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Posted By Steve Williams On Sunday, January 4, 2009 @ 3:45 pm In blog | Comments Disabled

ITV4′s one good programme is back!

Last year, The Big Match Revisited was a hugely welcome romp through the archives, where each week the football highlights 25 years to the week were unspooled, with all the contemporary news (“The Football Association are considering a bid to host the 1986 World Cup!”) and views (“Keith Burkinshaw slams three points for a win!”) intact. It wasn’t just The Big Match itself that came under the spotlight either – we also got Granada’s Match Time and, brilliantly, TVS’s Saturday Match during the course of the series.

For the new run we’re going back 30 years, taking us from the despair and despondency of mid-’80s football to the glory days of the 1970s, and the series began on New Year’s Day with what’s considered to be one of the finest football matches ever played – Manchested United 3, West Bromwich Albion 5 from 30 December 1978. If this were covered by the BBC, it would probably be one of the most famous matches ever and as familiar as the 1966 World Cup Final in terms of repeats, but because ITV have never been very interested in exploiting their football archive, it remains a rare treat.

One of the few occasions it’s been dug out in the past was a decade ago when it was screened as part of the similiar Big Match Replayed that used to run in the middle of the night. Then, it was as edited highlights seen on LWT, but this time, ITV4 dug out the original Kick Off Match show from Granada with extended highlights. As well as commentating on the match (and his “Oooooh, what a goooooal!” for Albion’s fifth is one of the great commentary moments), Gerald Sinstadt also presented the show, in front of a brilliantly cheap set which looked like he was perched in a photo booth. His links were also accompanied by the sort of ambient noise which suggested it had been flung up in a corridor.

As usual, though, it wasn’t just the football action that entertained, but the detrius that surrounded it. Gerald apologised that because the main match was so fantastic, they could only show a few minutes of the other game. A brief two-minute summary of the action from Arsenal helped remind us, at a time when fans of Premiership clubs complain when their team is featured last on Match of the Day, there was an era when you’d be grateful to see any footage of your team at all.

Finally Gerald rounded up the highlights of 1978 on The Kick Off Match, with Everton beating Coventry on a pitch with the left side completely obliterated by snow (as if the groundsman couldn’t be bothered clearing it all and asked the teams to try and play down the right if they could), and Bolton’s manager looking shattered as his team went up. He stood in the dressing room next to a bloke making the tea wearing a tracksuit emblazoned with “CAMBRIAN SOFT DRINKS”. It’s ironic that while shirt sponsorship was a no-no on telly at the time, this guy got away with branding less subtle than anything you get now.

All topped off with the most demented theme tune you’ll ever hear, as ever this was ace from start to finish. The series should be continuing, hopefully continuing to cherry-pick across the regions, every Thursday lunchtime until the spring, and it’ll be absolutely fantastic.

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