FourFourTwo’s fictional footballer XI: who would make yours?
GK: The Monk (Mean Machine)
Mean Machine is basically so crap it’s good. And while it might have Vinnie Jones and half of London’s mob wannabes in tow (Guy Ritchie’s a co-producer, who’d have thought it?), its big star is unquestionably Jason Statham’s psychotic sweeper-keeper ‘Monk’, whose paradoxical remit involves bizarre prancing in possession and crushing every prison guard in sight. ‘Ave it indeed.
RB: Michel Fileu (Escape To Victory)
OK, so Fileu isn’t fictional at all – it’s really former Belgian forward Paul Van Himst, who was forced to play right-back for the Allies in Escape To Victory while some bloke called Pele took his place up front. Van Himst had long retired from football by 1981, having played 16 seasons with Anderlecht and won 81 caps for his country. He later managed both, taking Belgium to USA 94.
CB(s): The conjoined twins (Billy the Fish)
You know what they say: the best relationships on a football pitch are those cultivated over years playing together. Viz’s Billy the Fish was a blatant mickey-take of Roy of the Rovers, neatly encapsulated by this pair. In one match they netted a late equaliser for 'Fulchester', which actually turned out to be a winner after the referee decided it counted as double. Result!
LB: Stephen Chow (Shaolin Soccer)
Chow’s ludicrous 2001 film Shaolin Soccer starred Chow himself as ‘Mighty Steel Leg’ (not so catchy on a football pitch, we’re guessing). He’s actually the team’s striker, but given his supernatural powers we’re presuming he’d be pretty versatile. With his thunder-thigh strikes from range you’d be looking at Roberto Carlos-meets-Beckham vs Wimbledon.
CM: Jimmy Grimble (There’s Only One Jimmy Grimble)
All Jimmy wants to do is play for Manchester City – and this was back when they were rubbish, in 2000. He’s a decent 15-year-old who struggles to get a kick for his school team… that is, until he’s given a pair of magic old boots that once belonged to one of City’s all-time greats. Oh, how the other kids laugh at his new kicks. But when he starts strutting like Summerbee and ousting team bully ‘Gorgeous’, the middling Mancunian shines in the Manchester Schools Cup final and is scouted by his beloved club.
CM: Tsubasa Oozora (Captain Tsubasa)
Captain Tsubasa: the Japanese anime comic and TV show which helped inspire a generation of Spanish and Italian-speaking footballers – so say the men themselves. The show, which followed the fortunes of Tsubasa Oozora’s (translated to “Big Sky Wings”) Japanese youth team, was adapted for European screens and captured the imaginations of youngsters everywhere. Who wouldn’t love a player that scores a hat-trick in a world youth final, then later gets another (and three assists, for good measure) in a Clasico for Barcelona? Nobody, that’s who.
CM: Bruno Di Gradi (Renford Rejects)
The poor mite was actually just a London teenager called Barry Grade – and a deluded one at that, who believed he was actually an Italian superstar. Of course, the accent was abysmal. But Gianfranco Zola did turn up for an episode once (with Martin Keown), and it was great.
Spot the bully at 0:30
FW: Monday Bandele (Dream Team)
Former striker of perennially doomed Harchester United, Bandele was a marquee signing from PSG in 2001. With the Nigerian up front they reached the Champions League (and went out early), got to the UEFA Cup final (and lost), but only after a coach crash killed three of their players before the game (which still went ahead, of course). He also slept with a team-mate’s wife, became caretaker manager and his director of football was Andy Gray. It really was just banter.
FW: Santiago Munez (Goal!)
Somehow they managed to eke out three films in the Goal! series. The first one was passable at best, but good grief did things get bad from there (the third was a straight-to-DVD release, for crying out loud). Still, Munez ends up playing for Real Madrid and scores an injury-time Champions League final equaliser before David Beckham steals his thunder with a free-kick. You literally couldn’t writ- oh, you could.
CF: Roy Race (Roy of the Rovers)
Er, who else? There really was nothing Roy Race couldn't do (like, for example, winning the League Cup alongside Martin Kemp). Over two spells for Melchester Rovers – 1955-83 and 1983-1993 (he was well over 50 when he retired, having awoken from a coma) – he plundered 436 goals in 501 matches. It was real Roy of the Rovers stuff. Quite literally.