Friday, February 24, 2017

A High-Range Break for a Mid-Range Price

In the past few years, I've grown to greatly appreciate the sport of soccer.  No, it will never outweigh my love of baseball, but when you're a fan of a rebuilding team like the Atlanta Braves, you tend to become disinterested a bit more quickly during the season.

I have always (well, as long as I can remember) been a fan of the U.S. National Team.  Pretty much any American who saw that Landon Donovan goal live and witnessed the sheer pressure and build up to that moment had to turn into a USMNT fan of some form.  

My fandom continued on from that World Cup as I followed certain players into domestic leagues.  The English Premier League quickly became my favorite to watch and to follow, and I have since become a fan of Manchester City.  Yes, I admit, a bit of a bandwagon effect, but it was more latching on to a style of play that I appreciated... quick, decisive, and forward ball movement.  My favorite players to watch are attacking mids, a position at which City happens to be very deep, with the likes of David Silva, Kevin De Bruyne, and even Yaya Toure to an extent.

I've attempted to pursue finding some decent soccer cards in the past.  I broke this box of Panini Donruss a while back and didn't really like it.  The lack of Premier League kits bothered me.  When I originally bought that box, I didn't know that Topps had exclusive rights to the Premier League.  Upon discovering that fact, I started searching for Topps products that I might enjoy.  I recently took a winger on two.

This is 2014 Topps Premier League Gold, a set that has been in many a store's bargain bins for quite some time.  It was the second iteration of a revamped, high-end Topps soccer set featuring solely the Barclays (at the time) Premier League.  I believe these boxes originally retailed well over the $200 mark, and I ended up picking this box up for just shy of $100 from a Blowout flash sale.

The box layout is certainly high-end style as you get 10 packs with each of the packs containing a hit.  It was certainly a fun rip as I don't get to dive into high-end product very often... you know, budget and all.

I can't say the standard relic design is all that interesting.  As seen from the two above, you get a pretty basic action shot with a background of wavy lines.  I suppose it's okay.  I do appreciate the variety of color in these relics, as I only got a single white/gray one out of the bunch of five.

Another thing that I thought was unique was the way Topps presented relic parallels in this set.  Instead of simply color coding the card or giving it a chrome varnish as is so often the case with modern parallels, they instead decided to make the relic bigger.  I like the idea of this and almost wish that Topps would try this type of thing more often in baseball sets.  The execution sucks here... as the card simply looks like its cut wrong, but I applaud the creative attempt.

Above is your standard base card, a set that checks in at 150 cards, though you only get about 30 from a box.  In general, I'd have to say that the base cards are a bit boring.  The lack of any background and/or grass makes me a bit sad.  Save the fancy background design work for your inserts.  I will say that I do enjoy the nameplate on these cards and like that Topps let the player pop out over it (see the Charlie Austin card below for an even better example).

The card backs are even more boring and actually a bit squinty... especially for all that wasted white space.

Inserts seem to be somewhat rare as I only pulled five in total.  This is certainly where I'm okay with Topps going "backroundless" and I think they did a great job with all three of these designs.

These captain cards especially make me smile as they seem to try and bring out a player's personality... I see you down there Wayne Rooney.

Obviously, we can't be Topps without colorful parallels.  Here's two that I pulled.  These are numbered out of 50 and 60 respectively.  I absolutely adored Charlie Austin while he was on QPR before their relegation.  He had actually been doing fairly well for Southampton this season and had a run of 6 goals in 10 games before dislocating his shoulder in Europa League play.  Also... the card is purple... so I instantly love it.

While I do love my autographs, the five in this box left me slightly disappointed.  I didn't realize until I later checked the auto list that the only Man City player even on it was Frank Lampard.  I knew what I was getting into with the sticker-graphs, but what I didn't realize was how little effort soccer players put into their signature.  These are mostly just scribbles.  At least Diego Costa's has a bit of a flourish he seems to intentionally put on there.

Side thought: I wonder if there is a correlation to the amount of people asking baseball players for signatures, and how well players sign their name.  Yes, I know there are plenty of bad baseball John Hancock's out there right now as well, but I don't think I've seen a halfway decent soccer auto yet.  Perhaps it simply sample size.

Though I can't stand his team, probably my favorite card from the box is this relic. Mesut Ozil is a genius and a freak of nature.  I appreciate owning a piece of his clothing.  

This 1-of-1 printing plate is of former QPR man and now Burnley man Joey Barton.  Probably going to put this one up on the secondary market as I can't stand how he plays.  He embarrassed himself last week in his conduct against Lincoln City and I was very happy to see the Imps pull that game out.

Overall, I'd probably pick up another box of this if I found at the under $100 price point again.  While I don't think you can expect much from the hits, the inserts and parallels are pretty cool (give me more purple)!

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