Look Away Now: Match Of The Day, 15th May 1982
Considering the hysteria that has accompanied the last few days, it’s instructive to go back in time and consider a period before screaming became the norm. It’s the last day of the 1981/82 football season, and Liverpool haven’t won the league title yet. In fact, it might be argued that they’re a little fortunate to be in the position that they are on this last day of the season. On Boxing Day 1981, the BBC’s Match Of The Day cameras were present to see them get beaten at home by Manchester City by three goals to one, a result which put them in twelfth place in the table with just six wins from their first seventeen matches of the season. Had that sort of run happened these days, Bob Paisley probably wouldn’t even have seen in the new year at Anfield.
In the new year, though, Liverpool suddenly remembered how to win games and they dropped just twelve points over the entire remainder of the season. They couldn’t retain the European Cup – they were beaten two-one over two legs in the quarter-finals by CSKA Sofia – and were a little embarrassed by getting beaten by two goals to nil at Second Division Chelsea in the Fifth Round of the FA Cup, but they won the League Cup after extra-time against Spurs and, following a surprise one-nil home defeat at the hands of Brighton & Hove Albion at the start of March, they went on a run of eleven successive wins, which saw them power to the top of the table.
On the last Saturday of the league season, then, they faced Tottenham Hotspur needing a win to secure the First Division championship. Spurs, who were already more or less guaranteed fourth place in the table, could be forgiven for having one eye on the following Saturday’s FA Cup final against Queens Park Rangers, and Liverpool had other chances even if they lost this match. Ipswich Town had clung doggedly onto second place and they could go top of the table again if Liverpool lost and they won their home match against Nottingham Forest, but even in the event that this happened, Liverpool still had one further game the following week at Middlesbrough which they could fall back on in the eventuality that this day didn’t go according to plan. With Spurs not having won at Anfield since 1912, being missing a couple of key players and their manager (who, as John Motson helpfully advises us, is scouting a player instead), though, it doesn’t seem likely.
Jimmy Hill and Bob Wilson are behind the desk for this episode, which also features the day’s other match from the top of the table between Ipswich Town and Nottingham Forest, as well as the fourteen goals selected for the BBC’s Goal Of The Season competition and a simultaneous interview with both Bob Paisley and the Ipswich Town manager, Bobby Robson. What is truly the most noticeable thing about this broadcast, though, is how relaxed everything feels. We’re watching a sport, rather than a cross between a reality TV show and a soap opera. As the Premier League title race kicks into gear for the last three months of this season, there are probably quite a few people who would like to see a little less bombast and a little more of the sort of calm seen at the top of the First Division in May 1982.