Monday, 13 February 2012


While the precise qualities that make up good design can be as elusive as a false 9, False 9 is certainly an aficionado of good design, particularly of graphic design, and especially – though not exclusively – when the images have a sporting theme.

I mention this because I’ve not long since stumbled across the work of Steve Welsh, an illustrator whose Twitter handle and website name reveal where lie the man’s loyalties: @miniboro_com. He has interviewed Bob Mortimer on the subject of supporting the Teessiders and, if I’m not mistaken, is also involved in a side project chronicling the first 100 issues of Middlesbrough fanzine Fly Me to the Moon, named after a terrace chant spawned in the 1980s when then manager Bruce Rioch described current boss, his centre half, Tony Mowbray, as the kind of man you’d take to the moon with you.

Anyway, as you will see from the eight images I’ve chosen (from Brian Laudrup above, incorporating the classic 1986 strip, to the seven below), it really is an eye-catching and delightfully witty body of work: an attempt to render famous footballers and/or teams in poster form, often utilising a cryptic reference to their nickname, physical appearance or even a piece of commentary about them. Here they are, my favourites from the oeuvre, with a few notes… 

No, not the slain former drug baron and head of the Medellín cartel, Pablo, but his Colombian compatriot Andrés Escobar, who was of course the defender whose reward for scoring an own goal that eliminated his country at the 1994 World Cup in the USA was a bullet in the head…

Eschewing the obvious temptation to focus on Carlos Valderrama’s iconic hairstyle, Welsh instead replaces the outline of said mop of golden ringlets with an element taken from Colombia’s current strip’s badge design: namely, the three colours of the Colombian flag, in three-quarters of a circle.

Completing a hat-trick of Colombians, it’s Tino Asprilla. Nicknamed ‘The Black Gazelle’ and playing on these shores in the famous black-and-white Toon livery, Steve felt adidas had missed something of a marketing open goal.

Before the Belgravia Centre and Shane Warne brought hair replacement surgery into the mainstream, some men’s neurotic inability to face the irreversible process of hair-loss created several monstrosities (see 70s television). Bobby Charlton is perhaps the patron saint of the comb-over. What is especially brilliant about this image is that England’s leading international goalscorer did actually endorse a model of adidas boots.

Another Manchester United legend: ‘King’ Eric Cantona rendered as a playing card, with the elements from one of his pseudo-profound aperçus thrown in alongside a devil’s fork.

On to a former teammate of Eric’s in Marseille: the slovenly Chris Waddle, perhaps known to Brits outside the country’s footballing fraternity only as a name that emerges from the nonsensical Mediterranean glossolalia spoken by The Fast Show’s Channel 9, hence Steve’s inclusion of a faux motto under the iconic Sheffield Wednesday owl.

Next up: the other person to miss a penalty on that heartbreaking evening in Turin in 1990, a man about to interim-manage England in a friendly against the Dutch, Stuart Pearce. The visual style here recalls the posters of Hitchock’s regular collaborator, Saul Bass.

Penultimately, a player Pearce might encounter in that friendly, Manchester City’s Nigel de Jong, known as ‘The Lawnmower’, apparently, either on account of mowing down the opposition or, Walsh would rather believe, covering every blade, thus rendered in OPTA-style diagram

Finally, another Dutch midfield enforcer, former Ajax, Juventus, Milan, Inter, Barcelona, Spurs and, um, Crystal Palace star Edgar Davids, variously known as The Pitbull or Piranha.

So, if you are a lover of striking, elegant, and smart design, or are looking for a present for someone who is, then why not pick something out from Steve’s online shop (links below) and pat yourself on the back for supporting genuine talent and an independent cottage industry into the bargain.


Prints: $18 (or approx £11.40 at today’s exchange rate)
Framed Prints: $35 (£22.20)
Stretched Canvas: $85 (£53.95)
T-Shirts: £16.90

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