This week on Premier League Years, I’ve decided to do something different. And by different, I mean, I’m not watching a Premier League game rather doing a football documentary that I can loosely relate to the Premier League. Don’t think I can?
Well, Sky are widely accredited for the start and the rise of the Premier League. Their love of money meant that they wanted some more football across their other channels. So, we got shows like Football’s Next Star and some Stevie Gerrard documentary where he waves at Sami Hyypia on the motorway. We also got Big Ron Manager.
What’s Big Ron Manager I hear you ask? Well, Big Ron Atkinson, a manager of some repute who was a rather sizeable chap hence the creative nickname, was just a couple of years off calling Marcel Desailly a word beginning with n (it wasn’t nice, literally). That genius career move had made him a bit of a no-go for anyone with half a brain and a want for peace and quiet from a baying media.
Sky, though, love their ad revenue and decided that the best thing to do was hire Ron to do a documentary where he acts like a Mr. Fix-It of the football world. The plan was for Ronny McRacist to head into a football club, say some wise and inspiring things and get them to win and that. And we’re now going to watch it.
This is going to be gold.
Literally five seconds in and this is already incredible. The intro to this show is like a horrible early 2000s version of a 70s cop show. Minder… sorry Ron is bobblehead form with his finest clip art sheepskin and a cigar in his horribly oversized hand. It’s like he’s wearing a wicketkeeping glove without the actual glove. We see Ron on the beach, at a press conference and driving a convertible all while smoking. It’s a bit Harry Redknapp if I’m honest.
Few things about Ron’s cigar:
1. He must have been pissed about the smoking ban, the media less so.
2. Who smokes a cigar on the beach? That seems inappropriate.
3. He really should be looking at the road when he’s driving, even in bobblehead form.
That’s not all. The actual football part includes an overview of bobblehead Ron’s tactical approach. It involves pointing a lot at players, checking his watch and a board with lots of meaningless arrows, circles and crosses with ‘early doors’ written on it. See where Paul Ince got his tactical nous from.
We’re into episode one and the big question is just how will they tackle the issue of Ron’s slight racism? Like only Ron could. We’re straight up front with it, amongst lots of shots of Roy staring off into nothing and getting out of his chauffered Mercedes (we’ll see that a lot), as narrator Jeff Stelling tells us that Ron is a legend and that he made the remark when “he thought he was off the air”. That makes it all OK.
Ron himself opens with an anecdote about Terry Venables telling him to stop apologising. Ron took this to mean that he should get back on the horse and back into football. Terry was just telling him to f**k off into obscurity because he loves the tits on Page Three.
Jeff tells us about the premise of the show. What I came to realise during this is the sheer amount of shots they took of Ron just staring into nothing. Some where he stands, some where sits, some where looks up and some where he looks straight ahead. Reminds me of Prison Break.
After seeing Ron mingle with random people, we hear some of the stuff he’ll get involved in as a ‘troubleshooter’. Advising the manager (“have a list of points you want to talk about”); analysing tactics and finances at lower league level. Ron also has principles for on-field success: hard work, decisive management and boardroom backing. I’m not a manager but I’d hazard a guess that being good at football helps too.
So, where does Ron go? Well, after the most horribly staged phone conversation of all time which begins “Top man, it’s Basil Brush”, we find out it’s Peterborough United, which in 2006 is a fine, fine choice for comedy. Barry Fry had just sacked ex-England defender Mark Wright and replaced him with his assistant, Steve Bleasdale.
Steve Bleasdale? Who the f**k is he? Well, he shouts. A lot. His favourite words are “foul” and “fuck”. And that is about it. His first inspiring team talk we see is at training where he simply says “put the same effort in as me or fuck off”. Amazing.
This is also his first managerial job in the Football League which is always going to end well. Oh well, Angry Steve seems very optimistic at Ron’s staged introduction to the staff so that’s going to change fast.
We’re into games initially as Ron takes a watching brief. We see a win at Notts County where we’re introduced to Danny Crow who according to Basil Brush has 12 in 20 and is only 19. He’s, to quote Basil, “magic”. He currently plays for Sudbury. Big Ron’s verdict? “Excellent”. Said with complete and utter sincerity.
It’s time for Ron to get stuck in and he’s off to an Angry Steve training session. Honestly, this looks like a shit version of my Under 15s days but Ron seems happy. He wants a goalkeeping coach as the keepers were just dawdling about doing nothing. We also get a staged sit down between Ron and Angry Steve which includes the exciting insider knowledge of Bristol Rovers’ front two for the weekend. “I had them as youngsters” says Ron with nothing else to add. I get the feeling he hasn’t watched League Two before this. Posh lost 2-1.
Nobody’s really impressed by their performance especially Basil who promptly tells them Monday he pays their “fucking wages” and that they’d better get promoted. Lovely man.
HERE WE GO GUYS! It’s time for Ron to address the players. It seems they’re not exactly on board calling Angry Steve “gaffer” or even training. So what wisdom does Ron have for Magic Danny Crow and the boys? Calling him “boss” or it’s a fiver in the drinks kitty. Wish I went to their end of season party now.
Attitudes still shite, Angry Steve decides to become Jose Mourinho for a bit and takes them to a factory because when “Mourinho does it, it’s fucking great”. If Mourinho crapped himself that’s not great. Sean St. Ledger is very much not impressed, confused by simple things like goggles and helmets. He’s not very bright.
Ron busies himself while everyone’s fannying about in a factory, adding his old pal Tony Godden as a goalkeeping coach. Honestly, it’s the smartest and best thing that’s happened this whole episode. Top marks Ron.
Sadly, Ron’s decided that he’s going to get involved in training a little too because the players like and respect him already. This does not sit well with Angry Steve who’s, you know, the guy in charge. Angry Steve uses angry and throws the camera crew out and bans Ron from the dressing room. Superb.
The episode’s final action is with a home game against Stockport which Ron uses to cry to his old pal Basil about not being let in the dressing room to undermine Angry Steve some more and offer empty, meaningless bits of “advice”. It’d also ruin Angry Steve’s straight from the internet motivational speeches which are truly, truly awful. No wonder the players had no respect for him. Peterborough win though so who am I to judge. Oh wait…
It’s time for the showdown. Ron’s snitching on Angry Steve lead to this meeting so Angry Steve shows up with absolutely no voice. Never has a human being so angrily whispered in all of history. Anyway, Angry Steve agrees to play nice… for now.
So, what do I make of this show? Well, it’s horribly contrived in parts, hilarious in concept in others and full of dead air time as Ron either stares or offers absolutely nothing in the way of constructive advice. Angry Steve is amazing, Basil is a pain, Sean St. Ledger is dumb and Danny Crow is definitely not magic.
Like Steve Bleasdale’s managerial career, this show is shit. Just three episodes to go…