We’re back, after spending most of the weekend so far laid up in bed with a fever. We spent a couple of hours on Friday afternoon lying on the sofa watching Margaret, the BBC Two dramatisation of Margaret Thatcher’s final days as PM, before going to bed feeling utterly knackered. As a result, we then spent (what felt like) the next four hours desperately trying to get to sleep, but being unable to because we were convinced the 1922 Committee were using our brain as a conduit for all of their discourse on the 1990 Conservative Leadership Election. The whole experience is what squares like us imagine trying LSD is like. Just say no, kids.
(Mini-review of Margaret: surprisingly enthralling. Part of the fun was in working out which member of the Tory government was being portrayed by each actor. Most of them were obvious, like Philip Jackson as Bernard Ingham, or John Sessions as an uncannily accurate Geoffrey Howe, but we spent ages thinking the actor who looks a bit like Joe Cornish was meant to be Norman Fowler, only to kick ourselves when he was identified as John Selwyn Gummer. We did have a few minor gripes: every time the action flashed between 1990 Thatch and 1970s Thatch, it was telegraphed quite blatantly by using the same ‘flashback/forward’ sound effect as Lost, which seemed a bit out of place. Mostly though, Lindsay Duncan is clearly too attractive to be playing Mrs Thatch. Every time she started getting angry and shouty at her dithering minions, it was almost sexy, dammit. We should be rather glad our fever-addled brain didn’t take us down that particular avenue, actually.)
Our favourite set of repeats currently lurking on the wastelands of digital TV is still The Big Match Revisited on ITV4. They’re a perpetual reminder that Old Football is in many ways a lot more interesting than New Football. Not necessarily ‘better’, what with racist abuse from crowds being commonplace, or thuggery outranking actual skill on the pitch and all, but certainly interesting. Time for a great big picture special backing up this claim.
(Sidenote: If it’s a proper look at The Big Match you’re looking for, we recommend Off The Telly’s review here. We also demand that everyone check out Steve Williams’ magnificently detailed look at the history of football on television, also on OTT, here.)
1. Each ITV region getting their own highlights show (save for a few who had to share theirs with neighbouring regions). Splendidly, The Big Match Revisited on ITV4 takes occasional advantage of this, meaning we sometimes get to see offerings from Granada or Anglia and the like, as opposed to the more regular LWT’s The Big Match. Sadly, they don’t wander the regions as often as we’d like, but at least the thought is there. Given most weeks seem to involve the same few matches culled from sister networks, it’s likely most programmes featured the same actual matches in different running orders.
This is mainly A Good Thing because it harks back to an era when the UK still had proper regional television. This still happens in other countries – France and Germany have several local stations for each region, whereas in Britain there’s almost nothing aside from BBC One in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (unless you count the odd half-hour grudgingly tossed out by ITV, which generally seem to be clip show of old local programming). Hopefully, with the BBC having the live rights to the Football League from next season, we may soon see a return to regionally based football action.
2. Team photos before kick-off for ordinary league matches. Well, one day there might be a genuine need for such a record of these very events. People in the year 2012 might scoff at the idea of Manchester City and Chelsea being a relegation six-pointer. This proves it really did happen.
3. Matches played in poor weather conditions. With an orange ball. Nowadays, despite the Premier League rules dictating day-glo yellow footballs are to be used in the winter months, you never get to see sights like this, and that’s wrong. Football is immeasurably more exciting when there’s a chance Ronaldo will try and do a series of fancy stepovers, slip in the snow, and land on his arse. Plus, Steven Gerrard would have an excuse for falling over the second he runs into the 18 yard box.
4. Pitchside hoardings for companies that don’t exist any more. We had hoped Williams & Glyn’s Bank was a small local bank owned by a bloke called William and a chap called Glyn, but sadly it was a bank with hundreds of branches throughout the country. It is now part of RBS.
4a. Pitchside hoardings for really specific things. Read this particular column in the Evening Chronicle. Don’t bother with the rest of the paper, just read that one column. Pay for the entire paper, obviously, but only read that one specific part of it.
5. Matches played in really poor weather conditions. Also, Tiklas Anoraks! Now that’s advertising.
6. Post-match interviews conducted nowhere near a sponsor’s logo. A background comprising of a dozen different sponsor logos? You 21st century ponces. Real men conduct their post-match interviews at the back of the terraces, in front of some rusty girders and corrugated iron.
7. Proper anchormen (1). So many good things here. Firstly, the great Brian Moore on presentation duties. Secondly, a rotary-dial telephone on the desk, ready for a potential “what am I supposed to tell the Panorama viewers" moment. Thirdly, a back-up microphone jammed into the desk in case the radio mic fails, even though it looks a little bit like a hand grenade. Lastly, the reading out of viewers’ letters, including the names and full addresses of each lucky viewer. The Daily Mail would have a field day if such practices were commonplace nowadays.
Also, just why is it we consistently manage to take screen captures when the person on-screen is in mid-blink? It looks really disturbing, and would be impossible to do on purpose.
7a. Proper anchormen (2). The mighty Gerald Sinstadt, in quite possibly the world’s worst cardigan. Thing of note: no CGI spinning club crests in the background that only serve to be distracting and annoying (take note, Setanta), but bits of card stuck onto the set.
8. Managers with umbrellas. More of this sort of thing, please.
9. Not even remotely recent highlights. Has once of the worst winters on record had a huge impact on the amount of matches being played? Well, you could show highlights from the midweek games, if there were any. Maybe even a classic match from earlier in the season, like Manchester United 3, West Bromwich Albion 5 from a couple of months previous. Or how about a match from the previous summer’s World Cup? Too easy. Showing highlights of a match from two and a half years ago, featuring none of the home nations, namely the 1976 European Championships final, that’s the way to go. Good match, to be fair, with the tournament itself marked as a classic purely because Wales made it all the way to the last eight.
9a. Highlights of matches filmed in colour? Pah! Sadly, no comments from Tom Webster. Missed a trick there, LWT.
10. Dipping into coverage from foreign broadcasters. Not, you’ll understand, because the match in question is especially important or exciting, but because something a bit funny happens. An amusing goal celebration, perhaps, or a British manager in charge of a Dutch team trying (and failing quite magnificently, it has to be said) to distract his opposite number by blowing into one of those unfurling whistle party blower things we can’t remember the proper name of.
So, that’s the end of this picture-based update. We feel we should end on a single picture that encapsulates everything that is great about The Big Match Revisited. And here it is:
Why this picture is great:
* Despite the programme only being broadcast in London, the match being covered is Morton vs Partick Thistle.
* The inelegant caption announcing the match in question. It does the job, and doesn’t need to use a typeface keeping in with the house style of the channel it is being broadcast on. Good.
* A tiny smattering of fans on the terrace in the background. One of them seems to be wearing a tartan bobble hat.
* A line-up of AC Invacars along the goal-line, in a similar fashion to the minis which used to be parked in the corner at Stamford Bridge. We’d really like to know how often the ball rolled under one of them, and how long it would generally take an unfortunate ball-boy to retrieve it. Oh, and how many windscreens got smashed by desperate clearances over the course of each season.