Book Review – LOST: Football in the 1980s

by David Featherstone, ed Phil Brennan. Published by Victor Publishing (2021)

With around 350 colour photographs of Football League grounds from the mid-80s, this book provides a definitive record of a lost world and documents the extent to which football stadia have been transformed in the last four decades.

At the beginning of the 1982/83 season, David Featherstone undertook a photographic project to visit all 92 Football League grounds but set himself the condition that he would select fixtures so that he also saw each of the 92 clubs playing away. It took him nearly five seasons to complete and this publication showcases his photographs, many of which have never been previously published.

Other than the photographs in books by Simon Inglis, I am not aware of any other photographic record of football stadia of this era and for anyone who watched games in the 1980s it is a wonderful source of nostalgia.

Photographic collections of this kind are indeed very rare. Until maybe twenty years ago the standard of consumer cameras was relatively poor and few people would risk taking expensive ‘pro-quality’ equipment on a football terrace. Hence most surviving historic football photographs from the last century tend to be press images but with a focus on the pitch rather than the stands or the spectators.

In fact it was considered bizarre that anyone should want to take a photograph of something as mundane as a football ground. It has not been until the era of mobile phones with camera functionality that photography has become so commonplace and images so prevalent.

I recall taking photos of Valley Parade before a game in 1982 and being quizzed why I should want to make the effort. As a historical record I am glad that I did and it is my regret that I didn’t take more photographs of the old ground. Although I have other photos taken at away games in the 1980s, the quality left a lot to be desired given that I had neither the technical skills nor the kit. By contrast, his images confirm that David Featherstone had the eye of a talented photographer and for that matter he has subsequently worked as a professional in that field.

Dave Featherstone visited Valley Parade for the visit of Walsall on 22nd October, 1983 (a 0-0 draw attended by 2,474) and attended Bradford City’s visit to Bolton Wanderers on 27th March, 1984 by which time there had been a revival in form and the Bantams had lifted themselves from the bottom of the third division (the game was a 2-0 victory for City in front of 5,994). The photographs of VP feature the Kop (taken from the Bradford End), the offices on South Parade and the approach to the ground from Thorncliffe Road (taken roughly where the One in a Million school stands now. Other than the second image, the other two will be totally unrecognisable to anyone under 45/50 years old.

The terraces, the fences and the derelict stands are from a different world. The collection of images is also a reminder of how many clubs have moved into new grounds. Remember Fellows Park, The Goldstone Ground, Somerton Park, The Old Show Ground or Springfield Park? A reminder also of the old Plough Lane, one of the most inhospitable and horrible grounds that I have visited.

LOST: Football in the 1980s is a unique publication and deserves to sit alongside the volumes of Simon Inglis which is probably the best endorsement I can offer. Having been printed by Amazon, if I had a gripe it is that the title was deserving of better quality production for posterity and to do greater justice to the standard of the photographs. Nonetheless, with all-colour images the cover price of £17.99 represents good value and I know from experience that if it had been produced by a traditional printer there would have been a corresponding impact on cost.

John Dewhirst

You can find archive images of Valley Parade including those taken by myself from this link


 You can read my other book reviews from here.

Details of my own most recent book, WOOL CITY RIVALS: A History in Colour (volume 7 in the Bantamspast History Revisited series) in collaboration with George Chilvers: Wool City Rivals: A History in Colour