By: Ashley Birch
TITLE: Soccer Legends: Lee, Bell, Summerbee
PUBLISHER: BBC Sports Video (1990)
NUMBER: BBCV 4418
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
PRICE: £9.99 (1990)
NARRATOR: Tony Gubba
DEDICATED TO: The memory of Joe Mercer (1914-1990)
I bought this video just after its release back in 1990, one criterion being that videos are so cheap in the UK that you can almost afford to throw them away if they are rubbish and not feel too bad afterwards! Well, the risk was easily worth the money as this offering is a top quality product, which isn’t after all that surprising, as it is from the BBC. Having said that, it does start off with some horrendously tacky music reminiscent of some aged uncle attempting to play Vangelis on hi
s Yamaha organ as well as containing some truly embarassing scenes of Lee & Summerbee doing Gilbert & Sullivan! Things get better and better though, the format is basically a chronological story interspersed with action, contemporary interviews and new interviews with Allison (alone) and Bell, Lee & Summerbee slumped together in flashy pool-side chairs, presumably at Frannie’s place?
So, we start off with Allison recounting how he managed to pull off buying the trio (modest as ever) and each one in turn shown scoring for the Blues and for England (not much choice for Summerbee!). There is footage of the Newcastle game with City winning 4-3 to take the league title. The quality is very poor, looking like it has been filmed through a steamed up bus window which is most likely due to film deterioration as I also recently saw United’s vs Benfica which was just as bad (same year). Still, it’s history and it’s there. We progress through the next season with plenty of interesting discussion on why they started so poorly, culminating in the FA Cup Final which has the first colour footage and of course Neil Young’s goal. Before the match, we have a gem of a contemporary ‘live’ interview which takes place on the touchline, revealing a long-gone amateurishness and shows just how much interviewers and delivery style have changed in the intervening 25 years! This use of old material (other than football) is inspired (IMO) as it gives a unique insight into those times with wonderful pearls such as Joe Mercer’s prediction that Colin Bell would become City’s greatest player since Peter Docherty!
We continue in the same style through the League Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup with loads of footage from English and European games including the win against Gornik Zabzre in the pouring rain in a half empty stadium. There is also quite a bit on Frannie’s participation in the ’70 World Cup and a claim from him that England were better than the ’66 team but more unlucky! What I liked about the video is the frank speaking involved, for instance, Summerbee makes it absolutely clear that he thought the signing of Marsh in ’72 cost them the league title because he totally changed the way City played the game by his mere presence. Additionally, there is mention of Mercer’s and Frannie’s less than happy departures with Frannie claiming that if he had been kept at Maine Road then City would have won the league rather than his new team, Derby County! Summerbee is once again candid, telling us that the administration handled things badly sending morale downhill rapidly.
Bell’s injury is covered in depth, with much poignant footage and surprisingly, a not altogether convincing statement from the man himself as to Buchan’s innocence. Unfortunately, Swales rears his ugly head at this point in a late ’70’s interview where he plays Mr Niceguy, desperately concerned for Colin, this comes across today as totally and utterly insincere!
This video is packed full of goals and moments to remember; Bell’s famous volley vs Chelsea, Stepney’s attempted save of a Lee indirect free-kick, Law’s backheel, Tueart’s overhead kick (B&W?) and bags from Neil Young to mention a few. There were things I had totally forgotten: the difficulty of watching football in Black & White; the terrible mid-70s fashions with Bell in bell-bottoms (ho ho) plus what looks like a pageboy haircut; the truly dreadful state of the pitches (and Derby’s wasn’t even shown) and above all, the brilliance and ferocity of Lee’s shooting.
I can recommend this to anybody who claims to be a football fan, the action is relentless but it’s much more than a catalogue of goals. The whole is enriched with numerous anecdotes and I must sign off with my favourite which was recounted by Mike Summerbee. He says that the City goalie Harry Dowd was reknowned for his total lack of interest in football and would have much rather been out plumbing than playing for City. He claims that Allison used to say to the bored Dowd at the end of the team talk, “Harry, we are playing Arsenal today and they’re in red and white”!
All the above views are my own personal opinions.
Appeared in MCIVTA 16