The Atmosphere of A Football Match


I am well underway in my reconstruction of my movie Derby Double and as I have moved forward chopping and changing and tightening the script, one thing has not changed. The atmosphere of the Football scenes.

If you have ever been to a Football match, it isn’t just the play your aware of. You’re away of it’s most important aspect. The crowd. Other than American Football there is no other sport I am aware of where the crowd makes it an event. I went to Stamford Bridge as a boy and believe me live matches have television beat by a mile. The crowd makes it a party, with the singing of songs, the chanting and clapping for your club. In the movie, I describe all those songs and the chanting and clapping as a symphony of support. When the team’s winning, there is a sea of scarves and banners all over the stand, like in no other sport. Yes I know some people will argue that the Steelers terrible towels probably had any sport beat in terms of that support. Not in my mind. At least not in Britain at a Football match. Now that has those towels beat by a mile.

As I was writing Derby Double, I wanted to capture the atmosphere more than anything else. It had to be there, otherwise I didn’t think this movie would work. I’ve not seen a Football movie that does that. I think in no other sport, do players feed off their crowd than English Football players. I wanted to bring the audience to a sports party. It’s an intense wild affair that cannot be duplicated like any other sport. To capture the essence, the match had to mean something. The tension of a moment had to create that crowd fever, whether it be the match where Mick finally explodes onto the scene, or it was the match for the Championship where Mick gets her first taste of what it’s like to lead a side to glory.

The most important match scene to me was the FA Cup Final. The movie starts in the 1980’s, the troubles are increasing and it ends around 1990, ten years after Seamus left due to injury and due to Hannah’s murder. Seamus comes back to a different sport and he’s in a different time. What hasn’t changed is the crowd, just as intense as ever. Seamus feeds off that support and that crowd. The crowd brings the joy back to him. It culminates with the FA Cup Final. He wants that winners medal and if he has to break his knee again to do it, he will.

My memories of the FA Cup Final are vivid. I watched it on Television and even there the atmosphere was electric. I can only imagine what it’s like to be there live.

When I created my Wembley Final, I wanted it to be chock full of all the traditions. I wanted the pregame on television, interviews with players, that moment where the players came out an hour before kick off to check out the Wembley pitch. I wanted the little old man to come out and lead the crowd in “Abide With Me.” Unfortunately a lot of that had to go by the way side, because it made the script far too long, but I did keep some. I have a shot of the old Wembley stadium and it’s giant towers, which were always so magnificent to look at. The most important tradition was that crowd. I kept the battle before the match, so when the clubs walk out the tunnel, they are made to feel like they are the honored guests. There was one last thing I needed for my Final. The match had to be epic.

Sheffield United, the Protagonist team must come from behind. By half time they are two goals down to Sheffield Wednesday and all seems hopeless. When young Midfield starlet Peter Broadley gives up and tells his club wait till next season, Seamus blows his gasket. He packs his kit bag and tells Broadley to go home. Seamus has not given up and in a half time speech that would have made Jimmy Blanchflower proud, he invokes the name Alan Ball, his favorite player. He explains that Alan Ball ran all day. He fought for every ball he won and won back every ball he lost. Seamus explains Alan Ball pulled England up by the bootstraps and won them the 1966 World Cup. He tells his teammates they are not playing like him. He then reminds them who they are and what they can do out on the pitch.

What happens next is Mick starts the United chant. His fellow teammates suddenly believe that a two goal deficit is not so daunting after all. Every play chants United out of the dressing room, through the tunnel and out onto the pitch. Seamus takes one end of the Wembley terraces and encourages the United supporters to life their downcast heads and start a loud support. Mick goes one better, he jumps the famed bannister and hops into the crowd and high fives fans and makes them believe. Soon the whole club has taken all four corners of the stadium. Wembley is suddenly louder than it’s ever been. The Wednesday players suddenly realize they are doomed. The sleeping giant has woken up and he’s ready for his meal. With the crowd behind them, Seamus and Mick turn the match into the resurrection of the great Stanley Matthews Final of 1953 and win the Final.

I probably had the most fun writing the match scenes. Oddly they don’t come into play until 50 pages in, but they are there and as I was writing them, I felt they had to be choreographed. I came up with how a goal was scored and what type I wanted in any given match scene. The crowd was always a big part of it. In the big Championship Match, Seamus reinjures his knee and has to come out. Sheffield United are 1 goal down and need to win. Manager, Dennis Hope has no choice, he has to put Gordon Jessup, a marginal squad player in and move his Sweeper to Wing. Mick takes the bull by the horns and demands to switch to wing. He will lead the club, because Seamus was willing to bleed for the cause, now it’s his time to play his part. Hope agrees and sends Mick out to the Wing.

Mick reorganizes United before the restart and confuses the Wednesday Defense from one end of the park to the other. At one point he is trapped and in an effort to get out of it Mick dribbles backwards and cuts back up pitch beating defenders one at a time as they come at him. Mick lays off a beautiful pass over the outstretched Goalkeeper, which his teammate Kenny Dayken scores with ease. After the equalizer, the most important crowd moment in the whole movie came into my head. Mick takes that celebration to the terraces and he asks the crowd one question. “You want to win the Championship? Let’s be having you then. Let’s win the Championship.” The crowd goes ballistic and believe they can do it. Once again Mick works his magic for goal two off a free kick that is brilliantly designed with the help of Danish player Danan Bjorgesen. Once again Mick opens the space and delivers the kill cross to Jock McAndrew, who dives and scores the header that wins the match.

With all these traditions and images, I hope what comes across the most is how beautiful this sport is with the majesty of the crowd and how that crowd is the most important aspect of the game. The crowd, the song, the dancing and the players who interact with the crowd all make Football what it is, The Beautiful game.

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