Peter Robinson encountered this group of children outside Manchester City’s Maine Road ground in 1968, who were offering to ‘Mind Yer Car’ for the price of a bag of sweets.
MANY FOOTBALL GROUNDS, including Manchester City’s Maine Road home, were located in suburban areas, and there were streets of terraced houses within a short walk. The custom at many of them was for gangs of children to congregate as supporters started to arrive for a game, and they would approach those parking up with an offer to ‘look after the car’ for a tip, which would then usually be spent in the local sweet shop.
“I took this in 1968 and Manchester City had recently won the league title,” Peter recalls. “Someone had graffitied the word ‘City’ on to a wall, and it became a great backdrop for the
picture. I asked the kids if they would stand in front of it for a quick picture and they were happy to oblige.” The image was subsequently used on the cover of The Football League Review magazine.
“It wasn’t a sporting picture as such at all,” says Peter, “but it was typical of the kind of thing that I was looking for all the time. I was much more interested in the stories around the game that showed some of the characters.”
One interesting side note is that Peter recently met up again with one of the children in the picture, now all grown up and a regular Manchester City season ticket holder, although the games these days are played down the road in the rather more salubrious surroundings of the City of Manchester Stadium.
TAKE A VISIT TO PETER Robinson’s highly evocative website, ‘The Saturday Man,’ and you’ll encounter close on to sixty years of footballing history, revealing, over 300 images or so, just how much the game and its environment has changed beyond recognition throughout that time. Where the top clubs now charge a fortune for tickets and merchandise, players are changing clubs for the equivalent of the GDP of a small country and the prawn sandwich has become the symbol of the allpervading corporate culture, once upon a time it was all way simpler, with a much closer association existing between fans and their teams.
Most of those who were photographing football back around the time the World Cup was hosted – and won – by England back in 1966 were there to grab the key moments of a game, the ball hitting the back of the net, the goal celebrations, the posed shot set up for the following day’s paper. Peter was, of course, required to get the necessary ‘money shot’ for his employer, but his approach was quite different, in that he was casting his eye further, looking for pictures around the edges of the game that interested him more. The result is a wealth of material that beautifully captures a lost and more innocent age, and a new audience is discovering this treasure trove of material and is loving the memories.
ABOVE: George Best in his pomp at Old Trafford in September 1964, a shot that Peter took after hitchhiking up to Manchester while still a student. It became the first footballing picture he ever had published. His camera in his early years was a Pentax Spotmatic and, later, a Nikon F paired with a Novoflex 280mm.
“I was never actually into football at all,” says Peter. “I didn’t follow any team and wasn’t really looking to be a sports photographer. It just came about because I was looking for a job after studying photography at Leicester College of Art and needed to make some money to support my family. I started out delivering copies of a football magazine, The Football League Review, and eventually got the chance to take pictures for them.”
An almost accidental entry into the genre it might have been, but Peter subsequently made a hugely successful career out of photographing the beautiful game. From 1970 to 1994 he was the photographer for FIFA, and he’s covered no less than 13 World Cup Finals and 12 Olympic Games, shot pictures in 115 countries and had his work featured in more than 450 books, and was even for ten years a Professor at the University of Lincoln in the Faculty of Media.
In short it’s been a glorious career, but it’s still the more observational pictures that he’s proudest of, and these are the ones that inevitably get pride of place on his website, which was set up with the aim of showcasing images with the wider community that would otherwise never be widely seen. As a photographer who always prided himself on his photojournalistic instincts these are shots that go beyond the traditional sports arena and they’ve become social documents.
Peter works exclusively with Affinity Photo software to finish his files so it’s appropriate that they’re our partner for the six-month series that will be highlighting shots from Peter’s archive and telling the story of how each came about. Stay tuned for a feast of great photography and some special memories from football’s past.
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