Aidan Smith: the probable disappearance of the Rothmans directory is grim news

He may have been sponsored by Sky for 15 years but for the aficionado it will always be the Rothmans. Photo: Catriona Thomson

Elsewhere in this celebratory rally Jim Brogan wears a flowery shirt, Billy McNeill has an arm around Bobby Murdoch and these two at least seem to be discussing the game that just won while Lou Macari sings and David Hay s ‘harmonizes. George Connelly, however, is on the fringes of the group and is most likely looking for the door.

The picture of Celtic after a replay triumph over Rangers can be found in the Rothmans Football Yearbook, 1971-72. It was the second year of publication and there is almost a surprised tone in the foreword, as if no one is quite sure how the business is going to play out. “We were convinced that there was an urgent need for a football reference book to answer the arguments that always arise when association football fans get together,” said Rothmans of Pall Mall, to give them their name. full. Yes, there was this need. As Scottish the Yearbook’s review says: “An important publication that fills a long-standing need. But maybe not for a long time.

Register now to our Football newsletter

Register now to our Football newsletter

Sky Sports, which took over the sponsorship 15 years ago, has just terminated the agreement. It must have irritated the broadcaster that people keep calling the book “the Rothmans” – at least in my office they did – and now the famous old doorstop seems likely to go the way of every guide. football in the internet age, or most of them anyway.

As soon as I heard the sad news, I pulled the oldest copy off our shelves and brought it home to search for this piece (just be sure to bring it back when you’re done – Sports Ed) .

I thought the reason for the Directory’s likely demise would be obvious – Wikipedia rools OK ya bass – but it wasn’t, at least not to me.

Just a blizzard of dryly presented statistics, if not a contradiction in terms? Not at all. Volume ’71 -’72 opened up to the previous season’s recap diary and suddenly I was 14 again, lying on my covered bed (no quilts yet), under my Pat Stanton poster, ignoring homework , ignoring the teatime summons, completely absorbed.

June 70: “George Best [pictured inset] signed an eight-year contract with Manchester United, minimum £ 10,000 per year. August: “Bobby Moore missed a friendly at Bristol C. because his wife had been threatened with attempted kidnapping… Leeds U. first club to set up a ‘police station’ on the ground… C. Palace spies on the behavior of the crowd with binoculars and walkie-talkies… West Ham Res. beat Arsenal Res. (with Peter Marinello) in the final of the combined football.

September: “Glasgow Rangers captain John Greig was sent off against Falkirk… Feyenoord won the World Cup title by beating Estudiantes, who are nicknamed the ‘gangsters’… Texaco kicked off the ‘British Isles Cup’ at £ 100,000 – Morton beat the WBA, Motherwell beat Stoke C. and Nottingham Forest might only draw with Airdrieonians.

Exciting, eh? It was if you couldn’t run YouTube and relive the key moments but, prompted by the Rothmans, you had to use your imagination. How scary were the Estudiantes? Had they met John Greig? And was C. Palace’s hooligan watch just a front for some perverts intending to ogle Fiona Richmond when, some time later, she jumped into the Selhurst Park communal bath with the players? Not that I knew who Richmond was when I was 14, you know – or that I had heard of it Men only or understood the function of a “sexual correspondent”. It was all a great mystery, oh yes.

Football with the sport’s strictly controlled exposure – limited TV highlights, minimal live games, no newspaper cutouts, only George Best is a true superstar, everyone at local darts from Bobby Moore, Airdrieonians living together in one little gingerbread house and only came out on match days – was also something of a mystery, and certainly compared to now.

But thanks to the Rothmans, schoolchildren and the invaded variety were well aware of a fair number of facts, having them memorized in the long wait between editions of Match of the day Where Sports scene, and could quote them today as if they were as valuable as their mothers’ store numbers.

Who said: “Football is all about opinions”? They should be forced to play Estudiantes, with John Greig as a guest, entirely on their own. Because they’ve just encouraged everyone to become a journalist or expert or blogger or boring on the subject of gambling. It’s liberating to drag yourself out of the stagnant pond of “perception” (sub-thought) and ” controversy ”(overcooked) and to familiarize again with the direct narration of events, like that of the bible ’71 -’72:“ The Buenos Aires police said they would prosecute the 19 players sent off during the match between Boca Juniors and Cristal. A full-scale battle ended the game two minutes from time with three players hospitalized. Absolutely no embellishment needed there.

The Rothmans described Peter Lorimer as “ubiquitous” that season. I hope that at 14 I was curious enough to wonder what the word meant, although I won’t claim to have looked it up in a dictionary, another reference work that was also important in ’71. -’72.

Different eras. The football, the goals, the gossip, the obvious, the bleeding evidence, the innocuous truisms – they’re all ubiquitous now. And as an example of the difference, the Manchester City page picturesquely lists the club’s phone number. Can you imagine calling the new global superpower today and how many options the recorded voice would present, and how long you would have to wait? It’s a club that has – what is it? – 13 of the best full-backs in the world. Forty-six years ago they settled for Arthur Mann of Hearts – not the Jambos yet, Gorgie’s nickname is given as “the Maroons” – and you probably could have asked to be put in direct contact with him. .