I love football programmes, and not for the nerdish reasons that seem to dog the collecting game. I love reading programmes for the sheer nostalgia and social time capsule they encompass. When I read, say, a Scotland programme from 1989 or early 1990 and see those fantastic Scotland shellsuits modelled so proudly, it speaks more for the era than any multi layered history book or fancy DVD. Whenever I think of Scotland, I think of shell suits, and also, gritty realism. I lived in the West of Scotland, and there was no shortage of people ready to cut you down to size. Or punch you in the head.
I'm a massive fan of any Dundee United programme from the 80s, whether the team was in it's league winning pomp or slipping into it's late 80s decline. The reason is that while some programmes radiate in positivity and "let's hear you!" style support please, Dundee Uniteds progammes are soaked in pie grease and gritty Scottish realism. One of my all time favourite pieces of programme writing is from one of their European nights, where an entire column is devoted to the fact Dundee United continually get dumpling teams in the draw that no one has ever heard of. The columnists personal affront Dundee United had to even go onto the same pitch as lowly Winterslag is just wonderful to read. Even if Dundee United have won, say, six in a row, there is still an air in the programme that it could all fall apart, don't get ahead of yourself, and when you are jumping in the air in triumph, someone can still kick you in the bollocks.
This all stems from legendary Scottish grump and miser, Dundee United manager Jim McLean, he of punching reporter in the head fame. I own about 10 80s Dundee United programmes, and every one of his programme notes contains a long and lengthy whinge about how badly things are going, and why can't this be better, why is this player injured, why the hell didn't we buy him. I'd imagine by 1988 Jimbo realised he couldn't compete for players with Rangers, and it panned his head in. I'd love to grab every single programme after Dundee United won the league, and slowly go through Jims programme notes as United declined from beating Barcelona in the Nou Camp to getting gubbed 1-4 by St Mirren at Tannadice. For enthusiasts of some good old Scottish moaning, this programme comes from the second leg of Uniteds game against Floriana in the Cup Winners Cup. Floriana held United to a 0-0 draw in the first leg, and boy, has that annoyed everyone in the programme, that a team even WORSE than Winterslag got a draw against them. Especially Jim. But he'd have been grumpy anyway. I can see Jim sitting in an artists garret, quill in hand, writing his programme notes dressed in black listening to the Cure.
They do things differently though in Finland - so top marks to one Olli Matti Matihalti, who used this organ of depression to try and pick up. I'm desperate to know what became of Olli's programme request to gain some female Dundonian pen pals because his local team "play in the same colours as your team!" - maybe some lovely Dundonian wrote back and they had some lovely children. Maybe Jim McLean sent him a badge. I just love the set of circumstances that lead to a Finnish student deciding that if he wrote to Dundee United, his life would be more enjoyable. I wonder if Olli knew the place he was really writing to as he listened to his Dani and Ani CDs and looked for female companionship in a football programme. For as you can gather from reading the programme, late 80s Dundee United (and Dundee in general you sense) was not a place for enjoyment and fun. It was a place for hard work, focus, and the sense that things were falling to bits and everyone could always do better. The land where a pat on the back was only a moment away from a slap in the face. I wonder if Olli knew the place he was really writing to as he listened to his Dani and Ani CDs and looked for female companionship in a football programme.
And that ethic reminds me far more of home than any travel film or beautiful highland landscape.