Thursday, 31 December 2015
First viewed : Uncertain
As with World in Action , against which it was often scheduled, Panorama appears here now due to an episode that I clearly recall seeing. Before that it was always the one programme - apart from the cricket coverage - that my dad wanted to watch and so its powerful theme music was usually the cue to go to bed.
The episode in question, on 14.11.77, featured a 35 minute film report, introduced by the venerable news reporter Charles Wheeler , about organised football hooliganism at Millwall FC who bafflingly agreed to co-operate with the programme. The Millwall firm's tripartite structure meant you started off as a school boy causing bother around the half way line then chose whether to join "Treatment" a bunch of goons wearing surgical helmets who guarded the home end against incursions or the real nutters the "F Troop" to whom the football was clearly incidental to looking for a ruck. On one occasion when Millwall went to Sunderland, the F Troop chose instead to go to Charlton v Tottenham to soften up the Spurs fans for their visit later in the season.
All the cliches of reporting on the subject were introduced here such as trying to fit the phenomenon into a sociological framework and the obligatory footage of an avowed hooligan working with kids in his day job. We all know that's often the case now but it was a revelation then. The main spokesman for Treatment was a surely untypical teenager called David who wore glasses and looked like a puff of wind would knock him down.
In fairness to the club their efforts to get to grips with the hooligan problem were given appropriate coverage. Then-manager Gordon Jago made the prescient suggestion of making games home fans only nearly a decade before Luton Town tried it ( largely as a result of Millwall fans wrecking their ground during a cup tie in 1985 ).
Panorama remains BBC 's flagship current affairs programme , still going strong after 63 years and all the Beeb's top rank political journalists have cut their teeth on it - Dimbleby, Vine, Day , Kennedy etc. Its coups are too numerous to list but I guess the 1995 interview with Princess Diana must top the bill. For me it didn't do her any favours ; the "Queen of People's Hearts" line in particular showed a lack of self-awareness that left her open to ridicule.
Wednesday, 30 December 2015
First viewed : November 1977
Unlike Citizen Smith , this new sitcom from the Esmonde- Larbey team never really took flight and has been largely forgotten. At the time of writing it doesn't have a wikipedia entry.
The main character is Ralph ( Richard Briers ) a self-deluding sales rep whose bragging is an attempt to disguise that he's a complete social failure. The one friend he manages to pick up is decent , passive divorcee Brian ( Michael Gambon ) who's attracted to his extrovert behaviour. As a study in male friendship it certainly had its merits but was conspicuously short of belly laughs. Gambon recounts that one BBC exec asked him if there was going to be anything funny in a forthcoming episode.
The series provided Gambon , a highly regarded Shakespearean actor , with his first regular TV role since The Borderers , nearly a decade earlier but household name status was still some way off. The Other One survived for a second series in 1979 but it remained in the shadows.
Tuesday, 29 December 2015
First viewed : 3 November 1977
From quiet beginnings this John Sullivan sitcom became must-see TV and , unlike one of his other creations, left you wanting more when it finished.
Citizen Smith was first tried out as a pilot episode in the Comedy Special strand in 1976 which I never saw but I caught the first episode proper when it replaced Happy Ever After in the post-Top of the Pops slot.
Wolfie Smith ( Robert Lindsay ) is an unemployed layabout who imagines that he is destined to lead a popular uprising through his Tooting Popular Front which currently has a membership of four, himself , religion-sampling brother Ken ( Mike Grady ) , sex-crazed but timid Tucker ( Bruce Milan ) and brainless thug Speed ( George Sweeney ) . Wolfie is supported by his sensible girlfriend Shirley ( Cheryl Hall, Lindsay's real-life wife at the time ) whose father Charles Johnson ( Peter Vaughan ) is appalled by him while his scatter-brained wife Florence ( Hilda Braid ) is secretly rather fond of him. The TPF's headquarters is the local pub which is also frequented by crocodilian local underworld chief Harry Fenning ( Stephen Grief ). Wolfie's attempts to bring the revolution on always come to grief through his ineptitude or self-delusion.
Over the four series there were some cast changes. Peter Vaughan left at the end of the series 2 to be replaced by Tony Steedman who was inferior but then anyone would be. Hall also left at that point with the character moving to Spain which was a major plus. She was an attractive presence but Shirley acted as a brake on Wolfie's schemes and the storylines got much more entertaining once she'd gone. Grief left at the end of series 3 to be replaced by the charmless Ronnie Lynch ( David Garfield ). I missed Harry but Ronnie's wife Mandy's attraction to Wolfie did lead to some interesting developments.
I watched Citizen Smith with as much relief as amusement initially. Thanks to my mum's indoctrination my biggest fear for the future was the possible coming to power of one Anthony Wedgewood Benn. Benn was the hypocritcal aristocrat* who would establish a Marxist dictatorship under himself at the first opportunity and deny me the comforting prospect of rising above the bullies at school in later life. While others at the time fretted about nuclear war I feared the challenge to the meritocratic order. So Citizen Smith was something of a comfort blanket to me, dissecting the hypocrisy and absurdity of the British left and perhaps , by exposing it to ridicule, reduce its chances of coming to power.
There were many highlights of the series. The best episode came at the end of series 3 when the TPF's acquired a tank and stormed an empty Commons, this coming after the destruction of the Johnsons' garden gnomes by machine gun fire. The best individual moment came when Ken converted to Hare Krishna and started chanting it out loud in the pub and then Tucker started harmonising with "Harry Fenning ! Harry Fenning! " as the gangster approached.
As I said above, the series went out on a high in Easter 1980 when Wolfie had to leave town because Ronnie caught him in bed with Mandy. Lindsay wanted to take on more serious roles . I missed the one-off Christmas special that year ( the storyline was set before Wolfie's departure ) because I was staying at Mankinholes Youth Hostel that night .I long mourned it and watched the series again when repeated in 1992 though I was inevitably disappointed that the most memorable scenes were still the best ones and what came in between was humdrum.
In September this year Lindsay expressed his support for reviving the series in the light of Jeremy Corbyn's victory but quickly backtracked when he realised how opposed the now-deceased Sullivan's family were to the idea.
* Benn's aristocratic background was wildly exaggerated by the press . His grandfather was middle class and his father was ennobled for political services during the war. However it was true that he was a wealthy man who sent his children to public school.
Sunday, 27 December 2015
First viewed : Autumn 1977
The latest addition to the super-hero action series proliferating in the late seventies, Man From Atlantis was scheduled against Dr Who on the Beeb. Not so much jiggle-TV as bulge-TV, it starred young Patrick Duffy usually in nothing more than a pair of wet shorts. He was Marc Harris, last survivor of the lost city of Atlantis with webbed feet, gills , superhuman strength and the ability to dive to great depths. After being washed up on a beach he hooked up with a government agency to work in the oceans against aliens and mad scientist Dr Schubert ( Victor Buono ).
We didn't watch it regularly and I only remember one episode with any clarity, the one where Marc is somehow transported to medieval Verona and finds himself in the middle of Romeo and Juliet , adopted by the Montague family. I must shamefully admit that my first acquaintance with the main plot of the play came from that.
Like The Invisible Man it only lasted for one series which incorporated four TV movies as well as the customary thirteen 45- minute episodes. Duffy of course would move on to a much more famous role which would again involve him getting wet in one of TV's most notorious scenes.
Saturday, 26 December 2015
First viewed : 9 September 1977
My memory didn't let me down on this one. It did arrive in the same week as Secret Army and, as an interesting bit of trivia, the lead female character in both series was called L Colbert ( Louise in this case ). This was another rite of passage series for me. It was the first post-watershed series I watched alone , my mum no longer being bothered how late I stayed up on a Friday, and , in the second episode, presented me with the first pair of naked female breasts I'd seen since babyhood.
So who was the luscious lovely who helped move on my sexual education ? Err , middle-aged Hilary Crane, best known for playing Tucker Jenkins' mum in Grange Hill. who flashed them in a vain attempt to distract cuckolded husband Ron Pember ( Alain in Secret Army ) from emptying a pan of boiling water on her. It's a shame that they didn't swap it round with the next episode in which case my first glimpsed pair would have been those belonging to the much more interesting Katy Manning, Dr Who's Jo Grant in a powerful performance as a desperate junkie. Sadly, Pamela Stephenson in episode 9 stayed under wraps.
Apart from the above and a nifty theme tune there's no reason to recall Target with much affection. It was an over-violent rip-off of The Sweeney which had Mary Whitehouse foaming at the mouth. In a rare triumph she managed to get the first series curtailed to nine episodes and the second series was noticeably toned down.
It was set in Southampton, the base for a regional crime squad, and some of the storylines started with a ship docking. The main problem lay with the regular cast. The lead character Detective Superintendent Steve Hackett ( which no doubt caused the soon-to-be-ex-Genesis guitarist some amusement ) was played by Patrick Mower , a charmless actor at the best of times but completely repellent here as a sneering , violent, bullying poseur in a string of vile jackets. You shouldn't be watching cop shows and wanting the "hero" to get a right pasting but that was always the case with Hackett. His colleagues weren't much better ; his leather-jacketed subordinate Bonny ( Brendan Prince ) was a trainee version of the same type while Philip Madoc's performance as his boss was just dreadful. He looked embarrassed to be there and delivered many of his lines turning away from the camera and mumbling into his chest. Where Target might have scored over The Sweeney was in having a regular female member of the team but alas Vivien Heilbron's Det-Sgt Colbert was an impassive cipher accepting Hackett's sexism and bullying without protest and never became an interesting character.
The series had a bleak cynical outlook , usually filmed in the dingiest settings available , which at least reflected the times but you missed the humour in The Sweeney which had some semi-comic episodes to lighten the tone. There was the odd attempt at banter between Bonny and Colbert which always fell flat on its face because the pairing had zero screen chemistry.
There was as stated a second series of eight episodes and plans for a third which were scrapped and resources diverted into Shoestring instead. The first series was repeated on a satellite channel in 1990 but the second has never been aired since and the BBC have so far resisted calls to release a DVD.
Mower's career never recovered from the series' poor reception. There were no more star vehicles just guest star roles in the likes of Bergerac then a big gap in his c.v. from a few appearances on Countdown in 1987 to a humiliating appearance on Fantasy Football League in 1994 because, if memory serves, David Baddiel had discovered him trying to flog watches at his mum's golf club. After Baddiel and Skinner had royally ripped into him as a washed-up has-been , he appeared at the end of the programme with a case full of watches to sell to the audience. Game for a laugh or plain desperate to get his face back on the box ? You decide. Since 2001 of course he's been part of the regular cast in Emmerdale whose casting people seem to have a penchant for picking up the flotsam from previous decades.
Madoc did manage to turn things around after playing the title role in The Life and Times of David Lloyd George in 1981 and eventually got his own detective series with the Welsh-set A Mind To Kill in 1994. He was still working shortly before his death in 2012. Prince remains an anonymous jobbing actor while Heilbron now combines acting with some lecturing at Cambridge University.
Friday, 25 December 2015
First viewed : 7 September 1977
This is another series that I started watching alone although Mum and Helen eventually bought into it. I enjoyed catching up with it on Yesterday channel a few years back.
It was a joint Anglo-Belgian production - though the cast was Belgian-free - about a fictional resistance movement Lifeline during World War Two dedicated to returning shot-down British airmen to Britain. It ran for three series, the last of which covered the end of the war and its aftermath. It was created by Gerard Glaister who himself served in the RAF during the war and had previously produced P.O.W. drama Colditz.
Lifeline was initially run by a young woman Lisa Colbert ( Jan Francis though I didn't recognise it was the same girl from The Long Chase ) who worked as a nurse. The principal safe house was a humdrum cafe in Brussels, The Candide run by Albert Foiret ( Bernard Hepton who played the camp commandant in Colditz ) aided by his mistress Monique ( Angela Richards ). Other helpers were stunning nurse Natalie ( Juliet Hammond-Hill ) and radio operating farmer Alain ( Ron Pember ). Their adversaries were decent Luftwaffe man Brandt ( Michael Culver ) and icy Gestapo chief Kessler ( Clifford Rose who played a similar nasty in Callan ) .
Secret Army very effectively highlighted the bravery and stomach-knotting tension involved in such work and was quite intense for a pre-watershed show. In common with much drama around this period it didn't trouble to make its characters particularly likable. Albert was carrying on with Monique with an invalid wife upstairs and both the British spies who came over to assist, Curtis ( Christopher Neame ) and Bradley ( Paul Shelley ) were insufferably arrogant. Sometimes Lifeline had to be as ruthless as the Germans , killing a young mother and even one of the air pilots themselves when their security was compromised.
Secret Army reflected the dangers of the situation with a high mortality rate among the cast. Lisa died , ironically as a result of an Allied bombing raid, at the start of the second series when Jan Francis decided to quit and Brandt committed suicide at the other end of Series 2 when implicated in a plot against Hitler. After Lisa's death Albert , now running a restaurant patronised by the Germans took over the operation but it now faced a new threat from the Belgian communists who placed their own man Max ( the ubiquitous Stephen Yardley ) in the organisation but working to a different agenda. I didn't like that development or the losses of Lisa and Curtis who had to flee Belgium at the end of the first series and largely dropped out of the second which ended with Albert rumbling Max and arranging his death.
I returned for the third series where Monique took over the organisation from Albert who was in prison for the suspected murder of his wife, a false accusation levelled by the vengeful communists. Brandt was replaced by Rheinhardt ( Terence Hardiman ) a cynical but equally decent officer who finally succeeded in uncovering Lifeline just as the Allies moved into the city. Kessler in the meantime developed a relationship with a Belgian woman Madeline which softened his character a little but not enough to forgive the writers for letting him escape justice in the final episode. The last few episodes concerned the liberation of the city and its aftermath which proved the danger wasn't over yet for any of the characters.
Mention should also be made of the great title sequence with its ominous tracking shots of the Belgian countryside at night and a theme tune from Canadian composer Robert Farnon that was appropriately full of dread.
The series finished at the end of 1979 although there was a sequel which we'll come to in due course. Great though it was it's hard now to disassociate it from Allo Allo. I have to admit I enjoyed that too, at least for a while but I think it's a shame the Beeb allowed one of its own great creations to be parodied so closely.
Thursday, 24 December 2015
First viewed : September 1977
I knew who Dick Emery was from Mike Yarwood impressions and trailers but I don't think I saw his show until 1977.
Dick's show was sketch-based with him playing a number of grotesque characters both male and female. I liked the buck-toothed vicar and remember one particularly funny sketch where he was having a pre-marital interview with a young couple and the guy kept using rude words in an innocent context - "Oh dear I keep making these dreadful boobs ! " causing much tea-spluttering outrage.
Much of the humour revolved around sexual innuendo though there was also the great double act with Roy Kinnear which was more slapstick-based. They were a father -son pairing whose attempts at petty villainy were always scuppered by the imbecility of young Gaylord , played convincingly by Emery although he was nearly twenty years older than Kinnear.
For all the cross-dressing Emery was actually as straight as they come and had four children from five marriages. He got tired of the show in 1981 and started a couple of new ventures the following year which were scuppered by his death at 67 at the beginning of 1983.
Wednesday, 23 December 2015
First viewed : Autumn 1977
Two years after appearing on Opportunity Knocks one of the decade's most unlikely stars got her own TV show.
Pam Ayres started her career in the WRAF but started writing poetry and reading it out on local radio in the early seventies. After appearing on Opportunity Knocks she was regularly on TV reading her innuendo-laden verse delivered in a possibly exaggerated rustic accent through the side of her mouth Jonathan King style. The effect was heightened by her mumsy church mouse appearance. I remember enjoying the show which featured other comedians as guests but it only lasted for one thirteen week series.
After that I completely lost sight of her and prior to ten minutes ago thought she might have been dead. I don't read poetry so it's no great surprise that she's continued writing but all her radio shows and appearances on Countdown and QI have somehow escaped me.
Tuesday, 22 December 2015
First viewed : 1977
This was well into its run by the time I caught it but it was one of ITV's most popular comedies .
Leonard Rossiter was the appalling Rigsby , an ignorant scruffy miser clinging to the sliver of respectability attached to being the landlord of some dingy bedsits in Leeds. His tenants, , barring fly-by-night guest stars , were naive medical student Alan ( Richard Beckinsale playing a character pretty indistinguishable from Godber ) , educated black man Philip ( Don Warrington ) and self-deceiving spinster Miss Jones ( Frances de la Tour ), a minor college bureaucrat.
I don't remember all that much about it apart from being rather mystified, now that I was becoming interested in such things , by why Rigsby should be so avidly pursuing Miss Jones . The skinny, horse-faced de la Tour must be the least attractive woman ever cast in a sex object role, comedy or not.
The series ended in 1978 but a feature film was made in 1980. In the time between them of course Beckinsale had died of a heart attack at the shockingly early age of 31 and his part went to Christopher Strauli playing a slightly different character. Rossiter died in 1984, itself a shock as the 57 year old maintained a rigorous fitness regime. De la Tour is still a busy actress with awards for work both on screen and on stage. Warrington, the youngest cast member, had variable fortunes in the next couple of decades , landing regular roles in Triangle, C.A.T.S. Eyes and Grange Hill but largely dropping out of view in the years between them. In this millennium, he's been much more visible with appearances on Grumpy Old Men and Strictly Come Dancing alongside a steady stream of acting work.
Monday, 21 December 2015
First viewed : Autumn 1977
This game show first arrived in September 1977 in the pre-Coronation Street timeslot on a Wednesday evening. It was a Granada TV production.
The Krypton Factor marketed itself as Britain's "toughest quiz" . It aimed to find Supermen and Superwomen by testing various facets of human ability . The format was tweaked from time to time over its original run but the most enduring features were as follows :
- A physical ability test set on an army assault course for which female and older contestants were given a head start. Although unknown to me at the time, the course was situated not too far away from me at Holcombe Moor and I live even closer to it now.
- An observation test based on a film clip ,which climaxed with an identity parade where contestants had to decide who was the third pedestrian to walk by in the background from a selection of identical-looking candidates.
- A mental agility test usually based on memorising a sequence.
- An intelligence test devised by a Maths professor from Manchester University where contestants had to re-assemble a shape from its constituent blocks
- A quickfire general knowledge test which concluded the programme.
The points gained by the four contestants on each round went towards their score or "krypton factor" and the winner went through to a semi-final.
The host throughout the original 18 year run was news reporter and anchor man Gordon Burns who was genial when facing the audience but tough and inflexible in his dealings with the contestants.
I never really liked it because it made me feel inadequate but some of that response was artificially created. For example , the intelligence test often took the contestants nearly twenty minutes to complete rather than the edited two on screen.
I never really liked it because it made me feel inadequate but some of that response was artificially created. For example , the intelligence test often took the contestants nearly twenty minutes to complete rather than the edited two on screen.
In 1995 the show was pulled after a major re-vamp was though not to have worked but inevitably there was a revival with Ben Shepherd which lasted two years from 2009 to 2010 which passed me by.
On the theme of me not noticing things , I was going to conclude by saying that we in the north west still get to see Burns as co-host of the BBC's regional news programme but it turns out he retired four years ago !
Sunday, 20 December 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I didn't watch too much of this because I hated it.
"Robbie" was Fyfe Robertson, a weird, gaunt-looking bloke with an aggravatingly over-enunciated Scottish accent. He dressed like an Edwardian laird , surely the inspiration for beyond-irritating racing pundit John McCririck, but at least had the excuse of being born into that era , already in his seventies when the first of his four short series was aired in 1973.
I had no idea who this professional eccentric , roaming around Britain like a geriatric Alan Whicker, was, but he had a long background in serious journalism prior to appearing before the cameras in Tonight ( the precursor of Nationwide in the late fifties /early sixties ; Whicker also cut his teeth on the programme ).
There was a whiff of self-indulgence about the programme - one episode allowed him to foam at the mouth about modern art - but I guess he'd earned it. The final series in 1980 consisted of Fyfe dropping in on other examples of the active elderly such as ghastly "novelist" Barbara Cartland and catering tycoon Charles Forte.
Robertson died in 1987 aged 84.
Saturday, 19 December 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I'd have placed this a bit earlier but it turns out it didn't occupy the Sunday teatime slot I recall until 1977.
The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau was a documentary series highlighting marine biodiversity through the explorations of French diver and film-maker Jacques Cousteau from his boat the Calypso. Though the grizzled ex-naval officer spoke excellent English he was not particularly gregarious and the series employed a voiceover narration by actor Richard Johnson.
Though I was interested in the subject matter I never found the programme particularly illuminating but it was clearly popular as it ran for seven years between 1968 and 1975 and made Cousteau's name synonymous with scuba diving. You do suspect that the series' appeal had as much to do with the exotic locations as the issues covered.
Cousteau's work continued unabated after the series finished. In 1996 he sued his own son for using the Cousteau name for a holiday resort in Fiji. He died the following year aged 87.
Thursday, 17 December 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I don't know when I first caught ITV's flagship current affairs programme; perusing a list of the episodes on imdb the first one that I know for certain I saw was broadcast on 4th July 1977.
That was entitled "The Very Public Death of Enrico Sidoli" and highlighted the difficulties the police were having investigating the death of a 15 year old autistic boy from injuries sustained during a bullying attack in the crowded Parliament Hill Lido in London the year before. The police described meeting a "wall of silence" from the local community during their investigation. It was quite frightening. The case was featured again in a BBC Schools programme in 1982 and as far as I'm aware the crime remains unsolved. I wonder what Enrico's family think when they hear the latest development in the never-ending Steven Lawrence saga.
World in Action had been going since 1963 and been the subject of frequent controversy as you would expect of a series based on investigative journalism but it usually ended up being vindicated as with The Poulson Affair. It had its own brash style , pitching you straight into the story without an onscreen presenter and using various attention-grabbing visual techniques to hold the viewer's attention.
It also had the most terrifying title sequence of any TV programme with that descending organ tune - still the subject of a copyright dispute - and the use of da Vinci's Vitruvian Man which looks disturbingly occult ( though it actually isn't ).
I watched it on and off over the years. Though no doubt compulsory viewing for politicians and journalists , I think the sheer breadth of the subjects covered prevented it becoming appointment TV - for me at least. We would often watch the first minute to see what it was about and then change channels.
World in Action was the flagship programme from the golden age of Granada Television. When ITV had its big franchise shake-up in 1992 ( you will note a steep decline in the number of ITV programmes featuring here from that time on ) there were many publicly-expressed fears that the series was under threat , particularly after its chief defender, David Plowright chairman of Granada Television , was ousted by Granada's catering arm in a classic case of tail wagging the dog. In the event the series, protected by its totemic status , survived for another six years before it was finally axed and replaced by the anaemic Tonight which has never been fit to lace its boots.
World In Action has remained hugely influential for good (e.g. the monumental Seven Up documentary series which started out as a WIA episode ) or bad ( it launched the career of the ghastly John Birt ) and will always feature heavily in any history of British broadcasting.
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
First watched : Uncertain
I really have no idea when I first saw this so I may as well include it now, having noted the third series began in July 1977. I mainly associate it with Friday nights at my Gran's in the early eighties because she liked it. I preferred game shows which got through more questions rather than watch people dithering over how much to gamble but this was still better than, say , Play Your Cards Right or Deal Or No Deal.
Hosted by obnoxious professional Scouser Jimmy Tarbuck , the series combined general knowledge with gambling. The four contestants were given 50 points to start with then multiple choice questions with odds applied to each of the six possible answers. They gambled with their points and received more according to the odds if they got it right. Otherwise they lost their stake. The winners of two earlier rounds faced each other in a final played for cash . The one with the most cash kept it , up to a maximum of £1,000.
Jimbo was assisted off screen by the programme's creator , former Top of the Form presenter Geoffrey Wheeler who presented the last series himself after Tarbuck left the show in 1987. There was a brief revival on a satellite channel in 1997 presented by Bobby Davro.
Tuesday, 15 December 2015
First watched : June 1977
This U.S. detective series had already ceased being made by the time I first caught it on Saturday evenings but I thought it was one of the better ones.
Frank Cannon was an ex-police detective in L.A. who becomes a P.I. after the death of his wife and child. He was played by William Conrad a rather portly individual with a deep voice. like a cut-price Orson Welles. In sharp contrast to Jim Rockford, Cannon liked big cars and fancy restaurants so tended to take high value cases particularly if the client was female.
I remember one episode where he was acting for some girl who'd aggravated a local cult and saved her from a gang of murderous hippies who cut her phone wire and threw a noose around her beams. I found the scene absolutely terrifying and had no idea at the time it was based on the real-life Sharon Tate murders.
The series ran for 124 episodes between 1971 and 1976. Conrad went on to star in two more TV series Nero Wolfe and Jake and the Fatman ( neither of which mean anything to me ) and a lot of voiceover work before his death in 1994 aged 73.
Sunday, 13 December 2015
First watched : 25 May 1977
The 1977 European Cup Final was another milestone in my engagement with football, the second full match I ever watched.
It was Liverpool's first appearance in the Final and they were playing just four days after being defeated by Manchester United in the FA Cup Final. They were the third English club to reach the Final after United's victory in 1968 and Leeds' controversial defeat in 1975. They were playing the German side Borussia Monchengladbach in Rome. The match was also going to be significant as Kevin Keegan's last appearance for Liverpool as negotiations for his move to the German club SV Hamburg were now public knowledge.
Although Keegan didn't score in the game he was probably man of the match leading perennial fall guy Berti Vogts who was marking him, a merry dance. The moment I remember best is veteran hatchet man Tommy Smith putting Liverpool back in front from a corner and commentator Barry Davies's delighted surprise at this unlikely scorer. The match ended 3-1 to Liverpool and began a long run of unbroken English success in the competition involving three different clubs.
Keegan was not the only player whose Liverpool career was coming to an end. His usual strike partner John Toshack was felt not to have recovered sufficiently from injury for the game and only made five appearances the following season before being allowed to join Swnsea City as player-manager. His replacement on the bench Alan Waddle left for Leicester in the summer and another unused sub Alec Lindsay went to Stoke. Reserve goalkeeper Peter McDonnell left for Oldham a few months later having never made a League appearance for the Reds. Smith had planned to make the match his last but was persuaded to continue and made another 34 appearances before joining Toshack at Swansea .
The game was probably the pinnacle of Borussia Monchengladbach's 1970s heyday although they won the UEFA Cup two years later. In the eighties they slipped back, unable to compete financially with the likes of Bayern Munich and haven't regained their former standing since.
Liverpool retained the trophy the following year, having the advantage of playing at Wembley against Belgian champions FC Bruges. Ray Clemence was a virtual spectator in that game as the Belgians camped in their own half although he needed to rescue the situation after a bad back pass from young centre half Alan Hansen after eighty minutes. Kenny Dalglish scored the only goal with a chip over the keeper from a tight angle. Record appearance holder Ian Callaghan was an unused sub for the game before he too went to Swansea.
Liverpool only qualified for the following year as holders, having lost the domestic title to Brian Clough's Nottingham Forest. As Forest had no European pedigree they weren't seeded and so conceivably could be drawn against Liverpool. That's exactly what happened and Clough outwitted Paisley to see Forest through 2-0 on aggregate. That hurdle negotiated Forest went through to the Final after surviving a real wobble in the semis against FC Cologne. Their unlikely opponents were Sweden's Malmo FC managed by Englishman Roy Hoghton who had somehow scraped their way through.
Malmo played as defensively as Bruges the year before but Forest had an ace up their sleeve in £1,000,000 man ( how quaint that seems now ) Trevor Francis making his European debut. I remember my Mum thrilling to one of his runs and my retorting "Well you don't pay a million pounds for nothing !" Francis duly stamped his mark on the competition by settling the game with a headed goal from a John Robertson cross.
The following season Forest got to the Final again with Dinamo Tibilisi removing Liverpool ( who had regained the title in emphatic fashion ) . Now featuring former Leeds man Frank Gray at left back, desperate to make up for the disappointment of five years earlier, Forest faced SV Hamburg including Kevin Keegan. To be honest I don't recall much of the match which was settled by a John Robertson goal in the first half. Forest's veteran striker John O' Hare made his last appearance as a substitute in the Final.
I can't remember who ended Forest's run in the competition in 1980-81 but it wasn't either of the Finalists, Liverpool and Real Madrid. Liverpool won with a goal from Alan Kennedy but deep into revision for my O Levels I didn't watch the game.
Liverpool didn't make it to the next Final but we were represented by 1980-81's surprise domestic champions Aston Villa. I watched this one with great trepidation feeling sure England's run would be over now. Villa had little European experience, had made a poor defence of their title finishing ninth in the League and had lost their manager Ron Saunders just a couple of months earlier. My fears increased when goalkeeper Jimmy Rimmer had to come off after 10 minutes and be replaced by Nigel Spink making only his second appearance for the club. He held his nerve though , and his place in the side for the next decade, and Villa won 1-0 with a headed goal from Peter Withe.
But all good things come to an end and neither Liverpool nor Villa made it to the Final in 1983 so I had no interest in watching that one. Liverpool made the next one which they won via a penalty shoot-out when Bruce Grobbelaar did his famous wobbly legs routine. I was at University by then and I have a feeling I only caught the tail end of that one. I have a feeling that the following year I walked out of the room before the game itself had begun having seen enough with the violence at the Heysel Stadium. Liverpool lost the game and English clubs had to sit out European competition for the next five years.
The next one I watched was the 1991 final between Red Star Belgrade and Marseilles. I had become captivated by Yugoslavia after their performance in the 1990 World Cup and they seemed to be the coming nation with players like Prosinecki, Pancev and Savicevic all of whom were in the Red Star line up. Red Star had further endeared themselves to me with their utter demolition of Rangers in the Second Round. Marseilles ironically had the greatest Yugoslav player of all in Dragan Stojkovic though he was so doubtful through injury that he only appeared as an extra-time substitute. Unfortunately Red Star decided their best tactic was playing for penalties from the first minute and the game was a crushing bore decided by Pancev's nerveless penalty in the shoot-out. Then the reason why Yugoslavia under-achieved internationally became all too obvious as ethnic tensions tore the country apart and that great team was rent asunder. The successor nations have had their moments but none have ever looked strong enough to really challenge for the big prizes. Stojkovic sadly wasted the latter part of his career playing second rate football in Japan and remains there as a successful manager.
After the 1992 Final of course things changed completely. I don't consider the Champions League to be a continuation of the European Cup so that will have to come later.