Thursday Night In With Elton Welsby

Anyone that knows me in the slightest will know just how excited I was to discover that the digital television channel ITV4 have started repeating complete episodes of “The Big Match” from 1983 on Thursday afternoons. It’s probably worth pointing out (in the interests of pedantry) that there is actually a degree of being misled about this. “The Big Match” was London Weekend Television’s Saturday night or Sunday afternoon football show from 1968 until 1984, whereas what ITV4 is currently showing is “Match Time”, the Granada TV (that’s in the north-west of England, for those of you scratching your heads) equivalent. It was, by 1983, being hosted in a grimly quiet Manchester studio by the curiously anodyne Elton Welsby, with his side-kick Dennis Law, who sits to his left, looking nervous and scribbling on a jotter pad in a style reminiscent of a schoolboy that hasn’t quite finished their homework in time for the start of class. I am a traditionalist in many, many senses of the word, and sitting here watching “Match Time” reminds me of just how much football has changed over the last twenty-five years. Football was, at the time, in a state of crisis. The lead news stories on the February 5th 1983, when this show was first broadcast, weren’t about what were going on at the top of the table – indeed any concept...

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