I've just tackled (geddit?) James Erskine's superb documentary One Night in Turin, I genuinley think this is one of the best things I've seen all year. I'm not necessarily bogged down with World Cup fever as I type, as much as I'd love to see us do something special this time, it just doesn't feel the same, I dare say every aspect of our current squad of mercenaries and our overseas manager seem a stark contrast from what I've just watched, but that's another argument for another time, as in the current state my love affair with football is going through a trial separation. Pph.
I wasn't around in '66, and the trendy one of '78 also passed me by, Italia 90 was the pivotal World Cup for me, the best one yet, I remember that long hot summer really rather well, as a football fan it was the beginning of my favourite era, my club were about to embark on the greatest of decades, four Wembley visits, excitement, legends, Bergara, Francis, too many to mention, promotions, many highs and not many lows, but major heartaches, terraces, tantrums, rivalries Stoke, Burnley, Bradford, handbags the lot, as a young football fan I lived and breathed it. That year was quite a memorable one for me personally, things at home were not the best, my father went potty and was duly sectioned, peace and quiet was restored for the time being, watching at home with friends and family and my Grandad who was taken from us prematurely just two years later, but that's my own sob story, you don't need to read that.
I can remember it all, the music, having an older brother who was regularly going to a certain Manchester club, The Mondays, The Farm all blurting out as it happened, I seem to recall everyone was wearing those James t-shirts, or was that a bit later? if it wasn't them it was definitely those rather lairy England shellsuits as worn by the squad, they were everywhere, most kids my age had jekyll ones, Umbro's diamond logo was in fact a square on these ones, and as this ran from the shoulder to the cuff, and the hip to the ankle if you wore the full suit, it wasn't exactly subtle, whoever churned those out must have done a roaring trade.
The country wasn't at it's best under a shite, old fashioned Tory government, a once proud nation on it's arse, crap hospitals, crap schools, crap polluted beaches, crap ailing industries, and we even had crap fucking food that might send you mad. The streets of London had seen the Poll Tax Riots followed shortly after by similar scenes albeit in a more subdued setting in HMP Strangeways. English football clubs were still banned from European action, the press and media were doing their best to destroy their own nations' World Cup hopes, led by the late, great Sir Bobby Robson, a man of the people, a true legend, a real character who's desire to succeed made you truly believe in him. This documentary is by and large about him, and of course Paul Gascoigne, of course it's about England's superb journey, the bitter ending, the emotion, joy and disappointment, the hooliganism, the controversy, the genuine, humbling tale of how England's band of merry men transformed the soured reputation of the beautiful game in just six weeks. The stars - Maradona, Matthäus and Milla, the heroes - Lineker, Gazza and Platt, and the villains - sports minister Colin Moynihan, the gutter press, those fucking Germans and their bastard penalties. Full of heroic brilliance, great footage, both familiar and unseen, archive and reconstructed. Narrated by the always excellent Gary Oldman, you only get his voice, yet he's still great value for money, sound tracked by The Charlatans, The Roses, The Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, The Farm and New Order, not forgetting Pavarotti.
Tinged with tragedy, there's a real bittersweet moment in there when Robson confronts the tearful Gazza, telling him he's got loads more to look forward too, tragically this was his finest hour. There's England's inevitable exit, you know what's coming, yet you'll still feel nervous watching, it all comes back as Nessun Dorma plays over the top, emotional viewing as the nations underachievers who left as 'donkeys' over achieved and returned as heroes, fittingly the Farm's ace anthem Altogether Now plays us out.