Behind the scenes at Streatham Rovers

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When did the idea first come about and was it inspired by any particular real-life incident or just based on a lot of small ones?

I have been interested in dreaming up fictional teams pretty much since I got into football aged eight, drawing their kits, picking locations etc. This gradually got more elaborate, crowbarring them into teenage attempts at writing sci-fi and fantasy and making the teams and squads in full on football video games.

I loved Roy Of The Rovers as a kid too, which of course has Melchester Rovers. It was a natural progression to eventually do something similar on Twitter. The thing which influenced me most to make it satirical rather than realistic was the David Squires cartoon ‘Bullshit Rodeo’, which I think is the finest piece of football-related comedy ever.

Roughly what percentage of people still get duped into thinking it’s a real club, compared to the start? Have there been any OTT reactions in that regard?

It’s definitely lessened, tweets need to get some proper momentum for it to reach people who aren’t in-the-know. As someone who was a very susceptible age when Brass Eye was first on, I do get a bit of a childish thrill at duping folk, especially if they’re semi-important, but it’s not essential.

I wouldn’t say any reactions have been OTT, probably thankfully. There’s been journalists who have taken it seriously, i.e. the recent tweet about a rival fan digitally vandalising the new kit design meant Moving Forward, the real-life shirt manufacturers, had people contacting them asking how on earth it was possible.

Has anyone ever taken offence to the use of the image of Kevin Lloyd [a deceased actor who played Tosh Lines on The Bill] for Streatham manager Taff Goose?

As far as I know, no, and I don’t think it has reached a sufficient level of popularity to risk it!

If any family members or whatever did take offence, I’d probably try to explain that it’s done with great nostalgic affection – The Bill used to regularly film round where I lived and went to school, so much so that my mum and Kevin were on ‘hello’ terms, and so in my head I’m doing that Quentin Tarantino thing of casting an old star from your childhood…except he’s dead and there’s no consent…

Do you ever worry that what happens in the game in real life makes it too hard to parody?

I think a lot of what I parody isn’t actually football, I use a football club as a vehicle to take the piss out of politics and social trends or make references to music and art that I like.

This is the beauty of fictional football clubs, they are so embedded into society you can say what you think about anything via sponsorship deals or players’ day-jobs or the eccentricities of fans of groups hiring the club bar etc. When I do joke about the football itself, it’ll usually be about the growing professionalisation of non-league football.

There’s a few other parody non-league club accounts on Twitter that go down the ‘lol, crap sunday league played by fat alcoholics’ route and I can’t help wondering if they’ve ever actually been to a non-league match.

Having actually seen tons of it myself, this is very wide of the mark, the average non-league player nowadays is probably straight out of a pro-club’s academy, has the body of a Greek god, a head full of motivational slogans, and will often be earning significantly more for part-time work than I ever have for full-time! The clubs themselves are becoming similarly leaner and meaner (for fear of sounding a bit up myself there, allow me to stipulate that I also find the word ‘shitbags’ absolutely hilarious).


1990-91 Streatham Rovers home kit, sponsored by Water Palace

Do you have links to Streatham or were there any main reasons for choosing it?

I grew up there, and often wondered what a Streatham side would be like. I’ve subsequently moved around quite a lot in adulthood, usually according to the whims of landlords, but moved back to Streatham shortly before starting SRFC.

It’s a curious place, I guess (though surely everywhere is!). Its transition from boring suburb to least fashionable bit of the inner-city over the 1980s is really quite interesting, as well as the fact it’s basically a weirdly long town along a high road, the Chile of South London. I guess SRFC is my attempt to put it on the map, in bigger letters.

Green and purple – reasons for those beyond the potential for retina-scorching?

Well first of all I think, in theory if not always in practice, it’s not retina-scorching; if you get the shades just right, it’s beautifully balanced.

As to why I selected that colour-scheme, I’ve been using it for imagined football teams since I can remember. One of the most exciting moments of my life was Pro Evolution Soccer 3 or 4, which allowed you to edit the exact RGB values of colours on kits.

In fact, another reason I started the SRFC Twitter was the fact that, if it got a degree of popularity, I might be able to club enough people together to get the wine purple and green football shirt I’d always dreamed of made, and it worked.


1997-98 Streatham Rovers home kit, made by Wu-Wear

You seem to be a bit of a kit-nerd, how much fun is it to come with new (or historical) kits and nonsensical reasons/inspirations?

Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. As mentioned earlier, I’ve been drawing and designing football kits since I was a kid, and I often check out football shirt blogs, looking at rumoured kits, even of clubs I’ve no interest in (in spite of the sad dominance of generic teamwear kits).

I like the challenge of capturing a time and place with the old SRFC ones. Nothing seems to date as quickly as a football shirt. Ones I’ve assumed were contemporary at the time now look like a moment in time frozen forever (the biggest case of this for me is those early 1990s Victorian-gents-meets-rave-aesthetics Umbro ones, where they combined lace-up collars with computer generated geometric patterns, they just seem to capture what some were triumphantly calling ‘the end of history’ following the collapse of the Soviet Union). Even the quite boring early-to-mid 2000s kits now seem very much of their time, while the rest of fashion seems to have barely changed.

Nonsensical reasons for kit designs are funny to create, but I’m never going to compete with the hilarity of some of the real world press release guff, like the new Man United shirt, a generic fade pattern “inspired by the Victorian railway workers of Newton Heath” ha ha ha, god help anyone who believes that.

There could be an annual award for the most tenuous appeal to ‘tradition’ in football kit design and marketing. Another fascinating thing has been actually designing football shirts to be made. There are minor limitations I wouldn’t begin to have imagined, especially in small-scale production, and it’s very time-consuming.

I haven’t designed any historic SRFC shirts in a while because I’m spending so much time teaching myself Adobe Illustrator to create increasingly complex patterns and logos. There’s a new SRFC home shirt in the pipeline, though I’ve possibly made it implausibly complex and am awaiting a final decision from the factory.

Did you do the artwork yourself and what’s your favourite SRFC kit?

I’ve designed all the artwork myself, but did have some invaluable help vectorising logos when the first actually-existing shirt was going into production.

My favourite shirt is probably the mid-80s green and purple pinstripes one with the huge ‘FRANKIE SAYS RELAX’-style slogans paid for by the ‘loony left’ Lambeth Council. I picked the slogans out from an old PDF of a local election manifesto. They were often depicted as hilariously extremist at the time but you look at them now and they’re pretty commonplace sentiments: gay employment rights, nursery places for working mothers, concerns about luxury redevelopments and so on.


Streatham Rovers 1984-85 home kit, sponsored by the ‘looney left’ Lambeth Council

Is there potential for anything else beyond a Twitter account?

I think there’s lots of potential for Streatham Rovers in what early internet utopians sneeringly called ‘the meatspace’ of real life. I had a few thoughts, like a ‘Streatham Rovers History Walking Tour’ and putting up posters advertising obviously non-existent games but, sadly, London’s cost of housing caught up with us and since the start of this year I live pretty much on the other side of the UK.

I sometimes worry about putting so much effort into something as temporal and disposable as Twitter, and want to make things more tangible. That’s what’s good about producing real shirts and stickers. People sometimes ask me about hypothetically setting up a real team at the lowest entry point of non-league, funding initial costs with a crowd-funder.

I think it would be generate enough interest to be sustainable and maybe rise a few tiers, but I don’t think it would be much fun. There are a lot of man-hours and bureaucracy involved in running a senior team at any level, and I’m happier, er, simply taking the piss according to my own anarchic timetable.

There’s actually a Streatham Rovers Supporters’ Team that plays in a weekly seven-a-side league in Crystal Palace, independent of me. They play in the shirts and the goalkeeper has a special black version of the home kit with the number in purple and green, it looks brilliant.

They go to a pub afterwards and end up singing Streatham chants and doing loud greyhound howls. Most real non-league clubs would kill for such colourful support. Ideally, I’d like to make a sitcom about various characters orbiting around the club, so if any BBC or Channel 4 or Netflix people are reading this, please stuff my mouth with gold and give me total creative freedom.

I’m looking into the possibility of automating live match updates in an attempt to recreate the random chance element of sport, though I’m utterly clueless about building Twitter bots so this will probably remain a pipedream.

  • The new Streatham home shirt, made by Moving Forward Sports, will soon be launched in a blaze of publicity, or possibly a blaze at the training ground

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