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Mike Bassett: England Manager (2001)

He knows F.A. about football

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 89 minutes

UK Certificate: 12a


Anyone who knows what it’s like to support a football team can sympathise with the sheer agonising turmoil of having that team managed by a complete and utter bumwit. Believe me, I’ve been there, and a laughing matter it is not – but that doesn’t stop Brit-com ‘Mike Bassett: England Manager’ from giving it it’s very best shot.

Presented in faux-documentary style, complete with Martin Bashir voice-over (Booo! Hisss!), the film tracks the managerial highs and lows of Bassett (Ricky ‘The Royle Family’ Tomlinson) as he rises from lower league obscurity at Norwich City to take the poisoned chalice that is the England job (predominantly because of the highly-unlikely scenario that nobody with any sense and/or tactical nous will touch the job with a goal post).

So, with his hardy squad of familiar footballing clichés behind him (a drunken Geordie clown, a bulgy-eyed hardman, a pony-tailled goalkeeper, etc), he heads for Brazil to bring the World Cup home. Oh dear.

The film does contain a couple of genuinely chucklesome moments, but its main problem is that director Steve Barron can’t seem to decide who his target audience are. It wastes time taking us through the basics of the game, often in the form of computerized demonstrations of “4-4-2” or “3-5-2” formations – but anyone who cares about such trifling matters will already know this stuff, and anyone who doesn’t will just find it boring. At the same time, there are a lot of jokes that are bound to go well over the heads of anyone not in possession of a fairly strong background knowledge of the sport.

The result is an uneven film, which makes only sporadic use of football’s mine of satirical opportunities. To its credit, the match sequences are extremely well made, with most of the play looking much more realistic than we’ve come to associate with footy flicks, and some nicely-interwoven footage from real-life matches. But in the end the film fails because, much like the England team’s shooting, far too many of the jokes fly high, wide and not-very-handsome.

It's Got: Silky samba soccer bloke Pele doing his best in a cameo role, without ever managing to look like he’s entirely sure what’s going on. Bless ‘im.

It Needs: To have instructed a few of the cast members to get in shape before filming. I know Gazza had a little bit of a beer belly on him, but some of this lot are ridiculous!

DVD Extras Director’s commentary, cast and crew interviews, original trailer, a featurette, and some deleted scenes. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10


A football comedy that just scores a few too many own goals.