Saturday 15 August 2020

Spinal Tap-In - the rejected title for Leeds United's fiction blockbuster

It's not current, but I've just finished watching the Leeds United mockumentary Take Us Home, set in the 2018-19 season.

Like all mockumentaries, it ends badly, when the championship club isn't taken home at all - home being the Premier League, where they were last seen in 2003-04. Take Us Home being a spoof, I liked the twist with the billionaire owner, Andrea Radrizzani, coming across as a genuinely nice man, unlike that Peter Risdale, the real equivalent at Elland Road in the 90's and 2000's, whose money couldn't match his ego, sliding them into relegation.

Overall, TUH was a great watch with some clever moments; the thing where Derby County manager Frank Lampard (looking so smart and trim in those days) had his words edited to moan on about "pliers" was laugh-out-loud funny, while the ordering of Leeds' boss, Marcelo Bielsa (a legendary creation) to his own team to let the opponents (Aston Villa) equalise surely sets the bar for all other mocs to follow. And yet I hear that the currently in-production Take Us Home II (This Time We're Not Fucking About with the Play-Offs) might have emulated its predecessor, with footage of fictional middle-class centre forward Patrick Bamford fluffing a series of chances so unmissable they had to film several re-takes to get them right.

I'll be moving on to the Anelka film next, which I don't yet know is real or imagined. There is some obvious material to work with for the director should the temptation to provoke a series of long faces not materialise. For instance, the casting of a couple of spliffed out, devil-may-care siblings advising their younger brother - once their opinions had been asked of - to "stay with Wenger for a bit longer, that's what I'd do, but it's up to you, bro, it's your career" might have legs, and there could be a humorous moment of bitter regret just as Anelka steps up to take the decisive penalty in the 2008 Champions League Final in the knowledge that Manchester United goalkeeper Edwin Van Der Sar has just worked out the system Chelsea have been using to score past him.

"If bloody Allardyce hadn't pissed off to Newcastle, I might still be at The Reebok Stadium now", isn't exactly what 'Le Sulk' muttered under his breath before stepping back to take the ill-fated pen, but the script might not need too much re-working.

Often though, reality is funnier, or more bizarre, than fiction/exaggeration. The first time I saw Anelka play was at Highfield Road, home of Coventry City, towards the end of 1996-97 when we had barely been seen the 18 year old signed by Arsene Wenger for £500,000 from Paris St Germain. All we knew was that he was lightning fast, even quicker than Perry Groves. In this 21st April 1997 meeting, with the home team fighting against relegation and Arsenal looking to boost Champions League qualification hopes, half time came with the score at 1-1 - Anelka yet to be used from the subs bench as expected, the dugout his new regular haunt for that half a season.

But no one could have predicted what the fifteen minutes break would conjure up. From our central position in the East Stand, amidst a torrential downpour, TV's celebrity fitness freak, Mr Motivator, hoved into view surrounded by a bevvy of cheer-leading dancers, performing a full-on workout to the dance tune, Bellissima. As a nearly 22 year old boy back then, I was always on the look-out to make my life more interesting with funny stories, but this was so surreal it needed no extra touches. Take in the scene...Mr Motivator. In the pouring rain. With hareem. Directing vigorous body conditioning routine at away fans during half time of  Premier League match. What? Who? Why?

I'd seen 'half-time 'entertainment' before, of course. Been at Highbury for Arsenal's first ever Monday Night Live match in Sky Sports' first ever football season, listening to The Shamen being booed as they mimed Move Any Mountain (the lip-synching wasn't the problem); and been at Selhurst Park for another Monday-nighter, watching inflatable sumo wrestlers grapple each other and hearing the predictable "This is better than the football !" remarks. On another occasion, Sky's official cheer-leaders, the 'Sky Strikers' were advised by one Clock-Ender to "Fuck off, you slags". 

I don't recall any comments, or feedback coming Mr Motivator's way, and I can only assume this was because everyone was stunned into silence.   

Let's see if Patrick Bamford's missed chances can top that.           


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