155.924 Here are the Football Results

This afternoon (13th Oct 2012) I was in my bedroom ironing some clothes, with the radio on. As the time ticked up to 5 o’clock, a military band struck up a jaunty tune, and it was time for Sports Report. Nothing unusual about this: R5Live has done Sports Report at that time on a Saturday for as long as there has been a R5Live.

But my thoughts instantly turned back 50 years or more. Sports Report has been going out (originally on the BBC Light Programme, 247M Medium Wave) since 1948 and has been using the same jaunty tune all that time. The current presenter Mark Pougatch has written some recollections of hearing it in the 1970s. Here’s an excerpt:

‘Even though I’ve presented the programme for the past 7 years, for me Sports Report will forever conjure up images of my dad cleaning his shoes in our small cloakroom next to the downstairs loo at home, listening to the football and racing results.
He had one of those old, battered, black Roberts radios which was held together by a multitude of elastic bands and which he resolutely refused to throw away or swap for a newer model. He bridled at any suggestion that it had had its day: “It was a wedding present when I married your mother and it still works.” ‘

Roberts Radios are still around all these years later, but that’s another story. I can conjure up images too.

As a small child, perhaps 7 or 8 years old, it was my job (self-appointed) to make a note of the football results, which always opened the programme, and still do. This mattered because of the Football Pools.

These are still going too; but all those years ago they were almost the only legal form of gambling (The other was betting at [horse] racecourses and dog racing venues). I’d guess it was legal because a degree of skill was, theoretically, required. Each week you got a coupon listing the fixtures. You filled in the results you wanted to predict – home, away, or draw – and sent it in with your stake money. And, if you were sensible, kept a copy.

The fixtures list was also printed in the newspapers, with spaces to fill in the scores. My job was, come 5 o’clock on a Saturday, to note these down as they went out on the radio. The results were, and are, read out with a distinctive intonation which instantly indicates whether the match was a home win, away win, or draw, which is what matters for the Pools, rather than the actual score.

My father could then check the results against his pools coupon so as to ascertain that he had won nothing.

But another picture comes to mind. We very often visited my grandparents on a Saturday afternoon. This was at no. 68 Glendish Road in Tottenham. This was in the Tottenham Hale direction, a safe distance away from White Hart Lane. I can remember walking down a long straight road to get there, presumably having got the train to Bruce Grove. But I can also remember arriving on the 233 (now W3) bus, which was perhaps from Wood Green.

These were usually family gatherings, attended by a fair number of my aunts, uncles, and cousins. We went in down a narrow, rather dark, hallway, usually cluttered with one or two bicycles, and came into the fairly small dining room. The front room was kept for special events, mainly weddings and funerals.

I can see myself peering over the dining table, opposite the fireplace. I think we always ended up on that side, being the last to arrive. Opposite me, left of the fireplace, was my grandad in his usual chair, next to the radio; to the right of the fireplace, latterly somewhat displaced by the television, was my grandmother in her armchair. (She couldn’t see the television from there, but said she didn’t mind, as being deaf she couldn’t hear it either). My uncle Stan was the only son who still lived there; he generally sat on the sofa right next to my grandfather, though after his father died he took over his chair. I resisted the temptation to do the same after my father died, yielding the place to my mother.

These were usually noisy gatherings, especially if anyone needed to get my grandmother to hear what was said. But as 5 o’clock approached, there was a deathly hush (even the children), as the radio was switched on and tuned to the Light Programme. It was an unusual radio, with a series of push buttons which I imagine somehow stored pre-set tunings, though in a pre-digital age it’s hard to imagine how these worked. My grandfather then proceeded to take down the football results. After the results the radio was turned off and the usual hubbub resumed.

I’ve never been very interested in football itself: I think I’ve only ever been to two matches. But hearing those results read out fifty years on in much the same style is a strangely moving experience.


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