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The New Radicals

Colin Payne goes back thirty years, mans the barricades, and sells you the truth, all for 50p


Hunched over the old ribbon typewriter the fingers crashed down with purpose, for each word was a heartfelt statement. This was the revolution, the new radicals were taking their place on the street, spreading the word, a word that could not be ignored. We were the future, seeking change, offering the alternative, and declaring that the status quo was no longer acceptable. We literally cut and pasted strips of paper full of our rhetoric onto larger sheets, clipped photos from newspapers, and rubbed copper coins over Letraset transfers to accentuate the sincere headlines. Editing, proofreading and spellchecking were luxuries we could ill afford, no one was typing anything more than once in this world! This wasn’t publishing, it was pamphleteering!

We railed against Sky TV, the FA,the Conservative Party and Jack Petchey, again and again, not to mention bemoaning membership schemes, all-seater stadia, standing in the rain on the Vicarage Road Terrace, and the unsavoury state of the catering. 1991 was a very different time, one people often pine to return to, but there was much wrong with football back then, a bloody awful lot of muchwrongness.

Only a fool with rose-tinted eyeballs would declare then was better than now.

We stood on the streets, mostly in a perpetual grey-skied drizzle, hawking our 28-page manifestos, and people in their hundreds would read them. These were the days of no internet; so no websites, no podcasts, no YouTube, no anything fan-produced, bar fanzines, and there were a lot of them!

Mud Sweat and Beers, Clap Your Hands Stamp Your Feet, The Yellow Experience, The Horn and The Watford Book of Soccer all competed for your 50p bits, and with sub-ten thousand crowds the norm, all sold remarkably well.

Of course, the reality is that everything we campaigned against flourished. Sky boomed, almost becoming football, the FA raked in the money, the Tories survived our acerbic words, and Jack Petchey was knighted and recognised as an East End philanthropist of the highest order! But really that was secondary, because it was fun, and in the end that was enough. We were predominantly young men, teenagers and twenty-somethings, who just liked seeing our names in print and the joy of producing something; and that something would often comprise knob jokes, endless lists, top tens and stick-man  cartoons as much as anything else. Writing was an action, not a skill, what was written more important than how.

Fanzines were part of a greater change, a change that was influenced far more by the horrible deaths of nearly 100 souls in Sheffield than any poorly spelt and grammatically incorrect ranting.

Football had to change, we were part of that, a very small part, yet one that offered a refreshing alternative to the image of the ‘man on the terrace’ as either a hooligan or a character from Lowry’s Going to the Match.

For my part they changed how I viewed going to football and what it was about, to the point I’m still tapping away on that keyboard, maybe with a little less vigour, and a tad more finesse, but doing so all the same. Technological progress has made the task so much easier of course, and allowed the quality of the product to shine through.

Fanzines have changed, they are now more akin to love letters to a football club. Social media handles the anger now, there’s little left for us new radicals to get angry about, other than perhaps that a chicken and chorizo pie devoured at a game caused chronic heartburn.

The revolution was televised – by Sky, seven days a week – but fortunately in this digital new order there’s still a place for fans’ views written on paper.