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.

WHO ARE YA? Christopher Lash, rightbankwarsaw.com

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Christopher Lash, right bank warsaw

1) Who are ya?

Christopher Lash, owner and writer of the blog rightbankwarsaw.com which deals with Polish football,  mostly from a historical/societal angle but I also dabble in a bit of groundhopping.

2) Who do you support?

In England, I support Reading and in Poland, Polonia Warsaw (Warsaw’s second club).

3) What was your first game?

Good Question! I think it was probably a Burnley game in around 1988, I’m a Reading fan due to a good friend from there who moved to my hometown of Lancaster when I was a kid.  So I’m a Northern Reading fan living in Warsaw. Go figure.

4) What do you do for a job?

I lecture in history and international relations at a university in Warsaw but I also lecture in Kraków as well.  My focus is on Polish history and ethnic cleansing (fun eh?) but am thinking of designing a sports history module for next year so I can combine some of the stuff I do on the blog outside of the digital world.

5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?

Not really unfortunately. My brother had trials at Lancaster City youth team but I just played for local (pretty bad) sides between the age of 11-16.  I suppose that was interesting but I encountered a lot of bad managers and muddy pitches.  Some friends and I aim to set up a club here in Warsaw but the planning for that is in its early stages.

6) How did you get into it?

I got into blogging as a result of Euro 2012 which was of course held here in Poland.  I’ve always been a football nut and spent too many hours on Championship/Football Manager and the Reading fans’ forum but the blog has really helped me spread my wings.  When the Euros came here I thought I’d contribute in some way to the discussion around the tournament and it’s just blossomed from there really.

I have pretty decent knowledge of Polish culture having lived here for a number of years, I can speak/read the language and know how to do historical research so I can traverse the world of football here pretty well.

7) What do you get out of it?

Lots.  I really enjoy writing and telling tales and for me it’s been another way of deepening my knowledge about Poland in general.  I also love the interaction that you get when you write a blog.  Via it and Twitter I have got in touch with some great people which really enriches the whole experience of being a fan and a writer.

8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?

I’d say just go wherever your interest takes you.  The early days of starting a blog can be daunting.  You feel you’re just writing for yourself, which in essence is true.  But keep going, it really is worth it.  Also I’d say enjoy the social experience around writing a blog, that’s the whole point.  I don’t understand the people who write online and don’t interact with others.  To me that defeats the purpose.

9) If you could do it all again what would you change?

Difficult question.  Not that much to be honest.  I’m happy doing what I am doing, although as most people who write blogs no doubt think, there’s always the question: what next?  I have lots of plans, hopefully some of them will come off.

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

There’s a whole host of players I’ve loved over the years.  Adrian Williams, Phil Parkinson, Steven Sidwell and Kevin Doyle.  I wouldn’t say I have one hero but the Reading sides of 1993-5 and 2005-7 were just brilliant.  It was a real pleasure to be a Reading fan during those years.

Read Chris’ blog at rightbankwarsaw.wordpress.com

Or follow him on Twitter – @rightbankwarsaw

WHO ARE YA? Geoff Pearson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management and Law at the University of Liverpool

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WHO ARE YA? Geoff Pearson, Senior Lecturer in Sports Management and Law at the University of Liverpool

1) Who are ya?

Geoff Pearson, 39, from Manchester

2) Who do you support?

Manchester United

3) What was your first game?

Manchester United 0 Nottingham Forest 4, December 1977

4) What do you do for a job?

I am a Senior Lecturer in Sports Management and Law at the University of Liverpool. I teach Football & Law and Sports Operations Management and I am Director of Studies for the MBA (Football Industries) programme. My research interests include football crowd behaviour and management, policing, legal responses to crowd disorder and the impact of EU Law on the football industry. I have published two books on football fan behaviour and managing ‘hooliganism’ along with many articles and reports.

5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?

No.

6) How did you get into it?

I completed a PhD at the University of Lancaster looking at legal responses to football ‘hooliganism’. When I submitted my thesis in 1999 a job came up to teach football and law on the MBA (Football Industries) programme at the University of Liverpool.

7) What do you get out of it?

It’s an incredibly rewarding job for someone who loves football. It’s great to see the MBA(Football Industries) students progress and go to work in the football industry. Researching a topic I love is also intellectually stimulating and rewarding when my work can have an impact on improving the management of football fans attending matches.

8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?

There are jobs out there in academia for those wanting to focus on football or sport. If you can get taken on to study a PhD in this area, and are able to publish on the subject, it’s a rewarding and stimulating career choice.

9) If you could do it all again what would you change?

I would probably have been more ambitious earlier on in my academic career in terms of publication and research funding. But then I wouldn’t have enjoyed the last 15 years quite so much!

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

Bryan Robson – best midfielder I’ve seen and an inspirational captain and leader.

WHO ARE YA? Darren Wiltshire

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Darren Wiltshire

1) Who are ya?

Darren Wiltshire, 30 years old, English but working in Munich, Germany.

2) Who do you support?

Tottenham

3) What was your first game?

I don’t know my first game unfortunately, probably Spurs v a mid-table team at White Hart Lane…. My greatest game was seeing Santos beat Corinthians, a Robinho masterclass!

4) What do you do for a job?

I work as a Senior football analyst for Opta in Munich….. I have just got back from a couple of years of coaching in Morocco and India.

5) Have you played/worked for any football clubs?

I worked as a youth coach for Barcelona setting up their academy and at their camps in India. Also worked for Arsenal Soccer Schools but as a Tottenham fan that is nothing to boast about.

6) How did you get into it?

The analysis – I stumbled into it after completing my a levels.

The coaching – I spent time working with street children in Peru, and realised it was better for them to play football than sniff glue, so I decided to coach them how to play football every day.

7) What do you get out of it?

From the analysis, I get to analyse football for a great company in Opta and a salary!

From the coaching, I get a soul, enjoyment, and the opportunity to inspire kids to be fit and healthy and enjoy playing the game.

8) What advice would you give someone wanting to follow in your stud marks/footsteps?

To get into football coaching, take your badges, it is surprising how far a little FA stamp can get if you are prepared to travel abroad.. If you have ambitions to coach in the UK, do not bother coaching abroad because it seems to count for nothing..

To get into analysis, watch as much football as you can at all levels.

9) If you could do it all again what would you change?

Bloody hell, what a question! (GM – sorry, but stand leading question for all interviewees)

  1. I would have signed for a semi pro club called Estudiantil, when I lived in Uruguay.
  2. I wouldn’t have left the job with Barcelona in India

I was living a dream learning from a top coach and man called Jordi Arasa. Sadly my stomach gave up on me!

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

I feel I need to mention a few! My Dad, Ginola, Hoddle and Maradona

Many thanks Darren. ¡Viva la Revolución!