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Shoot! Remembered
(Taken from the excellent Tyne Tees logo page)

The old TTTV logo and (right) Kathy Secker with a classic 70's frock and bouffant. No doubt introducing Shoot! to an expectant public (around November time by the look of the poppy...).

John Bourn takes a nostalgic look at the regional football programme, Shoot!.

When Tyne Tees first started covering football, with Saturday night highlights in the early Sixties, "Shoot" seemed a snappy and appropriate title for the programme. It was one which would continue for another 20 years and also be adopted by an even more long-running juvenile football weekly.

Early coverage used film cameras, with the ever-present risk that a goal might be scored whilst the film was being changed. Tyne Tees later acquired a more professional outside broadcast unit, but "Shoot" never entirely shook off its shoestring image.

The programme's first commentator was George Taylor, TTTV's long-serving Sports Editor, and someone still involved in football today, as head of Player Liaison at Newcastle United FC. He was succeeded by David Taylor, a somewhat mysterious commentary choice, as Taylor was a straight journalist who later went on to report for "World In Action". Taylor took the helm throughout the early Seventies, bowing out at the end of the 1973-74 season, his last commentary was a 1-1 draw between Newcastle and Birmingham.

In the late Sixties "Shoot" had moved to its more familiar Sunday afternoon slot. For younger readers who have grown up on Sky Sports and endless live matches, in those innocent days, live coverage was reserved for the FA Cup Final and occasional internationals.

Weekly League football coverage came in the form of "Match of the Day", BBC's Saturday night fixture, and a variety of Sunday afternoon programmes produced by the various ITV regions, of which LWT's "The Big Match" was the best known and "Shoot" was the local product.

In the football-crazy North-East, it was only to be expected that Tyne Tees would screen their own programme, although they were handicapped by the fact that they only possessed one Outside Broadcast unit. When this was required for racing coverage from Newcastle (screened on Saturday afternoon's "World of Sport"), Tyne Tees were unable to cover a local match, and viewers were treated instead to the glitzy "The Big Match".

With only 3 main teams in the area, Newcastle, Sunderland and Middlesbrough, the choice of fixture to screen virtually selected itself. ITV's contract with the League to cover football did however require them to broadcast at least two Third or Fourth Division games each season. Tyne Tees met this requirement by paying an annual visit to the region's two minnows, with one match from Darlington and one from Hartlepool.

Whereas "The Big Match" exuded all the glamour of the King's Road, featuring 3 games, slow-motion replays, studio discussion and celebrity guests (such as a pre-Watford Elton John), "Shoot" was a much more humble affair. The 55 minute programme featured just the one local match, irrespective of quality. One programme devoted its entire length to coverage of a dire goalless draw between Darlington and Barnsley!

There were no slow-motion replays, indeed no replays of any kind, unless a goal was scored, in which case a normal speed replay was shown. There were no on-screen graphics such as team line-ups and no studio was used. The commentator topped and tailed the programme from the ground of the game chosen, generally concluding with a short interview with one of the players or the home manager. Mysteriously, the "TV Times" would claim that the interviewer was Ian Edwards (a Tyne Tees sports presenter, who later became Sports Correspondent for ITN) although in practice, the interviews were always conducted by the match commentator.

Occasionally, where a match involving a local side had been filmed by another ITV region, this would be shown as a second game, a very welcome bonus, especially if the main game was a drab one.

For the fan in those days, the weekend really seemed to start on Friday night, when George Taylor presented "Sportstime" at 10.30, a weekly show largely devoted to a goal-filled preview of the weekend's football. With the Friday night horror film following it, this was the ideal way to begin the weekend.

Come Sunday and "Shoot" normally began at around 2pm or a few minutes after, following "Farming Outlook". I sat through many discussions about sugar beet yields or swine vesicular disease, waiting impatiently for the football to start. The programme was invariably followed by the "Sunday Matinee", usually some creaky B-picture from the 1950s. Later, Alas Smith and Jones and The Golden Shot would also feature as classic Sunday afternoon viewing. 

At the beginning of the 1974-75 season, Tyne Tees announced a major coup. Veteran BBC football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, famed for his "they think it's all over - it is now!" 1966 World Cup commentary, had been signed up as their new commentator. Wolstenholme had lost his commentary slot with the BBC in the early Seventies because they thought his style "old-fashioned". It was certainly that. He resisted the trend towards excessive excitement and hyperbole, and so fitted in well with "Shoot!"s slightly archaic production values. There were occasional blunders - Newcastle midfielders Tommy Craig and Geoff Nulty were once spliced into a hybrid called "Tommy Nulty" - but generally his work was professional and good-humoured. If Hartlepool v Workington at a wintry Victoria Ground seemed a long way from the 1970 World Cup in sun-kissed Mexico, then he did not show it.

My favourite bit of Wolstenholme commentary came when the station screened a 4-2 away win for Jack Charlton's effervescent young Middlesbrough side at Newcastle [14/01/1978]. As promising striker Stan Cummins broke away to grab the fourth, Ken reached back into his distant childhood for an appropriate schoolroom metaphor : "That gives him ten out of ten and one for neatness!"

By now, Tyne Tees had at last dragged their coverage into the modern era. The programme was now presented from the City Road studio, initially by David Burton and subsequently by George Taylor. The local game was supplemented by two other matches and the wonders of slow-motion replays were introduced.

But on the commentary front, all was not well. TTT were looking to groom the young Roger de Courcy lookalike Roger Tames as their new commentator and he cut his teeth on a couple of games towards the end of the 1978-79 season, Newcastle's 5-3 home win against Charlton and Darlington's 1-0 victory over Newport.

During the close season which followed, Wolstenholme was allegedly told by Tyne Tees that he was to be relegated to the commentating sub's bench, expected to travel up from London every Friday merely to stand by in case Tames was indisposed. Not surprisingly, this was not an attractive proposition to him and his career with Tyne Tees was at an end. He had covered some memorable games during his spell at the studio, not least Newcastle's thrilling 4-3 win over then powerful Derby County, and his presence had brought some welcome kudos to TTT's somewhat cash-strapped football coverage.

"Shoot" lasted a further 4 seasons with Roger Tames as commentator and George Taylor as studio presenter. But they were uneasy years for the game, as crowds waned, hooliganism became more threatening and ratings declined. Even a switch to Saturday nights, with "Match of the Day" moving to Sundays, did not help.

1982-83 began memorably, with "Shoot" covering Kevin Keegan's triumphal arrival on Tyneside, scoring the winner in Newcastle's opening game against QPR. They covered some exciting games that season but there were storm clouds on the horizon. TV bosses were eyeing a new format, in which live games would largely replace the traditional highlights package. Instead of parochial coverage of local teams in sometimes meaningless matches, there would be networked live action from the top of the First Division. The days of Darlington v Barnsley being the star attraction were clearly numbered.

On May 7th 1982, "Shoot" covered its last local action. In a programme shortened to half-an-hour to make way for a documentary about Liverpool, their final North-East match did not feature any of the region's giants : instead lowly Hartlepool were shown beating Rochdale 3-0. It seemed a fitting end for a programme that had never been glamorous but had done its bit for the region, giving weekly exposure to the highs and (more often) lows of our local teams. Another match in that same programme, Oldham v Leicester, featured a gawky young visiting striker with a cheeky grin and an eye for goal - his name, of course, was Gary Lineker.

But that was not quite the end of "Shoot". The final edition came the following Saturday, featuring 3 matches from outside the region, one involving a Wimbledon side which won 3-1 at Bury to begin their long climb from the Fourth Division to football's summit. The progamme ended with George Taylor signing off for the last time and saying that, although fans may have grumbled occasionally about "Shoot" over the years, he hoped they'd enjoyed it. We did, George.

That was not the end of football coverage on Tyne Tees, however. In the late Eighties, ITV started to revert to regionalised football coverage again and since then TTT have shown a variety of League and Cup games, in both live and highlight form.

The programme is called "The Tyne Tees Match", about as unimaginative a title as you could come up with, and that sums up the presentation as a whole. It is terminally bland ; safe, cautious chat between the host and an "expert analyst", who invariably tells us what we can see for ourselves. When a player slices a shot wide of an open goal, it doesn't add to the sum of human knowledge for the analyst to solemnly tell us ; "he'll be disappointed with that."

As we enter the new millennium, football coverage on TV is more ubiquitous than ever, yet the quantity is not always matched by the quality. If anyone at Tyne Tees is reading this, let me make a simple plea; recapture the glory days of TTT football by pepping the programme up. And one easy way to start is to change the title ; bring back "Shoot"!

Written by John Bourn

Page last updated 24 June, 2009