An old friend emailed me an mp3 file entitled ‘Star’.
I instantly recognised the blaring, barely-in-control brass section of the Star Soccer theme tune and was transported back to a mid-Seventies Sunday afternoon at two o’clock….
The Sunday dinner that had taken Mum hours to cook was wolfed down in two minutes. Roast beef and Yorkshire puddings lay in my stomach, barely chewed, as I rushed to turn on the old black-and-white telly so that it would warm up in time for that blasting fanfare, played over a backdrop of one of the Midlands grounds, and the welcoming South Midland baritone of commentator Hugh Johns – a dark-chestnut, favourite-uncle tone underscored with a hint of Naval-issue cigarettes.
There was little room for manoeuvre in the editing suite, back then. The main game, however incident-packed or dull, ran for fifteen minutes up to a half-time ad break, followed by another quarter of an hour for the second half.
Part three brought fifteen minutes of a game from another ITV region, maybe yours. Granada’s Gerald Sinstadt was the voice of Kick Off; Tyne Tees was Kenneth Wolstenholme on Shoot, while LWT’s The Big Match was fronted by Brian Moore…
After part four’s brief highlights of another game – usually Norwich or Ipswich from Anglia’s Match of the Week with Gerry Harrison – and a round-up of results, the weekend seemed almost over.
Dozens of games went untelevised every weekend and that’s why seeing your team was so special. With perhaps only two or three TV appearances in a lean year, the novelty never wore off.
Star Soccer’s run, from 1968 to 1983, coincided with some great times for Midlands clubs. Derby, Forest and Villa all won the League title and the League Cup hardly ever left the region with Stoke, Villa (twice), Forest (twice), and Wolves (twice) all lifting the three-handled trophy. All the other Division One teams had smatterings of great players: Francis and Latchford (Birmingham), Hibbitt and Richards (Wolves), Greenhoff and Hurst (Stoke), Cunningham and Regis (West Brom), Weller and Worthington (Leicester). Even down the leagues, Walsall had Alan Buckley and Notts County Don Masson.
The 1983-84 season saw the introduction of Central Match Live, and things would never be the same again. How we marvelled at those live televised matches, having previously been restricted to only three or four per year; but, of course, they only led to saturation coverage of more games than you could ever want to see.
Hugh Johns, the voice of Midlands football and a comforting constant across hundreds of Sunday afternoons, sadly passed on in 2007. No doubt which music would have given him a suitably stirring send-off.
Tweak your memory buds, buy ‘Got, Not Got’ online here…