The halcyon days of Club Call & Teletext

When I was younger, there was nothing more exciting than a transfer.  Of course, those were the days before the internet and when supporters relied on fabulously manipulative call-in services to keep abreast of their side’s market activity.  It was all mainly nonsense and at its worst it was just a scurrilous, telephonic version of the modern day ITK twitter account, but at the time there weren’t many better ways to spend £3 per minute.

The modern football community is far more cynical and much more guarded.  The faux-agents across social media may attract vast numbers of followers, but that in itself is not a symptom of gullibility; trawl through the responses to IndyKaila’s latest attention-grab, for example, and you realise that most of his followers are only there to ridicule him.

Launching in 1986, Club Call quickly became an established part of many daily routines.  Even before the online world existed, waiting for the next day’s paper to arrive felt like an inefficient way to keep up-to-date with the sport and so Club Call was a virtual necessity for any serious supporter.

At a certain, unspecified time of day, the pre-recorded message would be updated and the caller could listen to a four or five minute precis of everything that was going at White Hart Lane, Old Trafford, Ewood Park or wherever.  There would be team news, injury reports, and sometimes even match updates from pre-season friendlies.  It seemed very complete at the time.

The reason it’s most synonymous with transfers, though, is because that’s how it marketed itself.  Pre-Sky Sports News, bored supporters used to cruise the back-alleys of teletext for long periods of time and, eventually, they would run into a colourful advert for Club Call.

Something like this:

It’s interesting to look back on this, because it’s a measure of how supporters have changed and it’s also a reminder as to how much greater the provision of information now is.

There were many variants to the advert above, but they were all based around the same format.  Tiny, ambiguous snippets of information - sometimes bold, sometimes flashing - all designed to lure in any fan who couldn’t bear the prospect of being out of the loop.

Which star South African defender is your side about to sign?

Which HUGE DEAL is almost complete?

Can you imagine a right-minded person being convinced to ring a premium rate number for something like this now?  Of course not - and that’s not only because these types of stories are now freely available online, but because the naive trust which used to exist has been almost completely eroded away.

It seems remarkable in 2015, but Club Call was at one point an invaluable conduit between team and supporter.

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