With the current turmoil going on in the world, it might be time for a good comedy and as the UK’s leading script writer for hire, online screenwriting expert.and UK script consultant this week, I dug out an old DVD and watched Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001) which is pretty much guaranteed to put a smile on anyone’s face.
When this film came out, it was still very, very close to the reality of watching the England football team, and it’s never ending merry go-round of managers, press madness, and players who often got out of control on drink and drugs.
Indeed, prior to the film being made there was a documentary (now legendary) which followed then England manager (the late Graham Taylor) as he tried his best to get England into contention in a major football tournament.
Taylor, who was a lovely man, was attacked by the press with such ferocity it seemed cruel beyond belief, but the documentary threw light onto some of his ideas, which may have been less than cutting edge. It also showed many England players in less than a flattering light.
That documentary (An Impossible Job ) became the template for the script of this film, and it follows the documentary closely as Mike Bassett seems to endure much the same treatment as Graham Taylor. The film however, becomes a very English fairy tale, as Bassett, against the odds, gets his team to the semi finals of the World Cup.
Watching this again now, many years later, the film is funnier and sweeter than I recall. At the time it was soooo close to reality it seemed painfully funny. Now, the film is almost nostalgic for 90s football, and players like Gazza, Tony Adams, Stuart Pearce and Ian Wright. And managers like Bassett, who would write their team selections on the back of a cigarette packet (and end up selecting Benson and Hedges by accident).
So, it’s a good laugh, very close to the actual truth, and towards the end, it might even actually move a few old school football fans. Graham Taylor was a nice bloke, out of his depth, and too old fashioned to be England manager, but if he’d have had Mike Bassett’s luck, we might well have got somewhere.
Flawed players like Gazza and Adams had addiction issues, but when they were good, they really were the best in the world. And the fans and hooligans would follow England to the end of the world, but they were rarely given the chance, as we either failed to qualify or went out of tournaments early…
…At least with this film, we get to see a glimpse of what could have been, in a football era, that internationally speaking is best forgotten for England fans.
The crowd may have been singing ‘It’s Coming Home’ but it never did, and this film, in a funny and sweet way, reminds us exactly why football never did make it home…
Matthew Cooper has been a script writer for hire, UK Script editor and script doctor for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer. He’s also a leading UK script consultant and freelance script writer for hire and online screenwriting expert. You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb. You can get in touch with Matthew on firstname.lastname@example.org or hire him on Peopleperhour
His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller Markham will be released in 2020.