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.