Sunday dinner… Star Soccer… Hugh Johns…

From the ‘Modern Life is Rubbish’ column in The FOX No 163 – December 2008…

star soccer

I only occasionally remember to watch ‘The Championship’ – the ITV highlights package on a Sunday morning.
To be honest I’m only interested in watching City’s goals, and now we are third tier our appearances are of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it briefness.
It’s a decent enough programme. There’s Matt Smith with his ever present stripey scarf in that knot that people who get the Next catalogue delivered know how to tie. He’ll be knocking round a football ground looking for an unusual angle. One minute reclined in the front row of seats behind the goal, the next annoying the kit man in the changing room.
It’s harmless enough.
It does its job.
It shows you all the goals from yesterday, regardless of weather, or precarious camera gantries as we go down the leagues.
But it doesn’t excite me. 

The other day an old mate of mine e-mailed me an mp3 file. It was entitled ‘star’.
When I played it I instantly recognised the blaring, barely in control, brass section of the ‘Star Soccer’ theme tune and I was transported back to a mid-70s Sunday afternoon at two o’clock.
The Sunday dinner that had taken my Mum hours to cook was wolfed down in two minutes, hardly touching the sides. Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings lay in my stomach barely chewed as I rushed to turn the old black and white TV on in time for that theme music at two.
That would be followed by a backdrop of one of the Midlands grounds… Molineux, the Baseball Ground, Filbert Street,  the Victoria Ground, St Andrews, Highfield Road  … and the rich baritone voice of commentator Hugh Johns would welcome you to the game.
The main featured game, however good or bad it was, ran for half an hour. Fifteen minutes for the first half, up to the first ad break, then another quarter of an hour for the second half up to the second ad break.
Part three brought fifteen minutes of the second game from another ITV region, each with their own version of Hugh Johns such as Granada (Gerald Sinstadt), Tyne Tees (Kenneth Wolstenholme) or London Weekend Television (Brian Moore).
Part Four saw highlights from a third game, which memory serves was often Anglia TV which meant either Norwich or Ipswich being described by Gerry Harrison; and then a round up of results and league tables read by Trevor East… and, believe it or not kids, that was it. Dozens of games went by every weekend without a TV camera being pointed at them. That’s why seeing your team on TV was so special. With perhaps only two or three appearances in a lean year the novelty never wore off.
But, truth be told, the Leicester games were just the icing on the cake, every week it was wonderful during a great time for the Midlands region.
Most of the clubs had a good spell and some great players during the time that Star Soccer ran, from 1968 to 1983.
City could boast Peter Shilton, Keith Weller and Frank Worthington; Birmingham had Trevor Francis and Bob Latchford, Wolves had Kenny Hibbit and John Richards; there was Laurie Cunningham and Cyrille Regis at West Brom, Jimmy Greenhoff and Geoff Hurst were at Stoke; even Walsall had Alan Buckley.
Derby, Forest and Villa all won the league title during Star Soccer’s time and the League Cup hardly ever left the region with Stoke, Villa (twice), Forest (twice), and Wolves (twice) all lifting the three handled trophy.  
When ‘ATV’ became ‘Central’ on January 1st 1982 they carried on producing the ‘Star Soccer’ programme, but only until the end of the 1982-83 season when City 0-0 Burnley featured as the main game on the last ever show.
The start of the 1983-84 season saw the introduction of live televised League games, and things would never be the same again.
The ‘Central Match Live’ and Jimmy Greaves became the new thing and highlights packages were shoved aside.
Again, it sounds daft now, but we marvelled at those live matches, having been restricted to only three or four per YEAR outside of a World Cup tournament. But that led us down the path to where we are today – saturated live coverage of more games than you could ever want to see…
Hugh Johns, the voice of Midlands Football, sadly passed on in 2007. But for many, that rich tobacco baritone, was the comforting backdrop to many a Sunday afternoon…       

City’s appearances on ‘Star Soccer’ as the main featured game…

1968-69: City 1:3 Ipswich; City 1:1 Coventry City; City 0:2 West Brom; Chelsea 3:0 City; City 2:1 Manchester United; City 0:0 Liverpool (FA Cup quarter-final); City 0:0 Man City (FA Cup Final).

1969-70: City 3:1 Birmingham; City 1:2 Cardiff; City 1:0 Sunderland (FAC 3); City 0:2 Swindon; Birmingham 0:1 City.

1970-71: City 1:0 Luton Town; City 0:0 Hull City.

1971-72: City 1:0 Liverpool (Charity Shield); West Brom 0:1 City; Coventry City 1:1 City; City 2:0 West Ham United.

1972-73: City 2:1 West Ham United

1973-74: City 1:1 Liverpool; City 2:2 Leeds United; City 2:0 Burnley; City 3:0 Tottenham; City 1:0 Tottenham (FAC 3); City 3:3 Birmingham; City 3:0 Chelsea.

1974-75: City 0:1 Coventry City; City 1:0 Burnley; City 1:1 Stoke City.

1975-76: City 2:1 West Brom (Anglo-Scottish Cup); City 0-0 Ipswich Town; City 1:0 Manchester City; City 1:2 Manchester United (FAC 5).

1976-77: City 4:1 Arsenal; City 1:1 Manchester United; City 0:1 Aston Villa (FAC 3); City 1:0 Ipswich Town; Birmingham 1:1 City.

1977-78: City 1:5 Everton; Walsall 1:0 City (FAC 4).

1978-79: City 1:1 Cambridge United; City 1:1 Blackburn Rovers; City 2:1 Newcastle United; City 1:1 Stoke City.

1979-80: City 2:0 QPR; Notts County 0:1 City; City 1:0 Chelsea; City 2:1 Birmingham City; City 2:1 Charlton Athletic.

1980-81: City 2:0 Liverpool; West Brom 2:0 City (LC 2); Notts Forest 5:0 City; Aston Villa 2:0 City; City 2:4 Aston Villa.

1981-82: City 1:1 Crystal Palace; City 1:1 Watford; City 2:1 Derby County; City 0:2 Tottenham (FAC semi-final); City 1:4 Norwich City.

1982-83: City 2:0 Fulham; City 5:0 Wolves; City 0:0 Bolton Wanderers; City 0:0 Burnley.

If you would like me to e-mail the ‘Star Soccer’ theme tune to you then get in touch: garysilke@sky.com

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