Soccer in the ’70s

Before there was the English Premier League (EPL), there was the English First Division. Before three substitutes were allowed, you could only use one. Before a win counted for three points, it was worth only two. Before middling tackles resulted in yellow cards, brutal ones often went unpunished.

Before ticket prices soared, there was hooliganism. Before Arsenal fans sang “Walking in a Wenger Wonderland,” they sang “Charlie George, Superstar.” And opposing fans added “He walks like a woman and he wears a bra.”

Before English teams were being bounced before the semi-finals of the Champions League, English teams were winning its predecessor, the European Cup.

Finally, before nearly every top-division match was televised live across the world, fans in England would watch “The Big Match” on Sunday — a condensed version of one game plus highlights of two others (one involving the second-division).

This was English soccer in the 1970s, played by men with flowing hair and very short pants. And played almost entirely by Brits and Irishmen.

Here, via Two-Hundred Percent, is a 1975 broadcast of “The Big Match,” the opening sequence of which has a nice 1970s feel The program features an April relegation clash between Tottenham and Chelsea. Tottenham stars include defender Steve Perryman and Pat Jennings, the acrobatic goalkeeper who later played for Arsenal and starred for Northern Ireland in the 1982 World Cup. In the Chelsea side are notorious hard-man Ron “Chopper” Harris and a young Ray Wilkins, captaining the Pensioners for the first time.

In the second-tier match, we get a glimpse of the sublime Martin Peters, a starter on the 1966 English World Cup winning side. There’s also a delightful interview with Fulham manager Alec Stock, “the First Gentleman of Soccer.”

Finally, at the end of the broadcast we see Everton’s 1975 title hopes collapse, as Sheffield United comes back from a two-goal deficit to win 3-2 before a roaring Goodison Park crowd. The deciding goal is by Tony Currie, whose audacious skills and buccaneering style were a highlight of English football in the 1970s, an era richly populated with memorable flair players like Currie, Liam Brady, Trevor Francis, Rodney Marsh, Peter Osgood, Alan Hudson, and Everton’s Duncan McKenzie.