For men of the spreading-waist generation, Shoot magazine, which folded yesterday, was their entry into a football world which now seems far removed from the contemporary. Launched on the back of the post-1966 World Cup boom, albeit three years later, Shoot at one stage bestrode the school-age market like Roy Keane in his prime, devouring competitors like Goal. It invented the concept of League Ladders, arguably one of the best cover-mount gifts ever, and had a string of star writers.
I now know the likes of George Best, Kevin Keegan, Bryan Robson, Alan Ball and Danny McGrain had their columns ghosted. I know this because, later on, I worked for Shoot myself. Nevertheless, they were serious columns with hundreds of words of text. In those days such players were fairly easy to speak to, and hire, for a relatively small fee.
There was international coverage (interviews with players such as Johan Cruyff as well as the column "Shooting around") and at-home picture spreads long before Hello! invaded these shores. There was also the famous questionnaire, which revealed to the world that all footballers ate steak'n'chips, listened to Earth, Wind & Fire and wanted to meet Muhammad Ali.
The Shoot that expired is of a different time. There is a lot of colour, masses of pictures, and very few words, though until recently a Joe Cole column continued the grand tradition. It was aimed at the internet generation, whose attention span appears limited to two paragraphs. Access to players is now much harder and usually required some accommodation with a boot sponsor or kit manufacturer.
Nevertheless, football is more popular than ever, certainly more so than in the Seventies and Eighties, Shoot's heyday. Why has it gone under? The market is much tougher, and not just because of the internet and increased newspaper coverage of football. Shoot's original pre-eminence was first challenged by Match Weekly in the Eighties. Match is still around and when Shoot, which went monthly in 2000 and briefly flirted with being a poster-only publication, recently relaunched as a weekly, Match fought back with cover mounts. So did Match of the Day magazine, which was also relaunched in March, aiming at the kids' end of the market, leaving FourFourTwo – which resembles the early Shoot, albeit with more colour and a snazzier layout – to dominate the grown-ups' reading.
Shoot will live on, possibly in the book world, and definitely on eBay, where its Seventies all-colour centre-spread team line-ups are a popular item. As is the way of these things, its demise will push up the value of copies of the early magazines, at least the few which did not have the colour pictures ripped out to decorate bedroom walls. But before heading into the loft to search for some mint editions, please pause for a minute's reflection. It may be decades since we actually bought a copy, but for those of us of a certain age another icon of our youth is no more. RIP Shoot.