It is 4:55pm on a wintery Sunday afternoon back in Nineteen – Ninety something and the time is almost upon us. It’s dark outside, the gas fire is on (we were almost middle class by then) and the smell of soup and the roast simmering from the kitchen filled the house. You’ve managed to shift your irk at our game not being on Sportscene the previous evening and you have settled down for 25 minutes of advertisement abridged highlights on Scotsport. It’ll surely be us that’ll be on?
This was my youth, granted I’m hardly ancient now, and I daresay that anyone under 30 may wonder what I’m on about.
In this fibre optic fuelled existence we call the 21st Century our football highlights, goals, interviews are available everywhere and anywhere. I can watch a guy fall of a roof trying to copy the latest meme on my phone and with a click I can watch Alfredo Morelos’ hat-trick at Rugby Park. It doesn’t matter if I’m sitting on a bus or on the bog; it’s all there and ready.
As I have alluded to above, this was not always the case.
Being born in the early 80s my real introduction to football wasn’t until the early 90s. There had been a few brief spells where it appeared that men running about in McEwans Lager blue tops would take away from my interest in what He-Man or Optimus Prime were up to but it never lasted. My life would change for the better when I entered Primary six and it was no longer deemed cool to play ninjas or Thundercats. Football finally took its hold on me.
My weekend consisted of going to Karate on a Saturday morning (just in case I needed the ninja thing to fall back on) and then either going with my dad to his game (he still played then) or sitting in my room listening to Radio Scotland. Invariably, in the 90s, it was our game that the live commentary would come from. Not for 90 minutes though. Back then broadcasting rights were curtailed to five minutes before half time and then the entire second half. After the game finished it was downstairs to turn on the ‘big TV’ and wait to see what game Jock Brown was giving a match report for on Afternoon Sportscene. Why would you care what that baldy prick said Gary? I hear you ask. This would let you know how your Saturday evening was going to be spent. If Jock was giving the summary of our game then you knew we’d be on Sportscene that evening. Sportscene – Match of the Day as it was known then, would show one Scottish game and would borrow the highlights of a couple of English games from their BBC colleagues in the South. Its format would change in later years and it would have more Scottish highlights after the demise of their STV rivals.
If not, you would have to play the waiting game until the Sunday in hope we would be the main highlights on Scotsport. See paragraph one. I can rarely think of an occasion where we didn’t have extended highlights on one of the shows. Nevertheless Scotsport showed all the goals from every game in brief later on in their show. As I got older and got a season ticket it would be more a case of wanting to see contentious decisions again but the sentiment remained the same.
Scotsport from 94 – 98 would show a live game every 6-8 weeks throughout the season and it would usually feature us. To think now that every one of our games can be seen live whether via streaming or on Satellite, could you imagine only getting to see your heroes live on TV every couple of months?
Heart & Hand, Twitter and Sky Sports News are where we go for our transfer news and speculation. When I was a wee boy speculation came in the form of someone your dad knew who knew someone who played golf with **** or a guy had done a bit of work in **** house and heard this. It’s quite surreal to imagine that now, given most rumours are shot down rapidly on social media.
You don’t know you’re born!
This brings me to the reason I pitched this blog in the first place. If, like me, you love going back watching old games and highlights then being alive today is a great thing. YouTube and services allow us to go back and watch the Scottish Cup final in 1996, Derek Johnstone scoring in the 1970 League Cup final or Ally McCoist’s diving header at Elland Road. We can do this on Smart TV’s, phones, tablets, laptops and I even seen a guy watching goals on his watch recently. It’s a great time to be alive. But please spare a thought for Cameron & Williams and many other producers of every wee boy from the late 80s till the mid 00s favourite thing – the Season review video. This medium kept Bill McFarlane relevant after he vanished from our TV screens in 1988, it gave all bears an appreciation of Billy Ocean and it also meant we could see the goals from a game that had taken place the previous October. Strangely they never included any Scottish Cup footage until round about the late 90s, which I assume was down to our sponsors not wanting a rival lager advertised.
The amount of highlights varied as early productions missed out lots of games from a season, some didn’t show any opposition goals and we obviously rarely had a video if we hadn’t won the league. Seasons 01-02 and 07-08 are the exception to this. The latter being probably the most comprehensive season review we ever produced; featuring every goal from every game we played that season.
Of course you could have taped (my 8 year old stepson Logan doesn’t even know what that means) the highlights on blank VHS cassettes throughout the season but these invariably ended up with episodes of some pish your mum missed as she was out one night or part of The Temple of Doom that had been on whilst your Christmas dinner was getting eaten. Failing that, it was the Season review video which I would invariably have to wait until the following Christmas to get until I was a bit older and I could buy my own. I have an entire press (Ayrshire term for cupboard) full of them back at my Parent’s house and given that VHS is now obsolete they serve as nothing more than a mausoleum to my Rangers childhood and youth. I would watch them all in a loop over a couple of days every couple of months or so. Interestingly I can still describe most of our goals from the 1990s but would struggle to describe some from last season, even though they are easily viewed. Perhaps there is something in that?
I imagine when Logan and my son Tobey, who is two, are teenagers they will just have to think of a football match and it’ll be automatically beamed into their eyeballs in 4D from a chip in their brains. It just seems that’s the way it’s going. Football is readily available everywhere, Maybole asides, and with a few clicks or swipes we can get it anywhere. Many will argue Sky have a lot to answer for citing that they have ruined the magic of football as it becomes even more commercially driven. Others, the under 30s, will proclaim this new era of football viewing is only the beginning and the red button era is here in earnest. Wherever it takes us I can’t help think but back to halcyon days of Gerry McNee (as if), Jim White before the living embarrassment he has made of himself, rewinding and playing again, the ‘were you at the game caller?’ and those dusty videos gathering dust next to my LPs and old match day programmes. I think back and can’t help being slightly sad.
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Gary Spence (@garywolfboy)