Saturday 1 September 2001 was a joyous day for every English football fan – for it was on that day that England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich in a world cup qualifier. This was the highlight of Sven Goran Eriksson’s reign. Even Emile Heskey scored – which shows what an unusual day it was.
But we were all brought down to earth to hear that, on the day of one of England’s greatest victories, one of TV football’s greatest faces had passed away.
No memoir of television football would be nearly complete without a mention to the legend that was Brian Moore. To all of us who grew up in the London TV region, his was a familiar and welcome face appearing on our screen every Sunday afternoon at 2.30pm. You would sit in front of the telly, stomach full with your Sunday roast, listen to the da, da, da, de-de-da, da, da theme music before Brian’s shiny head would appear ‘and welcome again to The Big Match.’
His presentation was reassuring and this, plus the fact he inevitably commentated on the first game, as well as presenting On The Ball, made it appear as if he ran ITV’s entire football coverage. I always thought he looked like a friendly science teacher with his manner and easy style – it is amazing to realise that he was only 36 when starting his stint on The Big Match in 1968 – and he became a regular face and voice for the subsequent thirty years.
Indeed, when going through the series of Big Match DVDs and watching The Big Match Revisited, the appearance of Brian was like seeing a welcome old friend and took me back to those Sunday afternoons. It struck me how Brian’s presentation was very smooth and a marked contrast to the between games dithering we see from those like Gary Lineker. At the end of a match, Brian would simply say something like ‘A good win for Arsenal there. And now over to Chelsea' ... etc
Like many TV commentators, he had started in radio for the BBC, and commentated on the 1966 World Cup Final. It was Jimmy Hill who headhunted him for London Weekend’s new football television show to rival Match of the Day. The story goes that Jimmy telephoned Moore at the BBC, but Brian was not there. ‘Who shall I say is calling?’ said the secretary. Jimmy didn’t want to reveal his identity so just said ‘the name is Hill’ and then hung up. On receiving the message, Brian assumed the call was from Lord Hill, the then Chair of BBC Governors, and that he was due for a big ticking off for some reason.
He presented The Big Match throughout its 15 year run and then afterwards gradually took to more commentating and less presenting. Arguably his most famous words were ‘it’s up for grabs now’ as Michael Thomas burst through to score a last minute goal at Anfield as Arsenal beat Liverpool 2-0 to take the League Championship in 1989.
He became a good friend of Brian Clough and they often worked together on commentaries – having two Brians calling each other Brian did sound odd. His boyhood hero was Tommy Lawton. And he says the best player he ever saw while commentating was George Best.
Brian retired after the world cup in France 1998. He died in 2001 at the age of 69. Yet through TV recordings, he can still remain with us as a reminder of Sunday afternoons in our younger days.