An alternative TOP 10 football films to watch over Christmas

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What really defines a football film? North West Sports Editor PETER STOREY picks 10 of his favourites, and admits some of them have little to do with the beautiful game at all!

What constitutes a football film? For the purposes of this selection, I’ve decided it only needs to have football playing a part in the plot somewhere.

In fact, given that most soccer movies fall down the moment they try and depict the actual game itself, it’s fair to say I’ve mostly veered AWAY from match action.

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So ‘When Saturday Comes’ won’t feature on the grounds that the action scenes are awful...and the plot and acting are marginally worse.

Eric Cantona attends a premiere of ‘Looking for Eric’ in October 2009 (photo: Getty Images)Eric Cantona attends a premiere of ‘Looking for Eric’ in October 2009 (photo: Getty Images)
Eric Cantona attends a premiere of ‘Looking for Eric’ in October 2009 (photo: Getty Images)

‘Escape To Victory’ is ruled out here mainly because of the wooden performances of ‘star’ turns such as Pele, Mike Summerbee and Russel Osman (granted they are more believable than Sylvester Stallone).

I decided not to include biographical films or documentaries, just fictional movies. But be sure you check out ‘Next Goal Wins’, ‘An Impossible Job (Do I Not Like That!)’, ‘One Night In Turin’, ‘George Best: All By Himself’ and ‘I Believe in Miracles’.

I was tempted to include ‘Flushed Away’ with a plot hinging on people going to the loo at half-time in the World Cup final, but that one hit the bar.

So here goes...


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Qualifies as a work of fiction, given David Peace’s liberal interpretation of the ‘story’ behind Brian Clough’s rise to prominence at Derby and his infamous 44 days at Leeds. Michael Sheen’s Clough and Timothy Spall’s Peter Taylor are probably the only true depiction of real-life relationships in what was a controversial movie, but it is a rollercoaster ride which captures the flavour of the story and Colm Meaney pulls off a great Don Revie impersonation.

9. KES

Not a film with the beautiful game at its heart, but it is included for one very ugly cameo from Brian Glover as a bullying PE master wearing Bobby Charlton’s No.9 shirt (“Denis Law’s in the wash” he explains) which strikes a chord with me as the perfect depiction of the misery of secondary modern school games lessons in the seventies. It is genius and Ken Loach brings Barry Hines’ fantastic novel to life.


Okay, I admit, it’s an easy pick but the plot’s believable and the characters are too. I watched it again just the other day and it still stands up, despite being almost 20 years old!


Bucking the trend, this film is included precisely BECAUSE the action is so good. The CGI is fantastic as a Mexican wannabe follows his dream of trying to make the grade at Newcastle United. Steve Bruce could have done with a Santiago Munez before the Toon takeover. Oh and a word of advice if you like this and think of watching the follow-ups Goal II and Goal III: Don’t!


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Overlooking the fact that it’s about Arsenal, the dramatisation of Nick Hornby’s novel is done well enough (certainly better than the US version which transposed football for baseball) and will ring true with any football fan who has thought their actions might affect, for good or bad, the fortunes of their own team.


A coming of age comedy, Gregory’s Girl was 40 years old in 2021! I remember seeing it as a ‘B’ movie warm-up to Chariots of Fire...I thought it was easily superior then, and I still do. John Gordon Sinclair’s ‘Gregory’ has a crush on his school team’s new star striker, Dee Hepburn’s ‘Dorothy’. The bitter-sweet comedy stars a pre-Altered Images Claire Grogan. It isn’t a film which would get made today – the creepy attitudes expressed by some of the male teachers will make audiences cringe.


Great soundtrack and with John Henshaw in the cast, what could go wrong? Young Jimmy Grimble finds himself going from loser to boy genius on the school pitch but can it all be down to his magic boots, supposedly worn by an old Manchester City hero? Robert Carlyle plays the ex-Maine Road pro-turned-PE teacher and when my own kids met him a few years ago, he told them this movie is the reason his own daughter is a City fan. Even United fans can love this film.


This mockumentary is surely Ricky Tomlinson’s finest hour, even including the Royle Family. Some of the

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one-liners are hilarious and the action ‘footage’ is deliberately so bad it is forgivable. A great supporting cast too. It is chaotic, it really shouldn’t work at all, based as it is on the Graham Taylor ‘An Impossible Job’ fly-on-the-wall documentary made by Channel 4, but the pace and the laughs never let up for the appropriate-enough 90 minutes’ run time.


Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown trilogy of novels are a great read, and like ‘The Commitments’ and ‘The Snapper’ before it, the ‘The Van’ translates well to the big screen. It follows the hilarious fortunes of the brilliant Colm Meaney, who along with pal Donal O’Kelly, decides to capitalise on the Republic of Ireland qualifying for the 1986 World Cup by starting a fast food business from a clapped-out old ice cream van in Dublin.


Another outing in this selection for John Henshaw, Ken Loach’s painfully real-life domestic breakdown drama is peppered with humour. Postman Eric Bishop (Steve Evets) finds his life spiralling out of control, left to bring up two stepsons – one of them very wayward – he comes back into contact with his ex-wife, and gets involved with a low-life gangster. The cameos from Eric Cantona come in the form of hallucinations, and the football connection comes from Evets’ FC United-supporting pals who combine in a very unique way to help him get out of the mess he’s found himself in.

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