This, friends, was 1978, an era when VCRs were as rare as the hairs on Bruce Forsythe’s head, yet Mick Channon wasn't the only player to watch his favourite MOTD on tape. Colin Lee did likewise in 1977 after Tottenham’s 9-0 win over Bristol Rovers - a match in which Lee scored four:
“I can’t remember a great deal about the game itself, although a supporter taped Match of the Day and gave it me as a souvenir. I don’t have a recording machine myself, but I have a friend who has one and we've watched it a couple of times. It’s unbelievable.”
Ah, did we ever live in a world where VCRs were considered ‘new-fangled technology’...?
According to the feature, a typical half-hour show would have contained “...fifteen minutes or so from the chosen [Scottish] Premier League fixture of the afternoon... the odd snatch from a rugby international or other non-soccer sporting event that Grandstand cameras might have conveniently collected during the day, and then ten minutes from the preferred English match out of Match of the Day’s clutch for the night.”
There were also technical limitations that restricted Sportscene’s ability to provide quality programming: “Slow-motion replays - such a feature of Match of the Day talk-ins - are as yet unknown in the north - for the simple reason that the BBC’s only slow-motion replay unit is safely locked up in London!” Probably best to nip round to Mick Channon’s house: he’s got a VCR with a slow-motion function on it...
‘Goals of the Season’ needed no introduction and didn’t get one either - it was a feature that diagrammatically described all the winning goals in MOTD’s history up to that point, along with some incidental text to flesh the piece out. Another feature was ‘Short Passes’ in which we’re presented with interesting and amusing facts about BBC’s longest-running football show. Here’s an example:
After the sort of quiz that cropped up in virtually every football annual ever made, there was a feature called ‘Switched on Fans’ about celebrities that supported football clubs. Surely the biggest name of all back then was Eric Morecambe, a man who was never happier than when he was referring to his beloved Luton Town while on-screen with Ernie Wise. Right enough, he opened the piece:
In ‘It started at Anfield’ we get a two-page article telling the story of how Match of the Day had developed from its early days on BBC2 (“watched by even fewer than had actually attended League club grounds during the afternoon”) to the Jimmy Hill-fronted programme on BBC1 seen on TV when this Annual was published.
Among the self-congratulatory text (“it is television’s most comprehensive football programme”), one small section proves to be of particular interest, namely that surrounding BBC TV’s competition in 1969 to find a new commentator. In a wonderful piece of never-in-this-day-and-age brilliance, the competition was ultimately won by the late Idwal Robling, a Welshman who played for Great Britain’s football team in the 1952 Olympics.
Here we see a picture from the MOTD annual showing all the participants in that search for a new commentator, among them Gerry Harrison (who went on to be ITV’s man behind the mic for the Anglia region), Ed Stewart (BBC Radio 1 disc jockey and Everton fan) and Ian St John, a former Liverpool and Scotland player who went on to be a more than capable co-commentator and front man for shows such as On The Ball and Saint and Greavsie.
After a pictorial palette cleanser showing various players ‘In Focus’, we hear the amazing story of Jimmy Hill’s life, such as it was in 1978. As we mentioned in our recent podcast, there’s much more to Hill than the stereotyped waffle everyone latches onto these days. In ‘My Role - Jimmy Hill’, we learn that the former Fulham player was acting as adviser for the World Soccer Academy in Saudi Arabia, an owner of the NASL franchise Detroit Express and Managing Director at Coventry City - all on top of his role as presenter of Match of the Day.
In an age when football commentators barely last a minute without spouting one statistic or another, it’s interesting to read how much information Barry Davies compiled in the week leading up to one of his commentaries. Davies, who retired from MOTD in 2004, commented: “I have a newspaper cutting book on each season which goes back eight or nine seasons. I will get out the results sequences of the two teams and will go over their results this season, their scorers, their running league position, the crowds and full teams. I will try to keep it up-to-date myself but if I am not completely accurate I’ll give Jack Rollin a ring. He’s a freelance journalist who keeps a mountain of facts and figures.”
Having pored over all kinds of data from player cards to personal notes, Davies would then get the relevant clubs to send him their last two home programmes to fill any gaps on recent knowledge and would pay a visit early in the week to the managers of the teams he’d be commentating on the following Saturday. The key to Davies using all this information efficiently, however, was keeping it in his head rather than on paper: “Facts should come to you automatically while you are doing the commentary and you should not be trying to force your facts onto the viewer.” Modern-day commentators take note...
Finishing off the Annual was a feature on the footballers who appeared in the BBC’s Superstars series and an article on how Match of the Day is put together every Saturday thanks to the efforts of cameramen, Outside Broadcast teams, presenters and and many more people besides.
But it’s the item called ‘It began with Chairman Mao’ that provides great insight into a memorable piece of football nostalgia, namely the opening title sequence for Match of the Day in the late-1970s. Many of you will remember it for one reason and one reason alone, namely the sight of various pictures being made by a crowd of football fans in the fashion of an Olympic Games opening ceremony (see example below).
The titles were the idea of Pauline Talbot who said: “Whenever I think of crowds I think of China and the magnificent rallies held there. As I considered ideas for Match of the Day, I thought of a picture I had seen in a magazine years ago of 8,000 Chinese children holding up cards to form a picture of Chairman Mao. They call it card flashing.”
Within days, the children of Hammersmith County Girls’ School and Christopher Wren Boys’ School in West London were herded into Queens Park Rangers’ Loftus Road stadium and given numbered cards to form the eight different images seen during the opening title sequence. Over 2,000 separate cards were printed and cut in a “giant warehouse” and the large images were designed on a sheet of graph paper to help identify who was holding up which card.
“If a card representing, say, the tip of Jimmy Hill’s nose was out of position” said Talbot, “I was able to look on my graph, check the number at fault and call out that number through a microphone, asking if the person holding that card could please get it right.”
And so it was that on such meticulous organisation the Communist Party was founded - to say nothing of a fine football annual.