“FLICK to kick” was its rallying call, but for most youngsters the art of Subbuteo has long been forgotten amid the crowded market for computer games.

When you can oversee a football club both on and off the pitch with the latest FIFA version, why would anyone turn their hands to a supposedly antiquated table football game that reached the height of its popularity way back in the 1970s?

But it is not all about nostalgia, says Cayne Matthews and his enthusiastic and skilful band of players at the London Road Subbuteo Club.

They have been staging tournaments at the Parrot Inn in Drury over the past year and their dedication is mirrored by a revival in interest in the game, which has delighted and frustrated its followers in equal measures over the years.

Subbuteo’s vast range of original equipment included collectable accessories such as scoreboards, grandstands, fence surrounds and corner kicker and throw-in figures.

Although they can still be obtained by collectors via internet sites such as eBay, they have long since fallen out of production. Toy maker Hasbro stopped producing the game and it has only made a limited return to the shops in recent years with Champions League box sets.

But that has not deterred Cayne, who has his Subbuteo players and table tops custom-built. He and pal Dave Kelly’s children inherited their passion and they soon had enough players to stage their first tournament.

They registered with the World Amateur Subbuteo Players Association and now hold regular events, while members of the club have enjoyed success across the UK.

“There is a revival of interest in Subbuteo. There are older clubs in Glasgow, but new clubs like ourselves, Wolverhampton and Derry in Northern Ireland have started up,” reports Cayne.

“I used to play as a teenager in tournaments when I was 16/17, stopped playing and then came back to it 30 years later. There seems to be a lot of people doing that and these days with social media you can get in touch with players across Europe.

“We’ve had two generations of kids not getting them as Christmas presents and not being able to buy them in the shops.

”But it is growing again and there maybe a dozen clubs in the UK now.

“That may seem a low figure, but there are perhaps hundreds of collectors of Subbuteo teams and accessories too who don’t always play.”

Subbuteo is still a game of skill and dexterity, as many men of a certain age can recall their frustrated attempts mastering the art of flicking the weighted figures across the green baize pitch – which was often spread across a bedroom floor.

Competitive Subbuteo always took pride of place at a higher level on mounted tables and the best players knew how to spin players around defenders and chip over defensive walls.

But Cayne says modern-day table football has moved on with a new set of rules and skills which leave the best players way ahead of the game.

“The players are even better today. In the older game there was a focus on curling the players, but today’s figures can be flicked in a straight line over the length of the pitch,” he says. “So once you get the ball in the attacking area, you can shoot from long distance with a player.

“It is a football game and most players are football enthusiasts, but the way it is played is similar to pool with an element of chess. The equipment used by tournament players isn’t made by Subbuteo.

“It is a million miles away from when I was a kid and there were 400 to 500 different teams. There are specialists now who make a living supplying it custom-made, although there are collectors of the original equipment.”

Sadly some things never change.

Broken Subbuteo figures were the bane of teenage enthusiasts down the years. But while rubberised players now exist, most serious players nowadays steer clear of branded Subbuteo products.

“Subbuteo do make players that are supposedly unbreakable (rubberised), but I don’t use them,” says Cayne. “You still get breakages when players leave the table – and any player’s equipment box will always include a tube of Superglue!

“It is very competitive and I’ve never met a Subbuteo player who likes to lose – but we don’t have any tantrums.”

Yet their competitive edge means the Welsh club’s players have been keen to test their skills against tournament stars across Europe.

Subbuteo still generates huge interest in countries such as Italy and there was a World Cup staged in France last February, at which London Road member Brian Daley enjoyed the honour of skippering the England veterans team.

London Road finished second in a home international event staged at the Parrot recently and are now bidding for selection as Wales’ representatives at a Subbuteo Champions League tournament.

“It is well organised in countries like Spain and Belgium. In Italy it is on TV and the Italian team turn up in full kit and stay in paid hotels,” says Cayne. “It was viewed more like chess there when it started and not a game aimed at children – there are professional clubs in Italy.”

His daughter, Ruby Matthews, is ranked top under-12 player in the UK, while club member Yani Kelly – whose father is Dave – is making great strides at under-15 level.