Newest Review: ... main agenda) and contains many features from around the world. The regular features (letters, Q&As etc) maintain a high level of stand... more
FouFourTwo: A Thinking Man's Football Mag
Four Four Two
Member Name: Hishyeness
Four Four Two
Advantages: Well written, varied and interesting articles. Excellent photojournalism.
Disadvantages: A little expensive. Nohing else to speak of.
There have been a number of magazines that have plopped through my letterbox over the years - National Geographic, The Economist and What HiFi amongst them - but none of them have had the enduring appeal of Haymarket Publications' cerebral football magazine - FourFourTwo (Drat. There go half of you already!)
I have been an Arsenal season ticket holder for over ten years now and am a regular contributor to one of the fanzines (Oh well, that's another batch of you alienated). However, despite proudly wearing the club colours, I am first and foremost a football fan and enjoy reading football literature (Stop sniggering, that is NOT an oxymoron).
FourFourTwo (FFT) is without doubt the closest thing to a "thinking man's" football magazine. For those not of a football-minded disposition (well done for staying with me!) the name refers to a well-known football formation - four at the back, four in midfield and two strikers up front (the poor goalkeeper is ignored as he is the one constant).
FFT, which is printed on glossy, high quality paper, comes out once a month and has a news-stand price of £4.10. As a subscriber, I pay £19 every six months by direct debit - a saving of 20% off the cover price. The magazine, which celebrates its 15th birthday this month, has a healthy balance of regular features, exclusive interviews, advertising, and competitions, and boasts a very high quality of journalism and photography.
It covers the whole range of the football universe - from Non-league to Premier League in the UK - as well as coverage of foreign leagues, from the more obvious such as Serie A (Italy), Primera Liga (Spain) and Bundesliga (Germany) to the esoteric (Japan, Turkey, Mexico and Ukraine amongst other).
There are three or four eagerly awaited special supplements a year, including the Top 100 Football Rich List, 100 Best League Players from the Championship and down the leagues, and the annual season preview. You also get a World Cup and European Championship supplement when these tournaments come around with a nice wall chart to keep tabs on proceedings. They also produced an Ashes supplement this year which was a welcome - if rather unexpected - bonus.
The adverts are not intrusive. They are scattered throughout, with a more extensive section, including shoe, glove and kit catalogues, concentrated at the back. Every now and again, the issue will be packaged with a freebie. These usually consist of seventy to a hundred page excerpted chapters of football-related biographies. Recent examples include books on Brian Clough, George Best, Terry Venables and Maradona.
Here's a quick run down of the features that appear each month:
One on One: A leading football personality (this month it was Patrick Kluivert) answers questions put to him by the public - via letter or e-mail. Some of the Q&A can be surprisingly frank, although the honesty of the response depends on the character of the interviewee.
The Boy's A Bit Special: An interview with one or two bright young starlets ostensibly destined for great things, but FFT's success in predicting them is pretty hit and miss (they picked striker Graeme Tomlinson (who?!) from Man United's class of '94, ignoring Beckham, Scholes and the Neville brothers).
Up Front: This section features small bite sized articles, excellent book and game reviews, anecdotes of strange fan behaviour, and various other weird and wacky titbits.
My Secret Vice: A one-page in depth interview about a particular player or manager's hobby or interest out of football (some have surpisingly atypical intellectual pursuits - the current month features David Artell, a Morecambe defender studying as a forensic biologist)
More than a Game: Throwing the spotlight on the most competitive, historically important or emotional football derbies across the world. Subjects have ranged from the predictable (Cardiff v Swansea and Atletico v Real Madrid) to the bizarre (Persepolis v Esteghlal in Iran, and Honduras v El Salvador in the Caribbean).
Action Replay: Usually a detailed and very well researched overview of key people and moments in the history of the game. Recent highlights have included such diverse subjects as the tragic "Superga" air crash that killed the Torino football team in 1949, Dixie Dean and Claude Anelka's stewardship of Raith Rovers.
Planet Football: A section dedicated to lower league football, non-league football, Scottish football and a round-up of leagues across the rest of the world.
First XI: A leading football personality is asked to provide a list of the eleven best players he has ever played with or against - one in each position, as well as a manager and three subs.
Competitions: there is a star letter award for the best letter to the Editor, and a unique and devilishly difficult "spine line" competition. The spine of the magazine is printed with some random looking words, and you, as the reader, have to figure out how it relates to one of the articles in the issue.
All in all, a very satisfying read that contains some very good writing, exceptional sports photography and intelligent discussion of the relevant and topical football issues of the day. I usually manage to get through an issue, dipping in and out, over the course of a couple of weeks, so the frequency of publication is about right. With the immediacy and accessibility of news on the internet, this magazine needs to provide something different from the usual gossip and speculation, and it does so very well. The cover price of £4 is a bit steep, but not exorbitant given similar publications and you certainly get your money's worth. Highly recommended.
© Hishyeness 2009
Summary: Perfect for those who like their football with a bit of depth.