York Road is no stranger to the silver screen with our FA Cup tie against Port Vale last November giving rise to memories of the early 1950s when it was used as the setting for a pivotal scene in the Ealing Studios production, The Card, starring Alec Guinness.
In 1979 the cameras returned, this time for the Ian McShane film, Yesterday's Hero. This was something less of a cinematic accomplishment than The Card and I only saw Yesterday's Hero for the first time this summer courtesy of the new Freeview channel Talking Pictures TV which specialises in screening what are, quite frankly, pretty mediocre UK produced B movies from the 50s, 60s and 70s.
To be honest you could move Yesterday's Hero a bit further down the alphabet, as its a story packed with cliches as hackneyed as any other football drama. Scripted by Jackie Collins, the story is centred on Rod Turner (McShane) a washed up alcoholic football star playing for Windsor (insert own joke), and features a host of familiar faces from contemporary sitcoms and soaps.
McShane at least had a claim to having the footballing talent required for the role, with his Scottish father Harry having had a long career as a Football League player with spells at Bolton Wanderers and Manchester United. The use of locations and the way real match footage is used is also creditworthy reflecting Frank McLintock's role as football adviser, with the off field action letting the film down.
York Road's role is over and done with in the first three minutes of the film which opens with a shot which pans down Bell Street with a train in the background. The famous Bell St End then comes into with a handful of spectators watching a game, presumably between Maidenhead (in red) and Windsor (blue and white stripes). I understand the director requested that the pitch be flooded to give it an authentic glue pot appearance, which despite the sizable facility fee rather ruined the playing surface for the remainder of the season and arguably cost the Magpies promotion as they fell five points short in third place.
The action is played out over the intro song, with contemporary Maidenhead players featuring as extras. There are some magnificent shots of the ground, with the cameras on the York Road side. You can see what was the covered terrace on the railway side, plenty of grass beyond the perimeter and some tantalising shots of the stand that sadly burned down in 1986. The wall at the Bell Street end is a pre mural plain, with the scene feeling very recognisable as the club shop, tea bar and shelf come into view,
After the game Turner heads out for a drink with his father and friends at the Ivy Leaf club and the action switches to a concert by singer Clint Simon (Paul Nicholas) and partner known enigmatically as Cloudy (Suzanne Somers), a beta version of Dollar channeling the Dooleys and the Brotherhood of Man.
In the style of Pete Winkleman, Simon is the music impresario owner of third division club The Saints (no location but the players wear Southampton's away kit). who have just won their FA Cup quarter final against Birmingham Rovers at a cost of an injury to striker John Snatcher. Despite the misgivings of manager Jake Marsh (Adam Faith), Simon decides Turner is the answer to the Saints problems and sets out to recruit him at the next Windsor home game.
In the meantime, in between regular sips from a ubiquitous whisky bottle, Turner also coaches boys from a children's home whilst fending off any thoughts of commitment to girlfriend Glynis Barber and hoping for a move to the US from dilettante agent Alan Lake.
Turner meets Simon meet after a game at Stag Meadow, which looks pretty much unchanged 37 years later, and ends up going straight into the Saints semi-final line up to face Hamilton United (wearing the Ipswich home kit). at Portman Road.
All is going to plan, as inspired by Turner's presence, the Saints go into half time 2-0 up with Turner scoring the second. However a half time dram signals trouble with the manager and although the scoreline remains the same, once John Motson has left the post match dressing room celebrations, Marsh issues Simon with a "him or me" ultimatum.
Just in case his fate was in doubt, Turner goes on to punch Marsh at a nightclub later that evening before spending the night with Cloudy, which ensures Barber moves to the Marsh corner.
Returning to the back pages for all the wrong reasons, Turner is shunned by one of the boys at the children home and at last resolves to win his place back, pacing the mean streets of Windsor to get fit. This provides him with a place on the bench at Wembley as The Saints attempt to become the first third division team to win the Cup. Opponents Leicester Forest (in the tricky trees' red) stand in their way and using footage of the actual 1979 League cup final, Forest race into a two goal lead before Saints pull one back just before half time.
Following an unbelievably uninspiring half time talk from Marsh, the Saints do little to threaten a comeback until with eight minutes remaining Tony Keys has to make way for Turner due to injury,
Can you guess what happens next?