Life’s a Ball 90s is a documentary photobook by Zak Waters that takes a nostalgic and affectionate look at diehard UK football fans in the mid 90’s.
Contrary to what you may think ‘Life’s a Ball 90s’ is not a book about football – it is a book about people who like football – REALLY like football!
First Edition 2021 (Fistful of Books)
Zak Waters & Ivor Baddiel
140 pages – with 95 colour photographs
200 x 300mm
Edition of 750
Offset colour printing
Buy the book: FISTFUL
It is a photobook of two halves:
The first half consists of photos and interviews with 25 of the most impassioned football fans you are likely to meet. Fans such as Copland Nutter (Rangers), Tango (Sheffield Wednesday), Billy Bluebeat (Chelsea), Vinnie The Parrot (Celtic), Frank Sidebottom (Altrincham) and many more. The following images are a slection of Fantatics from the book.
Dave Burnley (Burnley FC) chose to support Burnley at quite a young age. He was going to support Liverpool, but his mate chose them first. He considered following Stoke, but was put off after seeing their team boo’ed off by its own fans one day. Burnley were in the news at the time so Burnley it was.
That was in 1969. Since then David has missed all of one Burnley match and that was only because was unable to get the helicopter to take into the ground. He was expelled from school taking so much time off to watch Burnley. He has had 46 different jobs and once returned five days early from a trip to Tahiti because a Lancashire cup game was brought forward. She’s been to a game suffering from cholera en has the hiking sign for every ground in the country just in case he can’t get there any other way. He has cycled the 75 miles to Burnley on Christmas Day and here’s also changed his name.
Frank Sidebottom (Man City & Altrincham Fc) ”When Alty found out that I did Frank they asked him to be the mascot,” explains Chris. “I used to do the pre-match entertainment which involved pre-match games. The best one was when Maunder bought Alty and he flew in by helicopter, so Frank played the helicopter. It was brilliant because the helicopter was on one side of the pitch it was really hard for Frank to get past it because of the rotor blades, but once he did the wind carry the ball forward. The final score was Frank 2 Helicopter 0.”
Gordon Rae (East Fife FC) “They never even play Scotch music now at games.” complains Gordon. “They play pop music at half time. I prefer bagpipe music but I’ll listen to pop music if I have to. Petula Clark and all them.”
Keith Benjamin (Hereford United FC) “For big cup games a prize Hereford bull is always paraded around the age of the pitch,” informs Keith. “A while ago we’d drawn at home to Spurs and I asked them if we could take a bull down for the replay. They declined, so for a laugh I rang the local radio station and put a call at for an inflatable bull. They were inundated with phone calls and this big one materialised from the Hereford Young Farmers. Tottenham still wouldn’t let me bring that in, but fortunately Hereford were more hospitable and since then I spent many a match on the terraces talking a load of bull.”
Vinnie the Parrot (Celtic FC) Celtic’s Jungle stand was well known for being home to the most vociferous and diehard fans, so when the time came to convert it to an all seater stand, the club decided to commemorate the last days of the old stand by having a fancy dress competition. On his wife’s suggestion any Vinnie went along as a parrot.
Incensed, the Jungle faithful started chanting, “We want the parrot,” and before long a kindly policeman suggested Vinny go down and join the competition. However, as he was leaving the stand, another not so kindly policeman, informed him that he couldn’t join in and would have to go back to his seat. Mayhem broke out in the stand, but to no avail, and the parrot returned to his perch.
Unfortunately on his way into the ground, he didn’t pick an entry ticket for the competition, so come halftime, when the pitch was awash with lions, tigers the old monkey, Vinny was still in his seat.
Dave Downs (Reading FC) Dave a devoted Reading fan, when they reached Wembley for the first time in the 1988 Simod cup final, Dave was naturally excited. After beating Luton 4–1, he was keen to try and get one of the player’s shirts as a souvenir. Unfortunately, the players were equally keen to retain a memento of the occasion, and having first dibs on their own shirts, chose to keep them. Undeterred, Dave decided on the next best thing. A word in the ear of the groundsman’s wife, who had washed the kit, and Dave had his souvenir –a bottle of the washing machine dregs from that very wash. Bottled and neatly labelled, it instantly gained pride of place on the living room mantelpiece. Dave’s joy was unbridled.
“If you look at the water that’s in the bottle, at the bottom you can see where the sediment has collected. It’s mostly washing powder, but there are traces of sweat, blood and mud. I think it’s very artistic actually.”
Carl Fenney (Chester City FC) Today Carl is no longer a supporter of Chester Football Club because he supports someone else, Chester City Football Club. Not a huge difference and fundamentally the same club, but someone who, six months earlier had covered most of the top half of their body with Chester Football Club’s badge, might be somewhat irritated by the change. Not least because along with the change of name, a new badge was adopted without a seal in sight.
”Well, I was a bit peeved at the time, but there was not a lot I could do about it,” explains Karl philosophically. “I was annoyed for about a week, but I’m not a vindictive person. It wasn’t the players fault, it was the management and the board of directors, which has all changed now anyway.”
Carl, who has never considered getting rid of the tattoo found himself the butt of many jokes for some time after, but he takes solace from the fact that his tattoo is unique, which is one state of affairs that will never change.
Tango (Sheffield Wednesday FC) I was at Derby with my father-in-law and the temperature was -9. He kept going on about how cold it was and eventually I got so pissed off with him that I took off my jacket and shirt and gave it to him.”
Seeds were obviously sown in Paul’s mind as a couple of years later, Tango was born.
“We were at Crystal Palace and there was a lad in the crowd who was about twice as big as me. The Palace fans were singing ‘you fat bastard’ at him, but he tried to claim that they were singing at me, so I took my shirt off and started strutting around. Before I knew it everyone was singing ‘tango,’ at me because it was around the time of that Tango advert, and it’s just stuck. I was on telly and in the papers a few times and now people expect me to be topless so I have to do it.”
Ted Pitt (Westham United FC) “Ted Pitt is a man with the van. That is nothing unusual about that. A lot of men have vans. But Ted’s van is unlike the other man’s van. Is converted into mobile shrine to West Ham United.
The basic paintwork is, of course, claret and blue, but on top of that players names go back as far as the 50s, and signatures from the current squad. There are team lists of the cup winning sides of 1964, 75 and 80, as well as the triumphant cup winners cup team of 1965. For those who fancy a slightly longer read, maybe when the vans at some traffic lights, ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles,’ and ‘Harry Redknapp’s claret and blue army,’ can also be found on the outside, as well as Bobby Moore’s shirt and, Ted’s pride and joy, to hammers on the front bumper.
Naturally enough, the interior needed to complement the exterior, and, though it’s an on-going process, there are currently 11 teddy bears, 15 scarves, 3 flags, a couple of cushions and a duvet, 4 testimonial footballs and a couple of pairs of boots inside, as well as 500 photographs, just in case anyone isn’t totally convinced of Ted’s devotion from the outside.