Tag Archives: Harchester United

Dream Team. Final Score. And the small matter of a London derby

19 Apr

Brentford travel to Millwall this lunchtime for a fixture that has everything to give. For the Lions, a mere two points separate them from the relegation places whilst the Bees will be looking to close in on another top ten finish. With Promotion chasing Leeds United due to visit on Monday, if that is an aspiration that Thomas Frank is serious about then three points today will be a must for the red and white (hopefully) machine. It will be a task made all the trickier with the news that Said Benrahama is out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.  Devastating stuff for Bees’ fans but presumably (please….) nothing more than a precaution ahead of his, and our, final campaign at Griffin Park. Yet there’s as much to take out of today ‘off-pitch’ as well as on it, thanks to a surpise contender – West Ham United.

There’s not much can be said about Millwall that hasn’t been said before. Jellied eels. Cockles. The Den. ‘That’ walkout song which also doubles up as goal music – something which is already the most heinous of supporter inflicted tortures then made worse by that banjo filled gumph  . Violence. Racism. No-one likes us  etc etc etc . It’s fair to say that the club don’t have a great reputation, something made all the worse by playing in a breeze block stadium that visiting supporters are then kettled out of once the home fans have dissipated.

As such, you could perhaps be forgiven for giving this one a swerve today. Catching up via I-follow in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking could be well up there on the list of more pleasurable options. Even better, catching up via BBC Radio London digital in the sunshine with a few cold ones and the barbecue cooking. There we have the pleasure of the dream-team of commentary – Phil Parry and Billy Reeves doing their thing from the seats above the Meridian Line. The programme starts at 12.30 ahead of the 13.00 kick off.

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Yet, as always, whatever the reasons not to go you can bet that we’ll be there en-masse. Easter bank holiday has that beautiful footballing double–header of the Lions and Leeds aswell as being one of the last chances to gorge on the beautiful game before the barren summer months. Besides, for yours truly Millwall has an additional reason for the annual pilgrimage. Dream Team. Not so much Billy and Phil but that much lamented Sky One thing.

I’ve spoken about it before on these pages and will no doubt do so many times again. But why wouldn’t you? It was magnificent. For all the wrong reasons. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia  – Millwall’s ‘New’ Den played host to the exterior shots in later series – and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Dream Team – Fletch is sorely missed

The plots were riddled with more holes than our defence. Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Goalkeeper Jamie Parker holding his team mates at gun point in the changing room. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

It was truly awful yet compellingly addictive. Sadly, the show was axed in 2007 yet many loyal fans still campaign for a return . Indeed, with Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harchester? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ? If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

If nothing else, the 2018 film ‘Final Score’ shows the appetite for terrible football drama combined with stadium movies remains alive and kicking.  If you haven’t seen it as yet then please do. The Independent described it as “The most preposterous film of the year”. Things are bad when a movie doesn’t even go ‘straight to video’ but instead, ‘straight to sky movies’. Albeit, with a supposedly simultaneous big-screen release.

For those who may not be aware, season 2015/16 saw West Ham leave The Boleyn Ground (as the media insisted on calling a stadium they had only ever previously referred to as Upton Park) in a departure that was very much ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. I think it got the odd mention on Sky Sports over the campaign but don’t quote me on that. The denouement of their protracted exit saw supporters thinking demolition work had started early as a series of explosions ripped through the old ground back in June 2016. Infact, this turned out to be the filming of something I had promptly forgotten about until the aforementioned tweet crossed my social media stream.

Oh, my. Preposterous doesn’t even begin to touch the sides on this one. When it was released, Mrs. Bruzon and myself took the first opportunity to watch this shocker about a terrorist hostage-taking at The Boleyn Ground. A name they must have mentioned about a dozen times in the first half hour, in case anybody was in any doubt. All this happens in secret (don’t ask) and whilst West Ham are taking part in a European Cup semi-final against Russian outfit Dynamo FC. Count the number of things wrong in that last sentence alone. All the while, the hostage takers are searching out Pierce Brosnan, whose East European accent was even dodgier than his beard, whilst Drax from Guardians Of The Galaxy attempts to save both the day and the annoying daughter of a former army comrade whose death he feels responsible for.

This REALLY happened.

It was incredible. So truly bad it crossed to the other side and became unintentional comedy gold. Equal parts Nicolas Cage (if only he’d been available) and Sean Bean’s ‘When Saturday Comes’ with a decent dollop of Dream Team on top.

If it worked for West Ham and Pierce than how about resuscitating the corpse of Dream Team. Come on Sky. Come on TV Producers. Come on Andy. Oh, and come on Brentford. Great though it is to visit the home of Harchester united, six points from Millwall and Leeds United would make this a quite wonderful Easter weekend.

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Final Score – if Dream Team ever reached the big screen

Nick Bruzon

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That Sky One Harchester United thing. Dear Sky TV, Andy Ansah, Richie et al….

3 May

These pages usually talk about Brentford FC but, occasionally, we look further afield than Griffin Park. Today is just one of those. It is a time when we need to look back to look forward. And also ask the question – is it time for a footballing renaissance?

That Sky One Harchester United thing”. Not my words but those of Absolute Radio DJ Richie Firth, talking on Wednesday morning’s Christian O’Connell Breakfast show. Regular readers may well be aware of, amongst other things, the show’s role in resolving the Cameron Diaz / Brentford story (something which, for the record, our own club commentator par-excellence Mark Burridge also had a hand in at one point).

But this was not a discussion about celebrity fans (or lack of). Instead, it was talk of actor Ricky Whittle and his current role in TV series American Gods. The actor, who has also appeared in Hollyoaks and on Strictly Dancing, is probably best known for playing Ryan Naysmith on what Richie had called That Sky One Harchester United thing. Or, of course, Dream Team.

Ahh, Dream Team. Running for ten series, the show was centred around the ongoing and progressively more outlandish events at fictional football club Harchester United. Combining real life stadia and action (often Leicester City, Chelsea or Everton but with the contrast turned up to make their blue shirts look like Harchester’s purple) the show was as loved for its crazy plots as the frequent use of celebrity cameos. From Ron Atkinson to John Barnes, even one time Bee’s boss Steve Coppell had a go at channeling his inner Marlon Brando. It wasn’t good.

Yet perhaps the most famous of these actors was another former Bee (and member of our ‘top ten moustaches‘ club), Andy Ansah. Forget his later work on ‘Street Striker’ or numerous films and adverts though. For me his crowning glory was six series reciting variants of: ‘Get warmed up lads’ and ‘Alright, Gaffer?’ whilst playing himself, as the club’s first team coach.

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Ansah – wonderful Tekkers

I caught up with Andy a few years ago whilst writing a ‘Where Are They Now’ article for the Griffin Park match day programme. It goes without saying that the main topic of conversation was this wonderful, wonderful show. It was a truly privileged behind the scenes insight (and you can read more below) but, if I’m being equally honest, since finishing in 2007 the show has slipped from most people’s memory.

But then Wednesday saw Richie do his thing, even taking to Twitter where he noted, “Everytime I pass the Dragon’s Lair on the train at Millwall I get misty eyed. Bring it back @sky1”

Boom. Quicker than you could say Karl Fletcher, Lynda Block or Luis Amor-Rodriguez (think of a low budget Jota) the memories came flooding back.

Murder at the FA Cup final. The plane crash. The coach crash. The coach explosion at the Millennium Stadium. Liverpool (the real Liverpool) being linked in the papers with a £3.5 million swoop for Didier Baptiste back in 1999. Cue much egg on face when it transpired they weren’t actually bidding for a Monaco player but actually looking at a character from a TV show.

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L-R, John Black, Luis Amor-Rodriguez, Karl ‘Fletch’ Fletcher, Sean Hocknell

It wasn’t just me. Pick of the highlights to subsequently flood Twitter was that of @JohnDryden1 who noted: Lawlor in goal? That must of been after Jamie Parker held his team mates at gun point in the changing room.

As you do.

But now, ten years on, is it time to bring back Dream Team? Does Richie, a one time self-proclaimed soothsayer of scores, have his finger on the footballing pulse once again?
Would people watch it ? Yes, yes and yes have to be the answers to all three questions.

Sky 1, if you are reading (you probably aren’t ) how about it? Natalie Sawyer, any chance you could have a word with the bosses?  Andy Ansah (again, probably not reading), if anybody has the contacts it must be you?

With Griffin Park around the corner from Sky HQ and a new stadium on the horizon in Lionel Road, then what better time to bring this back with a progressive club filling the role of the new Harcehster? They’ve used Watford. They’ve used Millwall. They’ve even used Brentford (albeit as part of the May 2007 Open Day when a Harchester United team played the Community Sports Trust at Griffin Park.

How about Brentford doing it again – for real ?

If any show deserves a reboot, then Dream Team must be top of the list. If it worked for Doctor Who and Dallas then imagine what could be done now. Come on Sky, the world of football demands it.

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Andy dons the monogrammed tracksuit in his Harchester United days

And if anybody was in any doubt about the love for the show, this is what Andy Ansah himself had to say about it in that aforementioned interview:

Having finally retired from playing, all of a sudden Andy appeared on Sky one’s football based ‘drama’ series, Dream Team, playing himself at fictional club ‘Harchester United.’ A guilty pleasure for many viewers, myself included, but for all the wrong reasons! Wooden dialogue, outrageous plots and, as Andy himself offers, “The Lynda Blocks of this world”, its combination of beautiful women and real match action made it compulsive viewing for close to ten years. So how did he go from footballer to actor?

“I went to a Take That concert at Wembley, believe it or not. I made my decision then that I was going to retire from football. I met two people there and I said, ‘What do you do ?’ “ Oh, we do ‘extras’ work?” They were stand in doubles.

I thought that sounded interesting because I’d always liked acting and I love my films. Some friends of mine were on Dream Team doing the footballing extras although they were a lot younger than me. So I thought, ‘ok’, this is what I’m going to do. I’m going to stop playing pro-football, play a bit of part time, join ‘Dream Team’ and learn how to be an actor.

Subsequently, I joined as one of the football extras but because I was older than everyone else, I was thirty then whereas they were nineteen/twenty, I used to spend all my time with the directors and producers who were the same age. They used to ask questions about football all the time – how would we do this or that? I found myself directing the football for them and then within a year they made me the producer of football on Dream Team. It was crazy!”

Alongside the move to producer came a step up from ‘extra’ to acting role aswell, portraying the club’s assistant coach, Andy Ansah (!!) This also meant a few lines per show, with regular Ansah gems including takes on , “All right, you lot ! Get out on the field and warm up,” and “Leave it, gaffer. He’s not worth it.”

I put it to Andy that it must surely have been fun to be involved?

“I loved it, I loved it. Listen, it was brilliant. The show itself was low budget but it was built up on people. The people were fantastic and it had cult status. No matter how bad it was, you’d be able to say – I know who that is. That was Drogba’s goal for Chelsea against so and so. That’s what made it so much fun.

At the end, it kind of died a death. I was there for six years and when I left I was offered a Hollywood job with the film, “Goal”. That’s when I left and they ended up employing four different people to take up my one post on that show. That’s how much I did.”

As for those famous/infamous cameos? “The guys were great. Being honest, I should thank the likes of Andy Cole, Dwight Yorke and the West ham players. They mainly got me that producer role because I pulled in my contacts to get those guys on the show. One time, Andy had just got called back into the England squad and all the press were outside the training ground at Man United. I had to go and meet him at the training ground and came out the back door with Andy and Dwight , then drove to Stockport County so we could film them on Dream Team – for nothing. It was absolutely crazy. Can you imagine a footballer now using his image rights and saying, ‘I’ll come on your show for nothing’ but that’s how much of a cult status it was.”

After six seasons at Harchester United, ‘Goal’, and the lure of the silver screen proved too much, although not for the first time !

“Infact, whilst I was doing Dream Team, after two years I also did a film called : Mike Bassett England manager. I cast Terry Kiely from Dream Team (popular character, Karl Fletcher) and Scott Mean who used to play for West Ham to come and work on that film. I did all the choreography on that film myself, which was a big job! We shot at Wembley and also went to Brazil. I was there for almost two months, filming at the Maracana, Botafogo and everywhere.

It’s a hard job…!!”

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Bassett / Tomlinson – one of the many famous faces to film at Griffin Park

Nick Bruzon