IAN HERBERT: It’s Impossible not to smile at Saint & Greavsie’s TV gold

IAN HERBERT: It’s Impossible not to smile at Saint & Greavsie’s TV gold… the legendary show is inestimably more valuable than what we see these days

  • Saint and Greavsie was an ITV show fronted by Jimmy Greaves and Ian St John
  • Watching back the legendary show now leaves you smiling involuntarily

The joke was not the most nuanced. A hapless Jimmy Greaves, driving his Ford Granada to Watford’s training ground, is put through the team’s fitness regime by Graham Taylor and fails the test so spectacularly, he has to be told he will not be starting instead of Mo Johnston against Everton in the 1984 FA Cup final.

But it is one of the many scenes from the legendary Saint and Greavsie FA Cup final shows which, watched back now, leave you smiling involuntarily.

There’s the way a slightly cardboard Taylor enthusiastically embraces his role in the scene, demonstrating to Greaves how he expects press-ups and a jumping exercise to be done. 

‘You have got to get your legs over that bar,’ he tells him. There’s Greaves, red-faced with effort, failing to execute a forward roll. And there’s the obvious delight the players take in being a part of this.

The visit of Ian St John and Greaves to the training ground of the two participants became part of the fixtures of fittings of FA Cup final day when their show was at its peak in the 1980s and a compilation of the best bits, to be screened on the morning of today’s final, transports us back to those times. 

 Jimmy Greaves was put through the paces in the build-up to Everton vs Watford in 1984

Saint and Greavsie was a popular football show fronted by Greaves (R) and Ian St John

Saint and Greavsie was a popular football show fronted by Greaves (R) and Ian St John 

The gentler form of comedy is something to cherish — Greaves’s silly hats, the appearance of Sir Bobby Robson’s Spitting Image double, operated by Greaves, St John having a ball smacked at the back of his head by Jan Molby at Liverpool’s Melwood training ground. But equally compelling is the flashback to what football looked like in those days ahead of its commercial explosion.

Before the 1985 final, St John and Greaves (together, right) travelled together to Old Trafford and at the site of what is now the Manchester United Megastore, near the Vauxhall Opels and Austin Allegros parked on the street, we see the ‘Red Devils Souvenir Shop’. Inside the poky place, scarves and 25p photos are the best-selling items. ‘I wouldn’t want his ugly mug arriving in the post,’ Greaves observes.

Saint’s light-hearted observations on Scots — all a part of the fun — have mercifully not been edited out.

Look out, too, for a young Gary Lineker at the snooker table before the all-Merseyside final of 1986. The earnest striker was also a hot-shot with a cue and relates that he has several century breaks behind him.

A match against Greaves, to the soundtrack of Chas and Dave’s Snooker Loopy, is a good way for him to help Lineker ‘sink a few reds’. The hapless Greaves is on the receiving end of a 123-2 hammering.

St John gives the United players a team talk and bores Ron Atkinson’s players to death. Greaves tells Norman Whiteside, who wanders around in his underpants at the Cup final suit-fitting event, that ‘those trousers are a bit short’.

Millions are spent these days on image management of players and teams but this was inestimably more valuable than any of that. It was all pure gold.

The Saint & Greavsie FA Cup special will go out at 10.25am on ITV4 and will be simulcast on ITVX. It is the first of a series of six S & G compilation shows.

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