Magical Memories of Newsagents that Fueled a Passion for Soccer

LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 12: British newspapers carrying headlines from the day after David Cameron became Prime Minister are displayed in a newsagents shop near Parliament on May 12, 2010 in London, England. After a tightly contested election campaign and five days of negotiation a Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government has been confirmed (Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

One of the few magical shops that were often an enjoyment for me when I was growing up in the United Kingdom was the local newsagents. The store, which would sell an assortment of things such as newspapers, magazines, confectionary, lottery tickets, drinks, greetings cards and much more was one of the most exciting places I would visit when I was a child. Going there meant I could browse through the newspapers, pick up a copy of the latest soccer magazines and, if I was behaving well that day, get a chocolate bar.

Even after I moved to the States when I was a teenager and, years later as a young adult, returned to England or Wales to visit relatives, one of the things I’d look forward to the most was going into a newsagents. As a child, there were always treasures to be found such as Panini stickers, a new plastic football, different sweets, a bottle of Lucozade and more. But my main vice was the reading material. As a child and young adult, I loved reading newspapers and magazines. I definitely had an insatiable thirst for knowledge at a pretty young age and it was one of the reasons I studied journalism in college and became a freelance reporter after graduating.

In the town where I lived in Wales, we were fortunate to have two newsagents just down the road from each other. Both shops were always a busy place in the morning as people ran in to grab a newspaper, cigarettes and a pint of milk, among other things. From a very young age, I had a subscription to a few different magazines including Shoot, Match Weekly, Roy Of The Rovers and Beano. The newsagents had a cubby hole behind the counter where they kept the subscriptions. Each week, as soon as the magazine delivery would arrive, they’d sort the magazines and write the person’s name in pencil on the magazine and then would place it in the cubby hole until I came in that week to pay for the issues. If I remember correctly, the magazines were delivered on a Thursday, so I had a chance to read them before the weekend’s football matches. Many hours were spent memorizing a lot of the statistics in Match Weekly. And, at the time in the early 80s, their inclusion of player ratings for each team was a trendsetter and often a point of disagreement between my cousin and I regarding how accurate the numbers were.

When I returned to the United Kingdom on vacation, walking into a newsagent felt like being a kid in a candy store. The quantity of soccer books, magazines and articles in newspapers seemed enormous especially compared to what I found in US bookstores. I would end up walking out of a UK newsagents after spending what seemed like a king’s ransom on all of the glossy soccer magazines I bought as well as broadsheet newspapers, books and more. And, if you were lucky to find a newsagents that was slow in sending back returns, you would sometimes find some dusty old soccer book or Rothman’s Book which the newsagent didn’t realize they had. Plus, as I got older, I ended up buying copies of New Musical Express and Melody Maker which added more weight (and expense) to my reading habits.

Whenever I stayed at one of my relatives homes during the summer, I often volunteered to go down to the shop to grab a pint of milk or a loaf of bread. Not only to do a favor for the family, but it also gave me a chance to spend a little time in the newsagents as I perused the headlines that screamed off the front pages of the national newspapers. Plus, the local newsagents – which often were found on a street corner – were the center of activity in town.

What always astounds me when looking through a newsagents in the UK is how many magazines there are. For such a small country, there seems like a disproportionately larger number of magazines available than in the States. Even the number of children’s magazines is mind boggling.

While newsagents still can be found across Great Britain, the popularity of these shops is declining with an estimated 10 newsagents closing each week due to competition from supermarkets and coffee shops. With more reading done in digital form and the popularity of coffee shops in the UK, it’s quite possible that newsagents will eventually become as rare as finding a fish’n chip shop. Newsagents will still serve an important place in society, especially in small towns, and I don’t see print newspapers going away completely especially in a country like the United Kingdom where so many people read. But slowly and surely, newsagents will become part of a dying breed and thus will end the joy for children to uncover all of the soccer-fueled delights that I experienced when I was a child, too.

13 thoughts on “Magical Memories of Newsagents that Fueled a Passion for Soccer”

  1. A very nice article gaffer. It took me to a trip down memory lane. Every Thrusday night when I was a boy after doing our foodshoping we would go and pick up the family magazines. My Beano, My mums dog newspapers, my dads fishing mag and of course The Radio and TV TImes.

    Our newasagent of course was the home to The Liverpool Echo and in the late afternoon you could get a copy of the football echo printed on a pink piece of paper. which had some of the days scores in it.

    I do miss the newsagents being in the US now and I did enjoy going back to when I was a boy lol


  2. Like EvertonfanKY, I recall many similar memories of the local newsagents, a myriad of different things, both basic foods and household goods crammed in but in common with the times (1960’s & ’70’s) the newspapers were presented in a prominent position. I remember “Shoot” well and looked forward to reading the latest news. The local parades of shops always seemed to have a bakers, grocers, butchers, florist and fish & chip shop.

    Strangely enough, my abiding memory newspaper wise was walking back to Manchester City Centre with my brother after a game at Old Trafford and being able to buy a copy of the “Football Pink” within an hour of the game’s final whistle. It contained reviews on all the local games albeit focusing mainly on United and City. To get a broadsheet out with such speed to street vendors was, at that time, unsurpassed.

  3. omg – that is one thing I really miss in the U.K. the newsagent or corner shop. Many a happy time browsing through the magazines and stuff. I so wish we had one of those here … somehow borders and barnes and noble are not the same.

  4. GAFFER!
    Off topic…but
    Was just looking at DirecTV’s twitter feed….
    It is quoted as saying FSC is expected in HD next week.

  5. >>”For such a small country, there seems like a disproportionately larger number of magazines available than in the States.”

    This also seems to be true of newspapers too – in England there must be at least 5 “quality” broadsheet newspapers, and 4 or 5 tabloids, before you even start thinking about the local newspapers specific to every city or area. On the otherhand, the US generally only has one or two major “quality” newspapers in each area, plus one or two “tabloids”.

  6. That brought back a lot of memories. Roy of the Rovers. Classic comic as a young’un.

    I miss the days. Walking down to the tube station Saturday morning. Picking up a newspaper and Lucazade reading all the football chat on the way to the pub in Highbury for pre match drinks. Full of the acquired knowledge when I walked in. Good times.

  7. I used to live for Shoot magazine as a kid growing up in the seventies. A copy of Shoot and the occasional Look-In on the way home from school and I was happy. We used to get the Daily Mirror that I would read starting at the back with the sports section. I still do whenever I pick up a paper when I’m back there.

  8. Thanks Gaffer – brought back great memories of my childhood in Australia. The Shoot and Match magazines were shipped on boats so they were 3 months old by the time I could buy them…….but still went to the Newsagents every Thursday and picked them up, read them numerous times and put the posters on my bedroom wall.

    How good was it when your team or favorite player was the pull-out in the center?


    1. Muley, 3 months? Bloomin’ heck! As for the posters in the pull-out center, I was a Swansea City supporter so it was very rare indeed when there was a Swans poster in there unfortunately.

      The Gaffer

  9. Gaffer,

    My father and his family are from newcastle upon tyne. When visitng there as a child (born rasied and still live in California), that was indeed one of the best thing about England. The news agent. Getting a roll of smarties, a mars bar, and the evening chronicle was awesome. Seems a bit basic these days with the info on the internet. But there is something traditional and special about a trip to the news agent.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *