Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Sports videos of the 1980s

I've recently started the process of converting a number of my classic videos to DVD. So this week I'm taking a look back at some of my favourite sports videos of the 1980s. If you have any other suggestions, then please feel free to add them to the comments section.

Botham's Ashes

As an Englishman, I'm not sure I could think of anything better than having an Ashes series named after me, and then being lucky enough to sit down in a comfy chair and have a chat about my heroics with Richie Benaud. Alas, this isn't going to happen, as 1) I'm now 42-years-old 2) Richie is sadly no longer with us 3) I'm rubbish at cricket. After the torrid time Ian Botham had experienced as England captain, he fully deserved his date with Benaud.

Botham's Ashes runs through that memorable series in 1981, with Benaud interviewing Beefy about the lows and highs of the summer; the first Test defeat at Trent Bridge; Botham's pair at Lord's and the silence of the MCC members; Botham's resignation and the return of Brearley; the comeback to end all comebacks at Headingley; Beefy's 5/1 in 28 balls at Edgbaston; Beefy's blistering century at Old Trafford that clinched the Ashes.

Post-1987, I have to admit that this was my go-to video as I sat through repeated Ashes disappointments. I recall in 2001 inserting the tape into my VHS, in a misplaced attempt to cheer myself up, a bit like playing 'All By Myself' by Eric Carmen on loop after a break-up. It's still a marvellous video tape, though, as Benaud might have said himself. At least I now have some DVDs of modern Ashes triumphs to accompany my video to DVD copy of that great series in 1981.

Arsenal: 1988/89 season review

Admittedly I know that many of you will tut at this choice, but it is the general season reviews that arrived in our shops from 1988/89 onwards that I'm sure you can relate to. Obviously I had the added bonus that the review of Arsenal's 1988/89 season contained a fairytale ending, yet it was exciting enough that you could now watch all of your team's highlights on one polished video.

The tapes would always begin with Jim Rosenthal stating "What a goal, what a year" before telling us that we could now enjoy all the goals from our club's season - not quite true, Jim, as Sheffield Wednesday's first against Arsenal at Hillsborough is missing on the 88/89 tape - and that you could also purchase Goals Galore and Saves Galore, if these tickled your fancy.

Previously, I had enjoyed the delights of the Arsenal 1986/87 review, with enthusiastic commentator Colin Benson shrieking his way through a selection of matches. But everything changed after 1988. Season reviews would now be slicker, available in places such as WH Smith, Woolworths, and Our Price, and feature Brian Moore and Martin Tyler as commentators. And as a 13-year-old football fanatic, I couldn't have been happier.

1985 and 1987 Ryder Cup

I miss the days of the Ryder Cup videos where the highlights presented to you were those that were originally shown when you were watching the event. I've collected the 'Official Film' DVDs of the modern era - 2008 and 2016 excepted - but although they are a great reminder of European wins, they're not a patch on the videos of the 80s.

Harry Carpenter introduced both videos for the 1985 and 1987 Ryder Cups, and from that point on you knew everything would be fine. The 1985 production was taken straight from the BBC coverage, Alliss, Critchley and Hay providing excellent commentary throughout, with the 1987 tape extracted from the ABC output.

I also purchased the 1989 video, but I waited a few years to do so, as I was still a little bit annoyed that Europe had turned a 14-10 lead into a tie. Unfortunately, that was the end of the decent Ryder Cup video. I gave 1991 and 1993 a miss for obvious reasons, and by 1995 the total running time was down to 55 minutes and the highlights were missing the commentators from the televised event. Luckily, this wasn't acceptable in the 80s.

On Top Down Under

An absolute classic for any England cricket fan who had the pleasure of living through the 1986/87 tour to Australia. Everything about this video is exciting and different; the blue sleeve in the box; the theme music; white ball cricket; those classic coloured 'pyjama' kits; the commentators; floodlights; and of course England winning both the Perth Challenge and the World Series Cup.

The video kicks off in style, with Ian Botham bludgeoning Australia, and Simon Davis in particular, around the WACA. And there are naturally other great matches to enjoy. The section of tape that I wore out the most was undoubtedly Allan Lamb's 18 runs off the last over to beat Australia, but Botham's World Series final performances also kept me coming back for more.

For someone brought up on solid and understated BBC commentators, the Australian television coverage was something else. In my opinion Bill Lawry was the real star, never afraid to lose the plot whilst screaming "Got him", or yelling that Greg Matthews was the "caught and bowled specialist". It made watching cricket seem cool.

101 Great Goals

Such a simple concept, this 1987 BBC production did what it said on the box; 101 great goals from matches covered on the BBC between 1969-1987. The tape got off to the ideal start for me - Liam Brady's "look at that, oh look at that" goal against Tottenham in 1978 - and from this point you could gorge on a feast of goals.

In hindsight, you could argue that some of the goals included are not strictly great, but there are many memorable strikes from the likes of Charlton, Ernie Hunt, Best, Ronnie Radford, Alan Mullery, Tony Currie, and many from the 1980s, accompanied by some fantastic commentary from the likes of Barry Davies, John Motson, and David Coleman.

A confession: I received this video as a Christmas present in 1987, left by Father Christmas at the end of my bed. Waking up at 3.30am, what else would I do but go downstairs and watch this brilliant tape? My dad, probably rightly so, questioned what on earth I was doing, and angrily ordered me back to bed. Happy Christmas!


  1. Bruce Reid to Allan Lamb........

    1. I still love Bill Lawry's hysterical "Lamb pulls off a mirac-riculous victory!"

  2. 'The Final'- The 1985 Embassy World Snooker Championship. Released on VHS so you could watch 'the final frame; The final black' as often as you liked.

  3. Great blog as usual Steve.

    I remember getting both Offical Histories of Celtic and Liverpool for Christmas (1988?). as well as 101 Great Goals. A great introduction to VHS that grew in the 90's with Danny Bakers own goals and gaffs etc.

  4. 'Boys fom Brazi' was my favourite. BBC narrated by J Motson and a history of Brazil in the World Cup up to 1986.

  5. Sounds like we are the same person! I had Botham's Ashes, John Arlott's Vintage Cricket, Cricket - the 70s, On Top Down Under, The Ashes - Victory in Australia 1986-87. I've always wanted to see The Ashes Regained, the video of the 1985 series... Steve Rusbridge

  6. A bit late to this, but a great read, thank you. Did you own any of the Arsenal Christmas videos from the end of the 80s/early 90s? I haven't seen them for decades but remember some hilarious moments.

    1. Thanks. I haven't seen any of those Arsenal Christmas videos. I may well have a search for some now, though.