Match Of The Day: 50 Years
by Nick Constable
In Watching The Match, Brian Barwick’s recently published semi-autobiographical history of televised football, he consistently referred to Match of the Day as “the jewel in the BBC’s crown“. He is, of course, biased having been associated with programme in one role or another, down the years.
Yet Barwick is right; the Match of the Day production team must be doing something right for the programme’s longevity and enduring place in the nation’s heart, despite the complaints about bias toward certain clubs. Fifty years on, the format has changed but the programme remains at heart, the same.
And it is fitting that the book capturing this half-century comes in the form of edited highlights of English football from 1964.
From its’ humble beginnings at Anfield where Arsenal and a lucky (for Liverpool) black cat were the visitors on the opening day of the season, the programme has been the commentator on English football’s incredible journey in the last fifty years. It is ingrained in the sport’s culture to such an extent that it is part of the footballing Establishment; quite fitting that it is at the BBC in that sense. What a change from the hostility that the Football League showed towards the highlights programme when the concept was first proposed to them.
Since then, eras of dominance have come and gone, all of which are captured in their full glory in the book with the changing fashions on and off the pitch captured in the wide array of photographs published. It’s a glossy book with an easily readable layout that is pleasing on the eye.
Each season is dissected with a Player of the Season nominated and the campaign reviewed from their perspective, as well as the wider context of each year. One game is nominated Match of the Season and there is plenty of Arsenal representation in both. A certain admirable perversity in the selections; was Tottenham’s win over Manchester City really the game of 2003/04? I can think of a few others which warrant more of a mention!
Nestling in between are recollections of World Cups as well as articles on the key players during the programmes journey; it is after all, a celebration of the Saturday night staple for football supporters. For those of us whose footballing life covers the same period, it is a nice way to remember that journey. For Match of the Day, it is a fitting This Is Your Life.
You can purchase Match of the Day: 50 Years here.