Press Centre

The Football Mavericks

  • Episode: 

    2 of 3

  • Transmission (TX): 

    Tue 12 May 2015
  • TX Confirmed: 

  • Time: 

    10.00pm - 11.00pm
  • Week: 

    Week 20 2015 : Sat 09 May - Fri 15 May
  • Channel: 

The information contained herein is strictly embargoed from all press, online and social media use, non-commercial publication, or syndication until Tuesday 5 May 2015.
“The mood of the ‘80s was completely different. The fences were up. The image of the game in that era also went against the creative player. You were almost a bit of a wuss if you had some skill and jumped over someone’s leg as you were taking a tackle.” - Glenn Hoddle
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 Glenn Hoddle, Charlie Nicholas and Frank McAvennie - with the views of team-mates and fans alongside archive footage to paint a unique portrait of those who dare to be different.
The second episode, title Diamonds in the Rough, focuses on maverick managers and players of the 1980s, including Brian Clough, Ron Atkinson, Glenn Hoddle, Charlie Nicholas, Frank McAvennie, Diego Maradona, Bruce Grobbelaar and Paul Gascoigne.
Leading the way at the start of the decade was the outspoken Brian Clough, whose Nottingham Forest side won the European Cup twice in a row. Yet despite his success with domestic sides, he never got the call from the FA to manage England.
Former Chelsea defender Ron ‘Chopper’ Harris says: “When you think what Cloughie did, he took unfashionable clubs and won the Champions League. But the likes of Cloughie would never have got the England job. If you go back over a period of time - Walter Winterbottom, Ron Greenwood - are all people that fit the Mr Nice Guy image. And I think with Cloughie he might have told one or two of them where to go.”
Meanwhile, perma-tanned Ron “Big Ron” Atkinson took over at Manchester United in 1981, and with his gaudy gold jewellery and larger-than-life personality made quite the impression on players and fans alike. Gordon Strachan, who played under him at United, says: “I remember the first team meeting, the first game against Watford, and he had this briefcase. He opened up his briefcase, and I was sitting next to him and I thought he’ll have the tactics and things to go up on the board. And in it was hairspray, aftershave - nothing about tactics. And he went through the Watford team in 30 seconds. We drew 1-1.”
The problem was, says Norman Whiteside, that Liverpool were dominating the First Division during Ron’s time, and United won virtually nothing by comparison. He says: “Because Manchester United is the size it is and we weren’t winning, we were getting all the back page headlines. I’m sure if you asked all the Liverpool boys at that time, they were out as much or even more than we were out. But if you’re winning Division One every year, the press leave you alone.”
In North London, one player was tearing up muddy pitches with a range of long passes, volleyed and chipped goals. Glenn Hoddle quickly became a Tottenham legend, says DJ Paul Hawksbee, due to his outrageous skill. Yet Glenn’s England career was marked by a lack of playing time. He says: “He was a wonderful player, certainly the best I’ve ever seen in the flesh and it is a mystery why he didn’t get 150 caps and why the England team wasn’t built around him.”
After an extremely successful spell at Celtic, Charlie Nicholas headed south for Arsenal in 1983, to face sky-high expectations at the success-starved Gunners. The Scot enjoyed life in the fast lane - revelling in his nickname of Champagne Charlie - but his lacklustre performances on the pitch led to him becoming a scapegoat at Highbury. He says: “Arsenal became my responsibility, not the responsibility of Pat Jennings, David O’Leary, Graham Rix. It suffocated me. But part of the problem for me with Arsenal in the early days was not Arsenal. The lifestyle was.”
At West Ham, fellow Scot Frank McAvennie was banging in the goals - the only problem was, with no football on TV at that time due to a strike, no-one knew about him until he appeared on Terry Wogan’s chat show with Denis Law. He says: “Every door opened for me - restaurants, didn’t have a table, and I’d phone up and they’d make room for me. Nightclubs, never paid. It was great.”
Football in the mid-1980s, however, was all about one man - Diego Maradona, who off the pitch dabbled in both politics and drugs. Glenn Hoddle, who was on the pitch when Maradona scored both the ‘Hand of God’ goal and the legendary strike against England in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final, describes the man. He says: “For me, he’s still the greatest. The greatest player, I think that has touched the earth. He went to Napoli, that was such an average team it was unbelievable, he won Serie A, the UEFA Cup in Europe. That was unknown for Napoli in that time. He had a very average Argentina side, won the World Cup for them.”
During Liverpool’s dominance of the 1980s, goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar stood out for his ability between the sticks and for his flamboyant personality. The two elements of his character came together in the 1984 European Cup final against AS Roma, when he famously wobbled his legs in mock terror in the penalty shoot-out, causing Francesco Graziani to miss his spot-kick and helping Liverpool on to victory. James Brown says: “It was the most intense moment. And to give it the old jelly snake legs, at a time when I imagine most goalkeepers are trying to be so focused, was one of the most maverick moments ever in football.”
The team which represented the maverick spirit of the time was Wimbledon, the so-called Crazy Gang  who rose from non-league to win the FA Cup in 1988 in just over a decade. They were famous for using long-ball tactics, with players like Vinnie Jones and John Fashanu embodying their unique team spirit. Harry Redknapp says: “You’d be sitting in the dressing room and Vinny and Fash would be banging on your dressing room door, ‘Come out, you bunch of whatever…’ You know. And they’d be waiting in the tunnel. I promise you, half the game was won before the players came out.”
After the team of mavericks had won the FA Cup, English football produced perhaps its greatest talent of the era - Paul Gascoigne, whose scintillating performances for Newcastle and Tottenham had earned him a place in Bobby Robson’s squad for Italia ’90. The way he played and his jocular character changed the way people viewed football in this country forever, says team-mate Gary Lineker.
He says: “We’d gone through a terrible dark period of hooliganism, of racism and diminishing attendances. And not many good performances particularly in many tournaments. But ‘90 was almost like a pivotal moment and Gazza was a large part of that, because of the style that he played and the sense that he was something different.”