She’s football crazy, she’s football mad…
A sports newspaper journalist recalls her and her friends’ teenage obsession with the Tottenham Spurs football team after she accepts a lift from her football idol.
Those Glory, Glory Days Trailer 1983, Video Detective
We’ve all (probably) been there, as a teenager in love, totally captivated by that boy/girl band member, actor or actress or American Prime TV Soap. Then, you might have felt alone in your overwhelming feelings or have discussed the intricacies of anything and everything about it with a group of fellow devotees. Those heady days
of discussing just who did shoot Bobby Ewing in Dallas were brought back to me, just hearing the exuberant opening score of this Realweegiemidget much loved British TV Movie, Those Glory Glory Days (1983).
This movie theme – reminiscent of early 1980s football orientated shows – leads to a film about a Spurs football teenage fan, in sixties England. It is told in an original, more heartfelt way as the film centres around our protagonist one of a group of four teenage girls. It tells of their obsession with the Spurs football team during the 1960 to 1961 football season. Their story is told in this part autobiographical and part imagined script was written by Julie Welch, Fleet Street’s first female football reporter.
The opening shots (pun intended) show some action from some football matches interspersed with shots of the male-dominated press box (with a few familiar acting faces). In the movie present day, Julia Herrick (Julia Goodman) is getting the finer points of football mansplained to her by a pre-Victor Meldrew, Richard Wilson. (This sadly wasn’t the debut of him saying his catchphrase, I don’t believe it – but it so could have been.)
Her presence as the only woman there is accompanied by jeers of the generally sexist kind and patronising comments from these men. All seem unaware that Julia is a young football newspaper journalist and is reporting on her first match. After she unsuccessfully gets a press phone, Julia phones in to report about the football game from a payphone. Then she tries to get a taxi back to Fleet Street. A car leaving the football grounds stops and a gentleman offers her a lift.
After accepting this lift, Julia is stunned to discover the driver is none other than her adolescent crush, the one time Spurs football Captain, Danny Blanchflower. She tells her idol about going to see him play at Tottenham Hotspur football matches as a wee kid of five with her dad… and having fish and chips with brown sauce afterwards.
Julia then remembers her adolescence… and of a time she and her three teenage friends met him, as we are taken back to 1961… with her friend Toni “accidentally” dropping her purse as he walks by. Blanchflower picks it up, returns it to her and says something, and afterwards, the girls work out the details as they all want to take turns in keeping the purse that he touched…
Then their story is told in full, it’s dinner time, and it’s clear then thirteen year old Julia’s pretentious middle-class mother (Julia McKenzie) and father (Peter Tilbury) are having marital problems. Julia’s mother (not so subtly) makes evasive accusations in her husband’s (Peter Tilbury) general direction that she knows that he is having an affair with a work colleague.
She’s obviously protecting her daughter from not saying the truth outright, but it’s more than clear in her dialogue that she’s hurting and wants him to know it. Julia (Zoe Nathenson) leaves the table and goes to her room on the pretext of reading Little Women. It’s clear this was said only to appease her mother.
Julia’s room is festooned with Spurs memorabilia. Julia returns to her daydreams, where she’s the manager of the Spurs football team, as she spends her time talking to her small cardboard cutouts of the Spurs players. Here she’s immune to the bickering and snidey comments going on downstairs.
As she meets her father after school, the football team is again seen in Julia’s daydreams as she imagines them of real running down a staircase at her father’s work. She sees her father with a colleague, and as an adult, I now got the film subtext, that he was indeed attracted to this young woman. It’s then made more clear he is having a relationship at work, as you notice a tell-all lipstick mark on his shirt collar on their return home.
At her all-girls school, Julia is the new girl. She is given detention after a teacher (Elizabeth Spriggs) intervenes after Julia squabbles with Petrina, a ballet loving classmate. On being questioned by a teacher, Julia gives her name as Danny, her “pseudonym” in honour of her football hero. This gets the attention of a classmate, Toni, and for this apparently insolent behaviour, Julia is sentenced to make a skirt in detention.
During this detention, Toni and two fellow classmates furtively arrange to meet with her without this teacher knowing as they “converse” through the glass classroom door. On meeting them, Julia is invited to join Dub (Cathy Murphy), Toni (Sara Sugarman) and Jailbird (Liz Campion)’s “society”. These girls then initiate her into their group as they are also die-hard Spur fans.
The four girls all hang out and talk, sing about and listen to football, all the time. Be it surreptitiously listening to Spur’s future fixtures on the radio during school choir practice or by attending away matches via the football bus, it’s clear they all love this team. Then they hear that Spurs will be playing Leicester City at Wembley for the chance to win the double (this means to win both the English league and FA Cup). But on visiting the ticket office, the girls are sent away as the tickets will be sold only on a specific (school) day at nine in the morning.
Julia is volunteered by the girls to spend the night on the grounds. This is so that she can be first in the queue the following morning. She feigns a Girl Guide sleepover to her now distraught and preoccupied mother (who seems more concerned about the neighbourhood finding out that her husband has left her and that they are talking divorce). With Toni’s help, Julia is able to sneak into the team’s changing rooms undetected by the security guards.
It’s like her dream come true, as she gazes at the huge Spurs team photos, their winning cups and then she finds their unwashed football shirts. Finding Danny’s shirt, Julia puts it on and then imagines she’s with the team, as they wash after a game. The next day, she’s first in the queue, then discovers it’s only one ticket for each person and she immediately runs to tell her friends… and the rest can be found out in the usual ways…
This film was wonderfully set up as Julia remembered her childhood through black and white flashbacks. The film became full colour as the story began. This plot was a good insight into this teenage girl’s world, where she was obsessed with and often spent time daydreaming about being with her football heroes.
Young 13 year old Nathenson was wonderfully credible in her leading role, and you felt her adolescent enthusiasm for this sport in all her scenes. As a teenage obsessed fan of a certain soap, I felt both the script and Nathanson beautifully portrayed the obsessive nature of the character. A scene where Julia breaks into the school’s charity box at home to get money for a ticket was just one which beautifully recreated just how far she would go to see her idols play. (She realistically found a couple of hairgrips and a shilling).
Martin Cloake in this review of this film The New Statesman HERE, tells how Nathenson was happy to take on this role and;
“to emerse myself into such a complex character at a turning point in her life – with puberty, friendship, parental divorce and her true love, Tottenham Hotspur.”
Julia’s daydreams were beautifully set up, and the daydream where she bathes with them was tactfully and appropriately made. This scene had scenes of the unspectacled and dressed Julia in their empty bathing pool intercut with her point of view of the team as they were talking and bathing after a match.
This character was seen differently by her close friends and family. I loved that this film foreshadowed Billy Elliott (2000), in that her mother and a schoolmistress were concerned – and couldn’t understand – about her then unladylike football allegiance (in a role reversal of this plot, Billy’s father was concerned about his ballet dancing son).
Spriggs gave a Miss Jean Brodie inspired speech to Julia, on those high achieving girls she once taught who had more normal (as football was predominately more boy’s hobby then) fixations. She clearly didn’t understand this child’s obsession with “eleven men kicking a leather ball about” suggesting the school doctor talk with Julia’s mother.
Her mother believed the same and this is particularly seen after the shame of her daughter’s hobby has meant her having to talk to the teacher. As you would expect from this on-screen mother, she then dresses her daughter up in a more “feminine” way and encourages her to have a friendship with Petrina rather than Toni.
As Julia’s warring parents, Julia McKenzie hit the nail on the head, showing this pretentious middle-class wife and her overconcern about “what the neighbours might say”. Her scenes when she negotiates with her husband on the best day for him to move out, quarrels over trivial things and scenes where she cries after he leaves were acutely played by this talented actress.
Her on-screen husband seemed unaware of his daughter’s unhappiness and daydreams, and this is beautifully portrayed as it’s clear he’s more preoccupied with his wife’s demands, to take his daughter to the football final or give her money for a ticket.
I loved Julia’s friendships with Toni, Tub and Jailbird. As a group of friends, they seemed like an oddball group – with Toni, a loyal and supportive friend, Jailbird, a toughie and Tub, more girly – but they were united in their adoration of Spurs. Although it is clear from scenes that Julia has her strongest friendship with Toni. These characters were referred to by the press after this film was released as over sentimentalised, but they perfectly represented those kids seen as a bit different from the more ladylike others.
I loved the way Julia was initiated into their posse, at White Hart Lane of course.. after reciting her allegiance to the team with Spurs themed props that had been touched by the team! Part of this initiation ceremony with a small feminine touch, in that she had to write her favourite player on her bra.
This film only subtly reinforced that these fans were girls rather than making it central to their functioning as a group. Their obsession was seen as more of a concern by those female adults! These four young actresses confessed to being good friends off-screen, and this was seen in their strong on-screen natural and credible rapport.
The nostalgic script was wonderfully and creatively scripted with some beautifully filmed daydream sequences and realistic bickering between the adults. Screenwriter Welch adds an uncontrived, and more realistic plot after Julia fails to get the football final’ tickets. Welch was reportedly overjoyed when director, David Puttnam asked her to write about her teenage love for this subject for the screen, Cloake also quotes this screenwriter saying that it…
“was a dream come true – a chance to express my love and gratitude to a wonderful Spurs side that showed the 12-year-old me the impossible wasn’t impossible at all, as long as you believed and were prepared to work for it. What made it an even more fantastic experience was that Danny Blanchflower agreed to be in it. He was my hero when I was a child and when he died I vowed that I would make sure future generations of Spurs supporters would know just how special he and his team were.”
This heartwarming enthusiasm is shown in this young character’s story which is often seen from a knowing teenager’s perspective. It’s clear that Welch’s elation for this project seemed complete when her then football idol, Danny Blanchflower agreed to that all-important cameo. But you’ll find there are more than a few acting firsts. If you keep your eyes peeled in scenes of the film’s football team… it’s more than spot the ball… as you’ll spot quite a few famous acting names… I really wouldn’t know where to (Patrick) Bergin…
Weeper Rating: 😦😦 😦 😦😦/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂🙂 🙂 🙂 710
Hulk Rating: / 10
The Olympic Dreams Blogathon 2021, No 21
This review was added to 18 Cinema Lane’s Olympic Dreams Blogathon. My reviews with this cast include Cathy Murphy in Bridget Jones Baby, Eastenders and Doctor Who. Elizabeth Spriggs in Tales from the Crypt, Lovejoy and Doctor Who. Richard Wilson in Doctor Who. Julia Goodman and Zoe Nathenson in Eastenders. Dudley Sutton in Lovejoy and Madame Sin. John Salthouse in Tales from the Crypt and Eastenders. Frances Barber in Doctor Who.