11. Sep, 2021


What was life like before Soccer Saturday?

No Jeff Stelling one liners here, just bare facts to keep us up to date. Following the fortunes of your favourites in the 70's and 80's could be a surreal experience. There were alternatives to Frank Bough on Grandstand, the beautiful game could be set to music on local radio. BRMB were Birmingham's local independent radio. station, It interspersed the latest scores with popular tunes of the days. You could be happily humming along to a Town Like Alice when Peter Withe had put Villa 1-0 up at Watford , thanks Roger now back to Weller and Co.

Sometimes the music could actually describe events on the pitch. In 1984 Birmingham City were entwined in their annual relegation fight. At the same time Duran Duran were riding high with their single The Reflex. The self same song contains the lyric "I tell you somebody is fooling around with my chances on the danger line." This New Romantic standard was playing when Coventry City scored the goal which sent us down. Ironically scored by Mick Ferguson, on loan from Birmingham City. The bearded striker certainly plunged us below the dotted line.

BRMB saved the best till last, the last hour of the show was devoted to a post match phone in. The show was hosted by the ebullient Tony Butler.(pictured above) Butler is widely regarded as inventing the Football phone in. He says that the idea was formed whilst working in North America during the late 1960's, many of their radio stations invited listeners to call in following a sporting event. When Tone became BRMB Controller for Sport in 1974, he introduced the concept to UK airwaves

TB was a broadcasting legend in the West Midlands. Jasper Carrott even gives him a mention in one of his comedy monologues. The straight talking host gave some callers short shrift, "Tone, I really think the Albion should stick with Ronnie Allen." A pregnant pause was followed by "they are going down, on yer bike" Indeed "On Yer Bike" became Butler's catchphrase long before Norman Tebbit applied it to elements of the unemployed. In later years a more mellow Tone was given his own TV show in which he cycled around the Midlands. No doubt many hours were spent by the Beeb's creative department before the working title "Biking Butler" was commissioned..

If your appetite for match day had still not been satisfied you could read a match report within an hour of the final whistle. Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the now defunct Birmingham Sports Argus. This wonderful publication provided results and gossip from the Big 6 West Midlands Clubs. In alphabetical order we had Aston Villa, Birmingham City, Coventry City, Walsall, West Bromwich Albion and Wolverhampton Wanderers. Each team had its own page where a player would write a column, for example Mel Eves would actually be inside Molineux, whether he ever went home is subject to debate. The poor souls just went along with the party line. Punch ups at the Sky Blues training ground were overlooked in favour of Ian Wallace's speedy recovery from a groin strain

Other regions had their own versions. One of my college mates had the North East argus sent down to him whilst studying in the Midlands. Strangely all these papers were printed on pink paper. The Norfolk special was called The Pink Un. That BBC creative department had obviously opened a branch in Norwich.