The boot that bites

the material world

There used to be a cartoon strip in a Seventies football comic called "Billy's Boots". In it a schoolboy footballer of no natural skill found in a bin a pair of elderly boots which once belonged to "Dead Shot" Kean, a long-retired striker of legendary scoring prowess. Billy slipped the boots on and discovered that in them he could play just like Dead Shot, scoring, each week, the kind of blistering winner most of us are only ever acquainted with between the hours of midnight and 5am.

Faustian deal

Those of us of limited footballing skill have often dreamed of chancing upon some item of kit that will transform us from leaden-footed hoofers into fleet-heeled sorcerers, capable of banana-ing benders from 40 yards into the roof of the net. Which is the lure of the Adidas Predator Boot: hand over pounds 119.99, runs the Faustian deal, and you too will own the boots that make Robbie Fowler the Dead Shot Kean of his generation. The advert is unequivocal: "If you can't score in these," runs the copy line, "you can't score in anything."

For once, nobody could accuse an advertisement of inaccuracy: after a test run in a match of unfeasibly low skill and achievement I can report I didn't score - but then, it is highly unlikely I could score in anything.

Not so Neil Ruddock, the Liverpool and England footballer, who recently netted twice against Leeds while thus attired. "I get most goals with my head, so they haven't improved my scoring rate," he says. "But seriously, I love them. I get about 40 per cent more distance and power on my long-range passing, so they've made a big difference to my all-round play."

Well, Ruddock may say that, since his bank balance is upholstered to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds a year to wear the boots. And other top players, Ryan Giggs (Reebok) and Eric Cantona (Nike) for instance, manage to produce moments of magic without them.

None the less there is, Adidas claim, science at work here.The secret of the Predator is in the fin-like rubber uppers, which make the wearer look as if he has strapped a pair of armadillos to his feet. "It's just like the bobbles on a table tennis bat," says Ruddock. "It causes more friction; the ball stays on the foot fractionally longer, so you can do more with it."

Batty idea

And indeed, in the early days of development the Predator was coated in table tennis bat rubber. The idea of this fusion of sporting disciplines came to Craig Johnston, the former Liverpool player, while coaching school children in Australia in 1991. He noticed that the slippery surface of the ball, and the sleek leather upper of the football boot, meant they were not in contact for long. He superglued some old table tennis bat rubber to his boots, and found an immediate difference in his ability to apply spin to the ball. Johnston took his discovery to Adidas, who set their designers to improve the concept: hence the armadillos. Paul Ince, who has donated a pair to the Manchester United Museum, was one of the first to test-drive them; after permission was obtained from UEFA, they were unveiled at the 1994 World Cup. Paul Gascoigne approached Adidas about swapping from his previous boot sponsors, and Rob Andrew kicked that last-minute drop goal in the Rugby World Cup against Australia while wearing a pair.

"They take a bit of getting used to," says Ruddock, "At first, I knocked the ball all over the place. I overhit it and it skewed off my foot, which gave the rest of the lads a good laugh. But after a fortnight, I cracked it. I suppose it's a bit like a new set of golf clubs."

Sadly, as with a new set of clubs, the manufacturers concede the boots will only improve something which is already there. For most of us, the best chance of footballing prowess remains finding Dead Shot Kean's magic boots in a dustbin

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones