Saturday, 26 November 2011

TV Times: 1970 World Cup preview

Many England fans of a particular vintage rightly look back on the 1966 World Cup as a high water mark in all their time supporting the national team. What's easy to forget, however, is that the following World Cup was the one that had everyone talking. England entered the 1970 World Cup as champions and no-one could fail to get caught up in all the hullabaloo that was generated.

Sir Alf Ramsey's team flew out to Mexico to defend their title and back home it seemed like everyone was intent on watching every moment of what would surely be another successful tournament. For the first time ever, the World Cup was broadcast in colour and an appreciative UK public settled down in eager anticipation to watch events as they panned out.

Getting the women onside

To fan the flames of such widespread interest in the competition, the TV Times launched it's special preview issue on the week of 30 May to 5 June (price - ninepence). Headlined How to Survive the World Cup, the magazine took a unique approach by siding with the UK's female population who, it figured, would soon be bored with the welter of football coverage hitting their screens in the coming weeks.

The front cover was a vivid green, save for the white-bedecked curves of Trisha Noble - an Australian singer well known to British music lovers at the time. Male football fans probably would have bought a TV listings magazine anyway back in the middle of 1970, but having such a tempting feminine form on the cover no doubt would have made it an absolute certainty.

And exactly how would the TV Times provide women with the means to survive the 1970 World Cup, you ask? Why with knitting, of course! Don't you remember? Everyone was knitting back then, or so the TV Times would have you believe. Knit Yourself a World Cup Woolly was the feature if you wanted to look like Peter Bonetti and family. Quite why anyone had woollen sweaters in mind when the average daytime temperature in early June was somewhere in the region of 23 degrees C is beyond me, but there it is. As for his daughter Suzanne and her knitted two-piece 'suit', the least said about that, the better...

Clickety-click

It wasn't just knitting that the TV Times could offer women, though. There was also Bingo! Yes, the average British female in 1970 was barely breaking into three dimensions with such predictable interests, in fact the only thing missing from this issue was a guide on 'How to Make Three Square Meals a Day For Your Husband.'

Anyway, the Bingo game in question was brilliantly contrived in nature. Printed on page 5 of the magazine was a Bingo card, onto which women were invited to write the names of their four dishiest players from the first week of the competition. If those four players matched up with those chosen by Trisha Noble, Kathie Webber (resident cook) and Gabrielle Drake (actress and future Crossroads stalwart), the lucky entrant could win £4,000. Failing that, the man of the house could also enter by predicting the names of that week's Best Player, the scorer of the Best Goal, Best Goalkeeper and Most Sporting Player. With that last category in mind, aficionados won't take long to work out that Jimmy Hill was on the judging panel for this one.

The classic panel

Hill's judgement (along with that of Malcolm Allison, Derek Dougan, Pat Crerand and Brian Moore) would also serve its purpose for the feature Here Come The Soccer 'Oscars'. ITV Sport's crack band of experts would be giving out awards after the World Cup to those players it thought were best throughout. TV Times even looked back four years to see who might have won the same awards in 1966.

Elsewhere, Peter Farley explained the complicated process by which coverage of the World Cup in Mexico would reach our shores in When a Football Bounces 5,500 Miles. Apparently it's got something to do with Goonhilly, a bunch of satellites and an 84-foot wide dish on a mountain outside Mexico City. Perhaps that's what they meant earlier when they were talking about the World Cup's Dishiest Players...

Soccer with the stars

And this being a celebrity-orientated magazine, there was also the obligatory feature telling us How The Stars Will Watch. Michael Parkinson's wife Mary was apparently going spare with all the wallcharts and other ephemera littering the family home. "The house looks like the Aztec Stadium" she said in a not-at-all-written-on-her-behalf quote. Bernard Youens - Coronation Street's Stan Ogden - meanwhile planned to put his feet up while supping a pint or two. 'England for the Sup!' said the TV Times, showing The Sun's headline writers the way long before their time.

Behind the mic

The only other thing we needed to find out was the make up of ITV's commentary team. Poor old Brian Moore had to forego a Mexican holiday in 1970. He was stationed at the ITV studios in London throughout. Luckier, however, was Hugh Johns (ATV), Gerry Harrison (Anglia), Gerald Sinstadt (Granada), Roger Malone (HTV) and none other than the former England international and ATV Head of Sport, Billy Wright.

Johns, we learned, had spent two months compiling a World Cup dossier beforehand. Sinstadt would be in Leon while his wife was giving birth to their first child. Harrison had been doing keep-fit exercises to ensure he stood the pace. Malone, however, was looking forward to celebrating his 37th birthday after the opening match had taken place. It's not difficult to see who the slacker was in the ITV commentary team, is it?

On the box

Finally, what else was on ITV during the opening week of the 1970 World Cup? Well to begin with, Saturday afternoon featured the iconic World of Sport, introduced by Richard Davies, whoever he is. The same evening you could settle down to watch The Des O'Connor Show with guest star Val Doonican and Jack 'Waa-haay!' Douglas.

At 4.15 on Sunday afternoon there was Bob Monkhouse and The Golden Shot which had one of those did-I-read-that-right line-ups of Tommy Trinder, Anita Harris and Status Quo. Later in the week, you could also feast your eyes on Hawaii Five-O, Doctor In The House and the Benny Hill silent one-off, Eddie In August. Well they were hardly going to put their best programmes on during a World Cup, were they?

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