Football’s coming home: Match Of The Day, ‘Dissected’, Jack, 2004

Football’s coming home: Match Of The Day, ‘Dissected’, Jack, 2004


Match Of The Day makes a long-awaited return to our screens on August 14, at the start of the 2004-05 Premiership season. With the assistance of Gary Lineker, Alan Hansen and chief MOTD statistician Albert Sewell, we stand on our chairs and chant at other TV football shows, ‘Who are yer?’

Story by Lee Gale

[Without doubt, Jack magazine was my calling. It was by far the best magazine in existence in 2003-04, but you could never buy the bloody thing anywhere north of Watford. It’s what is called ‘distribution problems’. In 2004, Match Of The Day was just about to return to the Beeb after ITV had nabbed the telly rights a few years previously. “Lee, do you want to do a story about Match Of The Day – and have it done for next week?” This is the result. To my utter astonishment, Jack closed a few months later due to poor sales. It was only shifting around 25,000 copies a month, which today would be regarded as a runaway success.]

“Hello there. Did you miss us?” It’s Gary Lineker with a grin so warm that you could fry bacon on the glow. The Match Of The Day technicians cut to stylish fast-action clips: salvos from the pocket battleship Rooney; a midfield ding-dong involving Scholes and Lampard; and an upright clattered by a Crystal Palace forward who you don’t recognise. It’s Saturday, August 14, 2004, 10.30pm, and Match Of The Day, after a three-year hiatus, has returned to our screens. You feel so happy that you dance a one-man rumba around the living room rug. Normality – what the British strive for – has returned.

Few accepted ITV’s Saturday evening football highlights package The Premiership. The music was wrong for a start. It didn’t go “deh-deh-deh-deeeeh deh-deh-deh-deeeeh”. It went, “It’s a beautiful deh”; a U2 ditty. The Premiership first aired in the prime-time slot of 7pm on August 18, 2001. Any chance of us forming a relationship with the new show was dashed with the first adverts – Des Lynam looked sallow, like he was apologising for the break. Soon, he’d be needing his £40,000 per on-screen hour to help him through the vagaries of Any Townshend’s match analysis. As wives and girlfriends tutted for having their Saturday evenings spoilt, us football fans realised we were missing Hansen, Lawro and Brooking’s incisive comments. It was like sitting down to dinner with your mum and her new boyfriend when you’d only buried your beloved father six weeks ago.

Viewing figures for The Premiership were grim, slumping to just over three million. With pressure coming from advertisers, the show shifted to 10.30pm. Even fewer tuned in. It just wasn’t happening.

The good times pass away, but then so do the bad. It was announced on August 8, 2003 that the BBC’s bid of £105m to run highlights of Premiership football was acceptable (some £78m less than ITV’s offer in 2000). On hearing the news of MOTD’s return, Lineker whooped, “It’s even more special than it would be watching Barcelona and Leicester play” (two of his former clubs). You see, Andy Townshend wouldn’t have said something so effortlessly funny and even if he had, it wouldn’t have raised the slightest of smirks.

Match Of The Day has spoilt us. Its quality presentation could never hope to be bettered by ITV. Like a decent football team, players meld over years and learn to work for each other. The Premiership had the feel of a club trying to buy success. We should cherish class – MOTD is worth the licence fee alone.



From its first broadcast in 1930, the BBC cultivated its own upper-crust accent, the sound you might create by shouting the notes of F-sharp and D into a tube. Kenneth Wolstenholme, despite being a Lancashire lad, was such a speaker. It was the evening of Saturday, August 22, 1964 that he crooned, “Welcome to Match Of The Day, the first of a weekly series on BBC2. This afternoon we are in Beatleville.”

The match was Liverpool v Arsenal which finished 3-2, attracting 47,620 fans. The viewing figure was a paltry 20,000, but form acorns mighty oaks grow.

In World Cup ’66, England scooped the only tournament they will ever win (Le Tournoi in 1997 doesn’t count), with Wolstenholme playing as vital a roll on that magical July day as the teams on the Wembley turf.

Football now reached out to a whole new set of supporters, the armchair fans. By the start of the 1967-68 season, MOTD was pulling in five million viewers, and swiftly ingrained itself in British culture. The football results would be avoided at all cost in order to watch the game “sort-of-live” in the evening. Pubs would shake to the sound of men growling, “Don’t tell me the bloody score!”

In 1968, competition arrived as ITV started a Sunday afternoon highlights show, The Big Match, hosted by Jimmy Hill and Brian Moore. MOTD fought back by switching to colour in 1969. Barry Davies joined as part of the revamp, although his talent in front of the mic was already well-know – he’d commented on the 1966 World Cup Final for ITV. The music changed too. Out went Arnold Stock’s “Drum Majorette” in favour of Barry Stoller’s boisterous “Offside” – the deh-deh-deh…” tune.

The be-sheepskinned John Motson was the next piece in the jigsaw, arriving in ’72, by which time the show had 12 million viewers. But it was with the arrival of Jimmy Hill as presenter in 1973 that MOTD began to take shape, when he teamed up with Arsenal’s ex-goalie Bob Wilson.

Hill introduced a casual element to MOTD. Out went the jackets and ties, in came V-necks over shirts, a golfing statement that was sweeping through football, and one which never really left.

Following seven years of a highlights tug-of-war with ITV, in 1985 came a killer blow for both stations. The Football League’s negotiations with the BBC and ITV over a new TV contract broke down. The league took its proverbial ball home and kept it under the stairs until 1992. Instead, on Saturday nights, we stared glumly at Jack Killian’s cheese-wire centre parting-with-flowing-bat-wings haircut on Midnight Caller. Divorce rates rose from 162,000 a year in 1985 to 173,500 in 1991.

Inadvertently, Paul Gascoigne would save the day. His tears in the 1990 World Cup semi-final rekindled England’s buried love of God’s game. The BBC’s pristine football coverage of the tournament, topped off by Pavarotti’s stirring “Nessun Dorma”, more than played its part.

Indeed, Gazza’s tears have much to answer for: each droplet was instrumental in the arrival of the Premiership, a breakaway cabal of top clubs which would be fuelled by TV money. The struggling Sky TV stumped up £304m for the rights to show live Premiership football, with Match Of The Day a partner, running evening highlights.

Des Lynam, joined by pundits Jimmy Hill, Alan Hansen (who’d moved from Sky) and Terry Venables gave us manna from heaven. Saturday nights were back on track, but there was a further twist to our tale. Lynam shipped out sharpish for a bag of loot in 1999 once ITV had outmanoeuvred the BBC to show top-flight highlights. Ex-England striker Gary Lineker was drafted in to front the show although the cynics grunted, “The lad’s not got the finesse – he’ll fold in front of the cameras.” How wrong they were.

The last day of the 2000-01 Premiership programme was, we thought, a final farewell to MOTD. There’d always be cup and international highlights but as far as the Premiership was concerned, money had won over content.

Yet football has a funny way of surprising us. How many leapt with joy when, on August 8, 2003, the announcement was made: “BBC retains TV rights”? Match Of The Day was back, and Saturday night highlights were returning to BBC1. Roll on the new season.


Legendary football statistician Albert Sewell is the longest-serving member of the Match Of The Day team, presiding over 36 seasons in the studio. Here’s Albert’s own top ten review of TV’s longest-running football show.

That’s asking for the impossible, but for the most unusual goal – Ernie Hunt’s for Coventry City against Everton in 1970 would need some beating. Taking a free-kick, Willie Carr jumped with the ball between his legs to set up Hunt’s volley. Was the “donkey-kick” goal legitimate? It certainly was on the day – and the BBC’s first “Goal Of The Season”.

August 22, 1964, when it all began with Kenneth Wolstenholme, Liverpool 3 Arsenal 2, the edited highlights in black and white watched on BBC2 by 20,000. I still rate Ken’s the best voice in football broadcasting.

In the old days at Lime Grove, Match Of The Day was on-air every Saturday at 10-11pm. But we carried on until the early hours of Sunday morning in Hospitality. Nowadays, within minutes of the play-out music, everyone is heading home.

Alan Hansen’s “You can’t win anything with kids.” Oh, and Motty’s “For those watching in black and white, Spurs are in yellow today.”

The day I told Des, as the games kicked off, that Premier League scoring was at a record high. Our three main matches that night all resulted 0-0.

Action replays. What would the experts do without them?

No-one in commentary has said “one-nil” quite like David Coleman.

When I asked the recipe for what he’s achieved in television, he said, “To get away with it, you just have to keep plugging along… and hope.”

The banter between Des, Jimmy and Terry Venables as they watched the games being recorded for highlights.

That the programme schedulers give MOTD a regular 10.30pm start. No messing with the kick-off, as in recent years.



Kenneth Wolstenholme (1964-71)
“I could work out goal averages before I could do arithmetic,” Match Of The Day’s first presenter once expressed. From Farnworth near Bolton, where Phoenix Nights is filmed, Wolstenholme is most famous for his “They think it’s all over…” commentary in the 1966 World Cup Final. In WWII, Wolstenholme piloted over 100 missions for Bomber Command, many as part of the elite Pathfinder Force, gaining the Distinguished Flying Cross and Bar. Wolstenholme died in 2002, aged 81.

David Coleman (1971-73)
“And for those of you who saw the last programme (TV chefs Fanny and Johnny Craddock) I hope all your doughnuts turn out like Fanny’s.” Has there ever been a better opening line on MOTD? Coleman’s real love is athletics, the sport from which he retired due to injury. He’s presented A Question Of Sport, Grandstand, and a myriad of athletics events.

Jimmy Hill (1973-88)
A player, manager and chairman, Hill’s first taste of TV came as a pundit for the BBC at the World Cup in 1966. But it was at LWT as head of sport from 1967-72 that Hill made his mark. He started The Big Match, recruiting Brian Moore from the Beeb. With the power to annoy like no other, in the 1998 World Cup a huge banner was spotted by TV cameras which stated, “We Hate Jimmy Hill, He’s A Puff”. A bit much, really. Jimmy has never been one to sit on the fence, and this should be applauded. Hill left the BBC in 1999 to join Sky.

Des Lynam (1988-99)
“Comfortable as a pair of slippers”, Lynam pioneered the laidback presenting style that’s now synonymous with BBC sports presenting, today the preserve of Gary Lineker and John Inverdale. Lynam is from Eniss in County Clare, and was once an insurance man. He switched to sports reporting with Radio Brighton in 1968, then joined Radio 2. By the early Eighties he’d become the housewives’ favourite. Moved to ITV when the station outbid the BBC for the Premiership highlights, losing some credibility with the public.”

Gary Lineker (1999-present day)
A renowned striker for Leicester City, Everton, Barcelona, Tottenham Hotspur and Nagoya Grampus Eight, Lineker remains England’s most prolific international with 48 goals in 90 appearances. Worked his way through the BBC ranks on Radio Five Live, Football Focus and Sportsnight. Managed to fit snugly into the comfy, fluffy BBC style of Match Of The Day presenting. Persistently called “Gary Line-acre” by bumpkin striker Mick Channon in the Eighties.


Current favourite football sequence music, chosen by Jason Bernard, sports producer, BBC TV…

“Unwritten” – Natasha Bedingfield
“Loser” – The Neptunes
“The Bomb” – Natasha Bedingfield
“Good Luck” – Basement Jaxx
“Money Runner” – Quincy Jones
“He’s A Pirate” – Pirates Of The Caribbean OST

And let’s not forget…
“Life Of Riley” – The Lightning Seeds
“Crazy World” – Richard Ashcroft
“Sequence 3” – GF & GP Reverbi


Match of the Day’s Gary Lineker, live from a golf course in the Algarve:

Have you thought what your introduction might be when Match Of The Day returns, perhaps something along the lines of: (side smirk) “Remember us?”?
I’ve thought about it, but I keep changing my mind. I’ll not tell you the one I’ve decided on because I might come up with something better.

What’s your earliest MOTD memory?
I started watching it when I was about nine – I was allowed on special occasions to stay up.

How did you find out that MOTD was returning?
I got a call from the head of football with the news. I was driving in the car with my kids and they all cheered.

MOTD seems like a group of pals just having a giggle talking football. Could you give us an insight into the preparation involved?
It comes over like that because basically that’s what it is. On a normal Match Of The Day Saturday we get in about 2.30pm. We sit in front of a bank of TV screens, eat chocolate and crisps and watch the matches. After the games finish I’ll sit down with the editor and work out a running order. The script is normally finished by 7pm. The pundits then go out for a couple of hours and return about 9pm but I stay at the BBC and normally eat in the canteen. We have a rehearsal about 10pm and the pundits check out what analysis they want to do and we go live at 10.30pm.

You quickly became the calm and relaxed presenter that we expect on MOTD. Does the BBC run a “Match Of The Day Calm Course”?
No they don’t. You have to learn the trade and once you’ve done that you can become yourself, and then you can really begin to enjoy yourself.

Do you think as Question Time has embraced non-politicians on the panel, so MOTD might accept non-ex-football players or managers as pundits?
No, the key to good punditry is giving an education to the public, showing them something they can’t see. Football audiences are really sophisticated with a big understanding of the game, so you need people on the panel who have played to be able to give that extra insight to audiences.

Des dropped a bollock going to ITV, didn’t he?
Personally, I thought it was a great decision.


And who’s this by Gary’s side. It’s Alan Hansen, also playing golf:

Is the Premiership the world’s biggest leage?
Yes, I’d say so – it’s not necessarily the best quality but it has the largest audiences and the most TV companies broadcasting it.

As Trevor Brooking proved that pundits can make decent managers, if the call came in from Liverpool to take over a few games, how do you think you’d react?
No chance. Never.

As footballers play pranks on each other, do pundits and commentators perform the odd practical joke? Perhaps you once filled Motty’s pockets with jam.
We don’t play jokes on each other but we do constantly wind each other up – and everyone else.


For much of Match Of The Day’s 40-year history, the “Goal Of The Month” competition prize – for guessing the top three goals as judged by the MOTD pundits – was £100 in Premium Bonds. Now, Premium Bonds were introduced in 1956, and the system was this: you loan the Government your cash, and through prize money, you get a return of 2.15 per cent. Eclipsed by the fortunes offered by the National Lottery today, Premium Bonds still give Britons the chance of netting prizes from £50 to £1m – although you never meet anybody who has won anything. At present 23 million people own Premium Bonds. For the return of MOTD, there’ll be a new prize for “Goal Of The Month”, but at the time of writing, nothing’s decided.


The options if Gary Lineker defects…

Oh to hear his full-throttle use of the English language and tireless good humour on a Saturday evening.

Old-school supporter, a lover of both Sheffield United and Wednesday, depending on which direction he’s going round the world.

Blustery Irish commentator. Bother will come when he continually talks over pundits, players, managers and the editor on the ear-set.

Dry Yorkshireman who would throw teacups at his pundits if they aren’t paying attention.

Radio Five results reader. Attacks the scores with military precision. A treasure.

Boro man, and he knows his football. Would be fantastic to hear him ask, “What’s the f***in’ score, Motty?”

Has the BBC pedigree and an accent not far from Wolstenholme’s. His pundits would be Lenny The Lion, Cuddles The Monkey, with Nookie Bear in the Alan Hansen role.

Match Of The Day: Sixties, Seventies, Eighties DVD is out August 9.