Anchorman, Winning Manager and Innovator: 5 Reasons to Love Jimmy Hill

Ryan BaileyFeatured ColumnistSeptember 30, 2013

Anchorman, Winning Manager and Innovator: 5 Reasons to Love Jimmy Hill

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    Paul Gilham/Getty Images

    Most people know Jimmy Hill as the Match of the Day host and analyst with the comically-large chin and cheesy grin.

    In reality, his broadcasting experience does not scratch the surface of the impact he has had on the game as a player, manager, union leader and hugely-influential innovator.

    Now 85 years old, it has emerged that Hill has been suffering from Alzheimer’s since 2008. He is currently living in a care home where he is the subject of a legal wrangle between his family members. 

    In recognition of Hill's myriad achievements, here are five reasons to love him…

He Is a Coventry Hero

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    Hill as Coventry manager circa 1967 (Bob Thomas/Getty Images)
    Hill as Coventry manager circa 1967 (Bob Thomas/Getty Images)

    Hill was born and raised in south-west London and played more than 350 combined games as a striker for Brentford and Fulham between 1949 and 1961.

    His biggest contribution to matters on the field, however, came from his six-year spell as manager of Coventry City.

    Not only did he lead the Sky Blues from the Third Division to the top flight of English football in five years, but he actually made the team "Sky Blue" once again.

    Prior to his arrival, Coventry played in red and black, but he oversaw a change back to the blue hue they had adopted in the early years of the 20th century.

    He was also behind the first-ever match day programme and wrote "The Sky Blue Song" that fans still chant today. He later became club managing director and chairman. While in the latter role in 1974, he transformed Highfield Road into the first all-seater stadium. 

    A statue of Hill was unveiled outside the Ricoh Arena in 2011. If the club do not make a return to the stadium they controversially left this season, they intend to take the statue with them

He Helped Change the Way Players Are Paid

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    Hill playing for Fulham circa 1952 (Evening Standard/Getty Images)
    Hill playing for Fulham circa 1952 (Evening Standard/Getty Images)

    While playing at Fulham, Hill was made chairman of the Professional Footballers' Association. In that role, he was successful in what might be his greatest career achievement: abolishing football's maximum wage.

    In 1901, the Football Association set the maximum wage at just £4 per week, a figure that rose to £20 per week by January 1961.

    This was roughly the average wage for a British worker at the time. In 1961, Hill secured unanimous support for a players' strike, forcing the FA to dump the salary cap. 

    Hills' Fulham teammate Johnny Haynes became the first £100-a-week player days after the vote, while George Best was earning £1000 per week within a decade. 

    Although the abolition of the wage ceiling may have created a modern generation of millionaire teenagers with more money than sense, his campaign was morally correct and astutely organised at the time. 

He Was an Excellent Broadcaster

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    Most of us know Jimmy Hill as the (long) face of Match of the Day, the flagship BBC football highlights show he worked on between 1972 and 1999. He was the main host between 1973 and 1988.

    Prior to joining the Beeb, Hill launched his career on The Big Match, which was ITV's MOTD equivalent. He soon became ubiquitous on UK screens, working as an analyst on every international tournament between 1966 and 1998.

    As the host of ITV's coverage of the 1970 World Cup, Hill introduced the punditry panels that have revolutionised the game.  

    In 1999, Hill joined Sky Sports to front Sunday Supplement, a role he continued in until 2007.

    Hill's biggest broadcasting asset was his commitment to the game. Prior to filming MOTD on a Saturday night, he would actually travel to a game—often by helicopter if it was outside London—and report his findings when he arrived back.

    The current MOTD format receives criticism, among other things, for shallow analysis from pundits who effectively watch highlights of each game like the viewer. This was not the case in Hill's day. 

He Was Once an Emergency Linesman

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    During a league match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Highbury in 1972, linesman Dennis Drewitt pulled a muscle and was not able to continue.

    After a stadium announcement requesting the help of a qualified referee reaped no results, Hill offered to run the line himself.

    He explained the unusual situation on that evening's episode of The Big Match, revealing that he was actually wearing shoes two sizes too small for him while assisting the referee. 

He Is Credited with Inventing '3 Points for a Win'

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    Clive Rose/Getty Images

    In addition to inventing punditry panels, match-day programmes and all-seater stadiums, Hill also changed the points system in the beautiful game.

    Prior to 1981, a win was worth two points and a draw one point. In order to encourage a more attacking style of play, Hill proposed to the FA that a win be worth three points.

    The new rule was introduced in England in 1981-82, but the rest of the world didn't catch up until 1995 when FIFA formally adopted the system after its success at the 1994 World Cup. 

     

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