Thursday, 9 May 2013

Yellows !

My passion for LEGO exists, as much as is reasonably possible, in a vacuum, unaffected by most environmental factors. Regardless of whatever else is going on in my life, be it work, illness, holidays or whatever, my enthusiasm for collecting and building LEGO remains largely undimmed, even if the actual time available is limited. Truth be told, a passion for LEGO is actually a welcome relief from day to day pressures.

I have to confess to feeling pretty distracted right now, though. My beloved Watford Football Club, a.k.a. The Hornets, have reached the Championship Play-offs, and are potentially only 3 games away from claiming a place in the English Premier League. They actually had the chance to gain promotion outright last weekend without the need to endure the Play-offs, but having failed to grasp the opportunity for a variety of reasons, they now get a second chance, starting tonight (Thursday) with an away game at Leicester City. Given the trials and tribulations of Watford Football Club over the past few seasons, even having reached third place in the rankings at the end of the regular season constitutes a massive achievement and cause for celebration, regardless of the outcome of the Play-offs to come. And so it is that by way of a tribute to my yellow-clad heroes, I thought I'd write a football-related posting on Gimme LEGO this week.

Me, sort of
So, football-related LEGO, then. Well, the good news is that over the years LEGO have produced a surprisingly prodigious number of football-related sets. According to the Brickset database, a total of 71 football-related sets were released between 2000 and 2007, from individual footballers and promotional polybags to some more substantial sets such as 2006's Set 3569 Grand Soccer Stadium (below) which contains 386 pieces.

Set 3569 Grand Soccer Stadium - spot the LEGO....
The bad news is that I don't actually own any of these football-themed sets.... They do come up on eBay and elsewhere on a reasonably frequent basis, and they're generally available at bargain basement prices. Problem is that I've never actually bothered buying any of them as they look, well, a bit rubbish. I was therefore facing the prospect of abandoning my idea of a football-focused post when it suddenly struck me that LEGO have in fact produced a football-related set much more recently. This year, in fact. And not only that, but I actually own it. Problem solved....

Yes, yes - I know it's a Friends set, but it's the only football-related set I've got, and beggars can't be choosers. Anyway, there's no point in me pretending to be all macho about this - I already blew my cover by previously admitting here to liking the Friends minidolls more than I expected, not to mention raving about all the new colours and interesting parts that you get in the sets.

My copy of Set 41011 Stephanie's Soccer Practice (above) is a bit squashed thanks to the local postie's insistence on trying to cram anything smaller than a housebrick through my letter box regardless of the degree of damage incurred in the process. The branding of the 2013 Friends sets is very similar to that of the 2012 sets, although the group shot of the girls on both the front and back of the boxes has taken on a more cartoony, and dare I say it cruder, appearance. The back of the box (below) highlights the play-features of the set, such as they are - Stephanie's football, a mechanism for mechanically propelling the football towards the goal, and, er, Stephanie holding a banana. It was half-time oranges in my day.

Opening the box reveals two sealed bags (one big and one small) of parts, a folded instruction booklet, and a green 4 x 12 plate. The front cover of the instruction booklet is almost a carbon-copy of the front of the box. The booklet itself weighs in at 32 pages cover to cover, which is quite a feat considering that the set only contains 80 pieces. The 23-page building guide culminates in a line-up of all the set's constituent elements (picture below - click to enlarge). We're also treated to an aerial shot of Heartlake City, which is where our football-loving heroine resides, a page of snapshots of the 5 Friends going about their business, advertising for some of the 2013 Friends sets, and a two-page inventory of parts, amongst other things.

Parts-wise we get a typically eye-searing combination of colours, something which has been a feature of the Friends theme from the start. The set contains parts in 18 different colours, rising to 21 if you include the parts making up Stephanie. This seems incredible given the modest piece count. Furthermore, some of the colours such as bright green, bright pink, dark orange, magenta and medium azure blue, are found relatively rarely in LEGO sets. You can see a selection of some of the more interesting part/colour combinations in the picture below (click to enlarge). The football is unique to this set, and all the other parts appear in 10 sets or less in their respective colours.

The set contains just one minifigure, or more accurately minidoll, that of Stephanie in her football kit (below - click to enlarge). She's unique to the set in this attire, although 5 more versions of Stephanie wearing other outfits can be found in a variety of 2012 and 2013 Friends sets. Stephanie's football kit  - white shirt with light blue sleeves and magenta trim, dark blue shorts - isn't obviously based upon the kit of any real football team that I can think of, and she's really not going to get very far with those football boots, but when all is said and done she does kind of look the part. Except for her huge hair, which she'll really need to tie back....

As you can see below, there's no backprint on Stephanie's torso, not even a number nor (and you'll need to take my word for this) her name at the top of the shirt in modern footballing fashion. There is however some very prominent text - "(c) 2009 LEGO" - embossed just above the waistband; I'm not sure if this is an indication of LEGO's product development cycle, the date when LEGO patented the minidolls. or even both of these.

Assembly of the various structures included in the set (below - click to enlarge) takes but a few moments. Stephanie is provided with a goal, a dugout and bench plus water cooler,  some cones to dribble round, and a rudimentary structure to flick the ball into the goal. The latter seems a bit pointless, to be honest, capable as it is of propelling the ball a few centimetres at best. All of these structures are characteristically garish in true Friends style.

You can see all the elements of the set laid out below; in addition to providing Stephanie with everything she needs to hone her footballing skills, LEGO have also thoughtfully provided Stephanie with a puppy, which as every true football fan knows is an indispensible part of any football practice.

Set 41011 Stephanie's Soccer Practice retails at £9.99 / $9.99, although as I write this the set is currently available at 33% off RRP (£6.66) from Folks in the U.S. will have to pay pretty much RRP (click here to buy) although it still works out cheaper than the UK price.

And now, with the set built and my posting written it's unfortunately time to return to reality and start biting my nails again in anticipation of tonights Play-off game. If you've enjoyed this posting then please do me a favour and keep your fingers crossed for a Watford victory...

Come On You Hornets !

Get your Watford shirt on - you're going in goal....

* Custom Dr. Dave Watford F. C. minifig crafted by - cheers, Caz & Nick !


  1. He he, thanks for the flash from the past Dave! Our little Lego dudes have got significantly better printing resolution since then. If they win I think you'll need to celebrate with an upgrade to the latest model! ;-)

  2. Ho good luck with you're semi final but don't expect to get past my own beloved seagulls in the final :-)

    Hmm if BHA get through I think I might treat myself to a personal minifig.

    1. Looks like Crystal Palace didn't read the script.... Sorry about your result tonight; guess you'll be rooting for Watford in the final !

  3. For the football and karate sets, I really lack the ability of separate leg joints. It's difficult to make a minidoll do a credible kick.

    1. Agreed, Håkan - definitely one of the downsides of the minidolls I think.

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