Revel in radio's `empire of the senses'

BOOK OF THE WEEK

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

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone