Wednesday, 11 September 2013

My Hero, My Inspiration : Giles Metcalfe

Special Thanks to Giles Metcalfe, a follower of this site and of [click here] >>> #noclashofcolour us on twitter. When asked if he'd like to contribute to the series, within a few hours we'd received his feature. One of our finest, totally different in what other people have written features, we'll be asking more of our twitter followers to get involved and write for us about theirs. Ladies and Gentlemen, we bring you .......... 


I’ve gone left-field in my choice of ‘My Hero/My Inspiration’... I could have chosen my Dad who took me to my first game at Ayresome Park when I was 4 years old. I could have chosen such legendary players as Bobby Moore, Pele or Nat Lofthouse, or those that I pretended to be when I played football in our back garden, but I haven’t. I very nearly chose my brother Adrian - a massive Archibald Leitch and Simon Inglis fan who loves to spend his time clambering through the undergrowth at the old Bradford Park Avenue ground in Horton in Bradford, taking pictures of the terraces being reclaimed by nature, but he has his own story to tell. Instead, I’ve chosen a cult figure that’s made a massive contribution to the game of football and to popular culture - Jimmy Hill!

If you’re of a certain age, and male, the following response to a whopping porkie will be familiar to you: 

You: “I scored a worldy at five-a-side last night, trapped the ball, did a Cruyff turn, ran the length of the pitch, nutmegging three players as I went, and then beat the ‘keeper at the near post with a rocket!” 

Me: “Chinny reckon! Ooohhh, Jimmy Hill, Jimmy Hill you did!” accompanied by much exaggerated stroking of my imaginary lengthened chin and expressions of disbelief, including lip pouting!

The exact origins of “chinny reckon” and “itchy chin” are lost in the mists of 1970s obscurity, but Jimmy Hill is still very much alive and, as far as I know, well. James William Thomas "Jimmy" Hill OBE (born 22 July 1928) has made a significant and outstanding contribution to popular culture, as evidenced above, and to football, including playing 300 games for Fulham, becoming chairman of the PFA in 1957 and abolishing the maximum wage for players in 1961, managing Coventry City and instigating the "The Sky Blue Revolution" – changing the kit to sky blue, writing the club song, and commissioning two new stands (later making Highfield Road the first all-seater stadium). He also advocated introducing 3 points for a win so that teams had more of an incentive to play for the win rather than settle for a draw (there was only a one-point difference between a draw and a win up until 1981), and suggested using the first panel of football pundits for the 1970 World Cup – all things we now take for granted. 

He also helped to introduce the notion of competing bids to show televised games among TV companies, thereby producing an alternative revenue stream for clubs. As part of the Football Work Permit Review Panel, whose remit involved ruling on which foreign players deserved a permit to play in the English domestic leagues, he ushered in the era of the foreign galacticos who replaced British steel with continental silky skills. For better or worse, Jimmy Hill helped mould football into the game we know today.

His career as a broadcaster is also legendary, acting as technical adviser to the BBC, Head of Sport at LWT from 1968 to 1972; fronting their World Cup 1970 coverage where he put together a legendary hand-picked panel for ITV consisting of Brian Clough, Malcolm Allison and Bob McNab; becoming LWT's Deputy Controller of Programmes; then joining the BBC to present ‘Match of the Day’. Hill racked up 600 appearances on MOTD and became a television icon, instantly recognisable and often caricatured for his long chin and distinctive beard (see above, “itchy chin” etc.). He worked on every major international championship from 1966 to 1998 as a presenter or analyst. He was present at that terrible day at Hillsborough in 1989, covering the game for MOTD. In 1999, Jimmy Hill moved from the BBC to Sky Sports, where he presented ‘Jimmy Hill's Sunday Supplement’ until 2007.

He’s also remembered affectionately for his ability to make ‘Colemanballs’ statements such as: 

“I would undoubtedly pick him in the next England squad if I was the England manager and he wasn't actually Bermudan.”

“We're not used to weather in June in this country.”

“They're still in the game, and they're trying to get back into it.”

"That's a wise substitution by Terry Venables: three fresh men, three fresh legs.”

"If England are going to win this match, they're going to have to score a goal.”

“What makes this game so delightful is that when both teams get the ball they are attacking their opponent’s goal.”

Especially well-loved in Coventry, City unveiled a statue of him at the Ricoh Arena in 2011, with the money to build the statue raised by public donation.  In case anyone thinks I’m a Coventry City fan, I’m not. I’ve chosen Jimmy Hill as my hero because he’s under-valued and under-appreciated but remembered fondly by many. That’s what makes him a cult (but another “c word” to the Scots) hero rather than a hero. 

He also appeared on ‘The Goodies’, ‘Monty Python’, ‘Harry Enfield & Chums’ (“He did not want to let a goal in like that”), ‘Stella Street’ (as impersonated by Phil Cornwall), and in cartoon form in ‘Viz’ comic. Another incident that contributed to his cult status was when he ran the line at Arsenal v Liverpool in 1972, after the original linesman had pulled a muscle, so that the match wouldn’t be abandoned.

For me, he was the face of football during my formative years – more so than Brian Moore or Des Lynam. I associate him with being allowed to stay up late on a Saturday night and watch MOTD with my Dad when I was a kid, and with the coverage of World Cup football from far-flung exotic places like Argentina, Mexico and, erm, Spain (spot the trend there).

I’ll conclude by quoting from ‘When Saturday Comes’, issue 194, April 2003 and their piece on Jimmy Hill:

“What is certain is that Jimmy leaves a unique legacy to a game he has served uniquely – as player, union official, manager, chairman, pundit and even linesman...

“And it’s in this capacity, as a kind of footballing everyman, the hot-dog seller in the background of all of football’s biggest scenes that Jimmy Hill will survive. We are Jimmy; Jimmy is us.”


Giles Metcalfe is interested in the game and football culture as a whole. A Bolton Wanderers fan for his sins, following in his father’s footsteps, the conflicting emotions of a Yorkshireman following a Lancashire football club are not lost on him!  

Follow him on Twitter – @giles_metcalfe



  1. "Best one yet!"

    Tony Greenall via twitter

  2. Jimmy unfairly maligned. Familiarity brings contempt when it should be respect. Nice read.

    Alan Biggs via twitter