Get It On book: How the 70s influenced the modern game

Get It On author Jon Spurling reveals five of the most significant ways football in the 70s had an impact on today’s game

The birth of the pundits panel

The TV panel was Jimmy Hill’s idea. He’d been on the BBC’s panel for the 1966 World Cup, but everyone was suited and booted and it was all a bit stuffed shirt. He and John Bromley, ITV’s controller of sport, wanted their panel [for the 1970 World Cup] to speak like football fans do, so got Malcolm Allison, Bob McNab, Derek Dougan and Pat Crerand – all marshalled by Brian Moore. It was a big success and had such a boost to ITV viewing figures.

The panel raised the profile of football and footballers, and showed guys like Brian Clough, who quickly moved to ITV, that if you’re outspoken or outlandish, the 70s was for you – especially in an era of colour TV because it literally made them more colourful.

The 74 panel had Jack Charlton, Clough and the others on a panel, so you’d got all the motor mouths that there were going – it was revolutionary. It was also the rise of working-class men in football because Charlton and Clough were two of six footballers that decade who appeared on Parkinson, which was the chat show to be on and it elevated their profile even higher.

The panel – which is now part of every football TV programme, podcast and radio show – opened doors for football managers and those who wanted it suddenly thought they could make a bit of a killing. These various media platforms in a digital age are quite easy to get hold of, but in an analogue age they were much harder. Brian Clough realised quite quickly what was out there for him – he was on and in everything, and was probably the 70s personality as a result.

The replica kit revolution 

Admiral changed the way people thought about football kits in the 70s. I interviewed Admiral’s founder Bert Patrick for the book and he told me he had this belief that with the advent of colour TV, football kits were going to become big, big news.

Admiral was the trading name for his company, Cook and Hurst – which produced underwear for nuns as well as very plain football kits at the time – and when he talked to his employees about his vision, they said “we can’t afford colour TVs, so you’re speaking for yourself”. He said, “by the end of the 70s everyone will have a colour TV and therefore kits will become really important and very lucrative”. He was spot on.

Patrick approached Don Revie at Leeds first of all and he let Patrick redesign Leeds’s away kit, which was yellow. Admiral added the tramlines down the sleeves and the blue fluttery collars. Once Patrick had got his foot in the door with Leeds, he moved on to Crystal Palace with the famous sash, then Tottenham where they added the chevrons to their kits. Most famously, when Revie became England manager, Admiral designed the England kit, which caused a bit of a furore at the time.

Embed from Getty Images

Admiral was the first manufacturer to have its logo in a really obvious place on the kits and that paved the way for where we are now. Once it had been done once, the genie was out of the bottle and others picked up on it. It went to the House of Commons, where it was debated about Admiral ripping off parents by placing them under undue pressure by their kids to get replica kits. It’s the same now and it was the start of the debate about our clubs ripping fans off with merchandise. Patrick denied it and he said it was about giving people choice instead.

The celebrity footballer

It was 10 years or more after the end of the maximum wage in football, which ended in 61, and with colour TV coming out, footballers were more visible. Footballers started to grow their hair a bit like the glam rockers of the day – they wanted to be glam rockers and glam rockers wanted to be footballers.

Terry O’Neill was the big photographer at the time and captured the mood with a really famous photo called The Clan, which was taken in a posh Italian restaurant in Fleet Street, where all the newspapers were based. In it, there was Rodney Marsh who was about to sign for Man City, Alan Hudson, Alan Ball, Geoff Hurst, Terry Mancini, Terry Venables and Dave Webb – there were a few journeyman pros, a couple of World Cup winners and, as O’Neill described them, “the big swinging dicks of London football”.

The Clan was Malcolm Allison’s idea and was that the leading footballers would make a killing commercially – although it wasn’t really rooted in any business acumen. They’d started to realise that commercially they could do something and started to get sponsored cars, newspaper columns, and get invited to nightclubs and casinos. They were almost influencers in some ways.

The Clan shows the increasing swagger of top-flight footballers. Peter Osgood told me what he earned was the equivalent of £75k a year – he’d get a salary from Chelsea, a sponsorship deal and a newspaper column. Malcolm Macdonald made from from his column for The Sun than he did for playing football.

The continental football boom

Look at a list of English teams who won European trophies in the 70s and there’s Chelsea, Leeds, Manchester City, Arsenal, Tottenham, Liverpool and Nottingham Forest – some of them won multiple European trophies. The English clubs hoovered up.

Embed from Getty Images

Manchester United and Celtic had won the European Cup in the 60s, but suddenly in the late-70s, Liverpool won it twice then Forest in 79 and 80. English teams kept winning it, which made it such a big thing. The European Cup final was one of very few games that was actually televised – along with the FA Cup final and a few England games – and while it didn’t have the same monied element the Champions League does now, in terms of a big televised audience, it was enormous.

Interestingly, that era was a time when the England national team struggled. They’d lost their World Cup crown in 1970, then failed to qualify for any tournaments in the 70s. No manager gave a definitive reason why, but the likes of Bob Paisley and Brian Clough said there were more variables with the national team and there was more pressure from the newspapers – especially in London – to pick players certain journalists wanted.

The growth of the rivalry

The 70s when we first started getting action replays on TV, which would focus on controversial incidents. There was the Charity Shield in 1974 where Kevin Keegan and Billy Bremner had their fight; then the Derby versus Leeds cup incident with Franny Lee and Norman Hunter (below); and Austin Mitchell’s chat show, Calendar, where there was the face-off between Clough and Revie. It was a very combative decade.

In the 60s, fans would mix relatively freely. You’d watch North London or Merseyside derbies and the fans are mingling, whereas in the 70s, they’ve got definite ends and that relative friendliness from the 60s is gone. The 70s set the scene for that tribalism.

The tabloids and TV were looking out for stories and scandal, and now they had managers and players who gave it to them. Clough was very outspoken about Leeds when he was Derby boss and Revie made no secret that he didn’t like Clough, so there was that clash between them. There was also this rivalry between Chelsea and Leeds, which was seen as London versus the north – Chelsea believed they were more artistic on the pitch going up against ‘dirty Leeds’.

If you look at the 70s, it’s almost the clash between the hatchet men and the mavericks. You’ve got the hatchet men of Tommy Smith, Peter Storey at Arsenal, Bremner, Jonny Giles and Jack Charlton; then you’ve got the mavericks of Osgood, Charlie George and Frank Worthington, who would get kicked off the park by these hatchet men whenever they played – that was the rules at the time.

The 70s sews the seed for that and the mutual rivalries, and the realisation that there were viewing figures to be had in them. You’ve got ITV and BBC competing against each other with Match of the Day and The Big Match and they realise that rivalry and outspokenness was good for viewing figures and sales figures of tabloids.

Jon Spurling’s book, Get It On: How the 70s Rocked Football is published by Biteback Publishing and is available to buy now.

Get It On book: How the 70s influenced the modern game
4 (80%) 5 votes