Thursday, 1 January 2009

A town, a team and a dream

A Town. A Team. And a dream.

On a recent shopping trip I happened to stray past a local bookstore. Intrigued, as any sad little bookseller would be, I reluctantly entered the dilapidated building, hoping to meet fellow geeks like myself, albeit better looking and female, when I happened upon a shelf in the sports section.

A book, simple in itself, stared back at me. I should make it clear that it wasn’t eyeballing me. It’s not like I went in there looking for a fight. I picked it up, ignoring WWF Divas Uncovered, hypnotised by its tender purring, the subtle sparkle from its smouldering red and white dust jacket pleading with me, begging me to take it from its isolated perch.

My eyes did not deceive me. The following book is real.

‘Just about everything you could ask for in a sports book… excluding promotion to the Football League’


I continued, turning inwards, my eyes disbelieving when I reached that singular page denoting a dedication from its author…

To Owen Wright, whom I miss.
To Anton, English and Gazza, whom I don’t.

Entranced, ignoring the lofty beauty of the six-fingered bookseller trying to encourage me to read Harry Potter I turn to the back cover, curiously wondering what I’d laid my greasy mitts on. Scanning the blurb, I soon find out…

In the country of Northamptonshire football is rubbish. And nowhere is more rubbish than the small town of Kettering. There, every Saturday afternoon from August to May, a bunch of footballers play their hearts out for the honour of their town. Or a town that pays them just about enough to do it (unless they have to turn professional, then they join someone else). They play in front of 900 people. Unless an England legend stops by, leaving shortly after, like the unwanted Uncle at a Wedding, only here for the party.

In 1990 Daryl Wing spent a season, then another, then another twelve, discovering just what makes a town pin its hopes on anything but the eleven men on a football field. He lived with the students, plumbers, postmen, pickers, packers, coaches and townspeople who dedicate their lives to their team, sharing their joys and triumphs, their pains, injuries and bitter disappointments. Mostly the latter.

Saturday Night Pints is one of the best books about sport ever written. It is the story of how dreams and reality collide, at once glorious and immensely sad. Very sad in fact, because for the twenty-odd men (until we get a reserve team) of Kettering Town FC these days will have been the best of their, and our, lives.

‘Superb and disturbing… more than a sports book, it’s a search for the ideal of ordinary people.’ ETHEL, NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR. BIT MAD.

‘A remarkable book, fascinating from start to finish, full of surprises, especially when you realise there isn’t one’ BOB

‘Saturday Night Pints offers a biting indictment of the sports craziness that grips, and infuriates most partners… it also explains why drinking heavily is the only cure’ KETTERING BOOK CLUB

I ran out that bookstore like Owen Wright once did down the wing, only I didn’t hit the wall on Cowper Street. Instead I stumbled inside the decadent exterior of a run-down video shop. Out of breath, my eyes strayed upon a dusty entrapment, once again its smouldering poppy red enticing me with the warmth of its figure-hugging glow.
They’d only gone and made the film as well…

(To Kettering from Harborough)


“The best sports movie for years.”

“This is a must-see sporting classic… I just wish they’d win promotion.”

Obviously, I turned to the back cover, praying they hadn’t turned it all Spielberg with CGI and sentimental final acts. They hadn’t.

When you come from nothing, winning isn’t everything… it’s the only thing.

(Didn’t one of the players shag the ginger one from Girls aloud?)

Academy Award winning producer Daryl Wing (11 mile) and director Tony Wing (Welcome to Wetherspoons and King Dad) team up with Oscar winner Tarkan Mustafa (Bandits, The Descent) to create what THE SUN called “Wally - who cares if it’s female.”

Saturday Night Pints chronicles the 15 years spent by a courageous bunch of friends, Kettering Town FC, the most successful football team in Northamptonshire’s history. For the young men of the team, every play is a chance to transcend their small town and the fleeting dream of the Football League whose pinnacle may be reached by the time they turn 81. The movie paints a vivid portrait of Kettering and places like it across England where once a week, sometimes twice, during the full season, the town and its hopes come alive beneath the dazzling lights of Gala Bingo.

I couldn’t be bothered checking out the special features. There hadn’t been that many special moments during the last 15 years. Only recently we witnessed the beauty of national exposure. We’d always wanted it, so when suddenly we got it, weren’t we glad when it was all over, normality resumed? Finally, we can return to what our team do best. Underachieve.

Fortunately, Gazza has already written his autobiography and I’m guessing we won’t be seeing a Special Edition or the missing chapters in the very near future. So please, let’s move on, shall we? Let this be the penultimate chapter on a very weird and wonderful season. Now all we have to do is win promotion or Saturday night pints will be drowning our sorrows forever more.

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