Monday, 25 January 2016

326 Kick Off

First  viewed  : January  1978

Granada  Reports  was  followed  at  6.30 pm  on  a  Friday  by  the  regional  football  preview  show  Kick  Off.  At  the  start  of  1978,  I  dropped  2000  AD  in  favour  of  Shoot ! ( and  still  have  some  of  those  early  issues )  and  this  little  taster  for  Saturday's  action  was  a  must  ( even  though  I  was  by  no  means  only  interested  in  north  west  clubs; the  team  I  "supported"  at  this  point  was  Luton  Town  ).

The  programme  was  presented  by  the  experienced  commentator  Gerald  Sinstadt  who  had  cut  his  teeth  on  BBC  Radio  then  gone  to  Anglia  before  heading  north. As  well  as  being  Granada's  main  football  man  he  was  unofficially  ITV's  number  three  commentator  behind  Brian  Moore  and  Hugh  Johns. His  squeakily  excitable  tones  were  heard  at  World  Cup   and  UEFA  Cup  games  as  well  as  domestic  fixtures. His  number  two  on  the  programme  was  the  much  younger  Elton  Welsby  who  had  just  joined  the  programme  as  I  tuned  in.

With  the  big  four  North  West  clubs  to  cover  and  Bolton  about  to  join  them  in  the  top  flight, the  lower  league  clubs  didn't  get  much  of  a  look  in ( Rochdale  were  rooted  to  the  bottom  of  the  old  Fourth  Division  throughout  the  1977-78  season )  and  the  first  time  the  Dale  were  really  featured  was  vaguely  embarrassing.

Bobby  Hoy  was  a  goalscoring  winger  who  had  played  for  England  Youth  and  in  the  top  flight  with  Huddersfield  Town. He  was  before  my  time  at  Rochdale  but  by  all  accounts  was  one  of  the  better  players  we  had  in  those  grim  days. He  was  featured  on  the  programme  because  mid-season,  sometime  around  '78  or  '79  he  decided  to  quit  the  game  in  favour  of  becoming  a  folk  singer  in  the Yorkshire  clubs. I  presume  the  club  allowed  this  breach  of  contract  to  save  on  wages. Hoy  came  into  the  studio  to  close  the  show  out  with  a  song. A  year  or  so  later  he  returned  to  the  club  a  little  wiser  and  had  another  season  of  professional  football  with  the  Dale. Other  than  that  the  only  time  Dale  featured  was  when  they  had  a  three  match  marathon  FA  Cup  Third  Round  tie  with  Bury  in  1980.

Other   features  I  remember  from  this  period  were  a  beauty  contest  won  by  Kenny  Dalglish  and  Polish  captain  Kaz  Deyna  on  a  shopping  excursion  with  his  wife  having  just  signed  for  Manchester  City. As  you'd  expect  the  programme  gave  a  fair  amount  of  coverage  to  the  madness  that  was  Malcolm  Allison's  second  reign  at  City.

The  programme  went  off  air  early  in  the  eighties  as  Sinstadt  moved  south  to  produce  some  opera  programmes. I  don't  know  which  was  cart  and  which  was  horse  there. It  was  revived  in  1988  with  Welsby   now  as  main  host   and  initially  former  Manchester  City  boss  John  Bond  as  resident  pundit.

Bond  was  "resting"  between  jobs  after  being  sacked  by  Birmingham  City, the  latest  in  a  long  line  of  clubs  to  be  relegated  during  , or  not  long  after , Bond's  tenure  in  the  hot  seat  ( to  be  fair  he  did  slow  down  Swansea's  plummet  from  the  First  Division  and  can't  really  be  blamed  for  them  going  back  into  the  Fourth ). He  quite  obviously  didn't  want  to  be  there  and  Welsby  addressing  him  as  "Bondie"  clearly  irked  him  as  much  as  the  rest  of  us. His  mood  didn't  improve  as  the  first  show  incorporated  a  kangaroo  court  with  a  live  link  up  to  a  pub  in  Burnley  where  a  group  of  irate  Clarets  fans,  marshalled  by  the  less  than  impartial  Rob  McCaffrey, wanted  to  interrogate  him  about  his  spell  at  the  club  ( which  had  ended  more  than  four  years  before ). Bond's  major  crime  there  was  letting  go  of  future  internationals  like  Trevor  Steven  and  Lee  Dixon  and  replacing  them  with  past it  pro's  like  Joe  Gallagher  and  Peter  Hampton  on over-generous  contracts. Bond  defended  himself  as  best  he  could i.e  he  didn't  have  a  crystal  ball  to  tell  him  how  those  he  discarded  would  turn  out, and  he  was  as  animated  as  he  ever  got   on  the  programme. The  rest  of  us wondered  what  the  point  of  raking  over  all  this  old  news  was  if  it  wasn't   some   Burnley  fan  on  the  production  team  wanting   to  deliberately  antagonise  their  own  "talent".

Shortly  afterwards perhaps  the  very  next  programme, Welsby  read  out  some  controversial  news  item - I  can't remember  what  it  was  about  now - then  the  following  exchange  took  place :

WELSBY : What  do  you  make of  that,  Bondie ?

BOND : I'm speechless

( Long  awkward  pause )

WELSBY : Is  that  it ?


Bond  was  quietly  shuffled  off  the  programme  after  that  and the  competent  but  very  Man U  biased  commentator  Clive  Tyldesley  became  Welsby's  main  foil  after  that.  As  the  ageing  Brian  Moore  was  gradually  phased  off  screen  Welsby  rose  to  become  ITV's  main  football anchorman  despite  his  mullet  and  unimpressive  interviewing  skills. He  conducted a  toe- curling  interview with  the  Leeds  United  squad  after  winning  the  last  First  Division  title  in 1992, little  imagining  his   career  was  about  to  nosedive.

That  summer Sky  won  the  contract  to  show the  new  Premiership  games  and  the  Beeb  got  the  scraps  from  Murdoch's  table in  terms  of  showing  highlights. Match  of  the  Day  was  back, including  Sinstadt  as  a  match  reporter  until  his  arrest  for  masturbating  in  an  adult  cinema  a  couple  of  years  later, and  Welsby  was  relegated,  at  a  stroke,  back  to  regional  TV.

Kick  Off   switched  to  the  Saturday  lunch  time  slot  formerly  occupied  by  Saint  and  Greavsie. Of  course they  now  had  little  footage  of  the  big  guns  apart  from  League  Cup  games  so  the  smaller  clubs  got  a  more  generous  slice  of  the  cake  and  there  was  a  "Yesterdays  Hero"  feature  showing  archive  footage  which  was  usually  quite  interesting. Former  Dale  boss  Vic  Halom  was  an  early  subject .  Tranmere   Rovers  and  Stockport  County  got  a  disproportionate  amount  of  coverage  through  being  allowed  to  play  on  Friday  nights. The  main  problem  with  the  new  show  of  course  was  that  if  you  went  to away  games you  missed  every  other  show.

|In  the  late  nineties  it  moved  to  a Sunday  tea  time  slot, still  presented  by  Welsby, now  a  forlorn  greying  figure,  who'd  been  passed over  for  the  1994  World  Cup  and  subsequent  tournaments. His  interviewing  skills  hadn't  improved  and  he  upset  Alex Ferguson  by  a  tactless  comparison  with  David  |Moyes  which  started  with  the  reminder  that  neither  had  been  great  players. There  was  still  a  bias  towards the  |Merseyside  clubs  with  a  long  tribute to  Liverpool  coach  Ronnie  Moran,  a  very  obnoxious  character  whose  career  could  be  summed  up  in  the  phrase  "not  up  to  the  top  job". 

When  ITV  won  the  Premiership  highlights  contract  in  2000  there was  no  need  for  regional  football  programmes  so  Kick  Off  ceased  and  Welsby, unwanted  on  Des  Lynam's  team,   was  made  redundant. There  have  been  fleeting  glimpses  of  him  on  TV  since  but  his  career is  pretty  much  over. He  was  naff  but  it's  always  sad  when  someone's  put  out  to  grass  before  their  time.

1 comment:

  1. I saw Welsby on a MUTV programme regarding Ferguson's first game in charge (2-0 defeat at Oxford) - yer man Elton had been sent to interview the new boss prior to the game. He now looked like he'd been sleeping rough for a while.

    Hopefully not, as I still smile at the embarrassed expression on my mother's face whenever ITV showed a United game and a rousing chorus of "Elton Welsby is a wanker" echoed round the Stretford End.