When Metaxa brandy was advertised at

every football ground.

The good old days of pre-Premier League football.

Hadn’t noticed The Big Match was being repeated again on ITV4, on Saturday mornings – that latter bit might be the clue why not – so only tuned in after someone Tweeted about it.

This week it was the F.A. Cup from the ’82/’83 season. Seeing Aston Villa, with a very young Mark Walters – he looked about 12 – knock out Graham Taylor’s Watford, plenty of long balls up to Loofa. Then Spurs lost in the Cup for the first time in an age. In a harum scarum game they were put out by Everton at Goodison, then the scum drew with Middlesbrough.

Now the game has changed since the good old days. Plain white ball, ploughed field for a pitch, instead of the digital advertising board flashing up different ads the aforementioned Metaxa, which was pretty much ubiquitous at every ground, was on boards alongside that for local builders – suppose this is still the case down the leagues – when was the last time you saw Metaxa advertised? Was it ever advertised elsewhere other than football grounds?

Then Watford had their shirt sponsor taped over or the game couldn’t be broadcast as Brian Moore told us later, just before they cut to an advert break before coming back to show a game with advert boards all round the pitch.

But the biggest difference, apart from the back passes to the ‘keeper obviously, was when the referee gave an indirect free-kick for obstruction. Never mind Greek brandy ads, when was the last time you ever saw a ref give an indirect free-kick and one for obstruction?

Players shielding the ball out of play, it’s yards from them and the ref lets it go. Remember a clip from a Goon scum game, would say a mid ’90s game, where Lee Dixon does exactly that the ref blows for a foul and when Dixon asks What the fuck was that for the commentator, John Motson, answered Well it’s for a foul, actually.

The other main difference was at set pieces, free-kicks and corners, where the ball headed into the box. The box didn’t resemble a rugby game, it didn’t resemble Come Dancing – Can I have this dance? Do you come here often? – no shirt pulling, there or elsewhere on the park, no hugging – it’s OK ref I’m just standing here with my arms round him but I’m not touching him… well not until you stop watching us – no barging and no flopping down by ‘keepers when slightly touched.

They keep saying about certain fouls in the box these days that if you give it you’ll have to give 20 a game. Well you might for the first game but after that it would stop pretty sharply. The penalty given for Sunderland, against Newcastle, at the weekend I mean how many times do you see that go unpunished? And if a ref does give a pen for it, he’ll only give one when it happens again and again it’s like he’s used up his quota for the game.

Game would be far better if that area of the game was cleaned up.

Another thing I noticed after this weekend’s modern day games was the match report of a certain Henry Winter. Now I’ve wondered for a while if he actually watches the games he reports on. His eulogising about Steven Gerrard in an England shirt has never matched up to what actually occurred on the pitch. No mention of selfish Hollywood balls, inept Hollywood balls, not being able to pass without battering the ball and general all round sucking except for the odd game against the likes of Andorra.

But my impression was reinforced by the man’s own words in his report on the Spurs versus ManUre game…

… Defoe used Ferdinand as a screen to deceive De Gea before threading the ball to the Spaniard’s right-hand side.
It was still a surprise to see a defender of Ferdinand’s calibre turning his back. Henry Winter

So that means you couldn’t have watched any England game Ferdinand has featured in then? How many times have I mentioned in a blog post about an England match Ferdinand doing this very thing? Poncing out of making a block. No they weren’t all cut & paste jobs it was him that repeated himself. Doing it game in game out for ages now, yet Henry seems to have never seen it before. Colour me not surprised.

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