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.

WHO ARE YA? Roy Mason, Steeton AFC Manager

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Roy Mason, Manager of Steeton AFC

1) Who are ya?

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Steeton AFC crest

Roy Mason, manager of Steeton AFC, I am, despite the youthful looks, 44.

My role as manager involves much more than the running of the club. I get involved in the commercial side, website updates and helping write the clubs programme – non of which the Premiership managers would dream of, but it’s part of the job at this level. As manager I need to generate my own funds to push us on more professionally and also help publicise the club at any opportunity. Those who know me would say I never miss an opportunity to get the club into the local media!

2) Who do you support?

I support Bradford City, a club that has had its ups and downs. I was there on that fateful day on May 11th, 1985 [GM – the terrible Bradford City fire tragedy, where 56 men, women and children lost their lives] and the bond the supporters have with the club is second to none. Last season was a just reward for all those who have stuck with the club throughout the years. They are the most local club to me and I firmly believe you should support your local club.

I also take a keen interest in all West Yorkshire’s non-league sides.

3) What was your first game?

It was a home game against Walsall in the early 80’s. Bobby Campbell was the main man in those days. It was a 0-0 draw but enough for me to go back and the next game saw them beat Wigan 7-2 and I was hooked!

4) What do you do for a job?

I am a footwear buyer for a mail order company; my job takes me all over the world and has allowed me to see the odd game abroad. I’ve visited Barcelona, FC Porto, Fenerbache & Fiorentina to name a few clubs. So, I’ve sometimes been able to combine my work with hobbies. I’ve done a bit of TV guest presenting with work and this has caused much amusement from my players over the years!

It can be hard juggling both jobs and sometimes you leave yourself with no spare time!

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

Not professionally, however I played for Steeton before I became manager, and Keighley Phoenix as well as a couple of Keighley’s succesful Sunday sides, Druids Arms and St Annes Celtic.

6) How did you get into it?

I’ve always been interested in off the field activities as well as those on the field. I became assistant reserve manager, before taking on the position of player/manager with the reserves. After a season doing that I then took over the first team and have guided them to become one of the top WRCA Premier Division sides and in my tenure with the help of a great backroom team we have transformed the club.

7) What do you get out of it?

I love being involved with grass roots football and working with people who feel the same and devote a lot of hours for nothing. I live in the village [of Steeton] and I’m proud to be putting something back into the community as well as pushing myself to be the best I can as a manager.

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

Go for it – local clubs are crying out for help at all levels. Get involved you will make so many friends and get a great deal of satisfaction from it and you have no idea where it could take you.

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

Not a lot really – a broken leg at 24 cost me 18 months out of the game and if I could wind the clock back I would have ridden the tackle instead!!!

10) Who’s your footballing hero?

Playingwise, it’s Stuart McCall – a man who gave 110% in everything he did. He was a fine example to any player in always giving your all for the club. I was very disappointed when it didn’t work out for him at Bradford City when he returned as a manger. Maybe he was too close to the club…

Managerwise, I admire Bill Shankly and Brian Clough a lot for their grasp of the basic principles. Their method was keep the game simple and be honest and upfront with players.

In the modern day, Jose Mourinhio seems to have a great man management style and the players want to play for him.

Many thanks, Roy.

You can follow Steeton AFC at www.steetonafc.co.uk