Monday, June 6, 2016

The Beautiful Game on Celluloid, Part Five

Spoiler Alert: I assume most people have already seen these films; as a result I discuss the plot as much as I can. I will not try to go into every detail but generalize as much as possible.

Film:   Those Glory Glory Days (1983)
In a scene from ‘Those Glory Glory Days’, the lead character, Julia tells her schoolteacher that ‘Danny Blanchflower is God in a Spurs Shirt.’
In a sport that is largely followed by Males, most fiction about the Game in print and on the screen tends to naturally reflect the Male experience.
‘Those Glory Glory Days’ is the rare film that looks at the Game from a Female perspective.
The film is based on Sports Journalist Julie Welch’s experiences as a young Football fan and in fact she wrote the screenplay for this film.
In the opening sequences, we see footage from a then-current match (it appears to be a Tottenham-Everton match-up).
We see the Press area with Men reporting the game on their phones. In those days Journalists would dictate their report over the phone back to their Newspaper Headquarters to meet the deadline.
We suddenly notice one single Female in this sea of all-men. She is treated condescendingly by her male counterparts and has not even been given a phone. She finally is forced to make her report from a pay phone in the Stadium (assumed to be White Hart Lane).
She appears clearly disappointed by her experience.
As she is standing outside the Stadium and waiting for a cab, a man driving a Mercedes gives her a lift.
As soon as she enters the car, she recognizes the driver (At this point, the driver is not shown just heard).
She tells him ‘I used to watch you play’. It is revealed that the driver is none other than Danny Blanchflower, the hero of Tottenham’s Double Winning season of 1960/61 and her idol.
It is at this point that through flashbacks, we learn of our protagonist’s past and devotion to Tottenham and especially Blanchflower,
Julia, our main character, has been going to Tottenham matches since she was as young as five. That was a ritual that she and her father shared.
Julia is now a thirteen years old schoolgirl (looking as awkward as any real thirteen year old would, along with big glasses, etc.) and is a super fan of Tottenham.
At school, her three closest friends are also Tottenham fans. They are Toni (played by Sara Sugarman, who was actually 20-21 years old at the time of filming), Tub (played by Cathy Murphy) and Jailbird (played by Liz Campion).
Julia’s room is a shrine to Tottenham with posters and memorabilia all over. Julia is a football fan much to the dismay of her mother, who says she is neither ‘a coal miner’ nor ‘a garage mechanic.’
While her father does not disapprove of her passion, he nevertheless seems less interested to take her to Tottenham matches anymore.
At home, we also get hints that Julia’s parents are having marital problems. It is implied that the father is having an affair at work (he works at the City Council).  One day after school while visiting her father at his work place, Julia witnesses him working closely with a female co-worker and deduces that he is in fact having an affair (she later notices lipstick on his collar as well).
Julia is also prone to daydreaming (that we shall see more of). On one occasion, while she is waiting for her father at his office, she imagines the entire Spurs squad running by and she starts giving them a pep talk and instructions.
One day she has a fight in class with another student and is punished to two hours of sewing by her Teacher. This particular teacher will become the scourge of Julia (and we shall meet her again).
Afterwards, her three friends take her away from the class to White Hart Lane to make her a fully-fledged member of their Tottenham fan group.
As part of her initiation, she has to abide by some rules. These include conditions such as: wearing a Spurs players’ name on her bra and never speak to anyone who likes Arsenal.
She is given a shinguard of ‘Bobby Charlton after a tackle by Dave Mackay’ and patches of grass that is ‘the ground walked on by Blanchflower.’
She is knighted by a piece of the West End seat and a ‘Bobby Smith’s chewing gum’ is passed around and chewed by all.
Finally to make it complete, they all kneel on the White Hart Lane pitch and say ‘we kiss this ground to love Spurs until death.’
In the coming weeks, we see the girls at various places (choir class, bathroom, etc.) listening with transistor radios about Tottenham’s upcoming FA Cup draws in each round until the Final.
The girls are overjoyed with Tottenham reaching the Final and naturally make plans to attend the Final at Wembley.
While all seems to be going well with her friends, the matters at home are getting worse between her parents.
She needs money for FA Cup Final tickets, but her parents are more pre-occupied with their marital problems and ignore her.
Tub lends her the money and they all go to Tottenham’s ticket booth at White Hart Lane to buy the tickets fro the FA Cup Final vs. Leicester City on May 6th, 1961. Upon arriving they learn that the tickets are to be sold on a designated day only.
It is decided amongst the girls that one of them will have to hide and spend the night inside the gates so that they can get the tickets.
Julia is chosen for the task and tricks her mother into thinking that she is spending the night at school premises for some sort of school related activities (she wears a scout-like uniform).
With help from Toni she sneaks into the stadium and hides there. As she is walking in the stadium she gets a glimpse of the team’s history by passing by old photos and trophies.
Once again her imagination runs wild and she starts talking to the players in the photos.
In the locker room she finds the players unwashed jerseys and wears the number 4 (that of Blanchflower).
She hides in the empty team bathtub and there imagines the tub with all the players and gives a pep talk as their Manager Bill Nicholson.
Eventually the entire team starts singing ‘Glory, Glory, Hallelujah… Spurs go marching on’.
She wakes up on the White Hart Lane pitch and is the very first person in line for the tickets. However, she is told that it’s one ticket per person and she cannot buy four tickets.
She leaves and goes back to school to fetch the girls. By the time they all arrive at the booth, the tickets have been sold out.
As a result the other three girls are angry with Julia and temporarily turn against her.
At home, Julia’s parents’ marital woes worsen as the father is seeking to move out.
After sometime, in school, the teacher (from the earlier episode, who dislikes her) catches Julia writing a letter in class.
She is writing a false letter to Danny Blanchflower asking for FA Cup tickets for ‘her crippled grandfather.’
The teacher berates her for liking Football. Julia passionately explains to her why she likes Football, but the teacher instead scolds her even more and arranges for Julia’s mother to meet with the school Doctor to discuss her ‘condition.’
Julia’s Mother, already opposed to her passion for Football, tries to cut her friends from her life and instead tries to arrange play dates with a friend from a more well to do family.
Her new friend is more into ballet and dolls and not at all into Football. Nor is her snobbish father who looks down upon Football fans as yobs.
Despite his disdain for Football, he has exactly four FA Cup final tickets. He is using those to impress foreign clients on a visit.
Julia is staying over the night at her new friend’s and during the night she steals the tickets.
The next morning (the day of the FA Cup Final), one by one she gathers her friends. This is interspersed with actual footage of the FA Cup Final.
Once they arrive at the stadium’s gates, Julia’s new friend’s father (from whom she stole the tickets) is there waiting for them with the Police. He retrieves the tickets and the girls are led away by the Police to their station.
Julia is released by the Police and picked up by her parents. On the drive back, Julia’s mother informs her that she is in the process of reconciling with Julia’s father. However, Julia seems more interested in the outcome of the match. As soon as she gets home, she runs to listen to the radio. She learns that Tottenham has won and they have become the first team in the Century to win the League and Cup Double. Again we see actual footage of Tottenham players collecting the trophy.
In the Fall, she attends a new boarding school and never saw her friends again.
The film now shifts back to the present with Julia sitting in Danny Blanchflower’s car, having recounted the preceding events.
Danny Blanchflower (played by himself) offers her pearls of wisdom when she asks ‘Do you think I’m daft, wanting to be a football reporter?’
He responds ‘Well, I think you are a bit daft, yes, but you’ve got to be a bit daft sometimes, if you want to change things. You’ve got to fight for your place – if you want to get into the team.’
He finally asks her ‘will we see you in the press box next week?’ and of course the answer is a resounding yes.
In 1969, Julie Welch, became Fleet Street’s first female football reporter.
This film is a reminder of a bygone era where fans within their communities genuinely supported their teams from a very young age.
A refreshing aspect of this film is that the girls do actually look and act like teenagers and not unrealistic super glamorous beautiful actresses that would have been cast in most films.
It is also surprisingly not preachy about the gender issue.  It is not trying to make a statement about the place of women in the Game.
Besides the opening sequence at the press box, the fact that the main characters are female has no bearing on the story. In essence, they are not female Football fans; they are Football fans that happen to be female.
Julia’s devotion to Blanchflower is not a schoolgirl crush nor is it like similar era Beatles-like devotion. Julia and her friends are truly knowledgeable about the Game and are true fans of the sport.
This film could have just as well been about a group of four boys. It is a nostalgic look at one’s youth as a Football fan irrespective of gender.

Zoe Nathenson who played Julia in this film, has played the late Bob Hoskins’ daughter in two movies: Mona Lisa (1986) and Raggedy Rawney (1988, directed by Hoskins himself)


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  2. Brilliant film. Watched it years ago, and I can still remember so much of it.