Friday, 27 February 2009

Video Vault

After another depressing afternoon of mind-numbing tedium at the Riverside, its tempting to begin to question why we all shell out hundreds of pounds every summer to 'enjoy' another year of boredom and frustration. I've dusted off my collection of 'vintage' VHS season reviews in an attempt to rouse spirits – if the present is dire and the future seems worse, at least the past can provide some comfort. Particularly if it comes in an officially licensed box with generous narration alongside.

My particular favourite is the 1991/92 promotion season. Commentator John Helm responds to Jimmy Phillips deciding a ZDS Cup tie with a spanking free kick by boldly stating “unless you're a Derby County fan, you won't mind seeing that goal over and over again”. He's not wrong. That kind of hyperbole might be grating when Sky are worshipping at the altar of the Champions League but its endearing in these less glamorous locations. Helm's enthusiasm isn't matched by all his colleagues. The guy charged with covering a perfunctory defeat of Port Vale describes Alan Kernaghan's solitary goal with all the exuberance of a man completing his tax returns.

The production values of modern TV coverage of football (ITV aside) has taken much of the charm and warmth out of watching the game on the small screen. The amateurish nature of those early 1990s videos provides a charm of their own. Its like a time capsule from a different era – from the Casio soundtrack and some extremely shaky footage to Brighton's ludicrous stripy shorts, its a world away from the today's version on and off the pitch. A time when fans who wished to stand up and support their team got tickets in the Holgate instead of a snotty letter from a safety officer. A time when footballers had names like Geoff Twentyman.

The video culminates in the drama of Molineux, where Boro came from a goal and a man down to win a place in the inaugural Premier League. Paul Wilkinson's crucial header, described by the man himself as “the worst of my career”, in all its spawny, bobbling glory, ends a gruelling season. A barechested Jamie Pollock E-I-Os in front of the away end. John Hendrie offers his incomprehensible post-match thoughts. Happy days.

The 'Champions' tape, documenting the final season at Ayresome Park, was another childhood favourite, particularly as Nigel Pearson can be heard quite clearly exclaiming “you f***ing beauty” as the Division One trophy is held aloft within a minute of pressing play. There are some great memories - the last game at Ayresome, Robbie Mustoe's goal of the century against Watford, Jamie Pollock (ugly bastard) silencing the, in fairness, accurate taunts from the Roker Park crowd.

The modern versions don't have the same charm. Having been given the option to skip through the dross by DVDs, there's not much left to revel in. The season review no longer feels like a vital document of a season, the only place to revisit long-forgotten games and players, its thunder well and truly stolen by YouTube. It'll be sometime before I can bring myself to throw them away though. Whether its Bernie scoring at Old Trafford or Pollock volleying from preposterous range at Filbert Street, it doesn't take long for the anger and frustration of 14 winless games to fade. There's a reason why we do this and now, more than ever, we need to remember it.

Read this and other better written, funnier articles in Fly Me To The Moon 437 tomorrow!

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