The Big Match: A review of a golden age
Reminiscing of far more innocent times that have gathered a rose tinted hue over the years can be a joyful experience.
The innocence of football though was taken a long time ago, which to a certain extent is no bad thing, as now we have an industry that caters to every demand of the modern football fan and if you’re watching Sky Sports you can also be wowed by the amount of touch-screen technology at their disposal.
However there was a time when football was a game that wasn’t obsessed with revenue stream, advertising and marketing itself as a brand and the DVD The Big Match: The Best From The Studio perfectly encapsulates this.
Instead of solely reliving the goals, the thrill and the spills from football when big sideburns and bad hair were compulsory, The Big Match has plundered the archive to bring you the best of the action from the studio, without the aid of alliterative titles for matchday games, Andy Gray shouting for no particular reason and mind bogglingly confusing statistical tables.
Greeted by Brian Moore and with contributions from a pipe smoking Jimmy Hill in a variety of offensive suits, Jim Rosenthal and Brian Clough, you might expect the show to have been a wooden and rigid affair that lacked personality.
That might the popular feeling regarding shows of a certain age, but the programme was anything but this, as it was seemingly an informal forerunner to the relaxed presenting styles of Gary Lineker and Adrian Chiles.
That might not be greeted with great enthusiasm if you’re not a fan hideously crowbarred puns, but the presenting was refreshingly ahead of the curve and interactive with the aid of the fantastic viewers letters segment, which unlike today’s Twitter and Facebook comments that tend to be one sided rants that commentators can respond to in a non-committal manner, the letters exposed the curiosities of an innocent game.
Letters included the influence of a couple of ice cream vendors behind the goal before a penalty was taken and a query regarding a complicated half-time scoring system on a series of placards around the edge of the pitch. There were no 3G updates in the 70s.
Another letter complained about the tough questions Brian Moore posed to Clough after his Nottingham Forest side were beaten in the 1980 League Cup final. As a mark of respect the manager was presented with a cake on behalf of the commentator, by an extremely wooden Peter Shilton unaccustomed to having a camera pointed at him.
As a break from talking, reviews of the action from 1970 and 1971 and goals of the season are welcome, if only to see two teams playing in shirts caked in the mud of the pitch.
It is though the studio action that brings the greatest smiles and highlights include Clough stating he wants to fight Muhammad Ali after the legendary boxer claimed that the manager should quit his taking and also his frank and honest appraisal of the talents of Manchester City manager Malcom Allison, clothed in a wonderful Saturday Night Fever cast-off.
However it’s the familiarity with players that is the most endearing and fascinating and this is perfectly exemplified by a feature by Rosenthal on the life of Peter Osgood and Ian Hutchinson after their professional careers had ended.
Rarely do modern players leave the comfort of their millions to play amateur football on a regular basis, but out of a love of the game both were playing for Spittle, in the Premier Division of the Slough, Windsor and Eton league when not managing a local pub together.
They were naturally treated with the same respect afforded to any professional, but were far from being the untouchable stars of today, as the conversation was informal and chatty and no question was off limits for fear of upsetting sponsors.
Infact when leaving the pitch after the game Rosenthal commentated as Osgood proudly strode off the pitch towards the camera “old habits die hard, a wave to a non-existent crowd”.
A wonderful rose tinted retrospective that is not to be missed.Liverpool, Tottenham Hotspur
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