Football on Television in the 90’s

“Des Lynam” by Phil Guest is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Football had never been shown on the television as much as in the 1990’s, so I was very fortunate to be growing up in the ground-breaking era.
Up until the early 90’s, fans were limited to Saint & Greavsie and Football Focus on Saturday lunchtimes and Match of the Day in the evening. The occasional cup tie or international would be shown during the week and a brief highlights package on BBC’s Sportsnight would be shown.

This all changed when the FA Premier League came along in the summer of 1992 and changed everything. Suddenly there was a lot more coverage on the television. Here is a list of some of my favourite football shows from 1990’s:

FANTASY FOOTBALL LEAGUE
David Baddiel and Frank Skinner fronted Fantasy Football League, ably assisted by their sidekick Statto (Angus Loughran). The show was loosely based around the Fantasy Football game that was in its infancy at the time and was hosted in a studio that was supposed to be a mock-up of the flat Baddiel and Skinner both shared. Guest appearances from celebrity managers in the league and they would talk about their team selection.

Baddiel and Skinner also played out sketches related to football of the time. Nottingham Forest’s Jason Lee was one particular player singled out for their mickey-taking. He would later complain about the jokes, saying that it had a direct impact on his performances.

Despite only being seven years old when the show started, I loved it and my Dad would record it for me to watch every Saturday morning. Quite a lot of the jokes went over my head as a lot of it was adult-themed, but I enjoyed it all the same.

The duo recreated famous moments in football history with former players in a sketch called ‘Phoenix From The Flames’, adding their own comedic edge to the recreation. One week they featured Patrick Battiston’s infamous moment when he collided with West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher, making fun of a life-changing injury. Battiston took it all in good-humour.

FOOTBALL FOCUS
Nowadays there is round-the-clock football news broadcast on Sky Sports News and we also have the internet. In the early 90’s though, we only had Teletext for breaking news articles and had to wait until Saturday lunchtimes for feature-length stories on Football Focus.

Football Focus was the first section on Grandstand and was aired at 12:20pm. It would cover a variety of different leagues and competitions, not just focussing on the Premiership.

There were four hosts of Football Focus in the 1990’s. Bob Wilson Steve Rider, Gary Lineker and Ray Stubbs were the frontmen for the show over the course of the decade.

FOOTBALL ITALIA
When Paul Gascoigne moved to Lazio, Channel Four decided to start broadcasting Italian Football to keep English fans updated with his progress. It proved a success and stayed on Channel 4 until 2008.

A round-up of the week’s highlights and latest news was shown on Saturday mornings and a live match shown on Sunday afternoon. This was all very exciting to begin with but the excitement wore off for those (like me!) who wanted to see goals aplenty! The Italian Serie A was much more defensive and tactical compared with the English leagues.

SOCCER AM
Helen Chamberlain and Tim Lovejoy were the first ever hosts of this cult-classic, that began back in 1995. There are some videos on YouTube recorded from the early episodes and the studio looks very primitive compared with the bright and airy studio seen today.

The show has evolved so much since its inception. In the beginning there were the Soccer AM Soccerette’s keeping young adolescent boys interests from waning during the show! Helen Chamberlain was also something of a pioneer as she declared her love for a lower-league club. Most celebrity fans were known to support big teams but Chamberlain took any opportunity to mention her love for Torquay United!

The other presenter was a Chelsea fan called Tim Lovejoy. He was a bit like marmite in that you either loved him or hated him. He had an arrogant and big-headed nature and was quite narrow-minded in his beliefs about the game. I was not a fan of his!

MATCH OF THE DAY
The decade started with Des Lynam hosting Match of the Day with Alan Hansen and Trevor Brooking appearing as the ex-player pundits. Gary Lineker also took the role of pundit at times and eventually tried hosting the show. He became the permanent host in 1999, replacing Lynam in the hot-seat.

Match of the Day was shown all through the 1990’s on a Saturday night and repeated early on Sunday mornings. Match of the Day 2, the Sunday version of the show came along much later.

SUPER SUNDAY AND MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Sky won the broadcasting rights to show live Premier League football in 1992, outbidding both ITV and BBC.
I missed the first season of the Premier League as we didn’t have Sky installed at home until early in the 1993/94 season. It’s just as well, because Sky made a real song and dance of the inaugural Premier League.

In the early days of Sky’s coverage, Martin Tyler would commentate on Super Sunday and Ian Darke would do the Monday Night games. I always liked Darke’s excitable commentary on the Monday night but Sky preferred Tyler, who is still commentating for them to this day.

Andy Gray would offer his tactical analysis of the weekend’s action in the studio before the match on Monday Night Football. He would also show tactical analysis using various technical contraptions over the course of the decade.

FINAL SCORE
Nowadays, you can sit and watch Soccer Saturday, a show with four former players sitting in a studio watching games live on their screens. They then go through the action to presenter Jeff Stelling.
This only came along at the start of the 1998/99 season so for the first eight years of the 90’s, you had to listen to the radio. At around 4:30pm, Final Score would begin on Grandstand and you could watch the results come in on the Vidiprinter.

The Vidiprinter used to make a strange sound as it typed the late goal and final scores across the bottom of the screen. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that even now, I can hear that noise when I think back to the Vidiprinter of the 1990’s.
If a team had scored more than six goals in a game, the Vidiprinter would then type the score in word form in brackets. It must have been the ultimate humiliation to have your teams score put up like that. For example: Arsenal 7 (SEVEN) Tottenham Hotspur 0

There was then the tense wait after the final scores had all been read out so you could see how the league tables looked.

I feel that we are given too much choice of football on television nowadays. More quality and less quantity would be my suggestion but sadly this will never happen. There is an insatiable appetite for football online or television and on fan’s phones, tablets or television screens. You can flick between several matches going on at one time, something considered a rare luxury back in the 1990’s. Because of this demand, we will never look forward to watching football in quite the same way again.

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