Robin Scott-Elliot: ITV in tights spot again as hoarding looks tough to swallow
View From The Sofa: The big match revisited, ITV 4, Thursday
Monday 16 February 2009
Adverts may be a touchy subject when it comes to ITV and football – it could have been worse, they might have cut to the funeral ad currently brightening up Sky Sports News – but there was one in particular last week that caught the eye.
The ad in question is 30 years old, so this is not some desperate attempt to attract freebies (or go on a Sir Brian Bender as it's known), although who doesn't need the peace of mind provided by Co-op Funeralcare? The Big Match Revisited revisited Goodison Park last week for Everton against Bristol City, and just about visible through all the cascading hair, hairy first touches, eye-threatening collars and all pervading beige was a hoarding promoting Swallow Hosiery. A Goodison crammed full of Scouse blokes would not seem a natural market for hosiery, although my knowledge of the natural market for hosiery would not stand up to rigorous examination, unlike, no doubt, a pair of 1979 Swallow Hosiery tights.
Football has its hosiery history. Barely a month before this Goodison encounter, the late Keith Weller stunned the man's game by sporting, and scoring in, a pair of white tights for Leicester City. Legend has it that he only wore the tights because his wife had discovered them in his car, prompting Weller to conjure an excuse that they were for playing in, hence he had to actually play in them. Disappointingly, that turned out to be a Frank Worthington-created legend.
Did the executives of Swallow Hosiery sense a sensual gap in the market? Perhaps they thought Weller's sartorial courage would spark a demand for tights all the way down to Hackney Marshes. Or perhaps, with Valentine's Day approaching, it was just an attempt to persuade a male audience into an ambitious purchase over and above the bunch of carnations from the garage down the road.
The raison d'être of Swallow Hosiery's marketing was just one of a number of important questions that cropped up. Was it compulsory for wingers to wear their socks round their ankles then? Whatever happened to Elton Welsby? How inspired a decision was ridding the game of the back pass? And was football actually a bit rubbish 30 years ago?
The appropriately hirsute Andy King had time to light a John Player, down a Watneys Party Seven and [insert your favourite 1970s cultural reference here – swinging perhaps, or Swingball] before swivelling to score the second of his hat-trick for Everton. As a whole, the match was a world removed from today's game. But then hosiery too has come on leaps and bounds, or so I believe.
It is part of this country's unwritten constitution that nobody is allowed to say nice things about ITV. At the risk then of a treason charge: it made an accomplished job of England's friendly (and its overhauled FA Cup highlights are much improved), with just the odd moment of overkill. Peter Drury's dream about David Beckham overtaking Peter Shilton's caps record in the World Cup final was a football fantasy dressed in the skimpiest, frilliest lingerie imaginable. Unless you're Shilton. Or not a fan of hosiery, which is, frankly, hard to swallow.
BBC finger on button for Goode exposure
Director's cut of the week belongs to the BBC man calling the shots at Cardiff on Saturday. England were down to 14 (again) when Wales scored their all-important try at the start of the second half and moments later our screens were filled by Andy Goode sitting in the sin bin, head buried in hands; a man laid bare for all to see.
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