27. Sep, 2021


Like many, I was sad to hear that Jimmy Greaves
had passed away.

I never actually saw Greavsie play. So I didn't have the pleasure of seeing him score 357 goals in the top flight of English football, a record which looks unlikley ever to beaten, or did I witness the 44 he netted for England. A total he amassed in a mere 57 games.

Yet Jimmy was a big part of my childhood. Living in the Midlands I saw him make his mark as a television personality, long before Saint and Greavsie saw the light if day.

When I was a lad, ATV were the franchise responsible for transmitting ITV's programmes throughout the Midlands. In 1980 the station made a documentary about Jimmy Greaves. The feature entitled Just For Today described Jimmy's decent into alcoholism and his ultimately successful fight to kick the bottle.

At the same time ATV were awarded the rights to broadcast Football highlights on a Saturday night. A slot traditionally reserved for the BBC' Match Of The Day while ATV's Star Soccer was broadcast on a Sunday afternoon. Now the roles were to be reversed.

However, with the big night approaching ATV had a big problem on their hands. They could not find anyone to provide expert analysis. Legendary Wolves and Engliand captain Billy Wright was the man charged with finding a solution. Now ATV Controller of Sport, Wright called a meeting of the station big wigs. Within minutes Greaves name cropped up. Controller of programming Tony Flanagan mentioned that he had just read an interesting newspaper article written by the Tottenham Hotspur legend. Presenter Gary Newbon added "Yes, I just watched that documentary we did with him, he seems to have a good turn of phrase."

Wright agreed and asked Producer Trevor East to contact the Londoner. The Initial approach was rebuffed. Greaves didn't fancy the weekly commute from his Essex home to ATV's Birmingham studios. Two days later Greavsie had a change of heart, "am I too late, my Wife has told me to take the job." Thankfully for a generation of viewers, the job was still available.

Aside from the differing time slots. Star Soccer and Match Of The Day offered contrasting content. While MOTD could broadcast a match from anywhere in the country, ATV's flagship was restricted. The main game always featured a Midlands club playing at home. Other ITV regions operated on the same format. Therefore London Weekend's The Big Match focused on teams from the Capital and the South East, while Granada's Kick Off showcased clubs in the North West. In all three cases the main game had to be broadcast from a ground in that area. The remaining 2 games were cherry picked from the network.

This regional emphasis presented early problems for Jimmy. Midland viewers objected to a Cockney passing judgment on their football teams. The Birmingham Evening Mail even campaigned for the pundits removal. But within weeks the Greaves charm won over the critics. A TV phenomenon was born! The cover photo shows Gary Newbon and Greavsie presenting Star Soccer.

I loved Star Soccer, for a start I had more chance of seeing the Blues on tv. Match Of The Day were always going to plump for Manchester United or Liverpool. Then we had the velvet tones of commentator Hugh Johns. "One Nothing, Aston Villa" or "chip in, knocked down by Evans, Dillon, thats wide to Dennis, knocked on by Whatmore (,got there) EVANS, FINE GOAL, NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT AT ALL, 2-1 BIRMINGHAM CITY." You see what Hugh did there. He actually commentated on the game, Sky commentators take note.

Not to mention that wonderful Star Soccer theme tune. You can hear several versions on Youtube. You may be puzzled why one has the Bisto logo on. But during its Sunday afternoon days Star Soccer would be shown while the Sunday Roast was been cooked. Our household was no different. Roast Beef and Greavsie. Those were the days.