It is impossible to avoid results these days, but there was a time when fans had to think creatively to keep up to date
“I wonder what the latest score is in the Old Firm derby,” I thought to myself during walk No 321 of lockdown. Twenty seconds later I had my answer. Reaching for my phone, a few thumb presses gave me all the information I needed. I could have even checked in on the results from the Luxembourg National Division if I was that way inclined.
I now take this kind of thing for granted but there was a time when discovering the latest score in a sporting fixture was not quite as simple as this. Never mind “look away now if you don’t want to know the score”. A few decades ago, trying to track down the results could be a long and drawn out affair.
You knew why most of the grown-ups stood next to you in John Lewis or Currys were all staring at the same television model. Saturday shopping trips were a painful experience, but a visit to an electrical store at least gave you an opportunity to catch a glimpse of the scores.
Often you would have to hang around for a while to work out what was going on. On-screen scoreboards were still years away, so you would have to loiter to discover the latest scores. Sales assistants must have been sick and tired of asking if anyone wanted any help, only to be met with the same response every time. One particular trip to the shops in November 1983 comes to mind. I stood open-mouthed as I saw that my team, Arsenal, were 3-0 down at Leicester, and I froze in horror. Maybe being in the dark was the better option after all.
In the car or at home, Radio 2 helped me through a large chunk of my sporting childhood. With superb commentators such as Bryon Butler and Peter Jones providing the soundtrack to my early years, it’s hard not to look back and feel privileged to have been in the capable hands of legends.
The memories remain: commentary on the second half of one of the key matches of the day; one commentator handing over to another midway through the half; welcoming World Service listeners; 这 Sport on 2 和 Sports Report theme tunes; the familiar voice of co-commentator Jimmy Armfield; James Alexander Gordon reading out the results. Spoilt rotten, we were.
It was such a simple concept. During Grandstand you would watch the action while waiting in anticipation for the screen to flicker and the main picture to shrink into a smaller box. The words “FOOTBALL LATEST” would appear and you would hold your breath.
In the days before football was fashionable, this was one way of keeping an eye on the scores from up and down the country. It was not quite Soccer Saturday; more like a primitive goal alerts app that popped up notifications on your television as Ray French screamed about Ellery Hanley.
This was a little more like what we see today. As the football action was nearing a conclusion, up popped the Vidiprinter, making the noise of a wasp trapped in a jar, bringing us the final scores. Occasionally, a surprising result would be written out on screen – as if the viewers needed to be convinced it wasn’t a typo. The word SEVEN always brought a flutter of excitement. Simpler times.
Once all the scores were in, it was time for the classified football results read by Len Martin. When visiting relatives, I had to remain silent during the Pool News section. Then it would be on to a look at the league tables with Bruce Hornsby and the Range playing in the background – I think Crockett’s Theme from Miami Vice was also used for a period. Hearing that music now takes me back to a happy place. Apologies for all nostalgia; but that’s just the way it is. Some things will never change.
There was a time when fans in stadiums could find out the half-time scores from around the country through a scoreboard system – but only if they had bought the matchday programme. There were large boards inside grounds that spelled out the letters of the alphabet. Each letter corresponded to a game and, at half time, the scores of the various matches would go up beside the letters. 但, to know which letter referred to which game, you would need a copy of the programme.
This approach was slowly replaced when clubs installed PA system but, for up-to-the-minute updates, the transistor radio was king. Never were these radios more important than on the final day of the season, when some fans would have an ear glued to the radio and then filter out the score to their companions on the terraces.
Aston Villa’s trip to Highbury in May 1981 remains one of the high points for supporters relaying latest scores via their radios. With Villa and Ipswich both battling for the title, Villa took thousands of fans to Highbury for their last league match of the season, hoping to see their team claim their first championship in 71 年.
Unfortunately Villa performed poorly and, with Ipswich winning at Middlesbrough, it looked as if Bobby Robson’s team were back in the driving seat (Ipswich had a game still to play). But as Villa slipped to a defeat, news filtered through from Middlesbrough that Ipswich were trailing 2-1, sparking scenes of celebrations in the away end at Highbury. Villa fans affectionately remember it as the “transistor championship”.
The reliance on radios could sometimes backfire. 在 1986, West Ham’s players thought their title hopes were still alive when they heard their fans celebrating at the Hawthorns. But news of a Liverpool slip-up at Stamford Bridge was incorrect, as Kenny Dalglish’s winner burst the Hammers’ bubbles.
We didn’t have a television set with Teletext included until 1990 (put the violins down). But once we did, this was a game-changer. Spending hours on end staring at pages, hoping they would change in your favour, may sound like a waste of time. But what a service it was.
Saturdays with Teletext were heaven. A bit like having the internet on television, you could be your own Jeff Stelling from the comfort of the settee, without the oohs and the aahs thrown in as background noise. Maybe I will look back on my life one day and wonder why I spent roughly 3% of my time on the pages of Ceefax and Oracle. I guess there are worse hobbies.
Even as late as the mid-1990s I was using a phoneline to find out how England could save the second Test against South Africa at Johannesburg. In the last days of life before the internet, I phoned at lunch, tea and close of play to find out that Michael Atherton and Jack Russell had indeed pulled off the great escape. I wanted to call the line more than that, but was scared of financially crippling my employer due to huge phone bills.
By the start of the new century, mobile phones were ready to change life as we knew it. I recall signing up to a text alert service for Arsenal, receiving a text message every time a goal was scored in a match. The problem was that the service charged per text. I knocked it on the head when Arsenal beat Middlesbrough 4-1 在 2004.
Modern technology makes life so much easier for sports fanatics. I’m not sure if it a blessing or a curse though when my phone is pinging relentlessly during an England batting collapse. Many a good walk spoiled; I can tell you.