I’ll talk about my first ever job on today’s Working Wednesdays, a job which was unpaid but I got free football fanzines out of it, and I was helping support my country’s international football team. Aged 15, I wrote articles for and helped sell the Northern Ireland football fanzine, Arconada…Armstrong!
Named after the ITV commentary from Gerry Armstrong’s famous winning goal in Northern Ireland’s ridiculous walloping of host nation Spain in the 1982 World Cup, this football fanzine was one of many that sprung up in parts of the UK during the late 1980s and 1990s. The commentator blurted out “and…Arconada…Armstrong!” as host nation clown faced goalkeeper spilt the ball in front of West Belfast grafter Gerry Armstrong who banged the ball into the back of the Spanish net. I personally reminisced this moment on my visit to Valencia in 2003.
I had been attending Northern Ireland matches since 1990, mostly with my Dad and my childhood friends Michael and Gavin. After 5 years or so watching, and the odd letter to the local newspapers (Ireland’s Saturday Night and the Sunday Life), I decided to write to the fanzine Arconada…Armstrong! It’s editor, David Alcorn, also known as Dr. Wa was keen to have me as a regular contributor and I secured a regular slot as a writer. As a 15 year old, I must have written some garbage back in those days, but the enthusiasm probably drowned that out. I simply loved watching Northern Ireland. Indeed if you have followed my adventures on here, you will see that childhood traits don’t die out – I’m often spotted globetrotting with my Northern Ireland shirt on and flying the Northern Ireland flag. To me, and to many others, our wee country is simply known as “Norn Iron”, it’s the way we say Northern Ireland…
My articles for Arconada…Armstrong were all hand written and all done by post, these days referred to as “snail mail”. There were no computers around, though my Dad had a computer from work so my later articles were typed up. I started writing for Arconada…Armstrong in 1995. My time doing it came to an end in 1996, at the Germany friendly I think. I submitted a few more articles, but the workload had taken its toll on the editor David Alcorn, and the fantastic fanzine was put to the sidelines and discontinued for now.
For about 2 or 3 issues, myself and Michael McClelland (my mate who also contributed to Arconada…Armstrong!) helped sell the fanzine on the bridge in the village in Belfast before the home matches. It was a passion. I was aged 15 – 16 and loved it. The photos on this post ARE of us selling fanzines in Belfast, but NOT Arconada…Armstrong! We don’t have any photos or physical memories from that era.
When Arconada…Armstrong! ended in 1996, Michael, Gavin and I set up our own Northern Ireland fanzine called “Here We Go…Again” which we launched in March 1997. It was all a blur looking back and we loved it. We spent hours and hours working on it, and we did make a bit of money back on it. But it never about that – it was all about the passion. And it still is.
Head to the Northern Ireland programme fair in Belfast in May of every year if you want to pick up some back issues of Arconada…Armstrong! including my articles. I won’t read them anymore – they’ll make me cringe.
But then again, that planted my passion for writing and putting my stories out there. From the streets of Belfast to the big wide world, I thank David Alcorn and Arconada…Armstrong! for the memories. If the fanzine ever gets a second relaunch (it came out again briefly in late 1997), I’d love to write for them again. I may even turn up at a home match and sell them.
With thanks to – David Alcorn, Luis Arconada, Gerry Armstrong, Michael McClelland, Joe Blair.
I pray every night and day that the glory days of Northern Irish football can return again someday. Happy working Wednesdays guys! Safe travels!