(The Board) Games People Play: #2, Striker

Table football with a kick

Sunday 26 December 1982

Boxing Day. Compared with Christmas Day, I prefer Boxing Day. Why, may you ask? Football. A Derby match of some description. But today is Sunday, so my beloved Lilywhites play their Boxing Day match tomorrow. A home game at that, versus Witton Albion. Instead I had to console myself with a game I received in Christmas ’79. To the strains of Tommy Vance with the Christmas Top 40 run down.

I wanted Subbuteo, but I had this game instead. Only two teams, red versus blue (or Hyde United versus Stalybridge Celtic). With my Christmas money I would have added Derby County (with the anonymous faces doubling as Les Fitton, Leo Skeete, Kevan Keelan, and Phil Wilson).

Striker

For many people, the definitive table football game is Subbuteo. It has been immortalised in song, most memorably in Half Man Half Biscuit’s All I Want For Christmas is a Dukla Prague Away Kit. Whereas the venerable OO gauge players, green baize pitch and oversized footballs gave the game its iconic statues, Striker was the bridesmaid. The Europa League. The Integro Cup in comparison with an Evo-Stik League fixture.

That’s a little unfair as Parker Brothers’ and Palitoy’s game was pretty decent. With a walled pitch and five players per side, it made for a fast game. To kick the ball, you press the player’s head to kick the ball. Goalkeepers had a wand a la Subbuteo, which pivoted on the goal line. You could also place the ball in the goalkeeper’s arms for a throw.

Like Subbuteo, there was a number of accessories “required for that Big Match Atmosphere”. Even special editions for the World Cup. Other versions included Super Striker and Floodlit Super Striker (great for reenacting these Reporter Floodlit Cup fixtures). Their floodlights resembled the ‘drenchlights’ you saw in 1970s Scottish League grounds. The scoreboard looked like the love child of Zokko.

The board game was revived as Super Striker in the 1990s. This time, Spears Games and Peter Pan Playthings took over the franchise. Unlike the 1970s models you have light and dark skinned players. The shorts were shorter. Perhaps the superlative was added to avoid confusion with Rage Software’s football simulator on the Amiga, Atari ST, and Super Nintendo.

Off with its head

One major difference between the 1970s sets and the 1990s ones is the spring on the footballers. If you released the player’s head, there is an exposed metal section which could have injured a few fingers. The head was a choking hazard.

“Music power, sports action…”

We now go to Old Trafford with Tom Tyrrell and Brian Clarke…

O.K., only joking: this is not a Phoenix From The Flames reenactment of a Manchester Derby. Enjoy this clip of a Striker game in action. This footage contains some mild swearing.

S.V., 02 December 2017.

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