During last week some news broke that came as a bombshell to all adult football fans. Hasbro was pulling the plug on Subbuteo. My immediate reaction was one of outrage - all right, a kind of restrained and reasoned outrage maybe, but how could they do this to what is a great institution?
I remembered trips down to "Taylor and McKenner's" in Hemel's Marlowes to purchase the latest teams. I remembered how one Christmas I was bought the Floodlight Edition, and the joy of seeing during the eighties Watford, I believe in the shape of Jan Lohman at Villa Park, adorning the box of this fine game.
I thought back to how one could purchase the little plastic figures in any one of literally hundreds of teams, I used to play Watford against sides as diverse as Brazil, Peru and Morton (who could double as QPR). I even had a team of substitutes, who modelled rather fetching light blue tracksuits, as well as assorted referees, linesmen, police officers and cameramen. It was a hobby that knew no bounds, it had accessories for everything, and could change with the times. The figures from the sixties had short hair, the seventies players developed shoulder-length locks, whilst the eighties saw Waddingtons get all cocky by incorporating all the latest "innovations" in kit designs like pin stripes, strips down sleeves and fiddly collars.
It was a joy to purchase these treasures in their standardised green boxes. Of course, there were other football games on the market, "Striker" and "Super Striker", which both involved pushing a plastic figures head down in order to kick a ball. They were indeed both worthy, though they didn't offer you the whole package you got with Subbuteo. Or there was "Blow Football" which crudely consisted of two thick straws, a light plastic ball, two flimsy plastic goals and half a pint of spit deposited on your kitchen table.
But Subbuteo was king.
Then, as the news of its demise began to sink in, I also recalled the reality of this soon-to-perish game. The fact that it always ended with two teams flicked to the wrong end of the pitch, that throw ins were either taken by a contraption that resembled the things disabled people use to bowl ten pin bowling balls, or a man ten times bigger than the rest. Penalties would always end with the goal flying across the room as the goalie dived too hard, and most crucially how the green baise pitch would never stay flat and would ultimately finish the match resembling a green screwed-up tea towel.
Like so many other toys and games that have fallen victim to Playstation, Dreamcast or just time, Subbuteo has had its day. It only exists to satisfy the child-like cravings of those men who wish to cling onto to youth and win sporting cups without the exertion of taking part in sport.
Those who now talk of saving it are living in a world of nostalgia, a world where computers don't exist, kids still play together, and a world where Peru and Greenock are magical mystical places we can only imagine.
It's a shame, it's part of all our youths...but Subbuteo is crap.