Football Hooligan & Proud, TV review: Uninspiring look at ugly side of beautiful game

  • @willydean

'Tis the season! White plastic furniture decorating the air above foreign piazzas, the choir of shirtless choristers singing "No surrender" and the florid scent of continental lager being imbibed and exbibed. Yes, it's Big Tournament time. That biannual period when English football fans turn the world's strasses, plazas and rues into am-dram productions of Apocalypse Now.

Or it used to be. Despite the odd rumble, England's fans have been well behaved at big tournaments since 2000, marking the success of UK authorities at rooting out troublemakers before they travel.

But that doesn't mean our top lads aren't still up for it. Oh no. They're loud, proud and on Channel 5 for a documentary that in absolutely no way seeks to glorify football hooliganism. In absolutely no way.

And even if you watched Football Hooligan & Proud and accepted that this was simply a fly-on-the-wall account of a lingering niche phenomenon, you'd be hard pressed to suggest that it offered much insight into the hooligans' behaviour. Though one has to admire a voiceover that featured lines such as "coppers getting their jaws broken" spoken in the phonetic spirit of Liam Gallagher's vowel sounds in "Cigarettes & Alcohol".

Here we met several hoolies and studied their motivations. There was Jason Marriner, a sort of semi-professional former hooligan (something that slightly undermines the implied present tense of the programme's title), a one-time Chelsea Headhunter whom you may remember from a 1999 Donal MacIntyre undercover joint which saw him land up in prison. Or indeed Jason Marriner – Football Hooligan, a 2009 number from Gangster Videos (other selected productions: The Ultimate Football Hooligan Collection; Punch-Up Vol 1 and, er, Jimmy White – the One and Only).

Including Marriner in this film was a bit like making a documentary about nudists and your first interviewee being Stephen "The Naked Rambler" Gough. Not very inspiring.

Neither were the others, to be frank. Lee, from Rochdale, is one of his local club's Chosen Few gang (having spent many rainy Saturdays at Spotland, I can attest that "few" is apt). Lee has been banned from going to football matches. So he's now more just a hooligan than a football hooligan.

There was also Shane, a doorman from Chester. His bedroom featured blood-and-beer-stained flags for Chester, England and Ulster. He sounded rather jolly until you listened to what he was saying: "The only people who walk in this room are like me, British, English and, ha ha, have a soft spot for Chester, ha ha. Ha ha ha aha."

Then there was Jay. "Other people like tennis or rock climbing…" explained Jay viz his hobby; he simply enjoys a scrap. Where's the harm, eh?

But there was an elephant in the room. Or, more precisely, a golliwog. "Some people find that offensive," said Shane of his collection, "but, to me, it's just a friendly golly."

Jay has a golliwog for the same reason his cat is named Muhammed. Despite his EDL tattoo, he assured us he's left and instead teamed up with Casuals United, a kind of Avengers-style supergroup of hooligans, who put aside footballing differences to rail for similar causes to... the EDL. We saw him going undercover at a nationalist march in Brighton, whose violence was accompanied by giddy, in no way encouraging, guitar riffs.

There's certainly an interesting film to be made about the alignment of football casuals with hard-right extremists. This, sadly, was very much not it.