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Christmas Football

The football documentary has become a staple in the Christmas stocking-filler market. If you know a supporter’s team, one of these is surer to please than a comedy DVD (there’s a big difference between Roy 'Chubby' Brown and Sofie Hagen) and already this year we have had films on Stanley Matthews and Wales’ Euro 2016 journey. In the last month, three more releases firmly targeting the giving season, have hit the stores. Kenny, on the great Dalglish; Nature’s Fire on the career of Bill Shankly the Liverpool manager and 89; on Arsenal’s last game of that season, snatching of the league title away from Liverpool.

So that’s Liverpool supporters sorted. I got to thinking, what documentaries would I like to see? Three subjects very quickly came to mind; a crisis, a game and a person.

1. The Death of Wimbledon FC and the Birth of AFC Wimbledon.

Many now see the FA’s sanctioning of a team moving from south London to Milton Keynes as the moment football lost its soul and turned into a business produced for a global audience rather than the communities that had given birth to the clubs. The whole affair has, of course, been covered but only in bitty partial ways with the MK side over here and the plucky stay-at-home Wombles over there.

What I would like to see is a forensic report from inside the rooms where the decisions took place. The one where the move was first rejected by the Football League and then the other, at the FA’s Independent Commission, where it was approved; this later gathering giving rise to a report containing the comment on proposals to create a new Wimbledon in London as "not in the wider interests of football." Really!

As AFC have recently been given permission to start building a new ground, now seems like the perfect time for a deep analysis of this kind.

2. The Battle of Old Trafford

The 21st of September (2003 – 2004 season) and probably the best goalless draw I have ever seen. This fiery encounter at the height of the Arsenal/Wenger and Manchester United/Ferguson rivalry occurred during the Gunners’ “Invincibles” season. Arsenal won the league and their unbeaten run continued into the following season where they were stopped, conclusively by United.

There’s plenty of “media” (from both clubs) around this September 2003 game but none focussed solely on it. Arsenal incorporate it into the Invincibles mythology while Manchester United, rather pointedly, have a double feature celebrating the subsequent season’s 2005 encounters, both of which they won. Still it would be nice to have something, independently produced shinning the spotlight firmly on that great match.

3. *awaiting lawyers approval for name*

Let me lay out a scenario for you. Manager leaves reasonably successful club under a cloud and goes to their fiercest rivals. Rivals are then relegated. Manager returns to reasonably successful club and goes onto win the FA Cup with them. What is going on here? Nothing underhand, I am sure but it certainly looks mad. Trojan Horse mad. Bond Villain mad.

You could only believe in such a ridiculous series of events, one lining up after the other, in football. Do I think it was all a cunning plan? No. You don’t get to be a football manager or player without extreme dedication and that drive produces a compulsion to work sometimes overriding personal relationships or even health. There is an almost endless lists of professionals that have started out at one club and then moved onto a rival. Rarely, if ever though, have all the dominos fallen quite this neatly as this, and in such a short space of time. It would be great to watch an insiders take on this wild ride.

Leonard Apple.

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