Football In The Regions: The North-East

By on Oct 21, 2009 in History, Latest | 0 comments

Fifty years after it first went on air, Tyne Tees Television is now a mere relic. A name from the past. Along with almost all of the other ITV regions, the company name all but vanished from our screens in October 2002 when ITV did away with its regional network and finally merged together as one lumpen mass. Tyne Tees was often criticised as an ITV company for the lacklustre nature of its output, but the company was hamstrung by budgetary restraints that weren’t suffered by other companies with larger advertising revenues and their football coverage was no exception to this rule.

In 1962, Tyne Tees became the first British television station to dedicate a show to football highlights, and “Shoot!” would continue to be the region’s flagship football show for the next twenty-one years. In its early days, the programme would be shown on Saturday nights or Sunday afternoons and it was a distinctly downmarket affair, just twenty-five minutes long and with matches shot on film cameras, which meant that there was always a possibility that action would be missed while the film in the cameras was being changed. The programme was hosted by George Taylor for its entire lifespan, and Taylor also served as a commentator alongside David Taylor, Jeff Thomas and George Bayley until the mid-1970s.

Newcastle United, Middlesbrough and Sunderland dominated the region as they do now, but contractual obligations meant that Tyne Tees also had to occasionally send their cameras to Darlington and Hartlepool United. In the late 1960s the show was expanded to be fifty-five minutes long (although it would continue to be dedicated to just one match until 1977) but the programme retained its rough edges. Film was later superceded by a proper Outside Broadcast Unit, but “Shoot!” often had to share the facility with ITV’s flagship sports programme “World of Sport”, which would frequently require the use of the OBU to cover the popular (and therefore lucrative) horse racing for the entire country. When the horse racing got in the way, they showed neighbours Yorkshire Television’s show, “Soccer”. In addition to this, there were no slow motion replays for many years, only a replay any goals scored played at normal speed and no graphics until the mid-1970s.

In 1974, however, “Shoot!” grew up with a new signing that signalled a determination to take the game more seriously. Kenneth Wolstenholme had become increasingly sidelined as a commentator for the BBC by David Coleman, John Motson and Barry Davies during the early 1970s, and the arrival at Tyne Tees (albeit on what was frequently commented upon as a part-time basis – he travelled up from the south every week) of a man that had, just eight years earlier, been the voice of the BBC at arguably the most important football match ever played in Britain was a major coup for a channel of their means. Second and then third matches were brought in featuring matches from other regions, and a slow motion action replay machine was introduced.

Kenneth Wolstenholme bowed out in the summer of 1979. Tyne-Tees had introduced Roger Tames as a reporter three years earlier and were clearly keen to introduce him as a commentator, allowing him a couple of matches at the end of 1978. Wolstenholme reportedly retired after being told that he would be expected to travel from London to the north-east every weekend solely to stand in for Tames, should their new first choice not be available for any reason. Roger Tames was a strange choice as the voice of north-east football. Brought to the station from a local newspaper in Dagenham, he was a southerner with a knack for stating the obvious. He also managed to make supporters of Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Newcastle United all believe that he supported one (if not both) of their rivals, which is a pretty singular feat in itself – especially considering that we was actually reported to be an Arsenal supporter.

By the early 1980s, though, interest in football was declining and the reaction of the Football League and the television companies was to finally bring live matches to our screens. The final edition of “Shoot!” to feature any local action came in May 1983 and featured a Fourth Division match between Hartlepool United and Rochdale. The last ever edition of the programme, broadcast a week later, didn’t feature any matches from the north-east. Local football broadcasting did occasionally return to the screens, most notably with “The Tyne Tees Match” and a famously bad multi-sports show called “The Back Page” during the 1990s, until May of last year, when Roger Tames presented the final edition of “Soccer Night” for what was now known as “ITV1 Tyne Tees”.

Only Sunderland in 1973 brought home any major domestic trophies during “Shoot!”‘s run as the regional football show on Tyne Tees Television, but this was nothng like as much as of a problem for the company in forging a clear identity as difficulties with budgets and technological limitations. When compared to LWT’s glamorous “The Big Match”, the show would always be proved to be wanting, and by the time it really got its act together the days of regular regional highlights were fatally numbered. That said, however, even before “Match Of The Day” (which it predated by two years) “Shoot!” was bringing regular weekly football highlights to a domestic television audience, and the lingering suspicion is that, for all of its faults, the programme was better loved in the region than any show has been since it finished its twenty-one year run.

The opening titles from “Shoot!” from the 1982/83 season.

Goal highlights from a match between Newcastle United and Blackburn Rovers from 1983, with commentary by Roger Tames.

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