Visual Entertainment Group/Visual Entertainment Group .
R4 . COLOR . 166 mins .
E . PAL
The structure of the English Football League was always split into four divisions, with relegation and promotion being the reward or penalty each year for clubs to avoid or achieve. The excitement created by this survival or glory mentality created passion unmatched in other sports. For a club to be in division one was not a guarantee of survival, giant clubs such as Manchester United were not always comfortable in division one and were indeed relegated. The other major benefit is that lesser known clubs can reach the dizzy heights of division one football, clubs such as Wimbledon and even this reviewer's beloved Northampton Town have made it there – the challenge is to maintain that position.
1992 saw the introduction of the Premier League in the attempt to form a more elite league. The promotion and relegation format was still in place, however the old division two now became division one. So, after over one hundred years, the old football league as we knew it was dead and the new revitalised format was brought in. How would the new format sit with the public or television audiences? Looking back now, we can see that this format was a very welcome breath of fresh air, but at the time it was seen by many as a way of shutting out the lower league clubs and putting an even bigger gap between the rich and the poor.
The Premier League has flourished over its brief history with many highlights. The massive amount of money given to clubs for television rights saw an influx of foreign superstars. The first season of the Premier League saw Alan Shearer transfer from Southampton to newly promoted big spenders Blackburn Rovers for a record fee of 3.6 million pounds, a bargain by today’s standards. The English style of play had always been fast and direct, however the introduction of all these new foreign players saw a whole new standard of play introduced. Now, there was much more flair and style to play and the emphasis was on attacking football, teams were throwing caution to the wind and trying to outscore opponents rather than just defending and this provided great entertainment.
Contained on this release are three episodes from a superb documentary series featuring the most memorable games of the first ten years of the Premier League as voted by a panel of experts. Each episode contains highlights from six games and each includes interviews with relevant players and managers about the particular game. Games covered are as follows;
Liverpool v Newcastle
Manchester United v Sheffield Wednesday
Chelsea v Arsenal
Crystal Palace v Blackburn Rovers
Southampton v Manchester United
Leeds United v Liverpool
Norwich v Southampton
West Ham United v Bradford City
Newcastle United v Aston Villa
Nottingham Forest v Manchester United
Blackburn Rovers v Chelsea
Leicester City v Arsenal
Liverpool v Newcastle United
Blackburn Rovers v Leeds United
Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United
Liverpool v Manchester United
Sheffield Wednesday v Tottenham Hotspur
Oldham Athletic v Southampton
Seeing these games again is a real trip down memory lane. All games featured are worthy of inclusion for one reason or another, whether it is simply to see Manchester United concede six goals or the excitement of Arsenal being 2-0 down against Chelsea only to come back and win with an amazing goal; there really is something here for everyone. The series is extremely well made and each featured game is well presented with interesting interviews and comments from relevant contributors that seem keen to participate. If you are a fan of the English Premier League or football in general then this is a terrific inclusion for any collection and one that will warrant many repeat viewings.
Picture quality is excellent for this release with the majority of footage being at least equal to that shown on television. The included interview footage is also well produced and is of the highest standard. The full frame transfer really stands up well and suffers in very few areas. There are some minor issues dependent upon the footage used, but these can all be attributed to the actual footage and not the transfer. Issues such as glare from games filmed on sunny days (yes they happen in England!) are a struggle on the eyes at times, however there is no way the footage could have been better without moving the camera to the other side of the pitch. There are no subtitles supplied, although these are not really required as dialogue is always clear. All in all this is an excellent transfer.
Audio is of a similar standard to the video transfer and this Dolby Digital stereo soundtrack is pretty much faultless. Dialogue is always clear and crowd noise is also spot on and well balanced. Synch is never an issue either and there are no problems with hiss or drop out.
There are no extras supplied.
Overall this is a quality release covering the real highlights of the Premier League’s first decade. It would have been so easy to put out a DVD claiming this and containing an hour of footage thrown together, this is far from being that though. This is a quality production featuring some of the most entertaining games and it is presented beautifully. If you are a fan of football, buy this now!