He shoots he scores
In between banging in the goals for Spurs and England, Gary Lineker found time to dream up a TV series a couple of years ago. Writer Stan Hey brings it to the screen for the 93—94 season, and Tom Lappin curls a few questions into the top comer.
Soccer drama on the small screens of late has tended to be conﬁned to the latest revelations from muck- raking documentaries rather than goalmouth scrambles. In recent weeks World In Action and Channel 4 investigations have regaled us with plentiful tales of ﬁnancial irregularities, ‘bungs‘ and ten per cent surcharges, with particular reference to the aﬁairs of Messrs Clough and Venables.
With such convoluted plots, sinister motorway service-station midnight rendezvous and larger-than- life characters all happening in the real soccer world, you have to have a sneaking sympathy for a writer who sets out to pen a drama series set in the world of the beautiful game.
Stan Hey has done it twice. Not content with a couple of series of the excellent Manageress in the can, Hey has strapped on the shinguards once more for All In The Game, a new six-parter for lTV. All In The Game follows the traumas and triumphs of young striker Darren Matthews who leaves a struggling English side for the high life of Barcelona. “We felt that football was strong enough and interesting enough to sustain a drama,’ says Hey, ‘and we wanted to do something about an English player abroad, partly because of all the European shit
that was going on, the Tories being so anti-Europe and all that.‘
If the scenario sounds familiar it might be to do with the fact that the idea was originally proposed by former England captain Gary Lineker and his agent Jonathan Holmes. ‘Jon and I came up with ideas and storylines, and Stan did the writing. which he’s brilliant at,‘ says Lineker. ‘We pooled our joint knowledge of the game to try and make it as realistic as possible. Certainly everything in All In The Game could happen. There are pe0ple in the professional game like the ones shown in the series and if I’ve learnt one thing about football, it‘s that one minute you’re a hero and the next you’re a villain.‘
Lineker‘s being a little disingenuous here, never having come remotely close to being anything other than a clean-cut gentlemanly hero. desperately short on interesting blemishes. Hey recognises that Lineker, smashing chap though he may be, is no blueprint for a TV drama protagonist. ‘We never wanted to make it autobiographical,‘ says the writer. ‘Gary says himself that his story is quite boring. in that he arrived as a proven international, he succeeded, there was a minor hiccup at the end and he left. He went there as a married man, enjoyed the life and had very few, if any. problems. You can’t make drama out of that.‘
Instead we have Darren Matthews (played by Lloyd Owen, son of Minder barman Glynn Owen for trivia fans). ‘Darren is a sort of broad cross between Gary and Gazza,‘ says Hey. ‘He‘s quite bright, he’s not a lout, but has problems keeping his hands off women, given the chance. He wants to improve himself but he’s got a sort of sheltered background. He‘s not as high an achiever as either of the two real players, but he’s on the verge of an England place and is forced to leave his club because they‘ve gone bankrupt. There’s all sorts of ﬁnancial shenanigans and backhanders ﬂying about.’
So it‘s quite realistic then. Within the parameters of popular lTV network drama which demands plenty of on-ﬁeld action, babe-chasing and shady agents. Hey is keen to address the subject of British (speciﬁcally English) soccer, the way it is
(mis)managed, the iniquities, corruptions andf frustrations of a game that is still struggling to shake off its archaic power-structure.
Darren Matthews (lloyd Owen) pull: on the Barcelona stripes
‘Subtext is the fancy word but it’s all in there.‘ Hey says. ‘There‘s a few scenes in episode ﬁve where Darren goes back to his old club for a weekend to visit and the fans shout abuse at him, the football‘s terrible, the chairman‘s disappeared with the money .
7 . . He suddenly becomes aware of the smallness of the English game, the lack ofthinking.‘
Hey sees soccer going through a period of social transition, moving steadily upmarket and away from its lumpen proletarian roots. ‘The World Cup made such a breakthrough in terms of creating a broad audience. Gary says that before the World Cup he’d get recognised by football fans, but afterwards he was having a break looking at an antique shop in the
l Cotswolds, and this hooray antique dealer said,
"Gary. Gary. what a pity about the Krauts getting a draw . . So soccer had made this sort of social breakthrough. which has continued ever since.‘
It‘s this change Hey is trying to chart by direct comparison with the contrasting situations in
3 England and Spain. Hey believes the image ofthe
footballer needs updating from the hackneyed ‘sick as a parrot, over the moon Brian‘ stereotype. an image of players that has been encouraged by the people who run the game in Britain. ‘Beyond the popular conception there is an increasing number who are literate, intelligent and articulate. They are becoming more aware of how the game works, the power structure of the game. Towards the end ofthe series Darren says that part of being abroad is turning the telescope back on England, realising what it was like. One ofthe thing he learns in Spain is that the footballer is trusted more, there's a greater status involved, you’re accepted in all strata of society. There’s one speech where he tells his girlfriend “Managers and the press want to keep you in a state of permanent adolescence, because that way you’re easier to deal with“. It‘s like a feudal system, which is why managers and chairmen hate agents. They hate the idea of players having any knowledge of money or marketing. They want serfdom really. Players with ideas are dangerous.‘
Especially if they are ideas for six-part network drama series at peak time. The boy Lineker done good.
All In The Game begins on Scottish on Thursday 21
October at 9pm.
84 The List 8—21 October 1993