The Beautiful Badge: The Stories Behind the Football Club Badge by Martin Routledge and Elspeth Wills, (Pitch Publishing)
For soccer fans of a certain age, the past is a place where things were always better, even when they were worse. Perfectly flat and green playing surfaces? We preferred puddle-strewn meadows of mud! Model professionals displaying speed, fitness, finesse and off-field sensitivity? In our memories we loved more the headcase striker who never trained, was arrested for brawling in a dive-bar at 4 am, then went on to score a hat trick the following afternoon.
Never mind that the soccer played on mud was slapstick, and that the maverick striker drank himself to death and ruined the lives of all those close to him. What we perceive through nostalgia's deceptive lens is a time when the game had more character. Now, thanks to Derek Hammond and Gary Silke's series of 'Got, Not Got' books, we have a way to channel that nostalgia in a harmless and satisfying fashion. Their latest offering comes in the form of a mock catalogue of soccer memorabilia from decades past, The Got, Not Got Football Gift Book. It's the sort of book that was made for a leisurely, pleasurable read over the quiet holiday break.
Impossible board games, worthless giveaways, ugly jerseys, ill-fitting promotions and sponsorships, tenuous tie-ins, strange sticker and card sets (soccer players posing in an empty field, or on a deserted beach, for example), obsolete and short-lived magazines, cheap commemorative plates, unwieldy computer games, and items like "soccer-themed" watches which, inevitably, were just an ordinary watch with your team's name and logo printed on them. Commercial saturation didn't just start with the English Premier League.
Yes, most of these things were actually rubbish. But they were our rubbish, our past, and we have every right to look back at them and feel that sense of delightful melancholy for the Christmas morning when everything you opened that wasn't edible had something to do with soccer. Boots, balls, kits and books -- they're all beautifully pictured here, accompanied by an easy-going commentary that never takes the game too seriously, while conveying the necessary conditional love and affection for the way things were. Even if you didn't grow up in the UK, this book will propel you back in time and make you want to fill out an order form for the 1966 Official World Cup tie, or a Liverpool FC Wilkinson Sword protector.
Another book to browse while nursing a glass of something strong and festive is The Beautiful Badge by Martyn Routledge and Elspeth Wills, a lovingly curated and lavish pictorial volume that approaches the past in a more sober tone. Any MLS club considering a re-brand that includes a new logo should take in this history of UK badge design, and work out where they might go wrong.
Of course, re-designing a club's logo was not always known as a re-brand. It just used to mean the club had changed its logo, and in the times before the flames of social media outrage could destroy a marketing executive's career in 24 hours, clubs could avoid scrutiny more easily when tinkering around with the main elements of type-face, color, chosen creature and/or local industry. The Beautiful Badge provides a varied and visual overview of this evolution, with explanatory text on exactly what Tottenham Hotspur have to do with cockerels, say, or Derby County with rams.
The Chicago Fire and Leeds United FC both discovered recently that starting anew without consulting the fans first can lead to a virtual tsunami of outrage. Over time, supporters become attached to the symbolic depiction of a club's identity, no matter what the faults of any logo's design. It's a small but very important detail. Take your time to get it right, and you may have an icon that will hit the right spot and last for a hundred years.
(Ian Plenderleith is a coach and referee in Germany's amateur and youth leagues. He holds the UEFA C-License and coached youth soccer in Maryland from 2004-2014. His latest book, "The Quiet Fan," is available here. His previous book, "Rock n Roll Soccer: The Short Life and Fast Times of the North American Soccer League," is available here.)