TOM Burns is one of the many thousands of people who got hooked on Subbuteo while in their teens.

The table game allowed him to indulge his love of football, but there was also something in the mechanics of the game: flicking the members of a team of small plastic players in pursuit of an outsize ball on a green baize pitch.

The game is a highly social one. Experienced players talk with pleasure of away trips, the chance to meet new people, and the memories of being involved in a game that they have been playing for a couple of decades.

Tom, 51, is treasurer of the Glasgow Table Soccer Association, Scotland's oldest Subbuteo club.

It was founded 40 years ago and lasted for 20 years before folding. It was re-launched in January 2008 and is still going strong.

"I got into Subbuteo in the early 1970s when I was 10 or 11," says Tom. "I started playing at home then discovered there was a club at school. I joined it, and I've been playing Subbuteo ever since, more or less.

"I loved football at the time and Subbuteo was probably just an addition to that. I liked the fact that you had the chance to play as your favourite team.

"I was a member of the Glasgow association from 1975 until 1992. Basically, the club folded because it ran out of members. There were only four of us left and it was obviously too expensive to hire a hall for just four people. We couldn't get new players. All the kids were into computers and things like that.

"It wasn't until 2008 that the club started back up again, and I became a member again in 2010."

Subbuteo is now "huge" again. The Glasgow club has 12 members, who meet at 7pm each Monday night at Woodend Bowling and Lawn Tennis Club in Jordanhill. Six of the members were involved with the club the first time around, while the others are newer recruits, and ages range is between 40 and 60.

"The club has a really good, competitive league and I'm glad to say it's all going well," says Tom. "The game is massive throughout Europe.

"The way it is at the moment, there is always somewhere to play. You could take part in a tournament every weekend if you were so minded. There's even a World Cup in Spain this September."

Gareth Christie, 34, of Tayside, who has helped organise this weekend's event at Kelvingrove, reckons Subbuteo has a lot to offer younger people.

He said: "It's a great way of getting kids away from their computer screens, doing something face to face and thinking for themselves.

"There's just so much to the game. It combines the forward-planning and strategy of chess with the need to master angles and accuracy that you'll find in snooker or pool. It is all done at speed, too. It's very fast-paced: you're moving around the table while trying to outthink your opponent."

Gareth, a freelance digital artist, added: "It's a game you can't 'complete'. You can always improve and refine your skills to get closer to the top players.

"Anyone can play. It just takes patience, practice and time to learn, something rare in today's digital age. For me, the pressures of running my own business, always online, always connected to a screen, whether answering emails or designing, Subbuteo is an escape.

"For 30 minutes, I'm fully immersed in a world without distraction, yet with all the feelings of a competitive sport, the thrills that go with winning and the disappointment of missed opportunities."

Gareth knows what he's talking about. He has been an enthusiast since 1989, and has never really stopped playing.

"I was the Scottish junior champion in 1991 and 1992, which allowed me to play in the European Championships in Hamburg, my first Subbuteo adventure abroad.

"In 2000 I won the Scottish Masters Grand Prix. A lot of the top players from England came up for that, but I somehow managed to win. I've also taken part in six World Cups, but I don't travel as much as I used to, because I have a young family."

Beyond the Kelvingrove action today and tomorrow, the Glasgow club members are happy to pit their wits against each other on Monday nights.

How good a player, we ask, is Tom himself?

He laughs. "It depends on whom I'm playing. Against some players I can look very good, while against others, I can look hopeless.

"In the grand scheme of things, I'm decent. There are guys out there than me who are a whole lot better. But that's the target: to try to close the gap between you and them."

n For more information, visit the Glasgow Table Soccer Association online at

IT'S the table football game that has grown to legendary status. And this weekend the Subbuteo Scottish Championships kick off in Glasgow as part of the the first nationwide Subbuteo Challenge Cup. Still going strong after 70 years, it continues to buck the trend in an era of computers and downloads. We sent Russell Leadbetter to find out why...

SUBBUTEO: A mini-football game overtaken by the computer age is back in fashion again in a big way

n The Subbuteo Scottish tournament is free to enter but you should first register at www.subbuteo

n No experience is necessary as tuition will be offered on the day.

n The museum is open from 10am on Saturday and 11am on Sunday.

n There are two age-groups: under 16s and over 16s, with no upper age limit.

n The winners will go through to the final on October 19 at the National Football Museum, Manchester.