I have made several posts on Football & Comedy previously, including Monty Python and Harry Enfield’s Television Programme, but I recently came across this hidden gem that I was previously unaware of. I’m a big Alexei Sayle fan but this passed me by at the time, most probably because it was on BBC Radio 4.
I’m talking about Lenin of the Rovers.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
“Lenin of the Rovers was a BBC Radio 4 comedy series from 1988 written by Marcus Berkmann and Harry Thompson and starring Alexei Sayle as Ricky Lenin, Russian captain of Felchester Rovers – Britain‘s only communist football team. Other players in the team were Stevie Stalin (Andrew McLean) and Terry Trotsky (Phil Cornwell). The team was managed by Des Frankly and Colonel Brace-Cartwright (Ballard Berkeley for Series 1 episodes 1 and 2, Donald Hewlett thereafter) who were frequently interviewed by Frank Lee Brian (real-life football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme). John Sessions and Jim Broadbent made character appearances in Series 2. The title is a parody of the long-running football-themed comic strip, Roy of the Rovers.
The show parodied many aspects of British football in the late 1980s, such as the increasing presence of mass commercialisation, intrusive and rarely accurate media, and fan violence.
The script also made frequent use of Ricky Lenin’s attempts to fit in with what he saw as a ‘western lifestyle’, in a similar way to some of Sayle’s appearances as the Balowski Family in The Young Ones. Situations included the trouble caused by the ghost-writing of Ricky’s column in The Daily Tits (parodying The Sun) – a complicated argument in favour of collectivism in Lenin’s original was transformed to “I hate all paddies, but I wouldn’t mind giving that Gloria Hunniford one” in the paper; the North-South economic divide in England (“In Crunchthorpe there’s a hundred and three per cent unemployment. The Government uses the place to dump nuclear waste! They pile it up in the town centre, outside Freeman Hardy and Willis“) and films The Titfield Thunderbolt and Apocalypse Now. A knowledge of football was useful for the appreciation of the series, but not essential. The script took great delight in the violent nature of professional football at the time:
Northern pundit: “The average Crunchsider knows his football like the back of his hand. And what he really likes to see is really elegant, skilful one-touch players. Out in the middle of the park, screaming in agony, clutching their gonads.”
- Commentator: “So Crunchthorpe don’t really go in for one-touch play, then?”
A running gag was various characters (particularly Sayle) speaking lines from pop songs as dialogue. The fictional town of Felchester was presumably a joke: a reference to felching, conflating that term with Melchester, the fictional home of Roy of the Rovers.
1st series 1988
- Up for the Coup
- The Fifth Man
- Max Gut
2nd series 1989
- Ghosts and Goolies
- The Felchester Firm
- Apocalypse Des
- The Final Solution
Series 2 was released as a double-cassette set in 1992.”
You can buy the one copy of the series available from Amazon here.
Karl Marx’s discourse on the best way to score a goal:
The successful conversion of a spherical projectile under a communist system is often best effected by placing a well-built worker in such a manner as to deflect, cranially, the aforementioned leather globe when flighted to an appropriate altitude… Well, he means ‘Duckhead, lob it up to the big man in the box!’
Alexei Sayle’s ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’ is also an excellent read.