NEAR POST – Footy Fims: When Saturday Comes

I have to confess to having a vested interest in all-things Sheffield United, especially from the 1985-95 period when Arnold Laver sponsored them, as I work for Laver’s doing their digital marketing.

This makes my football allegiances somewhat schizophrenic, following as I do a Lancashire side in Bolton Wanderers (my father’s team), a West Yorkshire side in Bradford Park Avenue (I live not far away from the Horsfall Stadium), and having a soft spot for South Yorkshire team Sheffield United (as, as well as working for Lavers, my brother used to live two streets away from Bramall Lane).

The football film When Saturday Comes encapsulates a lot of my interests, both personal and professional.

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When Saturday Comes, DVD cover

Written by Antony Annunziata, the film covers the stereotypical “Northern” pastimes of football, beer, birds and disrespecting authority. As such, its in the same milieu as Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, This Sporting Life, Brassed Off, and The Full Monty (which was released a year later).

Its not a great film, coming from the Roy of the Rovers school of footballing wish-fulfilment and starring the Marmite-esque Sean Bean, along with the usual “gritty Northern film stalwart Pete Postlethwaite, and Emily Lloyd (whatever happened to her???).

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When Saturday Comes, action on the pitch

Like Escape to Victory, real (ex) footballers also share screen time with the professional actors, including Blades legend Tony Currie, and former Owl Mel Sterland.

The FMV magazine article “Yorkshire Tales: When Saturday Comes“, reviews the film like so:

“It may be considered the beautiful game, but films about football have a nasty habit of ending up not-very-good. It just seems a fiendishly difficult sport to transfer to a cinematic canvas in a dramatic and involving way. When Saturday Comes is not the film to put right this strange, unwritten law of the cinema. It’s not that it’s a hopelessly terrible turd of a movie – far from it – but it’s just a very average, pedestrian sports drama which doubles up as yet another social commentary on the grimness of northern life. Will there ever be a film about people who thrive, and enjoy life, north of the Watford Gap? Who knows?

“Typical working-class, beer-swilling, woman-chasing factory worker Jimmy Muir (Sean Bean) has been stuck in dead end jobs since leaving school. The thing is, he could have had a much different life if his talents had been channelled correctly by the people around him as he was growing up.

“You see, Jimmy is a pretty damn fine footballer… but his archetypal lad’s lifestyle, plus constant negativity from his abusive father Joe (John McEnery), mean that he never really pursued his talent with the required dedication. Jimmy’s future begins to look a little brighter when he falls for feisty wages clerk Annie Doherty (Emily Lloyd), and is scouted by celebrated non-leaguers Hallam FC, coached by Ken Jackson (Pete Postlethwaite).

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When Saturday Comes, Sean Bean in the hallowed SUFC Lavers shirt

“Gradually, Jimmy works his way up to playing for professional side Sheffield United. Although that side’s captain (played, curiously, by ex-Sheffield Wednesday star Mel Sterland) despises Jimmy, the hopeful newcomer gets his chance to enter Sheff Utd folklore when he comes on as a substitute in a cup semi final match against Manchester United. Will he seize his moment in the spotlight, or fold under the pressure when the stakes are highest?

“When Saturday Comes is better in its dramatic scenes than its sporty ones. The football sequences capture neither the on-field drama nor off-field camaraderie one would hope for. The climax is especially disappointing – a strangely rushed and muddled sequence which trips over itself in its haste to get to Jimmy’s all-too predictable ‘punch-the-air-in-delight’ moment after all those years of rejection and hardship. Erroneous little details don’t help much either, such as the fact the FA Cup semi final depicted here is played at Bramall Lane, home of Sheffield United, when in actual fact FA Cup semis are always contested at a neutral venue.

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Gratuitous male nudity for the lasses

“The performances are OK, though. 36 year old Bean is too old for his role but plays it enthusiastically enough. As a real-life Sheff Utd fan, this is something of a wish fulfilment film for him, or perhaps, some might say, a vanity project. He certainly seems more at home in this sort of kitchen sink stuff than playing Bond villains or traipsing across Middle Earth with a bunch of hobbits. Lloyd’s spirited girlfriend character, and Postlethwaite as the supportive coach, are also strongly realised characters who contribute to the film’s positives.

“As far as films set in Yorkshire go, When Saturday Comes is not really one of the best. It hardly taxes the patience, and is certainly not a complete disaster, but it never rises far above the level of a run-of-the-mill time filler.”

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