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Football Film Thursdays: Mike Bassett - England Manager

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Ladies and gentlemen. England will be playing Four-Four-Fucking Two.

Mike Bassett: England Manager is a 2001 comedy film directed by Steve Barron, following the fortunes of the manager of Division One football club Norwich City, Mike Bassett, played by Ricky Tomlinson (Jim Royle from the Royle Family), who having led his side to the 'Mr Clutch Cup' (the League Cup), is appointed England manager.

Bassett is appointed manager following the previous England manager dying of a heart attack. The FA need a replacement and after ignoring the best English manager, as he's too much of a 'loudmouth' (reference to Brian Clough being continuously overlooked for the England job), and every other Premier League English manager having no interest in the job, in comes Mike Bassett.

The film follows the journey of Mike's tenure as England manager in the style of a 'mockumentary'. Think of a hybird of The Office and the Damned United. Martin Bashir, well known as a journalist and presenter in real life, most notably for his interview with Michael Jackson, plays the interviewer and provides the voice-over. The film satirises many targets, such as the mysterious figures who run the Football Association, the stereotypical view of an old-fashioned manager, and the tabloid press's habit of building the England team up so they can knock them down hard.

Several of the film's characters reference real life people in football. Bassett's assistants, Lonnie Urquart and Dave Dodds, portrayed by Phillip Jackson and Bradley Walsh respectively, are based on Graham Taylor's assistants Lawrie McMenemy and Phil Neal. Neal, is of course the former Bolton Wanderers player and manager, and was seen as a spineless "yes-man", after a documentary of the demise of Graham Taylor's reign as England manager.

The film also references real life footballers. The squad features a pony-tailed goalkeeper (based on David Seaman); Kevin Tonkinson, an alcoholic Mackem (based on Paul Gascoigne); Rufus Smalls, a striker going through a very poor run of form (based on Andy Cole); Steve Harper, a playboy midfielder (based on David Beckham) and Gary Wackett, an extremely aggressive centre-back (based on Stuart Pearce/Vinnie Jones).

As with every good football film, Mike Bassett features numerous cameos. These range from Atomic Kitten and Keith Allen, who perform the World Cup song with Bassett's squad, to Ronaldo (Brazilian one) and Pele.

Mike Bassett: England Manager has some really funny moments. If you want to see how the equivalent of Steve Evans (The guy who just got sacked by Rotherham United) would do as England manager, here you go.

Verdict 8/10

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