The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 9

July 28, 2009

The Forgotten Ones – Number 11 – Jimmy Sanderson

My first experience of the late, lamented James Sanderson came many years ago when he made an appearance on Scotsport in the guise of a boxing expert to preview an upcoming world lightweight title bout between Jim Watt and a South American, whose name was something like Alfredo Pitalua. Senor Pitalua, who seemed to be a most amiable individual, was himself a special guest on the same programme. He was not, however, the most ideal interviewee, on account of the fact that he could not speak a single word of English. This inconvenient characteristic was not apparently discovered by the hacks at STV until moments before the programme got underway. Hell, this was live TV, so the show simply had to go on. Alfredo sat there, grinning from ear to ear, while Arthur Montford burbled his way through a hastily arranged one-sided interview in which he both asked and answered the questions. Eventually a disembodied hand passed a piece of paper to Pitalua from which he stutteringly read “I so appee be in yor wunnerfull count-tree”. Things were getting on just fine until wee Jimmy entered, bottle of vitriol in hand. In that whining voice, which was later to become much-mimicked, he opined ”This man Pitalua has no right to be in the same ring as Jim Watt. He’s never fought anyone of any consequence. He’s a powder-puff fighter who won’t last three rounds. He’s got no guts and even less boxing talent and he ’s a fraudster who’s taking money from the Scottish public on false pretences”. Alfredo beamed warmly throughout this fulsome tribute, and responded “I so appee be in Sco’lan “. First impressions were that Jimmy was quite possibly the rudest individual, outside of Basil Fawlty, to appear on TV. It was particularly mortifying to think that he’d taken advantage of Alfredo’s lack of English to plant a journalistic hatchet between his shoulder-blades. In retrospect, however, it’s plain to see that Jimmy would not have moderated his venomous comments even if Pitalua had been multi-lingual. On the contrary, he would have positively relished the opportunity of goading the boxer into an uncontrollable fury with the possibility of the Scotsport studio being turned into a slaughter-house.

Years later, of course, Jimmy found his true vocation as the resident obstreperous bastard within the lunatic asylum which passed for Radio Clyde’s sports team. During his wilfully vicious tenure there the post-match Saturday phone-in became practically unmissable. And not just for football fans. Many people who didn’t know football from a rat’s arse tuned in to experience the vicarious thrill of danger generated by Jimmy operating on the edge of the libel laws, to say nothing about the edge of reason. Of course, it goes without saying that most of the opinions expressed by the callers and by Jimmy himself were the most preposterous nonsense. That wasn’t what mattered. The real motive for listening was to hear Jimmy scaling ever higher peaks of invective, unrestrained malevolence, and downright viciousness in dealing with callers who had phoned in with innocuous questions like ‘would this be Thistle’s year’ or ‘was there a crisis at Ibrox’. I used to feel quite nervous when it would appear that he was about to go completely over the top in a way which would necessitate the police being called to the studio to transport him to Carstairs in a strait-jacket.

I’ve previously pointed out (in TAG 14) that Jimmy had a fondness for consulting his dictionary each Friday night to find words which would flummox his Saturday audience. The most notorious and long-running example was his oft-repeated challenge to callers, “Are you accusing me of mendacity?” No-one ever did accuse him of that, in case it turned out to be some sexual deviation involving small furry animals and copies of the Daily Record. Not that his targets were restricted to the gormless goons who phoned in. His own radio colleagues were just as likely to be on the receiving end of a tongue-lashing. In particular, Jimmy could simply not abide anyone predicting that a particular match would end in a draw. “Fence-sitting” was what he called it. Anyone who sat on the fence was dismissed as a spineless, gutless, yellow-bellied creep with no balls. Jimmy characterised himself, on the other hand, as a fearless, no-nonsense, daredevil super-hero, completely unafraid to “put his head on the chopping block” by forecasting a positive result one way or another. The fact that many of these games did actually turn out to be drawn did not diminish Jimmy’s conviction that you were some kind of depraved slime-ball if you had predicted it. In fact, he seemed to believe that draws were played out by players who were the same kind of loathsome, reptilian wankers who forecast them.

Jimmy frequently dug himself out of a hole by indulging in shameless name-dropping. He would give authority to his own opinion by reminding listeners of all the famous personalities that he knew personally. For example, if the caller was on to suggest that Kenny Dalglish shouldn’t be in the Scotland team, Jimmy would launch into some waffle like, “I’ve been all over the world with Kenny Dalglish. I’ve dined with him, I’ve showered with him, (He usually just managed to stop short of saying he’d slept with him as well) I know Kenny Dalglish better than most, etc etc“. The number of players that Jimmy had showered and dined with while circumnavigating the globe was truly extraordinary. The listener may have got the impression that Jimmy had been at the star player’s elbow throughout those gruelling journeys to foreign parts. The truth was that while the star was snoring his way through the in-flight film in first-class, Jimmy was back in economy squabbling over the last vacant seat with Ian Archer.

Woe betide any major football personality who was not a chum of Jimmy’s. For example, his contempt for Senor Joao Havelange could only have been born out of the fact that Jimmy’s name would not have rung an immediate bell with the FIFA supremo.
Jimmy’s potted biography of Joao was along the lines, “Senor Havelange. The biggest waste of space in World football. A man who knows more about eating out in expensive restaurants than he does about football. A man with links to organised crime and terrorist groups around the world. A man who I most definitely have not showered with, and most incredibly of all, he’s a man who doesn’t even know who I am“.

Hardly anyone ever got the better of Jimmy in the unarmed combat over the airwaves, although it has to be said that it’s a substantial advantage to be able to cut the caller off if he’s proving too troublesome. I remember one instance where he was bested, but I’ll need to give a bit of background first. One of Jimmy’s many hobby-horses was that he had an evangelical fanaticism about ensuring that all callers had actually been to a match that afternoon. Many calls were cut short prematurely when the caller sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t been to a game. This resulted in people coming on and starting off with the most preposterous excuses before putting their question. You’d get calls starting “Eh, I wisnae at the match the day ‘cos ma wife was just run over by a 40 tonne articulated lorry” or “I’m unemployed an’ I’ve got eight kids an’ I got a hernia yesterday, so I wisnae able to get to the game“. There would then be a nerve-wracking pause while the caller waited to find out whether Jimmy would accept his excuse. Against that background one caller rang in with an impressive opening gambit, “Mr Sanderson, I haven’t been to a game for years because fitba nowadays is a load of crap“. (Sounds of Jimmy spluttering with fury at the other end of the line). “Mr Sanderson, I’d just like to ask you when you last paid to get in to a football match “. (Jimmy’s blood-pressure audibly sky-rocketing as he fumbles for a convincing reply). Taking advantage of the wee man’s temporary discomfiture the caller delivered the coup de grace – “Mr Sanderson, I widnae pay you to sell newspapers never mind write the bloody things“. (Strangled squeals from the tranny, Jimmy apoplectic and incandescent with rage, Richard Park on the phone to the nearest psychiatrist, listeners staring with amazement as the wireless explodes).

If Jimmy was still around today then he’d undoubtedly have been on the same list with American pit-bull terriers and Japanese Tozers as species requiring muzzling in public places. Fortunately, one victim that he was able to sink his teeth into regularly was our old amigo, Cap’n (Fat) Bob Maxwell. The feud between Jimmy and the Cap’n began when the wee man was employed on one of the fat man’s newspapers. Fat Bob refused permission for Jimmy to travel to a Scotland away game. Jimmy responded by telling him to stick his job up his monstrously expansive rear end. Thereafter there was some spectacular spleen-venting whenever Richard Park wound the wee man up with references to “Robert Maxwell’s Derby County doing well at the moment, James” etc.

Pugnacious, obnoxious, discourteous, coarse, belligerent, forthright, hostile, impertinent, ill-mannered, vulgar, offensive, impudent, truculent, aggressive, nasty, bad-tempered, arrogant, ignorant and petulant are just a few of the adjectives which spring to mind from Webster’s Dictionary to describe wee Jimmy.

I liked him.

We all loved him. The John McEnroe of the phone- in circuit. Buddy Holly’s death was eulogised in “American Pie” as being the day the music died. Jimmy’s death was, for me, the day football phone-ins died. If that last sentence is a bit too mawkishly sentimental for you, take comfort in knowing that Jimmy would have described it as being “bunkum, balderdash and claptrap” .

First published in TAG 24 – August 1991


3 Responses to “The Absolute Game Revisited – Part 9”

  1. AJ Says:

    great to see this again. i well remember going through high school; the anticipation of the next TAG coming out. mooching around Paul’s newsagents, the Programme shop etc looking for hints to when the next of the 5 per year might hit the shelves.

    sadly missed.

  2. almax Says:


    Thanks for your kind comments – I will be posting most of the stuff I wrote for TAG here over the next few weeks – so please check back every so often if you want to read some more

  3. Kenny Says:

    Possibly the definitive Scottish football publication and I loved it. I used to buy it in Vinyl Villians in Leith Walk. Absolute quality – bring back the fanzines – true talent

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