Saturday, May 26, 2007

It's Not Like This Anymore

So here we are at the dog-end of the season with a summer of stress-free nothingness to look forward to.

I can't help but reminisce about the olden days when there was far less televised football. For the youngsters out there we used to get only this:

1. Match Of The Day. There would be an hour long programme similar to the one we recognise today except that it featured fewer games and sometimes dipped into the lower leagues. Argyle 2 QPR 0 would have been a prime candidate once upon a time - a top of the table clash with promotion/title issues potentially resolved and early enough in the season to squeeze out a Division 1 game without missing anything crucial.

2. The Big Match. This was Londoncentric programme. Some regions had their own version (Central, Granada etc) but Westward/TSW was far too poxy to put out it's own version (besides which the cameras weren't necessarily at games in the lower leagues (or Division 1 even!!) back then so there'd've been bugger all to show.

3. Sportsnight (sometimes "with Coleman"). Tuesday night BBC job showing Internationals, European highlights, league cup games and FA Cup replays on a fairly random basis. Once in a blue moon Newsnight would show highlights of a game but these were never advertised and could not be relied upon.

4. There was an ITV equivalent to Sportsnight but shown on a Wednesday but i forget what it was called.

5. Proper internationals (not friendlies - qualifiers and the like) were shown live. Sometimes.

that was about it apart from a couple of curios...

6. The FA Cup Final shown by both BBC and ITV.

7. One England schoolboys match shown live on a Saturday.

8. The European Cup Final.

9. The annual England/Scotland Home International match.

The memories come flooding back. Live football on TV was so scarce that the streets would empty and everybody, it seemed to me as a kid, would watch. My Mum used to run a corner shop back then and it would be closed for the Saturday afternoon. Dad would make sure there was a case of guinness or two ready, friends, neighbours and relations would congregate. The curtains would be drawn (during the day!!)... Oodles of fags would be smoked until the ashtrays were overflowing and our TV screen would barely be visible throught the smog.

No matter who was playing one team would be adopted and fervently supported. I usually chose the team which lost Cup Final It's A Knockout on Grandstand that morning thinking it a bit greedy for one side to win everything!!

Still times change. There's wall-to-wall live football on TV if you want, or can afford, it. Individual games are no longer cherished when shown. Violence ended the Home Internationals so the last fixture of all doesn't even exist anymore but it was one that did set the pulse racing. Always competitive and often with not a little needle stars from the same club would line up and kick lumps out of one another in front of ferociously partisan supporters..

I suppose the end had to come after the '77 game. Scotland had buoyantly qualified for the '78 World Cup. England had failed. Again. Poor results against italy screwing us this time and not bad luck and an inspired goalie against Poland. The Scots came to Wembley in their hordes and the face of football in these isles was about to be changed forever.

Still this is what we will be missing this weekend...