This reasonably amusing sports satire, released in 2001, helped to confirm Ricky Tomlinson's superb comic talent. He plays Mike Bassett, a First Division soccer manager who suddenly finds himself landed with the biggest job in English football.
After the England manager dies halfway through the World Cup qualifiers, England's football team seek an emergency replacement. The obvious candidates turn down the role, so Norwich boss Bassett (Tomlinson) is appointed. The press are quick to savage the newcomer, who responds by recalling a disgraced striker and refusing to play an attacking strategy. Defeat against Poland fuels the critics, so Bassett orders the team to intensive training at a hi-tech sports clinic. Instead of a miracle cure, however, the squad are crippled by injury, and look set to extend 30 years of hurt. But getting to the finals via a loophole in the rules, there's one last chance to prove themselves...
With the real England team providing enough material for ten comedies, director Steve Barron did not need to dig deep. Some wonderful moments are lifted from Graham Taylor and Glenn Hoddle's time in charge, while old wounds such as Maradona's handball are repaid in full. The "luxury player" (chosen because of sporadic genius) is Gazza in all but name, while captain Gary "Wacko" Wackett is clearly Stuart Pearce.
Such tributes will please fans, but the real joy - and one which takes the film beyond just England fans - is to be found in the performance of Tomlinson. Repeating the no-nonsense Bobby Grant/Jim Royle approach, the actor is perfectly cast, able to indulge both his comic timing and talent for drama. Only the late Brian Glover may have been able to match him.