I never actually owned a VCR until 1990, but this video cassette cropped up wherever I went, from my local WH Smith to the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, London. Though the inlay cover was far from exciting, the title did rather more to stir my imagination. What were these great goals, packaged and presented for us by the BBC? How exciting would it be to watch a whole uninterrupted hour of goals, goals and yet more goals? And would I get any change from a £10 note if I bought it?
I never did find out which goals were on that tape until the internet arrived, by which time my Akai VCR was well on its way to fully decomposing along with several dozen Scotch E240 tapes of mine. Upon watching the video, one is immediately struck by how many of the goals are familiar. That’s because many of them either won the BBC’s Goal of the Season competition or were shortlisted for the accolade.
Fortunately, even where that is the case, the goals are well worth seeing anyway. As mentioned earlier, only a paltry amount could be considered ‘not great’, and even they've got some intrinsic value to them. One of them, a goal scored by Jimmy Greaves at Valley Parade on January 3 1970, consisted merely of a throw-in by Joe Kinnear, flicked on, scuffed by a Bradford defender and poked home from close range. Hardly ‘great’, but worth seeing just to witness a legendary striker doing what he does best.
Liam Brady effort for Arsenal at Tottenham in 1978 acts as the basis for the most rudimentary of opening title sequences, after which the goal-laden chronology begins in 1969. Bobby Charlton crops up with two of three successive Manchester United sizzlers, then it’s Greaves at Bradford followed by Martin Chivers scoring for Tottenham at Molineux on the same day... except Tottenham couldn't possibly have been playing Bradford and Wolves on the same day. The caption shown on the Chivers goal was wrong, and this was one of a few similar cock-ups that threaten to blight the overall presentation.
No matter. The goals they kept on coming; Ernie Hunt’s brilliant volley, set up by Willie Carr’s donkey kick, George Best looping the ball over a floundering Pat Jennings, Ronnie Radford slamming a screamer into the top corner of the net against Newcastle... Iconic images paraded before our eyes garnished inevitably by the excited commentaries of Motson, Davies, Coleman and others.
Alan Mullery, the aforementioned Ronnie Radford and, perhaps most tellingly, Johnny Metgod for Nottingham Forest against West Ham in 1986. These were the goals I tried to replicate while playing in the local park as a kid right up to playing five-a-side with my colleagues as a 37-year-old.
It’s not all ‘thirty yard thunderbolts’, however. Proof is provided that a great goal can take many forms, whether it’s from a clever chip (cf. Glenn Hoddle against Watford in 1983, Terry McDermott against Everton in 1977) or an overhead kick (cf. Danny Wallace for Southampton against Liverpool in 1984). Whatever your taste in goals, be they created from a series of neat passes or blasted in from distance, it’s fair to say you’ll be satisfied by something you see.
If there's any particular criticism to make, it's that the bigger teams feature more prominently than the smaller ones. Goals by Tottenham, Liverpool and Man United players make up more than a third of the total on their own, and those three teams appear in more than a quarter of all the clips, but maybe that's no surprise. Your average Match of the Day usually focused more on those clubs anyway, so the footage used in 101 Great Goals is simply a reflection of that.
The procession of great players, great teams and great goals continues through until 1987 (the year of release for this VHS tape) with the last goal coming from Clive Allen for Spurs against Coventry City in the FA Cup Final of that year. Somewhat disappointingly, Allen’s goal was the only one featured from that match. No Keith Houchen? Tut tut... But hey, it’s not easy putting together a selection of the best things in a particular category. Better, perhaps, to be grateful for what you’re given, and this BBC production is certainly worthy of acclaim for providing over an hour of great football entertainment.
-- Chris Oakley