D.J. Haza presents the next entry in his series of films to watch before you die…
Mike Bassett: England Manager, 2001.
Directed by Steve Barron.
Starring Ricky Tomlinson, Amanda Redman, Bradley Walsh, Philip Jackson, Phill Jupitus and Dean Lennox Kelly.
This satirical comedy follows the rise of Norwich City manager Mike Bassett as he is offered and accepts the job of England Football Manager. Bassett’s rag tag team of wasters qualify for the World Cup and he leads his team into battle against the best in the world despite the British press continually getting on his back. The story is told in a fly on the wall documentary style through the eyes of noted journalist Martin Bashir, who follows Bassett and his team commenting on their highs and lows.
After successfully winning the Mr Clutch Cup with second tier Norwich Bassett is offered the England job, but it’s far from plain sailing and not helping are his squad. A pony-tailed goalkeeper (based on David Seaman), an alcoholic Mackem (based on Paul Gascoigne), a striker in a very poor run of form (based on Andy Cole), a midfield playboy (based on David Beckham) and an extremely aggressive centre-back kicking lumps out of everyone (based on Stuart Pearce). England lose their first two games with Bassett in charge and already his managerial career is on the rocks. When his team finally make it to Brazil Bassett is at the end of his tether and his team are falling apart around him. His family back home suffer abuse and his children are bullied at school as the British press hound him at every opportunity.
After trying everything he can and losing one, drawing the other England need to beat Argentina in order to qualify from the group stages and Bassett decides on going back to a four-four-two formation in order to play the way he wants them to, not what the press pressure him into. England win and go onto the semi finals and Bassett returns to England a hero.
The film is hilarious from start to finish and Tomlinson is as good as he has ever been as Mike Bassett. The film obviously touches on so many areas of the England team, FA, the sporting press and football in general that are ripe for comedy. Mike Bassett: England Manager is a film that you must see before you die because there is so much truth behind the comical running of the England team that in every situation there is resonance with real-life. A classic piece of British satire.