Matchless formula still providing football fans with their weekly fix
The BBC’s Match of the Day programme is 50 years old – but still delivering the goods
Back at the start of the new Premier League season, the BBC produced a documentary called Match of the Day at 50 which brought back truckloads of memories for those of us of a certain vintage. The documentary was celebratory in tone and, basically, gave a self-congratulatory pat on the back. It was deserved, if a little sugary and sweet and all things nice.
Why not? In spite of the advent of so much live football on our televisions, the iconic highlights programme has survived and blossomed, although the inclusion of a chap called Tinchy Stryder – who looked and acted like a modern day professional – in the documentary required a google search to find out who he is.
It transpires that the said Mr Stryder – his stage name, his given name being the rather impressive Kwasi Danquah III – is a rapper of some note and also a Manchester United supporter, hence his appearance in the documentary.
Poor soulsI’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of HereAlan HansenMark LawrensonDanny MurphyPaul Ince
Gary Lineker, the anchor man, introduced Murphy and Ince as “two tough-tackling and hard-talking midfielders” but, in truth, there was’t too much hard-hitting analysis in the latest edition of the programme that has moved with the times since it revolutionised the television coverage of England’s top flight.
An example of Murphy’s incisive, cutting edge analysis? “There was no parking the bus today, that’s for sure,” he said of the QPR-Leicester highlights opener.
When that documentary about MOTD was first screened, Ryan Giggs – who was the star of the show on many a Saturday night – recalled his own memories of watching the programme.
“It’s your first memory of football, that music coming on . . . and nagging your parents to stay up late to watch it,” said Giggys.
In that same documentary, Lineker – nowadays the face of MOTD – observed, quite rightly, “you can watch all the live football in the world but to get that fix in an hour and a half of everything that pretty much happens on that day, it really does work”.
The advent of Sky Sports and BT Sport and the increasingly long list of live games has, of course, impacted on the BBC’s football showpiece. Some have likened the programme to that of a dinosaur, although its survival into a 50th season would probably give the best lie to that particular argument.
The old tune remains the same but much has changed over the years. The production is slicker. The use of graphics and statistics is more prevalent. And the faces and the voices have changed.
It says something about Lineker’s longevity that he is now the longest-serving presenter, eclipsing Kenneth Wolstenholme (1964-67), David Coleman (1967-73), Jimmy Hill (1973-88) and Des Lynam (1988-99) in the time spent in the hot seat.
On Saturday night’s programme, McNamara was behind the microphone for the QPR-Leicester match which provided evidence that the most entertaining games don’t necessarily come from the showpiece games. As he put it at a rocking Loftus Road, “it might be the smallest stadium in the Premier League, it sounds so much bigger right now”.
And that’s the secret of Match of the Day. The analysis between matches can at times be lightweight and increasingly statistical, but the show itself flows from one edited match to another with a fluidity that reminds us why the programme has survived as long as it has. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.