Gazza in vice shock

18th October 1996 at 01:00
With today's release of the Toy Story video, primary teachers will hear an increasing amount about the film and its characters. Sid is the boy who gleefully tears his toys apart to manufacture grotesque hybrids. Is he an exaggerated and questionable Disney villain or could fact be even more sinister than fiction?

The activities of a group of Primary 7 boys with football figure toys suggests that Sid could actually be one of the nicer guys on the block. Soccer player figures have been on the market for some time, as evidenced by the very large collections some children have.

At Pounds 2 a head, these are models of players from top English and Scottish Premier League football teams, with large, out of proportion heads. Like most other children's collectables they are small enough to fit in a schoolbag or pocket, or even stand on a desk without attracting teacher attention. But what do they actually do with them, I asked unsuspectingly when I spotted one in class?

Some of the answers made Sid's house sound like a rest home for the retired: "I had two Paul Gascoignes, both in the England strip. I put him in the vice in the shed and turned it tight. His head sort of squished in. I put a screw right down through the top of his head. It took me quite a while because I couldn't get a good grip with the screwdriver."

"I don't know why I didn't like Gary Speed. I didn't like the way he looked. One day I went to my cousin's house and I had my collection with me. I had about 30. I took Gary Speed out and set him down on the fireplace. I touched him with a hot poker. His face melted and turned all black."

These are not crimes of passion committed on a Saturday afternoon at 4. 45pm after a disappointing result, but premeditated acts.

"I Sellotaped John Robertson to the end of my Gran's poker. She was in the kitchen making things. She didn't know what I was doing. I stuck the poker in the fire and it started to melt. He fell off the poker and on to the top of the coal. It was really smelly. My Gran came through and asked what the smell was. It was like burnt rubber. I said that my little sister had thrown one of my footballers on the fire. She was crying and saying it wasn't her."

Generally the disposal of the remains presents little problem. If Paul Gascoigne can drift past Premier League defenders, he can surely cope with the U-bend on a domestic toilet: "I put him down the toilet. It's interesting seeing him going round and round and then he just disappears. I thought he might come back up, so I waited a few minutes, but there was no sign of him. He's off to goodness knows where."

The exposure to extreme temperatures is not confined to pokers and coal fires. A night in the deep freeze is another option, and can even prove beneficial.

"Sometimes it makes them stand up better. I had Steve Stone and he didn't stand up very well. His leg was wobbly. He stood much better after he came out of the freezer. It wears off, because he's started to get wobbly again, but it does work for a while."

The rather ruthless treatment handed out to football players by children makes disconcerting reading. The actions are guided by a dislike or disregard for certain football personalities combined with an interest in how such robust little figures will react in extreme circumstances.

The manner in which the individuals are chosen for "special" treatment highlights the precarious position which modern players occupy in the minds of the young supporter. It is a very short trip from hero to villain. If I were Pierre van Hooidonk in any collection over the next few weeks, I'd start to get worried if anyone took me out to the garden shed.

* If you have any weird tales about things your pupils get up to, send them to the Features Editor, TES Scotland, 37 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2HN

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