Football Comedy – Ripping Yarns, Golden Gordon (BBC 1979)

BBC4 started re-runs of the classic comedy series from Michael Palin and Terry Jones, Ripping Yarns, last night.

Episode two of the second series of Ripping Yarns is ‘Golden Gordon’, a loving parody of a non-league football fan and Yorkshire football in general, filmed around Barnoldswick and Keighley.

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It is 1935. On a stereotypically cold, wet, windswept and bleak West Yorkshire hillside sits the Sewage Works ground, home to Barnstoneworth United. Once a mighty team in the Yorkshire Premier League, they have now fallen on hard times.

Barnstoneworth United haven’t won a match in six years. After losing 8-1 to Brighouse, depressed United superfan Gordon Ottershaw comes home and smashes the furniture in his house in fury (my Dad, half-jokingly, used to say that he came home and kicked the cat, Lofty [named after Nat Lofthouse] when Bolton lost). His wife Eileen (Gwen Taylor) quietly accepts this. She keeps trying to tell him that she’s having a baby, but he seems not to notice.

“Eight One – Eight bloody One! – And even that were an own goal!”

Ottershaw has been teaching his son (who’s first name is Barnstoneworth, middle name United) every detail of the club’s results, players and statistics (again, my Dad has an almost preternatural ability to recall the scores of every match he’s ever been to, dating back to the mid 1950s). Over dinner, having memorised the 1922 side perfectly, his father chimes in at the end, sighing as he speaks:

” Won none. Drawn none. One cancelled owing to bereavement. Lost 18.”

A die-hard supporter, Ottershaw laments the clubs latest troubles over his custard pudding:

”Centre forward’s off with boils, two half back’s are going to a wedding and the goal-keepers got a cold. Chairman’ll sort it out.”

The Chairman in question will definitely sort it out. He plans to sell the club to a scrap merchant and walk away from it all with some brass in his back pocket. His only opinion of Gordon Ottershaw is that:

”It’s a form of madness you know, wearing your scarf in bed.”

Barnstoneworth are in dire trouble. On the training ground you’re more likely to hear ” He’s got my shorts on”  and ” Can I go at half past six?” than you are any sounds of encouragement or tactical nous.  But Gordon has a brain wave. He will round-up all the best surviving ex-Barnstoneworth players for the coming Saturday’s cup tie against Denley Moor Academicals. That will save the club!

The idea comes to him when he’s visiting (nay pleading) with the scrap dealer not to buy Barnstoneworth United and sell his beloved club down the river.  The subject of when Barnstoneworth last won a game comes up… Quick as a flash superfan Gordon has the answer:

“October 7th, 1931. 2-0 against Pudsey.“

“Haggerty F, Ferris, Noble, Codren, Crapper, Davis, Sullivan, O’Grady, Kembell, Hacker and Davitt*. Davitt scored twice, once in 21st minute, once in 28th minute…”

”Davitt, he were hell of a player.” says the scrap merchant. ” He were bald weren’t he? Head like stainless steel.”

“That’s right. He once scored with the back of his head from 28 yards against Barnsley reserves in 1922.”

Saturday comes, and the Cup tie against Denley Moor Academicals kicks off. United only have four players (and three pairs of shorts), whereas the captain of the Denley Moor team is the famous Eric Olthwaite. Things look bad, but Gordon arrives with the old team who take to the field. Davitt opens the scoring with his bald head, and, shock of shocks, Barnstoneworth eventually win 8 – 1.

“8 BLOODY 1!”

‘Golden Gordon’ ends with Gordon smashing up his own home in celebration this time. Clock, photos, radio go flying out through the window as the Match of the Day theme plays. And it still hasn’t registered with him that his wife has been trying to tell him she is pregnant throughout the entire episode.

*The mighty Half Man Half Biscuit named their third album McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt in tribute to this episode, and the front cover is a still from the programme.

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See also A Visit to Gordon Ottershaw’s House, by Merrick Cork, which talks about the Yorkshire footballing inspirations behind the episode.

Football & Comedy: Lenin of the Rovers

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Lenin of the Rovers – Alexei Sayle as Ricky Lenin

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?”

Northern pundit: “Oh, aye, they do. Provided the one touch is delivered just below the kneecaps like a steam hammer hitting an avocado…”

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

  1. Up for the Coup
  2. Felcherama
  3. The Fifth Man
  4. Max Gut

2nd series 1989

  1. Ghosts and Goolies
  2. The Felchester Firm
  3. Apocalypse Des
  4. 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:

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Ricky Lenin, heading the ball following strict Marxist dogma

 

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!’

See http://www.wsc.co.uk/the-archive/42-Media/7939-radio-revolution

Alexei Sayle’s ‘Stalin Ate My Homework’ is also an excellent read.

Football Comedy: Absolutely, McGlashan

From Wikipedia:

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McGlashan

McGlashan (played by Docherty) was an extreme Scottish nationalist and playwright, who frequently espoused anglophobia. Introduced into the show in series two, he would often write plays or be given jobs by his camp agent McMinn (Kennedy), but his hatred of the English would always take over (typical example: a play featuring someone travelling back in time to kill Geoff Hurst in 1965), leading in McGlashan’s work never to get off the ground. McGlashan was based on a man Docherty met in a pub in Soho. McMinn was based on a camp television producer. In one sketch he cycles to the Scotland-England border, steps across and shouts “Poofs!”, before cycling away quickly whilst constantly looking over his shoulder. One of the only facts known about his personal life is that he is a supporter of the Edinburgh football team Hibernian F.C., as is his portrayer Docherty. This is alluded to in two sketches; once when he rants that a position should be created in the UK Government for an ‘All Round Good Guy’ which should be awarded to the “Hibs player Mickey Weir“, and also when he reads the news and takes a moment to celebrate a Hibernian victory over their great city rivals, Heart of Midlothian FC.”