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FA Carling Premiership, 4/3/00
West Ham United
Tall tales
By Pete Fincham

Back in the '80s, before all that Sky TV, Premiership and multi-million pound player business, the BBC used to have most of the rights for televising Football League games. The quality was poor, but often on a Friday night or a Sunday afternoon, the BBC would put together a live commentary team and sit in some windy gantry high above the ground to comment on the action that we only ever saw from one angle, with all replays being shown with a big R flashing in the corner! But at least it was live football on the box, and for a ten year old this was as good as it got.

I went to all Watford home matches when I could get out of Saturday school. However, the news that Watford were going to play West Ham on a Friday night in front of the BBC cameras was greeted with some glee in our house, as my Mum would not have to pay for me to see the match and, more importantly, we could have a normal weekend without me tearing off on the train, aged ten, to watch the boys.

I wanted to go, but it was pretty unlikely that Mum would have allowed me to come back to Hemel Hempstead on the 10pm train on my own, and with work etc. there was no way she could have got me there in time. Then, shortly before kick off on that fateful evening, the BBC put out an announcement that "Due to industrial action, the live Football League game between Watford and West Ham will now not be shown".

The industrial action continued for a while, and was on and off throughout the '80's until Sky's arrival in 1992. However for that night we sat and made do with the Ceefax updates. Not even the radio was doing commentary. As it turned out there were no Ceefax updates as the game ended 0-0, and by all accounts I didn't miss much! However I was still gutted, felt guilty about not going as if I had, even aged ten, they surely would have won. It must be the only time we didn't lose to West Ham by one goal, and a point was not bad against them. But I still should have been there.

Thought: How things have changed since my day!