John Barnes - Goal Digger
Originally I wanted to try and work Barnes nickname 'Digger' into the main illustration itself. However, after various illustrations of JCBs (John Charles Barnes) and caterpillar tracks churning up the touchline I felt that a minimal approach would probably be better.
'So instead I opted for a play on words as part of the title and a traditional portrait of the man himself.'
John Barnes is a Liverpool legend
Celtic - Lisbon Lions
A few days ago a Celtic fan got in touch to ask if I'd considered doing some illustrations featuring Scottish players. We initially spoke about Jinky Johnstone but it soon became apparent that if I was to do a Celtic illustration it would have to feature the Lisbon Lions. At first I thought this piece wouldn't require much explanation but some people have been trying to read far too much into it. So just in case it's not obvious, the images represent the half-time oranges given to the mere mortals of Inter when compared to the raw meat fed to 'The Lions' from Glasgow.'
The all-conquering Celtic team of 1967 dubbed The Lisbon Lions
Johan Cruyff - My Turn
A tribute to the Dutch Master, Johan Cruyff. Basically I wanted to play with the idea of ownership regarding the Cruyff Turn, hence the copyright symbol. But I also wanted to show it in all its glory, especially as its original entrance to World Football was a 'blink and you'll miss it' nine second affair.'
Johan Cruyff , master of the Dutch 'Total Football' philosophy of the 70s
Lionel Messi - The Atomic Flea
'Like so many defenders before me, I found the task of capturing Lionel Messi nigh on impossible. I knew I wanted to depict the Mini Maestro but deciding how to sum him up in a single image was beginning to look like a bridge too far.
Messi's nickname 'The Atomic Flea' had seemed like the perfect subject matter. However, with only a limited knowledge of physics (Grade: C) I didn't really fancy my chances.
'I could not believe my luck then, when I finally discovered the 'Buckminsterfullerene molecule', which (as you can see) looks almost identical to a football. After I'd added Messi's South American nickname and the Barcelona colours it finally gave the piece the kind of balance I had originally been looking for.'
Lionel Messi, arguably the best player the world has ever seen
Viv Anderson - Colour Blind
'As England's first black player Viv Anderson went a long way to changing people's attitudes and opinions, blazing a trail for others to follow. If you read any article about Viv, it will invariably begin with a reference to that key achievement.
'However, I would argue that he is not defined by it. His place among footballs elite is as much down to his skill, ability and intelligence as anything else.
'When I think of Viv Anderson I think of an outstanding international defender, I don't think of a great black player, I just think of a great player. That is the kind of 'colour blind' theme I'm hoping to get across in this illustration.'
Viv Anderson, the first black footballer to represent England at international level
Carlos Valderrama - El Pibe
Ever since I started doing these illustrations one name kept cropping up again and again… Carlos Valderrama. The number of requests, suggestions and pleas I've had to tackle this particular icon has finally forced my hand.
'Once I'd started messing around with a few ideas I began to wonder if the inclusion of such an iconic hair style was too obvious. So instead i opted for an inverted three colour shape taken from the Columbian badge, hopefully it's not too subtle and your mind's eye can fill in the blanks as to where his hair should be etc.
'The phrase El Pibe at the foot of the illustration is his nickname - The Kid.'
Carlos Valderrama, the unmistakable captain of Columbia during the 90s
Bobby Charlton - Comb Over
'I always knew I wanted to include Sir Bobby's trademark comb-over for any illustration I was going to do of him. So after a bit of thought I came up with this Adidas angle which seemed to be the perfect fit. Especially as the famous three stripes could be made to look like his fly away locks.
'But after putting the idea down on paper my inner pedant began to worry… what if he never even wore that brand? So imagine my relief when I discovered that he not only wore them, but endorsed his own brand of Adidas Charlton's.'
Bobby Charlton, one of the legendary Busby Babes and survivor of the Munich air disaster which devastated that squad
Dennis Bergkamp - Top Gun
'I spent what seemed like ages trying to come up with a Non-Flying Dutchman illustration, but soon realised it relied too heavily on peoples knowledge of trains.
'The fact the original Flying Dutchman was also a ghost ship just made the whole concept confusing.
'It was at that point a friend of mine suggested I try Bergkamp's other nickname whilst at Aresnal – 'The Iceman'.
'That concept seemed to work much better for me and I immediately went for a 'Top Gun' reference. I'm pretty pleased with the final outcome, especially as there is still an ironic aviation theme running through it.'
Dennis Bergkamp, Dutch hitman regraded as one of the greatest players to have graced the Premier League
Andrés Escobar - Life Doesn't End Here
'I had originally used this idea for a tongue in cheek reference which hinted at ex-Boro hard man Dean Glover. However, on reflection i thought the story of Andres Escobar had far more gravitas and was more befitting of the image / concept.
'Known as 'The Gentleman of Football' his quote 'Life doesn't end here' became strangely prophetic after his untimely death - murdered on 2 July 1994.'
Andrés Escobar, Columbian international tragically shot and killed for, what is widely believed, scoring an own goal in the 94 World Cup
Faustino Asprilla - The Black Gazelle
Having had numerous request for a Newcastle illustration I decided to go for Faustino Asprilla, or 'The Black Gazelle' as he's known. I always felt Adidas had missed a trick when the Geordies signed him, especially with that nickname.
'This poster is the kind of thing I thought they might have come up with, maybe producing an Adidas Gazelle Special Edition that was only available in black and from the club shop for instance?'
Faustino Asprilla, Fans favourite at Newcastle United during the 90s, famed for his lightning pace and acrobatic goal celebrations
Jinky Lord Of The Wing
'I intended to do this piece after receiving a request from a Celtic fan to do a Jinky Johnstone tribute. Instead I went off on a bit of a tangent and ended up doing a Lisbon Lions illustration.
'Whilst the feedback for the Lions piece was good, I still had a nagging feeling that I had unfinished business as far as Jinky was concerned.
'I'm not sure this one requires much explanation really, essentially I wanted to single him out from the rest of the team but also show them as a unit. Hopefully the route I've gone down achieves both those aims.'
Jimmy 'Jinky' Johnstone, part of the Celtic 'Lisbon Lions' team that won the European Cup in 1967, voted the club's best player ever in 2002
'Super' Mario Balotelli - A Changed Man
The idea here was that whilst his team mates get changed in familiar dressing room surroundings, 'Super' Mario opts for a Christopher Reeves-style phone box. The title of the piece 'A Changed Man' is meant to be literal as in his change of clothes but was also meant to hint at his metamorphosis from pantomime villain to darling of the terraces.'
Mario Balotelli, Manchester City's eccentric Italian striker, hits the headlines as often for his off-field antics as he does for his football skills
Socrates - Be As You Wish To Seem
Having heard the sad news that Socrates had passed away, I decided to do an illustration that celebrated the mark he made on the game.
'My intention for this piece was to blur the lines between the midfielder and his Greek philosopher namesake.'
Socrates, A qualified doctor and the midfield lynchpin of the Brazil national side in the 70s and 80s
Roger Milla - Old Is Gold
Roger Milla is the oldest player to appear and score in a World Cup Finals. Milla was 42 years and 39 days old when he scored against Russia in USA 94.
'The dance steps shown in Cameroonian colours are a nod to Milla's famous goal celebration, whilst the bottom left of the illustration is meant to represent the corner flag markings.'
Roger Milla, representing Cameroon was the oldest player to appear and score in a World Cup finals, famed for his boogying goal celebration
Edgar Davids - Piranha
Some footballers just lend themselves to this kind process and Edgar Davids is certainly one of them. The dreadlocks, the glasses and two nicknames to boot, you couldn't ask for much more really.
'Whilst some people may know him better as 'Pitbull', I thought his other nickname 'Piranha' would give me more scope to work with. The idea first came to me when I saw a pair of Oakley Racing Jacket glasses, the ones Davids wears, which come supplied with air vents cut into the lens.
'I couldn't help thinking that it gave them the appearance of teeth. So marrying that idea together with his nickname meant the end product could be knocked up pretty quickly.'
Edgar Davids, Dutch midfield enforcer, wore protective goggles due to glaucoma, renowned for his ferocious tackling and take no prisoners attitude
Eric Cantona - The King
You'd think a character as huge as Cantona would be an easy option but it actually proved to be the opposite.
'My starting point was his 'King Eric' nickname, so having him as the King in a deck of cards seemed a fairly straight forward premise.
'The main issue was coming up with a pattern that would make up the rest of the card. It's probably no great surprise I went down the 'seagulls follow the trawler' route, so I decided to throw in the ball and trident from the Man Utd badge for good measure, the trident also doubles up as a King Neptune nautical reference.
'I tried to keep his features as minimal as possible (apart from the iconic mono-brow of course) so that hopefully the eye is drawn around the pattern rather than settling on one part.'
Eric Cantona, Old Trafford cult hero, credited with being the missing piece in the jigsaw that helped Manchester United embark on an era of Premier League dominance
Steve Welsh, a 38-year-old artist, has become a sensation among football fans for his Warholesque poster prints of iconic footballers. His work has received praise from subjects such as Edgar Davids, and US football club New York Cosmos (for his Eric Cantona piece). The illustrations have also been featured in football magazine Four Four Two, lads’ mag FHM and numerous sports blogs. A full archive of Steve’s work is available on his website www.miniboro.com . Prints of Steve's artwork can be purchased here