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ITV’s The Big Match: Aston Villa DVD


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VillaTalk have rather generously afforded me the opportunity to review this offering from ITV sport. It’s a collection of the highlights from The Big Match’s coverage of 13 Villa games from 1972 to 1983 and it’s really not bad. What’s more, we have some copies to give away!

First up, apologies to you young folks who don’t remember what The Big Match was. Think of it as ITV’s answer to Match Of The Day and you won’t be far wrong. Personally my memories are a little dim, but I’ve seen a few of the repeats on ITV4 on those quiet days when I can’t be bothered to leave the house.

So then, off we go to a land that TV forgot, presented by Brian Moore and a very youthful Jim Rosenthal and featuring some lovely ties, smashing sideburns and quite shocking tailoring, it’ll almost make you appreciate Richard Keys. This was a simpler age, when men were men and wore frilly shirts.

There’s getting on for three hours all told with an hour of extra features on The Big Match and its various Christmas specials and features.

The games themselves are interesting enough, a couple of wins against small heath, wins against Man Utd (remember them?), Leeds, Ipswich, Forest, and Spurs and a couple of great games from the title winning season, but they aren’t the whole story.

For those of you with fond memories of these teams it’ll be a lovely meander down memory lane, if you’re old enough to remember it’s a great opportunity to relive those days before you start to forget things and there’s atmosphere galore in here.

The real story for the rest of us though is in the story that The Big Match never meant to tell, it’s in the collection of these games and the strange things that time did to football and most especially to Villa in these years.

In the opening ten seconds of a game, a Forest player launches a kick at a Villa player after a challenge; he just stands next to him and kicks him in the hip in full view of the referee. Not even a card, how the game has changed.

Over the course of the eleven years we see it change, it quickens noticeably, there’s less dribbling over pitches like quagmires and more passing of the ball on better surfaces, the tackling is still a wonder to behold, but it’s a little more like the modern game. Keepers start to wear gloves, the refreshment trolley makes an appearance pitch side at Villa Park, while fans hold scarves above their heads, wear woolly hats and smoke like demented beagles.

Off the pitch too, we see the old aquarium building disappear and the North Stand emerge, we see the Holte End split in two for the first time (the left side!) and catch a glimpse of the edges of hooliganism.

Mostly what we see though is Aston Villa change; we enter the piece as Champions of the second division, back in the big time and facing the unknown with a relatively new manager in place; name of Saunders.

We finish it as Champions of Europe and unaware of the fate that awaited us. What a journey it must have been.

Over the course of the games, we grow and improve, familiar faces passing through and we see the team that took us to glory start to form; Little and Gray, Graydon, Chico Hamilton and Chris Nicholl come and go; Withe, Shaw, Morley and Mortimer arrive.

While the most glorious of their days aren’t presented here, we capture just an inkling of the spirit that we built over this decade, the support that grew from the slightest of expectation to winning the lot; 53,000 at the derby, the Holte End alive with movement and Ron Saunders unmoved throughout.

In truth The Big Match was always second best to Match Of The Day and the game then lacked the pace and athleticism it gained later, modern day football coverage is a wonder to behold and I don’t envy the fans of those days having to watch football this way.

But oh how I envy the football they watched and the way that they watched it!

For those of us that weren’t there, it’s impossible not to watch this and wish you were. It’s not a great DVD for its football, but as the story of a truly magical time in our history, its accidental genius is in capturing a club through special times.

Oh, and Peter Cook even puts in an appearance at the end as part of the Christmas special presented by Elton John.

It was the 70’s.

If you'd like to win a copy of the DVD, please give us your guess on the score and attendance for Monday's game against Manchester City. Those nearest to the attendance with the correct score will win as many copies as we've been able to sneak past the security at HMV!

Good luck.

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3-2 win


But oh how I envy the football they watched and the way that they watched it!
The football may have been good but that last bit would have brought a wry smile from yours truly back in the day. I used to dream of having a seat (and now everyone gets a seat and prefers to stand up - I laugh). Unfortunately I was too poor. OK I wasn't. I was too tight-fisted. The only times I paid the extra was at dodgy places like Millwall or Man U where standing anywhere remotely near their Neanderthals could have led to an early demise (for some of them).
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Great memories and a must see DVD. Pity the 71 LCF is not on this I know we lost but it was a final performance that in 9 out of 10 cases would have seen us bring the cup back home and I enjoyed seeing the first half again on Youtube last week.

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