Back in the day, of course, we weren’t spoiled for football coverage in the way that we are today. Each ITV region would show between one and three matches per week, and the BBC would send its cameras to two matches per week, and that was, broadly speaking your lot every weekend. Perhaps this is the reason why so many of the great goals of the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s have become revered in the way that they have – this and the fact that great goals that were scored were so many pearls amongst swine. It’s not terribly uncommon to see people these days making comments, when watching matches of the past, along the lines of, “I don’t know how people could possibly have watched football in the olden days” – the sort of comment that probably deserves a post of its own on here – but on pitches with the consistency of rice pudding and using footballs that frequently took on many of the qualities of cannonballs after a drop of rain, that anybody actually could skip past two players and belt the ball into the top corner from twenty yards out starts to become something of a surprise in itself.
As it was with television coverage, so it was with what was available to purchase in the shops. In the age of every match being recorded for posterity and the likes of YouTube making a large number of them available to watch at our leisure, it’s easy to forget that there was a time when the sports section of the average video shop was largely threadbare for the football connoisseur. Many of the videos that were made available to buy were produced by the BBC, and they ended up in compilations such as “101 Great Goals.” Leading with Liam Brady’s twenty yard curler for Arsenal against Spurs at White Hart Lane – a little of the context of which is lost with it not being mentioned that Arsenal won this game by five goals to nil – it soon settles into an agreeable chronological groove, covering the twenty years following the introduction of colour broadcasting in 1969.
Most of the most famous goals of that era have made it onto the tape – Ernie Hunt’s volley for Coventry City against Everton in 1970, Ronnie Radford’s sledgehammer of a winning goal for Hereford United against Newcastle United in the FA Cup two years later, Justin Fashanu’s swivel and shot for Norwich City against Liverpool in 1980, you know the roll-call by now – but there are a couple mystifying inclusions, perhaps most notably a five yard tap-in from Jimmy Greaves for Spurs at Bradford City which comes from a long throw taken by a certain Joe Kinnear. What this compilation excels in being, ultimately, is a celebration of triumph of beauty from the jaws of the mundane. Could commentator Barry Davies ever have guessed, when he turned up at Bloomfield Road in Blackpool in February 1975 for a Second Division match against Sunderland, that he would see one of the great goals of the 1970s, a goal that would still be talked about in hushed tones – by me, at least – thirty-eight and a half years later?
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