Crap 90s football: a celebration of the brilliantly awful

The 1990s was a groundbreaking era in English football thanks to the inception of the Premiership. But was there actually much quality around? Crap 90s Football is here to stamp on your rose-tinted glasses as James Richardson talks us through a celebration of the brilliantly awful. When you think about it, you’ve watched a lot of terrible football over the years…

I was having a chat with a couple of mates in the pub a few years ago and we were getting quite nostalgic. Hull had just been stuffed at home by someone in the Premier League but, as much as it hurt, it was still nowhere near as bad as it was in the 1990s. We started putting together footage for a Hull City YouTube account to show people what it was like. One night I was rummaging through the old tapes and I started thinking, ‘There’s loads of absolute gold here’. It was just atrocious football. I found it really funny and thought I might be able to do something with it. It was just a case of dissecting the footage bit by bit.

The clip that made me think to start Crap 90s Football was an own goal from Paul Stancliffe when he was playing for Wolves. Certain things about it resonated with me. First of all, it’s a bloody awful own goal: a cross comes in, he gets his feet stuck on the muddy pitch, and he shins it straight into the bottom corner. But there were so many things about it – the awful pitch, a pre-rebuilt Molineux with the crumbling terraces in the background – that I thought, for all the rose-tinted element of looking back at how good football was 20 years ago, there was a cavalcade of dross as well.

It seemed there was so much around that I couldn’t keep the footage to myself. If I didn’t do something with it, it was probably going to be lost. And it was too good not to share. My mate had a load of old Hull recordings on tape and I had an archaic DVD-video combi which I still use for clipping stuff now. There was hours’ worth of footage to start with, and from there I managed to accumulate more from Ebay, charity shops and, now the account has a bit of a following, things people have sent over.

I grew up in the 1990s and it was always in my mind that Crap 90s Football could be a similar thing to the Danny Baker videos and Nick Hancock’s Football Nightmares. When the Premiership broke away at the start of the decade, there was so much hype and polish around it. But in reality it was still cumbersome centre-halves playing long balls and some terrible football. The one clip people remember most fondly from that era was Ronny Rosenthal’s miss against Aston Villa in the first year of the Premiership. It jarred with all the razzmatazz, the fireworks and the cheerleaders.

Even after Euro 96, there were still similar things happening. I put together an Andy Cole mini-series of him being bobbins. It was only in small doses, but still, for a bloke who was signed for £7 million, it was really bad. Everyone has a moment watching a game where they think ‘I could do better than that’. We’ve already had some examples at the start of this season – take Shane Duffy’s two own goals and sending off for Blackburn, for example. It doesn’t matter how much gloss you put on the game, bad football is still bad football. And generally it’s pretty bloody funny.

Sometimes the footage isn’t particularly great, but I like to think it has a certain rustic charm. Twitter was the perfect vehicle for sharing the clips – you can put them up whenever you want and people will see them. Once you get a bit of momentum it goes around quite quickly. I’d estimate I spend three hours a week just watching crap football. I’ve been following Hull since 1993. Part of the reason why the account has so many Hull clips dotted through it is purely for therapy.

The odd player has shared the clips. Lee Dixon tweeted the one of him chipping David Seaman from his own half and commented, “I hope there’s not the Ipswich one”. To me that was obviously like a red rag to a bull and I put that out a couple of minutes later. Bryan Gunn was tagged into a miskick he did in the Ipswich-Norwich derby, for which I received numerous threats never to visit Norfolk again.

There have been some players who have cropped up a few times. Tim Clarke, the former Huddersfield and Scunthorpe keeper, came up a few times, which Huddersfield fans told me to expect when I first put out a clip of him. David James was notorious for making gaffes, while I really enjoyed the footage of Drewe Broughton scoring for Plymouth. It was a big punt from the keeper, absolute pinball in the box, and he somehow gets the ball in off his arse. He had no idea about the goal whatsoever but runs off as though he’s scored the winner in the World Cup final. The Sheffield United pinball against Norwich always raises a smile, just the utter chaos of it, while a lot of people loved Tony Vaughan’s own goal for Ipswich against Tranmere.

A library of retro footage would certainly be a great resource. The footage is out there and it’s got lasting value. There’s universal appeal in terms of gaffes: stuff like the famous Jamie Pollock own goal is absolutely timeless, you’d enjoy it in any era. I defy anyone to watch that and not laugh.

The bulk of the footage I’ve acquired is from English clubs. I wonder what else might be out there from other leagues and even perhaps other eras. There must be more than enough material for Crap Scottish Football.

Follow Crap 90s Football on Twitter.

Crap 90s football: a celebration of the brilliantly awful
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