If you are as old as me you will remember iconic moments from the 1960s and 1970s such as: Fry’s Turkish Delight ads (whatever did happen to Hakan Sukur and other ‘golden generations?’), the Torrey Canyon running aground and causing an environmental disaster (much like a Sam Allardyce tackle for Bolton away), and ‘This is your Life.’
The latter was a weekly television programme, originally live, on ITV or BBC – when anyone really cared about those kinds of things. It was hosted by Eamonn Andrews of the fixed grin and credited as the early inventor of the canned laugh and, latterly, Michael Aspel, who used to read the news before he got bored and started asking too many questions of his own.
The show finished in 2003, though there was a one-off ‘special’ in 2007 hosted by Sir Trevor McDonald who used to read the news before he bored everyone to tears by assuming he had too many answers of his own (and Sir Lenny Henry’s portrayal of him on TISWAS was much funnier).
This is your Life featured Eamonn or Michael surprising either a well-known ‘celebrity’ or a hitherto unknown person who had done extraordinary things (think Steve Morrow who was famous for being dropped by Tony Adams, even though George Graham had paid to be the manager that day).
Military people – infamous for killing lots of people in ever more ingenious ways – were featured, as were clergymen – infamous for frightening people about death in ever more ingenious ways. That person’s skeletons were then laid bare for all to see.
Danny Blanchflower proved to be quite extraordinary in not only leading Tottenham Hotspur to a league title but also by refusing to go on the show and admitting that his name was actually Robert Dennis Blanchflower. That was way back in 1961 and who would have thought that this Glory Year would be no nearer to being repeated, 57 years later?
Of football, Danny once said:
“The great fallacy is that the game is first and last about winning. It is nothing of the kind. The game is about glory, it is about doing things in style and with a flourish, about going out and beating the lot, not waiting for them to die of boredom.”
Perhaps Lilywhites up and down the land have been misled by this sentiment ever since, even though it didn’t go out to a prime-time television audience. Beating Chelsea every 28 years is one thing, but everyone else, consistently …
I imagined what a This is your Life, hosted by Ian Wright, and featuring a hitherto unknown person such as Chris Sutton might have made of it:
Ian: “You were a very physical player.”
Chris: “How can you say that a glancing header is physical? It barely obeys the laws of physics?”
Ian: “But you were a very physical player.”
Chris: “I was convicted of common assault outside a restaurant, never on a football pitch.”
Ian: “But you were hard, in a physical kind of way.”
Chris: “I never spat in anyone’s face on a football pitch. Besides, he was a Manchester United fan.”
Ian: “And here he is, all the way from Weybridge.”
Chris: “Have a bit of this you scumbag; whoops, sorry, still trying to perfect those headers.”
Ian: “Do you think players are hard enough these days?”
Chris: “The senior players at West Brom behaved like pirates once they saw what a plank they had as a manager. As for Stoke City, they used to personify brutality but then they go and buy a Swiss cheese and wonder why their team is having holes picked in it by anything that moves.”
Ian: “And former human, Alan Pardew, is here tonight.”
Chris: “You’ll never be a football manager.”
Ian: “I think that was my line; just don’t let him say anything – he’s not the only one short on time.”
Chris: “At least I managed to prevent Lincoln City being relegated.”
Ian: “You were physical rather than athletic, although you got away with it because you played alongside proper footballers.”
Chris: “John Hartson at Celtic was quite robust, true.”
Ian: “I was thinking of Alan Shearer at Blackburn or Henrik Larsson at Celtic.”
Chris: “Funnily enough, I don’t think about them or anyone else very often. Besides, I’ve been on Match of the Day as well.”
Ian: “Well, they are here tonight – or at least Henrik is; Alan sent a soundbite.”
Chris: “I failed to even get on the FA Cup Final bench in 2000 but neither did I have three consecutive years of FA Cup Final failure. There was only ever one S in SAS if you didn’t listen to a word the other one ever said and treated him as silent. I know the difference between a hat-trick and an England cap. Hoddle’s not here is he?”
Ian: “Pass. Unlike us, he has a successful media career now.”
Chris: “Praise the lords of Sky and BT Sport.”
Ian: “After that bang on the head at Aston Villa, some people might say you still have impaired vision.”
Chris: “Some people can say what they want. Some people can’t. I prefer to talk to the silent majority, which is why I’m much better on radio and certainly never boring.”
Ian: “Not as glorious as getting away with popping up on every TV sports channel every few minutes and churning out the same old football garbage while trying to remain relevant, though, is it?”
Chris: “When you’ve been relegated with Birmingham City, the only way is up – even if it isn’t. You have to kick down a lot of doors in our business, never mind the football.”