In cinemas from November 1st, on DVD and digital November 16th
Fans of what the so-called beautiful game used to be are well catered for here with a lovingly made documentary on football management Scottish icons Matt Busby, Jock Stein and Bill Shankly. Based on a book by Leo Moynihan, the era dates back 50-60 years ago, though it feels like 150 years ago such is the disparity between football then and now. What’s notable here is what a hotbed of football Glasgow and the surrounding area was back in those days, with all three born within a few miles of each other in the Glasgow area. Football was a way out for them, away from the lure of the mines.
There’s a certain amount of knowledge assumed, though it deals with key events such as the 1958 Munich air crash as well as European successes for Celtic, Manchester United and Liverpool The archive footage is fascinating, both of football and the battered cities of Glasgow, Manchester and Liverpool. These men would turn in their graves to witness the pampered primadonna footballers of today, and also Scotland’s lowly place in world football terms. They took themselves seriously and the film takes itself seriously. It captures the flavour of the era, especially the 60s and 70s, and there are stellar contributions from John Giles, Alex Ferguson and Kevin Keegan to name a few.
The film is more documentary than drama. With all three men long deceased, it’s interesting to watch the decline, gradual in the case of Shankly who became somewhat estranged from Liverpool, peaceful in the case of Busby who outlasted the other two, while Stein died within minutes of the full-time whistle of his final game in management at only 62. Their stories are broadly similar in that they took a football club and built it from the ground up to previously unparalleled success. However, they were three different characters. Busby was gentler than the other two with a spiritual side not often discussed, Shankly difficult and combative. Jock Stein had the shadow of being a protestant who both played and managed what was perceived as a Catholic institution, Celtic, and he never quite escaped that. All three were fiercely loyal not only to their football clubs but also the cities of those clubs.
Definitely one for football fans, and most probably football fans who remember ‘the good old days’.