Thursday, June 19, 2008
Up Shoot! creek
I WAS sad to hear this week that kids' football magazine SHOOT! is to close at the end of June. I was editor of the title for a couple of years in the late '90s and although the job wasn't nearly as much fun as you'd imagine, the magazine will always have a special place in my heart.
Being made Shoot! editor was important to me as I'd been a keen reader of the title when I first got into football as a kid in the early '70s. Back then the mag was serious of tone and fairly wordy, and gaining access to big-name footballers was as easy as walking into the pub in which they were boozing away their afternoons.
By the time I took over in '98, Shoot! had become more of a "soccer Smash Hits" (that isn't meant as a criticism, I worked for SH, too) - everything was short, punchy, design-led and full of rather embarrassing "yoof" speak (Mega! Wicked!). Talking to players was also considerably tougher and we'd often be expected to jump through all sorts of hoops by a star's kit or boot sponsors just for a half-hour chat and a quick photo.
The biggest disappointment in my time at Shoot! was the day I travelled up to Chester to conduct an interview with George Best and Michael Owen. They'd just been voted No.1 and No.2 respectively in a readers poll to name their favourite footballers of all-time (Owen was so high because this was 1999 - barely seven or eight months after the player's fine showing in the previous year's World Cup finals). The idea was that I would talk to them together and that they'd get to swap anecdotes (the pair had never met before) and muck about for the Shoot! photographer.
Alas, Owen was ridiculously late (at least a couple of hours, if memory serves) and Best didn't show at all (apparently, his agent thought the interview was the following day). We'd even had a really nice award made to give Best (some sort of engraved crystal bowl). It now sits gathering dust in my attic and poor old George never even laid eyes on it.
Shoot! was struggling sales-wise when I took over the editor's chair and despite my best efforts its circulation continued heading south. The late '90s were a bit of a graveyard for football magazines with the likes of 90 Minutes, both modern incarnations of Goal! and the original Match Of The Day magazine all biting the dust within a couple of years of each other. I was always worried Shoot! would meet a similar fate but publishers IPC kept faith with it.
In June 2000, I quit Shoot! for a job in the States which ultimately fell through and soon after IPC decided to make half the mag's staff redundant and switch the title's frequency from weekly to monthly. The result was hideous - the sort of kids' magazine your grandad would produce. One of the things I was most proud of during my time at Shoot! was that I made a real effort to increase our coverage of women's football which was then just starting to make an impact here and in the States (the US were world champions in 1999). Of course, all that went out the window when the new editor took over, along with every shred of personality and attitude my staff and I had given the title.
The switch to monthly frequency saw the title's circulation bottom out at about 30 thousand or so and that's pretty much the way it stayed until IPC decided to try one last relaunch a few months ago. As part of its revamp, Shoot! was returned to its original weekly status and brought back the yoof speak and short, punchy articles with it. Alas, it was a last throw of the dice that didn't work.
Finally, to give this ramble down memory lane some kind of comics angle, I commissioned a regular weekly cartoon called Shoot! FC from an artist called Rob Davies. Rob, it turned out, had drawn Roy Of The Rovers (the period when Roy Race only had one foot) and had also done stuff for 2000AD, including (I think) Dredd. I lost touch with Rob after leaving Shoot! and a Google search has produced nothing about his current whereabouts. Anyone out there remember him and know what he's up to these days?