Revel in radio's `empire of the senses'


50 Years of Sports Report

edited by Audrey Adams (CollinsWillow, hardback, pounds 9.99)

"Radio," in the elegant phrase of the BBC's Football Correspondent, Mike Ingham, "was an empire of the senses." One could quibble with the past tense, but the imagery is exquisite. Before television became omnipresent, the wireless brought vivid and colourful sporting pictures into our living rooms. The sound medium continues to fire the imagination in a way beyond its vulgar sibling. And no one does it better than Sports Report.

For half a century, the programme has been as much a part of the Saturday ritual as the match itself. Presenters, from Raymond Glendenning through Eamonn Andrews to Des Lynam, have come and gone, but some things remain constant: a signature tune that is at once promising and portentous, James Alexander Gordon's wonderfully measured reading of the results and the relentless rhythm and excellence of the reports.

This book covers the whole range of sports it features, but therein lies a problem. Sports Report has always been football-driven - many of us only heard it fortnightly in the days before transistors because we were heading away from our team's ground on alternate Saturdays - yet only a handful of the 36 essays reflect the game's centrality. Those by Trevor Bailey, Fred Trueman, Jonathan Agnew and Christine Janes are only tenuously related to broadcasting, let alone the programme.

That said, there is some richly evocative and entertaining writing. Ingham and Pat Murphy communicate with particular skill the pressures and pleasures of contributing to Sports Report, the latter giving a revealing and amusing insight into the perils of interviewing a whisky-fuelled Brian Clough live.

Alan Green offers a typically idiosyncratic insight into the unglamorous aspects of reporting, recalling a commentary in Moscow from a single-decker bus, while the Barbara Cartland of Maine Road, Stuart Hall, provides a brilliantly kitsch self-parody based on a visit to Barnsley.

The most engaging pieces are those which draw on the author's experience. Alan Parry recalls his debut on the programme and the moment Lynam went over to Oxford for his 60 seconds' worth: "I was frozen with fear. For me this was like playing up front for Liverpool and if I got it wrong I might never be picked again."

Manchester United, whose birth as a great sporting institution also began in 1948 with their first trophy under Matt Busby, are the subject of a fascinating article by Jimmy Armfield which avoids the cricket writers' nostalgia trap. In it he reveals how he nearly joined the Babes months before the Munich disaster.

It is impossible to read Cliff Morgan, Michael Parkinson, Bryon Butler and Don Mosey - the transcript of his affectionate eulogy to Brian Johnston - without hearing their distinctive voices (in fact, the book is also available on tape). That is especially true of the shortest piece here, the report the late Peter Jones delivered, live and unscripted, on the Hillsborough tragedy. Sports Report is justly famous for its mind pictures. On that day they held a most terrible beauty.

Phil Shaw

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Support Technician (2nd Line / Server Support) - Bedford

£24000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: 2nd line IT Support Techn...


£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a b...

Year 3 Teacher

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 TeacherWould you like ...

Science Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Are you a qualified science t...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments