The legend of The Sky Strikers and The Shamen

So it’s late Sunday night and the scanner in the corner is whirring away to scan in some other lost image from the world of football, Frans Thijssen or Mark Walters or some lost figure who now owns a pub or is trotted out to the half time lottery. The image might be some poor hapless children stuck with a Lloyd Christmas haircut in the middle of a programme, it sort of doesn’t matter. To get to these images, I must first wade through an entire pile of indentikit St Mirren programmes. I have an entire pile of 91/92 with a communist adherence to repetition. Same cover, same colours, week in, week out, combining the silky skills of Julian Broddle with a spirit crushing soullessness. We never pushed the boat out at St Mirren when it came to entertainment, in programmes, in football….

As it happens, I moved back to Australia right at the end of the 91/92 season. St Mirren were relegated that year under a tired and visibly bored Davie Hay. We sat in the family enclosure (cardboard cut-outs the fanzine called us) all season in the rain watching the worst football ever played. We lost 5-1 to St Johnstone and attended a paltry post match protest where two wee neds in shell suits told the Sun photographer they’d jump on a wall and be angry for a fiver each. We lost a cup tie at Hearts to the condemnation of Dougie Donnelly for our “tactics”, condemnation so outrageous my Dad was moved to write to him. Dougie responded with a handwritten 8 page letter in red ink that we kept for a number of years. We lost to Dundee United while a Dundee United man told his son a litany of things that were wrong with Love Street including the “worst F*N juice” and “the worst F*N seats” in Scotland before concluding “I’ll NEVER be F*N back!”…already condemned to a fate of wandering the Tasmanian wildnerness, I trudged out of Love Street that final day as the players gave the 3 fans still in a ground a tepid round of applause, barely to return, off for the new adventure…

I wasn’t the only one leaving – later that year, speaking of repetition, Saint and Greavsie disappeared off the screens. Their final image on screen was them pedalling down the street on a pedalo or a tandem singing “This Could Be The Last Time” at the end of Euro 92. Things were changing in all our worlds – they had lost the football to Skys “Whole New Ball Game” and I was in Australia getting my football scores on Clubcall – suitably we lost 7-0 to Raith the first time we rang, which prompted my Dad to ring the line three times to make sure he hadn’t heard wrong…

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Thus cast into the land of the convict, I missed the Sky Strikers, but it didn’t stop becoming me semi obsessed with them in later life. The Sky Strikers were Sky Sports cheerleading troupe that performed for one season only in that first Premier League Season 1992/93. I first became aware of them flipping through a retro Shoot album I found in a Charity Shop, fixed in time forever, smiling through a random Chelsea game. In truth, they became a name in the back of my brain, in that way a trivial fact will cling to your brain, like knowing the name of Patsy Kensits band or knowing Dani Behr and Ryan Giggs used to go out. And then I needed a name for my Twitter account, and it came into my mind. That’s when I figured it would be easy to find out what happened to them, only it wasn’t, it was like they never existed…

I figured in later life, they would garner some kind of kitsch Internet rehabilitation, but it has remained beyond them. Even Saint and Greavsie have garnered some kind of latter day respect (particularly after their Skinner and Baddiel mauling) so why not The Strikers? All aspects of 90s football have been repackaged and nostalgically elevated, from Manchester United Cola to Liverpools “ecru” kit, so why not the Strikers? They remain lost to history…

In truth, The Strikers time in the sun was brief and rough. Skys “blockbuster Monday” opening night featured Manchester City vs QPR, and the Strikers were booed, not for the last time. The camera cut back to Richard Keys pissing himself laughing. At Southampton, the tape skipped and cut out mid way through either Black Or White or Alive and Kicking. At Tottenham, they couldn’t perform due to bad weather. At Norwich, 3 girls had to be removed after threatening the Strikers with violence. And that was without the perennial “get your tits out for the lads” chant. The only article that exists on the girls seemingly lives here –http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/girls-who-give-sky-high-kicks-owen-slot-meets-a-team-of-dancers-who-have-charmed-their-way-through-many-a-defence-1456683.html – and details the highs and lows of their only season together. Kindness at Ipswich and Blackburn, booed out of Highbury…

Ah, Highbury. Manchester City, Monday night, 1992/93 season. 1-0 to the Arsenal with an Ian Wright goal. Now I remember why I remember The Sky Strikers. September 28, 1992, and the greatest piece of lost footage that exists. Alan Davies of all people was the first person I heard mention it on Fantasy Football League but he missed the point or was cut off so David Baddiel could point out how a linesman looked like Statto. You see the apex of the Strikers era was a half time performance dancing with The Shamen. The Shamen, and you can look it up kids, were a 30 something late to fame rave band who had gone mainstream with “Ebeneezer Goode”. Sky booked them to perform at 1/2 time of the Man City game at a time when said song was #1 in the charts. Keep in mind the article had already pointed out the Strikers pre game performance was all in the white of Tottenham, sparking a volley of abuse on top of the usual “get your tits out” etc etc…they were booed on, they were booed off.

The Shamen fared no better, allegedly because Mr C (the lead singer) was a Tottenham fan. It remains as loud a booing as anyone not named Sol Campbell has received at Arsenal. To cries of “who the F****ng hell are you”, the Shamen failed to complete their song, leaving apparently with a V sign to the crowd. The Strikers returned to Highbury later in the year in the Sky white outfits…but with red sleeves. Alas, they still failed to curry favour – this time the chant simply changed to “Are you Yiddoes in disguise?'”…

It remains strange to me these things not only happened, but they aren’t remembered more. In an era where everything is on Youtube, the Strikers, the Shamen, it seemingly never happened. It’s lost to the winds like my Dads letter to Dougie Donnelly, the fate of the wee boy who listened to his Daddy rant about St Mirren, and indeed Love Street itself. The scanner meanwhile puts in the weans with the Lloyd Christmas haircut onto a computer. At least that’ll be remembered…next time…

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