Written In The Stars: Television, Football and England v Scotland

posted 18 Aug 2013, 15:23 by Richard Brook
Originally posted here: bit.ly/1cfVIxc

Football and television have enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship for many years. It is a relationship that has grown proportionally, over the last few decades, to the sport’s increasingly commercial nature. From the as break between the national anthems and kick-off, through the fines for emerging from the tunnel less than a minute late for the second half, through to the controversial level and distribution of TV revenues – television and football have become intrinsically and inextricably linked to one another, for better or for worse.

If feeling superstitious it might be considered that the beautiful game and the idiot box going hand in hand, like lager and… well err… hand, might have been written in the stars. You would need to have been living under a rock to have been unaware that this year marks the English Football Association’s 150th anniversary with the organisation having been formed in 1863. All but the most Premier League-centric football fan will also be aware that the Football League was formed in 1888 meaning this year is their 125th birthday. You would need to be particularly good at pub quizzes, or share the same – frankly bizarre – diary that I have, to realise that a particular historical figure would also be celebrating his 125thbirthday this year. John Logie Baird, whose experiments led, to the invention of television, was also born in 1888.

There is conflict, by one day, online as to Baird’s date of birth in 1888, but several sources, including the BBC, state that the Scottish scientist was born on August 14th. Keep that date in your head. I have come over a bit ‘Derren Brown’.

The cynics – and only the cynics – amongst you might be thinking that John Logie Baird, father of television being born, 25 years after the FA came in to being and in the exact same year that Football League was founded is purely coincidence. The rest of us judge you a bit for that and are shocked at your distrust. Nevertheless I will endeavour show you the error of your ways.

On top of all the other pertinent anniversaries mentioned above, the first live and full football match to be televised took place 75 years ago, on April 9th 1938. Fans of Arsenal tend to think their team hold the honour described above but this is not the case. The club may have a claim for being the first televised football but the two instances their claims rely on involve a specially organised training exercise against their own reserves, purely for the purposes of television, and another broadcast, this time Arsenal playing Everton, in 1937 but this was not shown live. The 1937 FA Cup Final was subject to live coverage, but not the whole game.

The first proper football game shown live and in its entirety was England v Scotland. It began a long tradition of England disappointing their fans on television, as Scotland ran out 1-0 winners. Tommy Walker scored early for Scotland, at Wembley, but it was to be the only goal as Scotland secured a share of the British Championship with their English hosts.

It hardly needs to be said that England and Scotland possess a fierce footballing rivalry with each other, so there can never be too much surprise when such a match is seen as an event worthy of being broadcast on television. The fixture was first contested in Glasgow in 1872, with Scotland holding ‘the Auld enemy’ to a 0-0 draw. The rivalry has somewhat lost intensity since the fixture ceased to be an annual event in the football calendar, in 1989, but there have been some famous matches down the years.

Scotland’s ‘Wembley Wizards’ tore England apart in 1928 to beat their hosts 5-1, thanks to a hat-trick from Alex Jackson. In 1961 England inflicted their biggest win against Scotland, by a 9-3 margin and Jimmy Greaves notched three goals of his own along the way. In 1967 Scotland defeated the World Cup holders, who were unbeaten in 19 matches, by the odd goal in five with Sheffield Wednesday’s Jim McCalliog scoring the goal that made separated the teams.

The sides met at Euro 1996 and England won the game 2-0, with the match remembered for England’s second, a moment of true genius from Paul Gascoigne. Gascoigne jinked his way into the box, lifting the ball over Scotland defender Colin Hendry in the process, before slotting home. The nations last competed, in a 1999 two legged play-off, for qualification for the European Championships in 2000. England won the first game in Scotland 2-0 with both goals coming from Paul Scholes. Scotland however won at Wembley 1-0 thanks to Don Hutchison’s effort, meaning it was England who qualified by virtue of the 2-1 aggregate score-line.

England host Scotland, on television at Wembley Stadium again next week – in the year the FA turns 150 years old and the Football League and John Logie Baird turn 125. What date is this year’s fixture to take place? August 14th of course, John Logie Baird’s birthday, and why not?! I told you to remember it.

Of course I do not truly believe that the relationship between football and television was a matter of destiny, but what a fantastic set of coincidences leading up to next Wednesday’s match.

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