 1968 - Crystal Palace. Claret and light blue stripes, white shorts. Probably too late for this figure, but if the 1968 Plymouth exists, then this one might as well.

  1. Introduced 1965 - Liverpool, Bristol City, Workington, Crewe.
    • Has also been sighted with all red socks (as seen on the classic h/w post-1967)
  2. Introduced 1965 - Chelsea, Carlisle Utd, Cardiff, Shrewsbury, Bristol Rovers, Ipswich, Stockport, Birmingham.
    • This team is usually painted with long sleeves rather than the usual short variety.
    • However, a v-necked short sleeved one is now also illustrated.
  3. Introduced 1965 - Coventry City, Reading.
  4. Introduced 1965 - Scottish Side:Dundee. International colours: Scotland.
  5. Introduced 1965 - Scottish Side: Hibernian
    • Also seen with white socks, with green trim.
  6. Introduced 1965- Scottish Side: Motherwell
  7. Introduced 1965 - Mansfield Town. International Colours: Sweden.
  8. Introduced 1965 - International Colours: Spain.
  9. Introduced 1966- Wolves, Southport.
    • First version: The common version is the illustrated old gold version
      Second Version: I think the orange/tangerine version was probably too late in date for this figure.
  10. Introduced 1966 International Colours - Brazil.


  1. Introduced 1967 - Millwall, Chester.
  2. Introduced 1967 - Lincoln
  3. Introduced 1968 - Portsmouth. Not yet seen as an old heavyweight.*
  4. First Version.Introduced 1968 - Plymouth. Green version.
    Second Version.Introduced 1969 - Plymouth. White version.
    • The green team here might be a repaint - it is a little glossy for my liking, but this kit has been seen by reliable sources.
    • The white version seems unlikely as an old heavyweight, but has been seen.*

*I remain a little sceptical as to whether teams 53 and 54 were ever produced in this figure. Team 55 Anderlecht was introduced the same year (1968), as ref.53 and the original green ref.54, and a 1969 white Plymouth might bring even more teams into play. Nevertheless, there are a few in collecting circles, and the white team shown did not look an obvious repaint when I held it in my hand... The Historical kits website suggests that Plymouth wore the white version of this kit in 1964-66, then the green version 1966-68, then back to white for 1968-71. Does this give the white kit a short-sleeved window of opportunity, or is this wishful thinking?

World Cup 1966 sides.

As explained in the World Cup appendix these teams were produced in named boxes for the World Cup. This proved a good marketing move for Subbuteo, as the whole country was caught in the grip of the competition. (well, I say the whole country. I daresay my Dad couldn't have cared less!!)

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