A crusade to analyse, in excruciating depth, the art of the football cliché. The saturation of football coverage has ensured the emergence of a code, to which everyone in football unwittingly adhere.
I seek to dissect this code.
“Look at that! Oh, look at that!” – An Ascent to VHS Football Heaven
Football nostalgia clings to the belief that football was better in the old days. Everything after 1992 has become the new “post-war”, which is apparently BSkyB’s evil doing, leaving the backpass rule – the most important development in football since they outlawed killing each other – criminally overlooked.
So, I won’t pretend that being able to watch pretty much all the football my heart desires (by hook or by illegally-streamed crook), involving the most finely-tuned athletes the game has seen playing the game more quickly than ever before, is less appealing than the coverage of twenty years ago.
What football’s saturation point has done, though, is remove much of the sheer mystique. The “crack East European outfits” are no longer the unknown quantities of yesteryear, while the continent’s top leagues dominate the weekend schedules on BT Sport and Sky, enabling any Tom, Dick or Javier to pronounce themselves a #europeanfootballexpert.
Any wonder goal scored anywhere will be available on Twitter in .gif form within minutes, so what does this mean for the quaint concept of the annual goals compilation video? The difficulty I had even finding a VCR to reacquaint myself with my childhood collection of dog-eared cassettes suggests their heyday passed a long time ago. Here are some of the best (and worst) of the genre:
101 Great Goals (1987)
The godfather of all goals videos, which (possibly) gave its name to the omniscient website we all now spoil the Match of the Day surprise with. Does anybody avoid the scores any more? Can anyone be bothered?
It’s also a commentary masterclass. John Motson and Barry Davies are in their unbridled pomp here, somehow injecting goals by Ronnie Radford and Mickey Walsh with even more drama.
Ricky Villa’s goal in the 1981 Cup final replay is in there. You’re all familiar enough with it, no doubt, but have you ever noticed what Garth Crooks does just as Villa steadies himself to shoot?
501 Great Goals From the Last 5 Years (1992)
From the sublime to the ridiculous. Craving more goal action after nearly wearing out my copy of 101 Great Goals, I chanced upon the veritable feast that was 501 Great Goals. Lineker, Gascoigne and Barnes adorned the cover and I couldn’t wait to get it home. What my crestfallen nine-year-old self found was a dreadful, battery-hen approach to goal compilations.
With some haphazard captioning and – horror of horrors – repeating some of the goals to make up the numbers (“Teddy Sherringham” pops up with a carbon copy of an earlier strike from his Millwall days), this is a shambles from start to finish. The rancid cherry on the top of the cake is the use of club commentators rather than those from the established broadcasters. A particularly partisan Blackburn Rovers commentator celebrates, Sky FanZone style, when record goalscorer Simon Garner nets against some lower-league slugs.
However, you suspect this video still sold well, primarily because of its bold title but also because people were so starved of televised British football at the start of the 90s that they’d watch any old rubbish.
502 Great Goals (1993)
What a difference a goal makes. A far more polished effort arrived the next year in the shape of the imaginatively-titled 502 Great Goals. Boasting “a goal every 17 seconds”, this gargantuan collection starts in the black-and-white mid-60s and finishes with a glimpse of things to come – Sky’s bombastic coverage of the 1992 Charity Shield goal-fest between Leeds and Liverpool.
The real highlight of this compilation is its focus on England goals over three decades. Gary Lineker’s vulture-like plundering features heavily, and there’s also room for Luther Blissett scoring the worst hat-trick of all time against Luxembourg in 1982.
Saves Galore! 1989/90
The Football League-sanctioned Goals Galore! and Saves Galore! series ran for four seasons around the turn of the 90s, and provided a slicker approach to the football compilation genre.
Saves Galore! is hosted by the ever-enthusiastic Jim Rosenthal, accompanied in the curious setting of an editing suite by an assured Ray Clemence, with both wearing ghastly (and therefore quite contemporary) cardigans.
Featuring the “best 110 saves of the 1989/90 Barclays League Division One season”, this gem does not disappoint. Perhaps the golden era of domestic goalkeeping, the likes of Neville Southall and Bruce Grobbelaar appear, plus the up-and-coming David Seaman and Nigel Martyn. 40-year-old Peter Shilton demonstrates the “reflexes of a teenager”, according to Clemence, while looking very much like a 40-year-old with a perm and a mullet to the rest of us.
Southall’s duels with an increasingly frustrated Ian Rush are a joy, as are the chucklesome “bloopers” segments, complete with comedy sound effects, featuring Eric Thorstvedt jumping into his own goal with the ball and that goal by Gary Crosby.
Goals videos, like Ceefax, are now sadly obsolete. All that is left of this once glorious genre are the comedy football DVDs fronted by football-illiterate comedians from panel shows. Don’t buy one of those this Christmas – get yourself an old VCR and a copy of 101 Great Goals, and party like it’s 1992.