Press Centre

The Football Mavericks

  • Episode: 

    1 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 05 May 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    10.00pm - 11.05pm
  • Week: 

    Week 19 2015 : Sat 02 May - Fri 08 May
  • Channel: 

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 28 April 2015.
“They were bigger than pop stars because it wasn’t just the little girls that wanted them, it was the mums and the dads. The dads looked up to them because they were doing things they wanted to do - dribble around guys then sit up all night and get p----d. And then still go out and play the following morning.” - Rob Steen, sports writer and author
This new three-part sports documentary series for ITV4 focuses on uniquely gifted footballers whose antics made them terrace icons.
From George Best to Stan Bowles, Gazza to Eric Cantona, to modern-day characters like Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Mario Balotelli, this programme features those individuals whose exceptional skill on the pitch has sometimes been overshadowed by their lifestyles and personalities.
It weaves together contributions from some of those players - including Frank Worthington, Rodney Marsh and Glenn Hoddle - with the views of their managers, team-mates and fans alongside archive footage to paint a unique portrait of those who dare to be different.
The programme also asks whether managers’ distrust of the maverick has cost England over the years, and asks if the likes of Frank Worthington,Tony Currie and Charlie George - who won just 26 caps between them - could have inspired the national team to glory, building on its sole World Cup victory of 1966.
The first episode, titled The Magnificent Seven, profiles players from the 1960s and 1970s - including Peter Osgood and Alan Hudson alongside Currie, George, Marsh, Bowles and Worthington.
While Manchester United’s George Best, with his flash cars, women and pin-up image was the first, he inspired all those who followed, says Rodney Marsh. He says: “It was like, ‘If George Best can do it, we can all have a go at doing it.’ Fundamentally, that’s what brought on the surge of the mavericks.”
At Chelsea, Peter Osgood was emerging as both a striker with flair and as a charismatic figure. Team-mate Alan Birchenall recalls an occasion when Hollywood actress Racquel Welch was brought into the dressing room to meet the players.
He says: “As she’s come by she has spent about three seconds with each player, and as she’s come to Ossie, Sir Richard Attenborough goes, ‘This is the king of Stamford Bridge.’ So she gets his hand and goes, ‘Ah, hello Peter.’ ...That’s like ten seconds, and it’s a lifetime. Then Sir Richard pushed her on to me and said, ‘This is Alan Birchenall,’ and she just tapped my hand and moved on.”
Harry Redknapp, then a player himself, describes how skilful Alan Hudson was in his prime. He says: “Huddie was a genius. He’d play balls around the corner into the front people, drop the shoulder, the defender would go there, then he’d come this way and he’d have made himself ten yards of space.”
Rodney Marsh, first at QPR and then at Manchester City, had the kind of dribbling skills that were the envy of many. His move to Maine Road, however, precipitated a slide from a championship-winning position to fourth in the table at the end of the season. He says: “It was my fault. As I was an egomaniac, I had to have the ball and I couldn’t be part of the team. They had to play my way. Even though we played some great football, I upset the balance and the rhythm of the team and we lost out in the end.”
Another talent lighting up the terraces at that time was Charlie George, whose spectacular winner for Arsenal in the 1971 FA Cup final was capped by a famous celebration as he laid on his back with his arms aloft. Former Gunners defender Lee Dixon says: “It was an iconic moment and it’s never been repeated, really. As soon as I walked into the club, Charlie’s name was still ringing around the marble halls. He does some of the Arsenal tours now and I bump into him on match days. I played a lot of games for Arsenal and was relatively successful, but people walk past me to talk to Charlie because he’s just got that ‘thing’.”
While Charlie George was the sole so-called maverick in the Arsenal double-winning side, QPR found another folk-hero to replace Marsh in Stan Bowles. His prowess on the pitch though, came with issues off it, says Harry Redknapp. He says: “He’d be out watching the 2.45pm race and dash back in the dressing room ten minutes before kick-off. If Stan could pass the betting shop like he could pass the football, he’d have been a million times better off.”
Arguably the snappiest dresser was Frank Worthington - who was proud of his clothing and his prowess between the sheets. Team-mate Alan Birchenall says: “When he turned up in his Mustang, with the leather belt over the bonnet, knee-length cowboy boots, the tightest pair of jeans you’ve ever seen [which] left nothing to the imagination, Elvis Presley T-shirt with a black velvet jacket with little roses on it, I thought, ‘What in the hell have we got here?’”
Frank says: “I was having good times on the pitch and great times off the pitch. I was quite flamboyant and that appeals to a certain female. They’re like, ‘Wow.’”
On the pitch, though, Worthington was scoring spectacular goals and bamboozling defenders for Leicester City, among others. Gary Lineker says: “I remember going to Filbert Street week in, week out and watching him play. He was a wonderfully gifted footballer with a divine left foot. Magical to watch, super-skilful and that’s what I loved about him.”
Despite the silky skills on display around the First Division at the time, many of these players found themselves only used fleetingly by England bosses Sir Alf Ramsey and Don Revie. Journalist James Brown says: “A lot of these players seem to have wanted to have a drink. There was an air of discipline around the international squads that suggested you just had to do what you were told.”
Rodney Marsh says this wasn’t something he was prepared to put up with, which meant Sir Alf wouldn’t put up with him. He says: “Believe this or not, I didn’t want to play for Sir Alf Ramsey. He walked me around the pitch and said, ‘You know how Geoff Hurst plays? I want you to play like that.’ And I thought, ‘What am I doing?’ So from day one he didn’t like me and I didn’t like him.”
Frank Worthington suggests his lifestyle might have been at fault for him not winning more caps, as much as his attitude. He says: “After our training sessions and playing on a Saturday or playing a night match in the week, I always had something else to look forward to. And Don Revie didn’t like my mentality.”