Thursday, March 22, 2012

English Leagues the 70s: The Big Match January 1978 1979

  Although England were not present, the World Cup in Argentina precipitated a revolution in the Football League. In a wave of ticker-tape, Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa arrived at Tottenham, Alberto Tarrantini joined Birmingham and Alex Sabella linked up with Sheffield United. Suddenly, overseas players were all the rage. Arnold Muhren brought his subtle skills from Holland to Ipswich, Ivan Golac became a popular full-back at Southampton and, within 18 months, nearly every First and Second Division club had at least flirted with imports. Jimmy Hill, discussing the affair with Everton manager Gordon Lee in the first Match of the Day of the new season, thought that it was a positive step. 'We've always been too insular in our thinking,' was the verdict of the BBC's soccer pundit. Come November, Hill's own island was invaded. ITV announced they had pulled off an exclusive deal with the Football League for future coverage of their matches. It was headlined: 'Snatch of the Day'. The referee from the Office of Fair Trading blew his whistle on the deal. But the BBC lost their inherent right to Saturday night football. For the next four seasons, the two channels would alternate, with Match of the Day switching to Sunday afternoons for seasons 1980/1 and 1982/3.

On the field, the First Division Championship was dominated by Liverpool. They regained their title with a record 68 points, scoring 85 goals and conceding just 16 — only 4 of them at Anfield. And it was all achieved by just 15 players. On the second Saturday of the season, Liverpool showed why they had been European Champions for the two previous seasons. They thrashed Manchester City 4—1 at Maine Road in front of the Match of the Day cameras. In December, they inflicted on Nottingham Forest their first league defeat for over 12 months, and New Year victories at Anfield over West Brom, Arsenal and Manchester United were all covered by the BBC cameras. When Match of the Day dipped into the Third Division, it was to spotlight two aspiring managers who guided their clubs, ultimately, from the Fourth to the First. Graham Taylor was busy building up Watford for Elton John, and John Toshack — groomed by Liverpool - was still scoring goals as player-manager of Swansea.

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