Manchester City 3-0 Watford (partially found footage of Football League First Division match; 2001)

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Programme for the match.

Status: Partially Found

On 11th August 2001, Manchester City hosted Watford for an opening 2001-02 Football League First Division season match. Occurring in front of 33,939 at the Maine Road Stadium, the hosts would win 3-0 thanks to second-half goals from Shaun Goater, Eyal Berkovic, and Stuart Pearce. The fixture made media history for becoming the first football match to be televised live by the ill-fated ITV Sport channel.


Heading into the new season, Manchester City were keen to make an immediate return to the Premier League, after having been relegated at the end of the 2000-01 Premier League season.[1][2] A restructuring process had commenced, with the team appointing Kevin Keegan, who had recently left the England job, as manager.[3] While some questioned his commitment for the club, others like Brian Horton and Eddie McGoldrick believed City could thrive under his leadership.[3] Similarly, Watford were also eyeing promotion, missing out on the play-offs last season by five points.[4][2] While Manchester City were declared the title favourites, BBC Sport also deemed Watford as likely automatic promotion candidates, having recently replaced Graham Taylor with former Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli.[1][4]

As preparations for the game continued, it was announced by July 2001 that it would become the first fixture to be televised live on ITV Sport, an exclusive ITV Digital channel.[5][6][7] ITV Digital, previously ONdigital, had launched as a terrestrial television service on 15th November 1998.[8][9] After Sky crucially won the rights to televise most Premier League matches from 2001 to 2004, ONdigital resorted to earning the next best football package.[10][6][9] On 17th June 2000, it landed a £315 million deal to provide live coverage of Football League matches, including from the First, Second, and Third Divisions.[11][12][10][6][7][5] This package would also include live airings of League Cup games.[13][11][7][5] The ITV Sport Channel soon launched to accommodate the new football programming, in addition to ITV's earlier deal to air 40 UEFA Champions League games.[13][5][10][6][7] ITV Sport would air 65 First Division matches live, with the Manchester City-Watford game becoming the channel's first.[5][6][10] Further promoting the seemingly revitalised digital service was the renaming of ONdigital to ITV Digital by July 2001.[8][6][10]

The match's kick-off was to occur at 6:15 pm, as requested by ITV Digital to avoid clashing with Sky's live "Super Sunday" Premier League coverage.[6][10][7][5] For this clash, things were perfectly fine as the encounter occurred on a Saturday.[7] However, the need for late kick-offs would soon cause derision among fans, especially when airings occurred on Sundays, making travelling for events somewhat impractical.[6][10] Still, the ITV Digital deal delighted both clubs among others, as they each were set to gain a £3 million share of the Football League's revenue.[12][6][9] Watford in particular budgeted themselves on the incoming ITV Digital money, signing six new players on inflated three-year deals, estimated to be around £650,000 per season for each.[14][4][12] This meant their wage expenses were within the top four of the First Division.[14]

The coverage was presented by Gabby Logan, with commentary provided by Clive Tyldesley and Ron Atkinson.[15][6][10] Because of the match's generally exciting nature, several analysts believed ITV Sport picked the right match to launch with, though The Fishy criticised some of the technical and commentary mistakes, deeming it to be of inferior quality compared to Sky's coverage.[15] Others with hindsight cited the match as proving ITV Digital's endeavour would inevitably end in disaster.[6][12][10] ITV Digital's offering paled in comparison to Sky, with the evening matches also losing the ratings battle against new episodes of soap dramas like Coronation Street and EastEnders.[6][10] The channel's exclusivity also hurt its profitability, especially considering Sky Sports 1, 2, 3 were also broadcast on ITV Digital in addition to Sky Digital.[6][5][13][9] Some matches struggled to even attract 1,000 viewers, resulting in ITV Digital losing approximately £1 million per day by April 2002, with widespread piracy further reducing viewership.[16][10][6][9] This culminated in ITV Digital shutting down on 1st May 2002, with ITV Sport closing on 11th May.[17][18][12][6][9]

The Match

The fixture itself occurred on 11th August, with 33,939 attending at Maine Road.[19] Despite Watford maintaining composure for the first quarter, City began to outclass the opposition during play, led by newly signed attacking midfielder Eyal Berkovic.[20][21] A 28th minute chip by Berkovic was narrowly saved by Watford goalkeeper Espen Baardsen, with Baardsen also forced to stop other chances by Berkovic, Danny Tiatto, and Shaun Goater in quick succession.[20] Only Baardsen and some decisive tackles by central defender Ramon Vega ensured Watford remained in contention, with City outclassing the visitors in the midfield but unable to capitalise on opportunities.[20] This meant the score remained goalless after 45 minutes.[19][20][21]

In the second-half, a free-kick by Stuart Pearce rebounded off both the crossbar and one of the posts.[20] However, after 58 minutes, City finally broke the deadlock after a cross by Laurent Charvet was converted into a header on-goal by Goater.[20][21][19] Five minutes following this opener, another strong cross, this time by Danny Granville, was headed by Wanchope only for it to hit the bar.[20] Nevertheless, Berkovic capitalised on a rebound to double City's lead.[20][21][19] After 71 minutes, Watford's Paul Robinson was sent off after picking up his second yellow card.[21][20][19] This ensured that City dominated the remaining minutes of play, capped off by a 87th minute Pearce goal that made it 3-0, in a free-kick Manchester Evening News claimed would not be beaten for the remainder of the First Division season.[20][21][19] Post-match, City received significant praise for their performance, with most reports highlighting Berkovic in particular for outmatching the visitors.[21][20] Keegan insisted his side still had room for improvement, while Vialli conceded that Berkovic was the player of the match and that more work was required if Watford wanted a successful season.[21]

Manchester City enjoyed a strong season-long form, winning 31 of 45 matches to become the First Division champions and gain automatic promotion back to the Premier League, where they have remained ever since.[22][23] Watford's season was comparatively disappointing, falling well short of the play-off spots and finishing 14th out of 24 clubs with 59 points.[24][23] Vialli was sacked at the end of the season, but it was only the beginning of Watford's woes.[24][14] The club, like with many other Football League sides, faced significant financial challenges following ITV Digital's collapse, with the firm unable to pay the remaining £180 million it owed to the Football League.[24][14] Watford's budget was based on receiving the ITV Digital money.[24][14] Hence, it was forced to release at least five players and conduct extensive cuts elsewhere to ensure the club remained financially stable.[24] On 5th July 2002, Sky and the Football League reached a £95 million deal, which somewhat eased the financial burden Watford and others would experience.[25] However, Watford were still forced to impose a 12% universal wage cut in September 2002 to ensure the club avoided entering administration, with the club being required to raise more than £9.5 million to guarantee its survival.[26][27]


The match received full live coverage by ITV Sport.[5][7] Despite the historical significance the match had in television and Football League history, very little of the coverage is currently publicly available. A few minutes of the fixture can be found in the 2001-02 Manchester City and Watford season review videos. The full match coverage likely dwells within ITV Sport's archive, as an archive catalogue states it contains highlights or full matches of English Football League matches from 1968 to 2009.[28] Ultimately, none of this footage can be accessed unless it is used for production or business purposes.[29] Thus, the full match is currently lost media, with a potential resurfacing based on whether anyone recorded the original broadcast or a re-run at midnight the following day.[5]



Manchester City season review 2001-02 providing highlights of the match (4:28-7:31).

Watford season review 2001-02 providing highlights of the match (14:48-18:09).

See Also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Archived BBC Sport previewing Manchester City and noting they were a title favourite. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  2. 2.0 2.1 English Football Stats detailing the 2000-01 Premier League and Football League tables. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  3. 3.0 3.1 BBC Sport reporting on Keegan being appointed as Manchester City manager and the mixed reception the move prompted. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Archived BBC Sport previewing Watford prior to the season's start. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 ONhistory providing the line-up for ITV Sport's first programming. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 From the Back Page to the Front Room noting the match was the first to kickstart ITV Digital's Football League coverage, and how the deal was doomed to begin with. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 The Fishy listing the scheduled live ITV Digital games from 11th August to 28th October 2001. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  8. 8.0 8.1 ONhistory summarising the launch of ONdigital and its rebranding to ITV Digital in July 2001. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 Four Four Two documenting the launch and collapse of ONdigital/ITV Digital. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 Archived Off the Telly detailing the bidding wars for football broadcasts rights in 2000, and how ITV Digital's deal ultimately failed to attract viewers. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  11. 11.0 11.1 The Scotsman reporting on ONdigital winning a £315 million Football League television package deal. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 The Athletic documenting ITV Digital's Football League deal, the revenue stream it promised to clubs, and its collapse. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 The Fishy answering key questions regarding ITV Sport. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 Watford Observer reporting on Watford's financial issues following the loss of expected ITV Digital revenue. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  15. 15.0 15.1 The Fishy reviewing ITV Sport's coverage of the match. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  16. City Wire reporting that ITV Digital was losing £1 million per day by April 2002. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  17. BBC News reporting on ITV Digital's closure and its aftermath. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  18. The Guardian reporting on the impending closure of ITV Sport. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 19.3 19.4 19.5 11 vs 11 detailing the result of the match and other statistics. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  20. 20.00 20.01 20.02 20.03 20.04 20.05 20.06 20.07 20.08 20.09 20.10 Manchester Evening News reporting on the match (article found on City Til I Die). Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 21.4 21.5 21.6 21.7 BBC Sport reporting on the match. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  22. Manchester City detailing the club's 2001-02 First Division campaign. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  23. 23.0 23.1 English Football Stats detailing the 2001-02 Football League First Division table. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 BBC Sport reporting on Watford sacking Vialli and the financial woes Watford experienced following ITV Digital's collapse. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  25. BBC News reporting on the £95 million deal between Sky and the Football League. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  26. BBC Sport reporting on Watford imposing a 12% wage cut to avoid going into administration. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  27. BBC Sport reporting on Watford's financial woes by September 2002. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  28. ITV Sport Archive catalogue noting it has highlights or full match broadcasts of English Football League from 1968 to 2009. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23
  29. ITV Sport Archive noting its footage cannot be utilised for personal use. Retrieved 1st Jul' 23