It’s 25 years since Channel 4 showcased the documentary “The Impossible Job”, a fly on the wall look at Graham Taylor’s ultimate failed attempt to get England to the World Cup in the USA. Within hours of the broadcast, everyone was walking around declaring “oh, do I not like that” in tribute to the man who was castigated by the British press in the most spiteful of ways.
Over the years, there have been some classic footy docs so during this international break, we thought it would be a great time to take a look at five of the best/worst football themes ever captured on celluloid.
ORIENT: CLUB FOR A FIVER
After witnessing Taylor’s self-destruction in one of world football’s biggest jobs, Channel 4 then brought us “Orient: Club for a Fiver”, a look at how the club from South-East London club were surviving hand-to-mouth while trying to secure new investment. The film turned joint-manager John Sitton into a minor celebrity after his vitriolic rantings in the dressing-room gave us the lowdown on how life can be in the lower regions of the football pyramid.
By the end of the film, which was actually made by a long-suffering “O”’s supporter, Sitton cuts a tragic figure along with his co-star Chris Turner and after the teacups have stopped flying and the two gaffers have supped the remaining beer left in the board room, their tenure is brought to an end by new owner Barry Hearn, who takes a punt on his boyhood club. In an interview I did with “Sitts” earlier this year, he claimed that because of that documentary, he has never been invited for another interview for a coaching role; He now drives a London taxi.
SHOUTS FOR CITY
If Hammer Films had made a movie about football then they couldn’t have done a better job than this early seventies classic following the lives of some of Stoke City’s most loyal supporters. The very fact that the people featured are able to scare the shit out of the person watching is credit to the director, who must have been a fan of the Hammer horror genre of around the same time.
A decade before Michael Jackson released his iconic Thriller video, the club from the Potteries were way ahead in the Zombie stakes having this bunch of freaks on the terraces every other week. It’s no wonder club legend Jimmy Greenhoff couldn’t wait to clear off and land his dream move to Manchester United. You can see it in all it’s glory here.
SUNDERLAND ‘TIL I DIE
Online streaming service Netflix has also cashed in on growing popularity of the footy documentary and “Sunderland Till I Die” is an absolute masterpiece. The director was hoping at the start of filming that the Black Cats would make a triumphant return to the Championship following relegation to the third tier, but what the production team couldn’t have envisaged is the way the club’s trials and tribulations made for compelling viewing as their season imploded once again.
The canteen lady and a local taxi driver turn out to be the real stars of the series with the villain of the piece being midfielder Jack Rodwell, who refused to take a drastic pay cut to ease the Mackem’s financial crisis preferring to pick up his 80K-a-week to sit in the treatment room. Series 2 is apparently just around the corner.
MANCHESTER UNITED, YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED – THE CAPTAIN’S LOG
By the 1992-93 season, Manchester United hadn’t lifted the league title in 26 years, but all that was about to change in the inaugural Premier League season and the club captured every twist and turn thanks to captain Steve Bruce and his camcorder.
26 years on it’s unbelievable to think that “Brucie” was once a United pin-up, thanks to some sexy bathroom scenes in which the skipper would film himself shaving before taking breakfast with his wife prior to another big game at Old Trafford. The skipper was also responsible for giving Paul Ince and Peter Schmeichel a lift to the ground in the days before Fergie would have his players cocooned in a hotel pre-match and some of the “bants” here is worth a BAFTA in itself.
Before they became a multi-billion pound organisation, Manchester City were basically a pile of sh*t and this was best showcased in Granada Television’s 1981 behind the scenes look at a club in crisis. Chairman at the time Peter Swales decided that the only man to save them was former coaching legend Malcolm Allison who alongside manager Joe Mercer, turned City into a major force in the late sixties.
Allison was a larger than life character who was as famous for his off-field shenanigans like hopping into the Crystal Palace team bath with soft-porn star Fiona Richmond, than for his tactical acumen and after a few weeks back at Maine Road (that’s were City used to play), it was obvious Swales had made a huge error bringing “Big Mal” back into the fold.
By the end of the film, the two men totally hate each other to the extent that they have an argument about who smokes the better cigars. Swales is saved by the appointment of John Bond, who was a former team-mate of Allison’s, but by 1980 shared his new chairman’s view that he was a bit of a pr*ck.