Jimmy Hill’s opening gambit, ‘Here we go!’ prepared us for a slower, more skilful brand of football better suited to the heat and altitude of Mexico. Luckily for Bobby Robson, Hill pondered, England “couldn’t be in a better group if they had applied for it.” It’s a shame that Portugal, Poland and Morocco didn’t end up sharing the BBC man’s sense of logic in the fullness of time.
“The hoardings of the 12 official sponsors gained by FIFA’s agents, ISL Marketing, were at first slow to appear. Now they look down from every corner and surround the playing areas of the 12 venues” claimed Davies. Of the poor in the city, he said: “It would be nice to think that the World Cup will offer them – the people in the street – long-term gain and not just a passing lift to morale. But history may support the doubters.”
Northern Ireland, meanwhile, were "living in style" at their hotel not far from Guadalajara, scene of England's classic encounter with Brazil in 1970. "Every possible sporting diversion is on offer from tennis to horse riding, baccarat to a golf driving range, with four nearby courses open to guests. There is even a bullring" we were told. But which of the hotel's useful facilities did the Northern Ireland squad make most use of? "As for the swimming pool" the article went on "it is one of those where crawling to the bar – freestyle fashion – is quite acceptable." Question answered.
John Motson, Des Lynam and Bob Wilson were on hand to give their views on the chances of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland respectively. According to the former Arsenal goalkeeper, Scotland’s place in the ‘Group of Death’ with West Germany, Denmark and Uruguay was no bad thing given their propensity for failing at the hands of minnows down the years. With Graeme Sharp of Everton up front with “West Ham’s 28-goal scoring sensation Frank McAvennie,” they could hardly lose, yet lose they did in two of their three games to end their Mexican campaign earlier than planned.
Page after page of team profiles were also provided in this edition of the Radio Times, all written by great figures from the British game including Ron Greenwood, Emlyn Hughes, Terry Venables and Bobby Charlton. And if that 24 pages of World Cup content wasn’t enough, you still had the job of building your viewing schedule for the week ahead.
World Cup Grandstand was where the BBC’s coverage began at 6.10 pm on Saturday 31 May. Italy v Bulgaria and the opening ceremony were featured in the first programme, preceded as it was by The Keith Harris Show and a re-run of Whatever Happened to The Likely Lads? From Day 2 onwards, live matches were broadcast at an altogether less sociable hour of the day, usually from 10.50pm, with highlights shown at around 5.30pm when ITV had live coverage.