Friday, April 20, 2012

Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, 1976

Once again, we're delighted to bring you another guest post from Rob Langham of the awesome The Two Unfortunates. Here, Rob gives his take on Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook from 1976...

I admit it. I quite like Jimmy Hill.

Generally regarded as an indescribable buffoon, his reputation reached a nadir after his verbal jousts with Martin O’Neill on the BBC sofa in France 98. But, given the Ulsterman’s skill for careerism and his own reputation management, isn’t the enthusiastic puppy dog profile of the less calculating man the more likeable one?

For all the gaffs, Hill’s later appearances on Sky’s Sunday Supplement were the only tolerable thing about the show. His utterances may well have been preposterous but one always sensed he had the wider interest of the game at heart – far more so than Brian Woolnough and his venal cohorts.

This is evidenced by his pioneering role at the PFA and the work he carried out in scrapping the minimum wage and his key involvement in the best years of both Coventry City and Match of the Day. Hill cares.

It was the 70s... Brown was where it was at!
Which brings me to a publication I literally dug out my Dad’s attic – Jimmy Hill’s Football Yearbook, published by Purnell in 1976 and while officially retailing for the grand old price of £1.35, was actually purchased for 45p at Woolworth’s on Maidenhead High Street (the price sticker remains intact).

Although clearly intended for a younger audience, the book very much reflects Hill’s personality, containing as it does discussion of many of his own preoccupations – and seemingly written by the man himself without the benefit of ghost writing (the style is occasionally over eager and stilted).

A section headed Pounds and Pence is revealing and analyses the businesses players enter into in order to secure their financial wellbeing after their careers are over. Hill enthusiastically eulogises these forerunners,  of The Apprentice for instance: ‘Trevor Brooking, the West Ham schemer is an especially bright lad... and he’s used a stack of ‘O’ Levels to build up a plastic-bindings business in East London’ – although his description of Peter Storey as being ‘involved in the beer business’ is unfortunate given the ex-Arsenal man’s subsequent prosecution for running a brothel, importing pornographic videos and financing a scam to counterfeit gold coins.

Footballer doesn't open pub shocker!
Elsewhere, The Buying and Selling Game is remarkably prescient – a cautionary tale of clubs overspending while banking on competing in European competition which could have been lifted from one of this week’s newspapers – Hill bemoans that over a period of six years, 26 First Division clubs (how pleasingly those two words go together?) paid £15 million for 85 players valued at £100,000 or more apiece – although Hill is far too nice to put the boot in and name any specific failures (one suspects he’d be arguing the case for Andy Carroll today).

The slightly nutty ideas get an airing – Hill’s solution to the, at that time still unresolved problem of the professional foul is to institute a ‘second class penalty’ – a free shot from the edge of the 18-yard box for which specialist sharpshooters such as Peter Lorimer could be honed. Actually, maybe that isn’t that barmy...?

Kit - Class!
Colour pictures are dotted about including a mid-section featuring Tony Currie in a stylish Sheffield United away kit and the Home Championships are also featured. Players-wise, an analysis of Supermacs Malcolm MacDonald and Ted MacDougall stresses their ability to find the net despite meagre talents (check out the former’s five goal bunfight against Cyprus on youtube to see what Hill means), while Asa Hartford’s triumph over adversity after being diagnosed with a hole in his heart and being turned down with Leeds is an encouraging story in the light of the Fabrice Muamba incident. The news that Alex Stepney took a pay cut to move to Millwall from Tooting & Mitcham before eventually making his way to Old Trafford is also quite a nugget.

So it’s a less inconsequential run through that it might at first seem – especially for a teenager – and if there are occasional throwbacks – ‘when some European countries play teams from South America, problems can arise’ – Hill’s enthusiasm and occasional naïve faith in the game’s greatness shine through.