More TV Memories – Match Of The 90s.

Match Of The 90s (BBC1, 1999)

This is a series about football that was in three parts. The first was Match Of The 70s, with Dennis Waterman in 1995. The second was Match Of The 80s, with Danny Baker in 1997. But I thought that I would concentrate on Match Of The 90s, which was hosted by double-act Mark And Lard, who I’m fairly sure are both Manchester City fans, a club that didn’t really have a successful 90s compared to where they are now.

Although they were known at the time for being on BBC Radio 1, around this time they also hosted some TV shows together, including plenty on digital channel UK Play, where they continued their commitment to delivering quality first. Match Of The 90s was a season-by-season look back at the race for the league title’s highlights, plus cup and international matches, using the Match Of The Day archive.

It is interesting to remember where English football was at the start of the 90s, which was somewhere in the doldrums. English clubs were banned from taking part in Europe, attendances were low, and it wasn’t incredibly exciting. But then, England fared unexpectedly well at the World Cup in Italy, raising interest in the game once again.

And who knows, if Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne hadn’t wet himself in the semi-final, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that this series might’ve been taking a look back at American Football or Baseball instead. Every edition was soundtracked by the music of the era, Mark And Lard offered plenty of cheeky comments, and there were several contributions from players and managers who were making the headlines at the time.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00016-1.jpg

Of course, there are plenty of footballing moments from this decade that people remember. In the early-90s, there were the first FA Cup semi-finals to be held at Wembley. Following a disappointing Euro ’92 campaign for England, the Premier League launched, Manchester United won their first league title for 26 years, and went on to dominate for years. Football was now fancy again, how quickly things change.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is vlcsnap-00014-1.jpg

Going into the mid-90s, all of the host nations failed to qualify for the World Cup in the USA, and Blackburn won their first league title for a record 81 years. More and more foreign players were being singed too, and the top scorers were leaving the goalkeepers with football pie all over their face. After the success of Euro ’96, going into the late-90s, Chelsea were on the up, England had more penalty agony at the World Cup in France, Arsenal won the double, and Manchester United won the treble.

More TV Memories – Match Of The Day.

Match Of The Day (BBC2, 1964-1966, BBC1, 1966-present)

This is one of the longest-running sport shows on British TV. After seeing previews on Football Focus, and the results come in on a Saturday afternoon on Grandstand, you would then have the chance to actually see some of those goals in the evening on Match Of The Day. As this is a show that has been around for much longer than I have, I’ll begin this review at around the time I started to watch.

And it was at this point that Match Of The Day was at rather a low ebb. In the early-90s, live coverage of top-flight matches were on ITV, and the BBC had the rights to the FA Cup, meaning that the show only appeared to cover those matches, with a The Road To Wembley suffix added. It was also around this time that the famous theme that had been used since the early-70s was changed, and this definitely didn’t last long! vlcsnap-00447

In 1992 though, when the Premier League launched, Match Of The Day returned as a highlights show. The host was usually Des Lynam, who was considered to be one of the best around at the time, along with analysis from various pundits. There would also be features including the Goal Of The Month competition, where viewers were invited to pick their favourites. Some highlights from previous seasons were also released on VHS. vlcsnap-00452

By the late-90s, there was something of a relaunch, as things came from a new virtual studio, and there was attempt to rename the show MOTD. There was also a monthly magazine available, and I was a regular reader for a few years. As well as featuring columns from various commentators and pundits about the state of the game, there would also be interviews with star players, and lots of other quirky features. And all this only cost £1! vlcsnap-00453

There were also weekly football magazines available for many years including Match and Shoot, but I didn’t read those as much. Did I keep all of them though? No, I didn’t, how daft of me. By 2001, the Premier League highlights moved to ITV1, so once again, the MOTD name was only usually used for coverage of various cups, and the magazine had closed by this point. vlcsnap-00454

In 2004, the highlights returned to the BBC, and remain to this day, Gary Lineker has now been the main host for over two decades, and commentators include Jonathan Pearce, who was poached from Capital Gold. As most high-profile matches now take place on a Sunday, there is an additional MOTD2 to cover all those. The magazine has also been relaunched as a fortnightly, but it now seems to be aimed at five-year-olds.

More TV Memories – Sky Soccer Saturday.

Sky Soccer Saturday (Sky Sports, 1998-present)

As the Olympics are now finally underway, let’s take a look back at another sport show. A long time ago, back in the OnDigital days, there were various packages available. These included having access to some Sky Movies and Sky Sports channels, but these cost extra, so we never had those, and they remained blank. I did know a little about Sky Sports’ programming though, including their live coverage of Premier League matches.

The rest of us had to make do with the highlights on Match Of The Day or The Premiership. There was also Sky Soccer Saturday. I remember when I used to listen to Hawksbee And Jacobs on TalkSport in the afternoon, and when the producer used to try and tell Andy Jacobs something whilst he was talking, he would get rather flustered and say “I am not Jeff Stelling!”.

I also read articles that had praised Stelling’s hosting abilities, including being able to keep a long live show going, and being up to date with all of the results as they came in without smoke beginning to come out of his ears. When Sky Sports News came to Freeview, I could finally see Sky Soccer Saturday for myself. I always thought that this channel was rather curious as it existed in a world where the main headline would be something like a footballer had an injury and could be out for up to four weeks. vlcsnap-00433

Among the most familiar elements of Sky Soccer Saturday are the panellists, made up of ex-players. Stelling once joked that if a manager gets the sack from a club, they went and joined the panel, although this wasn’t too far away from the truth really. As well as in the studio, there were also reporters at various stadiums, and whenever there was a goal we’d definitely find out about it. vlcsnap-00434

Stelling was also praised for his puns, usually based on the goalscorers’ surnames, and for being aware of and also enthusiastic about the significance of a goal that could effect either the top of the Premier League table or the bottom of the Conference. Stelling was also supposedly a long-suffering fan of a lower league club, and he often put a brave face on their constant defeats. vlcsnap-00442

When the show finally ended, I imagine that Stelling had a lie down and a breather after putting in a good afternoon of hard work. Although similar shows eventually launched, including BBC Sport extending Final Score, and ITV Sport’s Football First/The Goal Rush, many consider this to be the best format. When Sky Sports News left Freeview, so did Sky Soccer Saturday, which was a disappointment.

In 2009, Stelling became the host of Countdown, which I thought was a good move, and I consider him to be my favourite of the post-Whiteley hosts. Some people seemed to think he treated the game a little too much like sports coverage though, eagerly updating the scores, and making football references (still better than Alphabetical though). He left after three years, and continues to work for Sky Sports to this day.

Radio Memories – Baker And Kelly United.

Baker And Kelly United (Talk Radio, 1997-1999)

Danny Baker is someone whose TV work I have followed over the years, ranging from adverts to game shows. Baker has also been working in radio since the late-80s, but I didn’t hear much of his early work, so I missed out on shows he did on various stations including BBC GLR, BBC Radio 1, and BBC Radio 5. He became known for taking calls on unusual subjects and playing a variety of songs.

Baker had also hosted a lot of radio shows about football (and was also a columnist in The Times), usually alongside Danny Kelly, who has been the editor of various magazines about music and sport. After this double-act were kicked off yet another station, they were hired by Talk Radio to host a show about football, which was increasing its coverage of sport at the time. I thought that it was about time I finally had a listen to them, and I definitely enjoyed it.

Now I remember that Baker once said that he only “went” once on the radio, that is he laughed so much he was unable to regain his composure. He said “Danny Kelly made me do it”, but he didn’t say what it was. I wonder if it was this moment that I wanted to tell the story of, as it is one of the funniest and most remarkable things that I have ever heard on the radio (I know some people consider their “wooden bowtie” incident to be their pinnacle, but I didn’t hear that live). The memory is a little hazy, but it went something like this.

Baker and Kelly were hired to do a phone-in on Saturday evenings, and this became popular enough for them to have an extra slot in the afternoon, so they would be on for about two hours before and after the 3pm matches. During their break, did they stay in the studio, listen to the live coverage and make some notes of the results, or did they even go to watch their teams (Baker being a Lions fan, and Kelly a Spurs fan)? Well no, it seems they spent that time in the pub enjoying a cocktail or two, which might go some way to explaining what happened here.

For a while at the end of the evening show, Kelly used to read an email from Trevor, who wrote terrible jokes. This was accompanied by graveyard-style sound effects like heavy rain and tolling bells, and Baker would deliberately not laugh, and then pause and say goodbye. One week, they received a call from someone which turned out to be one of the all-time classics. bk

They had attended an event, and among the guests was Jeff Astle, who was a famous footballer in the late-60s/early-70s for West Bromwich Albion, and he was having a second wave of fame following his appearances on Fantasy Football League (as co-host Frank Skinner is a big WBA fan). Presumably he was there to give an award or do some after-dinner speaking, but afterwards, the caller noticed he stretched out his empty plate to a passing waiter and asked “any more pie?”. Well that was fine and amusing, but it was what happened next that was really great.

About a week later Trevor emailed again and Kelly began with something like “Hello. I enjoyed your story about Jeff Astle last week. Here’s what I think other famous and historical figures would’ve said in that situation”. And these were just the most awful and ridiculous puns, and rather than not laughing, Baker couldn’t stop, and he made some rather remarkable noises, to the point he was so overcome he couldn’t finish the show, and as he was still laughing they just ran out of time and tumbled off the air.

For many weeks after, loads more of these puns were read out by Kelly that were sent in by various people, such as “Babe the talking pig – any more sty?” and Sir David Lean the film director – any more Kwai?”. It caused a sensation. Then they were dropped about halfway through the season because supposedly they weren’t talking about football enough. When they were delivering solid radio gold like this!

There was more though, as Baker and Kelly went around a few more radio stations, and Baker hosted the compilation Own Goals And Gaffs that was released on DVD. They also did a book together that was very entertaining, and they even briefly appeared on TV on BT Sport at about 2am. Baker has written a lot of great and witty things about football, in much contrast to his rather grumpy and irritating views on the modern game online. He has promised that he will reunite with Kelly once again one day soon though.

Radio Memories – Capital Gold Sportstime.

Capital Gold Sportstime (Capital Gold, 1988-2002)

This is a radio show that I came across by chance one day, and I was grateful that I did, as it has a rather interesting story. In 1988, Capital launched a new spin-off station on Medium Wave called Capital Gold, which would play “golden oldies” that were essentially the biggest hits of the 60s (most of which were about 25 years old even then), and lots of famous figures were hired including Tony Blackburn and Kenny Everett to play all of these poptastic songs and bring back lots of memories. The ratings for this were very impressive, especially as this was a station at the more crackly end of the dial that couldn’t be heard in stereo or anything. vlcsnap-00001

There was another element to the station though, which was the sport coverage. London is rather spoilt for high-profile football clubs, with five or six usually in the top-flight whatever season it is. Although I had watched a little TV coverage when I was younger (although as I have said before I never supported one particular club), I heard rarely listened to any radio coverage, apart from maybe a match or two on the recently relaunched BBC Radio 5 Live. vlcsnap-00718

And then one day in 1994 when I was visiting some relatives, they had the radio on Capital Gold, which had coverage of the FA Cup Final between Chelsea and Manchester United. This was the first time that I remember listing to football coverage on this station, and I was rather struck by it, because it was much more rowdy than anything I’d ever heard on the BBC. I had no idea who the commentator was, but I definitely did notice their enthusiasm, so when the next season launched, I decided that I might have another listen. sport0001

I later discovered that Capital Gold Sportstime had been going since the 1988/89 season, usually on Saturday afternoons, and the presenter and commentator was Jonathan Pearce. It seems that he had already covered a few memorable moments, and as they were repeated so many times over the years I did eventually hear them. These included Arsenal winning the league for the first time in 18 years in 1989, and there was much delight that a London club had won in their first season on air, “The Tears Of Turin” when England were beaten on penalties at the World Cup in Italy in 1990, Arsenal’s cup double in 1993, and England famously going behind to a goal from hapless San Marino in less than ten seconds also in 1993. jp

By the mid-90s, Pearce was beginning to be increasingly well-known, and lent his voice to several football-related adverts, from cereals to computer games. Capital Gold was covering a huge amount of football around this time, and along with Premier League matches, also featuring were the FA Cup and League Cup, and even the Champions League, UEFA Cup, and Cup Winners’ Cup. There were also interviews, phone-ins, and competitions. And in all honesty, because I had no particular affiliation to any club, I took the chance to listen to as many matches as possible, because I never ceased to be surprised by how worked up he became about everything, and he always defended this by simply saying he was a fan with a microphone who was fond of the game.

To pick one match as an example that I remember, in 1997 there was an FA Cup match where Chelsea came from behind to score four goals and knock Liverpool out, which was rather exciting. His profile rose even further following his coverage of England matches when football came home (for a short while) at Euro ’96, and he even gained a newspaper column called “Radio Blah Blah” which only ran for about two weeks.

In 1997, when Channel 5 had an England World Cup qualifier as their first-ever live match, Pearce was hired to commentate, seemingly only because they thought he might start yelling if there was a goal, and indeed he obliged (and famously informed us that this was “the channel that brings you England goals!”). In 1998, Pearce had more TV work as the commentator on BBC2’s Robot Wars. And I remember when Chelsea won the Cup Winners’ Cup and were declared “knockout kings of Europe” (maybe a slight exaggeration there).

Later in 1998, there was much anticipation for his coverage of the World Cup in France. And indeed, hearing Michael Owen’s goal (he was only 18 at the time you know) against Argentina live was a remarkable moment. I also remember Euro 2000, a rare tournament where England didn’t get knocked out on penalties (because they didn’t even get past the group stage), and the big win against Germany in a World Cup qualifier in 2001.

By this point, there were rumours that Pearce might join the BBC, and I remember articles wondering if their listeners were ready for his style and if he would fit in. Pearce’s final match for Capital Gold was the 2002 FA Cup Final (won by Arsenal). After this, the football coverage was much reduced, before vanishing altogether about a year later. Of course, there were plenty of other enjoyable presenters and commentators at the station, but Pearce was the big name. Pearce remains a commentator on football for the BBC, mostly on TV now, to this day. Absolutely magnificent!

More TV Memories – Dream Team.

Dream Team (Sky One, 1997-2007)

A while ago, I put pictures of various old TV shows on Twitter. Ones that seemed to go down particularly well were those of Dream Team, as some fan accounts for that show enjoyed what I had to offer. So I thought, as the football season has just about ended at long last, why not also give it a review here, it’s not a show that I watched a huge amount over the years, but I shall try to do it justice.

One notable thing about Dream Team was that I watched the early series when I had access to Sky One back in the On/ITV Digital days in the late-90s/early-2000s. It was also possible to add Sky Sports to the channels that were available, but we never did that, because it was rather expensive, so this show featured just about the only Premier League coverage that I saw at the time. dream0001

Following the Premier League boom in the late-90s, someone seemed to think that it would be a good idea to create a drama series that featured the exploits of a football team, and the term “Dream Team” was already familiar, having been used for those newspaper competitions where you could pick players who would score points, and there were huge cash prizes on offer for whoever did best. vlcsnap-01057

Dream Team featured the fictional Harchester United, who were supposed to be based in the West Midlands. They wore purple shirts, and had the nickname The Dragons. We follow the team as their season progresses, along with the lives of the players, plus with the manager and the owners. We also saw some match coverage, as technology enabled players to be added into matches to make it look like they were playing real Premier League teams, and Sky Sports commentators and presenters also contributed to add to the authenticity. vlcsnap-01058

There were plenty of tense situations over the years including will The Dragons be relegated? Will they qualify for the UEFA Cup? The show did seem to get increasingly far-fetched though (the cliche “the player’s gone down like he’s been shot” was all-too appropriate here), this really was a club that often seemed to be in turmoil, but their loyal fans always stood by them. Throughout the series, some familiar names from soaps took part, including Alison King, who went on to be in Coronation Street, and Stefan Dennis, who was taking a break from Neighbours at the time. vlcsnap-01059

There was a rather high cast turnover as players came and went, and among them was Duncan Pow, who I remember used to be a presenter on the award-winning Bid-Up.TV before joining the show as Liam Mackay in the later series. There were 419 episodes of Dream Team in ten series, most of them were an hour long, and it was probably the closest that Sky One ever got to a home-made soap. Well, it was better than Footballers’ Wives, honestly.

More TV Memories – Football gaffes tapes.

All Of Those Amusing “Football Gaffes” Compilation Tapes

This isn’t a TV memory as such but I still remember this era and want to tell you about it. As I said before, I’ve never really been any good at playing sport, but I have watched a lot, and for a while in the 90s there was a successful market for amusing compilations of strange things happening in football matches being released on VHS.

The best remembered ones must be the series that was hosted by Danny Baker. His Own Goals And Gaffs was about an hour or so of bizarre moments. These tapes were well researched and long-suffering Millwall fan Danny added his own witty observations. After the success of this, there was a sequel released which kept up the laughs. vlcsnap-00944

As well as this, Danny also hosted a more straightforward tape called Whose Season Was It Anyway?, which took a look back at the action in the 1992/93 season. He also hosted Right Hammerings, which featured teams winning by huge margins, and The Fabulous World Of Freak Football. The goalie has got football pie all over his face! vlcsnap-00945

In the mid-90s Stoke fan Nick Hancock, who was best known for being the host of the comedy game show They Think It’s All Over at the time, came along with his own series of mishaps. I remember having all three that he made, Football Nightmares, Football Hell and Football Doctor, and again there were lots of funny moments. vlcsnap-00942

This seemed to cause a big rise of releases in this area of the marketplace, with lots of various sportspeople and personalities including Johnny Vaughan looking back at the odder moments in various sports, but I do think that the ones hosted by Danny Baker and Nick Hancock were the best out of all of them, and they sold very well. vlcsnap-00943

Entering the 2000s, there were a few more releases in this era, now on DVD. I remember for Christmas one year I got Mark And Lard’s Football Nightmares. This was released just after they had left Radio 1 and might even have been the last thing that they did together. Again this was very enjoyable and had lots of great moments. vlcsnap-00946

The master triumphantly returned at the end of the 2000s however when Danny Baker hosted a new lot of Own Goals And Gaffs which had taken place in more recent years. Also around this time he had a book released which he wrote alongside Spurs fan Danny Kelly where they looked back at some great football moments and tried to settle some classic arguments once and for all. vlcsnap-00947

Having very much enjoyed the radio programmes that they have hosted about football on various stations over the years, this is a great book and I recommend it. It’s just a shame that all the jokes Danny made on the DVD he also used in the book too. Nowadays they host a show on BT Sport which continues to look at football in an amusing style like no-one else can and long may they continue to do so.