Saturday, 19 March 2016

357 The Kick-Off Match / Match Time

First  viewed :  20  August  1978

I  acknowledge  the  help  of  in  writing  this  post.

After  the  World  Cup  I  couldn't  wait  for  the  1978-79  season  to  start, devouring  all  the  transfer  news  and  reports  of  pre-season  games  I  could  find   in  anticipation  of  the  kick-off  on  Saturday  19  August, a  week  after  Forest  demolished  Ipswich  in  the  Charity  Shield.

With  Match  of  the  Day  still  on  a  little  too  late  for  me  , my  main  source  of  football  fix  was  The  Kick  Off  Match  on  Sunday  afternoons  which  showed  the  highlights  of  a  game  of  regional  interest. This  did  pose  a  problem  in  the  pre-VCR  era  as  it  clashed  with  the fortnightly  walks  of  Littleborough  Civic  Trust  which  I  attended. However  on  the  Sunday before  the  season  started  I  went  on  one  around  Calderbrook  which  a  new  family  attended. They  had  a  really  obnoxious  girl  who  took  the  piss  out  of  me  and  with  neither  her  parents  nor  the  regulars  among the  Trust  choosing  to  intervene  I  dropped  out  for  the  rest  of  the  year  leaving  me  free  to  watch  the  football. The  other  problem  was  that  it  clashed  with  the  Sunday  film  on  BBC1  which  my  mum  liked  to  watch  so  I usually  ended  up  watching  this  at  my  gran's.

So  what  delights  did  Granada  serve  up  on  20  August  1978 ? It  was  a  Second  Division  encounter  between  Burnley  and   Leicester City. Burnley  were  treading  water  but  Leicester  were  newly-relegated  after  a  disastrous  campaign  in  which  they  finished  bottom  of  the  First  Division, 11  points  adrift  of  safety. Their  young  goalkeeper  Mark  Wallington  had  actually  kept  12 clean  sheets  but  a  chronic  shortage  of goals  at  the  other  end  cost  them  dear.  However  they  had  tempted  treble-winning  manager  Jock  Wallace  down  from  Rangers  and  he  gave  a  League   debut  to  future  Northern  Ireland  centre  half  John  O  Neill  in  this  game. It  finished  2-2 . Burnley's  goals  were  scored  by  their  future  chief  executive  Paul  Fletcher  and  bald-headed  midfield  stalwart  Peter  Noble  while  Billy  Hughes  and  Trevor  Christie  scored  for  Leicester.  

Sometimes  Granada  couldn't  cover  a  match  that  weekend  so  we  got  LWT's  The  Big  Match  instead  and  that  was  the  case  for  the  second  week  of  the  season  where  we  got  to  see  Tottenham  v  Chelsea. Spurs  featured  again  the  following  week  but  must  have  wished  they  hadn't  as  they  were  steamrollered  7-0  by  probably  the  greatest  Liverpool  side  of  all  time. The  seventh  goal  was  the  best  of  the  lot.  David  Johnson  received  the  ball  just  inside  his  own  half  turned  and  hit  a  raking  pass  for  Steve  Heighway  to  run  on  to  on  the  left. He  hit  the  mother  of  all  first  time  crosses  for  Terry  McDermott  to  plant  a  header  into  the  roof  of  the  net. From  the  halfway  line  to  the  back  of  the  Spurs  net  in  three  touches  it  was  absolutely  sublime. They  only  lost  four  League games  all  season  conceding  just  16  goals  on  their  way  to  reclaiming  the  League  title  although  Forest  put  them  out  of  the  European  Cup  and  United  came  out  on  top  in  a  hard  fought  FA  Cup  Semi-Final.

A  fortnight  later  we  were  back  with  Brian  Moore  and  LWT  for  Chelsea  v  Man  City  which  the  visitors  won  4-1, a  rare  highlight  in  a  miserable  season  for  the  Blues. They  had  been  tipped  for  the  title  following  the  signing  of  England  Under-21  international    defender  Paul  Futcher from  Luton  to  replace  the  ageing  Tommy  Booth  but  it  didn't  work  out  that  way. The  team  couldn't  put  a  consistent  run  together  and  Futcher's  individual  mistakes  eventually  led  to  a   recall  for  Booth  at  his  expense. Manager  Tony  Book  eventually  had  to  accept  the  return  of  Malcolm  Allison  to  "help" him  and  we  all  know  how  that  turned  out. Still  it  was  a  fine  result  at  Stamford  Bridge  and  a  career  high  point  for  Futcher's  twin  brother  Ron , a  striker  who  had  been  bought  to  keep  him  company  but  scored  a  hat  trick  that  day. Paul  and Ron  were  among  the  first  players  offloaded  by  Allison  in  1979.  Ron  went   to  America's  Minnesota  Kicks   and  became  one  of  the  top  goalscorers  in  the  old  NASL.  He  returned  to  the  UK  in  1984  and  scored  consistently  for  Barnsley,  Oldham, Bradford, Port  Vale , Burnley  and  finally  Crewe  ( after  Rochdale  had  declined  his  services ).  Paul  moved  just  down  the  road  to  Oldham  where  he  recovered  some  of  his  reputation  as  a  fine  defender  and  later  gave  sterling  service  to  Derby ,  Barnsley  and  Grimsby  ( in  his  late  thirties )  though  sadly  he  was  never  given  another  chance  in  the  top  tier.

Bolton  featured  a  few  times  that  season  as  they'd  just  been  promoted  and  so  the  cameras  were  at  Burden  Park  to  capture  THAT  goal  against  Ipswich  by  Frank  Worthington  who  finished  the  season  as  the  top  scorer  in  Division  One. Bolton  actually  lost  that  game  3-2.

The  week  after  that  it  was   over  to  LWT  again, featuring  a  Second  Division  encounter  between  West  Ham  and  Wrexham.   West  Ham  opened  the  scoring  with  a  goal  by  Billy  Bonds  after  a  clear  handball  by  David  Cross  in  the  build-up  went  unpunished. Wrexham  keeper  Dai  Davies  was  so  incensed  he  chased  after  the  referee  and  spun  him  round. Needless  to  say  the  ref  didn't  appreciate  this   and  gave  him  a  red  card. The  match  finished  1-1.  
In  the  new  year,  my  friend  Steven   joined  the  Civic  Trust  and  I  resumed  walking  with  them  so  I  watched  this  less  often. The  following  season  I  started  watching  Match  of  the  Day  which  made  it  seem  a  bit  "yesterday's  news"  and  in  any  case  it  didn't  start  until  the  end  of  October  due  to  a  technicians  strike.

However  in  1980  ITV  turned  the  tables  on  the  BBC  and  so  The  Kick  Off  Match   became the  Saturday  night  highlights  programme   although  looking  at  the  stats  I  don't  think  I  watched  it  much. The  following  season  it  went  back  to  Sunday  afternoons  and  became  "Match  Time". I do  remember  watching  the  final  series  , back  on  Saturday  nights  with  Elton  Welsby  as  host, although  none  of  the  games  featured  have  stuck  in  my  memory.

At  the  end  of  the  1982-83  season  the  regional  football  highlights  set  up  was  dismantled  though  it  would  return  for  midweek  games  a  decade  or  so  later.


  1. ITV had the rights to football when I started getting really interested (1988 or so), but Border TV - with only bottom-tier Carlisle and some semi-pro Scottish teams in the area - never had their own show.

    So we got Scotsport on Sunday evenings, fronted by a young Jim White (now of Sky Sports fame) and Gordon McQueen, who admitted the standard of football bored him senseless.

    Indeed, my only really sights of top flight English football was the live match on Sunday evenings - kids today wouldn't believe you!

    1. And as an aside, looking at from the perspective of years later, was Frank Worthington unlucky to not get more England caps? Always seemed a class act on the pitch, but I guess his lifestyle choices may have scared off the likes or Revie and Greenwood... Ron Atkinson says he nearly signed for United in 1982, but got cold feet and fled to a Leeds side bound to relegation instead.

  2. Well yes Frank's always bracketed with the likes of Alan Hudson, Stan Bowles , Charlie George and so on as someone who ought to have had more caps. For a player apparently so preoccupied with booze and sex Frank had a very long career still turning out for the likes of Preston and Stockport when he was pushing 40.
    Last time I saw him was some time in the nineties, heading down into The Fantasy Bar on Deansgate ( virtually next door to where I used to work ) at lunchtime.

    1. I would imagine Frank is in better condition than Hudson and (more sadly) Bowles.

      Worthington was still good enough in 1983/84 to play most of the games for Southampton side who finished 2nd... shame he never got the chance to show his talents at a United or Liverpool - the famous story of his medical at Anfield failing after a druik and sex fuelled holiday has doubtless been a staple of his after-dinner speaking job.