Do you remember that Walkers advert with Gary Lineker from the 1990s?
Let me be a bit more specific.
For me – as someone who grew up with the likes of Jon Newsome, Bernard Lambourde, Pegguy Arphexad and Carl Leaburn – the return of Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Reports represents Gary Lineker walking around Leicester for a crisp advert.
Layered cartoons and jokes
For those who haven’t heard of Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Reports: every week, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, The Guardian website posted a satirical round-up of the weekend’s football via stick drawings and diagrams.
It sounds simple, and it was simple, but that’s why it worked so well.
The humour was dry and straight to the point and, even if its analysis was never in-depth, it painted a picture of the game, during that particular era.
Take the Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Report of Sheffield Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea in April 2000, for instance, where it said:
“Chelsea press forward and come desperately close on several occasions. George Weah has a great chance after Kevin Pressman goes walkabout, but only manages to find the crossbar.”
Fair enough, you’d say, but the accompanying picture showed Pressman going to a pie shop on the touch-line proclaiming “[a]ll of them, please” – while Weah hits the bar, despite an open goal.
Not only did it sum up Pressman’s weight problem in one picture, but it also summed up Weah’s loan spell at Chelsea as a great disappointment.
A different angle
The reports didn’t go for the obvious stories or matches either.
Steve Claridge’s gambling problem was mocked – as was Neville Southall’s brief spell at Bradford City and Barry Horne’s arrival at Sheffield Wednesday during Peter Shreeves’ tenure as caretaker manager.
It shouldn’t be seen as a chirpy supplement to the likes of The Times and World Soccer, though; it can be classed as journalism in itself.
It had the delayed drop introductions (as seen in the ‘Farewell Steve Ogrizovic, Hello John Hartson’ report, with its first line “Chesterfield. 43,000 BC”), snappy endings, and basic facts and figures.
It was, perhaps, unorthodox, but Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Reports was, in essence, similar to a match report by Phil McNulty; it was just reported in a different way.
And that’s why it’s great to see it back.
The Loaded-esque 90 Minutes has long since gone and been replicated in a mediocre and watered-down fashion via the likes of TalkSport Magazine and the Soccer AM television programme.
With the exception of When Saturday Comes, good humour has become a rarity in sports journalism and the first Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Report since 2003 still retains its bite and honesty.
Does it work now?
It is relatively unchanged, apart from its format where, instead of looking at football matches, it looks at recent events such as Joey Barton’s use of Twitter.
Whether this is a permanent fixture or not, it’s a positive change and will ensure that the series will remain fresh.
But even if the game has changed since 2003, the format should not necessary reflect that.
Stick images of a goal scored by Cédric Roussel or Robbie Blake and Stefan Schnoor missing a penalty for Derby County worked brilliantly in 2000, and the question should be whether it will work in 2011.
I suspect that – even if it wouldn’t quite be the same with Kevin Doyle and Clint Dempsey, due to the nostalgia factor – it would work just as well, if the wit remained intact.
And, so far, it has and everything is looking rosy.
But, whatever happens, it’s better to have Ormondroyd’s Virtual Match Reports back, than to have none at all.
This opinion piece was self-published in September 2011.