Lightning Strikes ’95 & fond VHS memories

If you’re older than twenty-five, at some point in your life you probably had a row of football-themed VHS tapes lined or piled up alongside your television.

Imagine explaining that to someone younger now, someone who has never known a world without YouTube and BitTorrents.  Not the technology, but the principle: the notion of going to a shop and spending £10-£20 on a highlights video or a compilation.

Nick Hancock’s Football Nightmares; Vinnie Jones’ Football Hardmen; Big Ron Bites Back!!.

“…and he dropped me…on the outskirts of Stoke Poges.”

Different times.

Having not been into an HMV for over a decade I can’t be certain, but I’m fairly sure the “football” shelf isn’t as eclectic as it once was - or, if it is, the only people browsing through it will be that odd “loiter outside the ground on a non-matchday” demographic.

Either way, the internet made buying football in reel form obsolete and now, at any time of day and in almost country in the world, the sort of nostalgia which was lovingly collected is now overly-accessible in a clicky,temporary form.

It’s sad in a way, because technological advancement - overwhelming force for good though it is - has taken away some of the game’s most precious rituals.  Sticker collecting is very quaint, lovingly scrapbooking match-reports and pictures is now an oddball’s pastime and children definitely don’t trade VHS tapes at school anymore.

We did - and that’s how Lightning Strikes ’95 came into my possession.

In the mid-1990s, football wasn’t as accessible as it is now and, living in a four-channel television household, access to the game was quite limited.  The Big Match - remember that weird, pulsing football graphic which preceded it? - would appear occasionally on ITV and, of course, we all had Match of the Day, but there was no La Liga, no Eredivisie, no Bundesliga and although Channel 4 had started showing Serie A, it was presented in a narrow, perspective-denying way.

Lightning Strikes ’95 (If you’re a Football Junkie, this is your overdose!’) was a poorly produced mess. It was, however - and remains - probably the finest collection of goals ever committed to VHS. True, it looked like it had been edited in Microsoft Paint and terrible novelty graphics invaded the screen at will, but it was a glorious sorto f nonsense.

In retrospect, that was probably because it was so fresh.  Whenever a great goal is scored in 2015, the entire internet is aware of it within an hour; vines metastasise across Twitter and click-hungry publishers spend days urging you to click their video link until complete saturation is achieved.

Conversely, Lightning Strikes ’95 was exotic and new.  It was full of unintentional cliches and every German player eitherlooked like Bernd Schuster or Andi Moeller, but the football was spectacular. There were volleys from forty yards, absurdly imaginative free-kick routines and, deep in one sub-category, footage of a South American referee being chased off the pitch, over a perimeter fence, into the darkness and to a fate unknown.

It was an oddly-collated hodgepodge of silliness, but it still gave me a glimpse of a more three-dimensional football world.

The odd Premier League goal would appear - I vaguely remember Les Ferdinand thundering the ball into Peter Schmeichel’s top-corner at Loftus Road - but it was really very circumspect and devoid of any trace of the big league focus which would presumably dominate a contemporary equivalent.

The football was different, too - not just the actual play, but also in its colour, its context, and its sounds.  That Lightning Strikes VHS showed me toilet roll draping from a crossbar for the first time and exposed me to that guttural noise that rages from latin stadia whenever a goal is scored.

It was fun, of course, and - as the tag-line promised - it was essentially just an orgy of goals, but it was educational as well and, absurd as it sounds, an horizon-broadening experience.