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Column
18 May 2006Printer-friendly versionEmail a friend

Offside, 18 May
Omnipresent cockney hardman Ray Winstone is telling football fans to behave themselves in Germany. Leave it out.


Ray Winstone is the public face of the Football Association's campaign to persuade England fans to behave themselves in Germany. But more on that story later. First let us consider Winstone's growing omnipresence.

Every time I switch on the TV these days it seems that Ray Winstone is on the screen. He's not just the public face of the FA's 'Don't let's be beastly to the Germans' campaign but the public face of virtually everything that involves a) football and b) cockneys. There he is narrating BBC 2's feature length documentary about Bobby Moore: a football and cockney double whammy. And there's Ray again playing a venal cockney football manager in the Channel 4 drama All in the Game. And again, there he is at the FA Cup Final. 'And Ray Winstone has just arrived with the cast of East Enders,' announced a Radio 5 reporter excitedly as the cockney royalty turned up to cheer on the Irons.

Winstone is a very watchable actor but All in the Game was comically bad. Essentially it was a modern and very predictable parable about - yes you've guessed it - how the beautiful game has been corrupted by money. Every character was a tabloid stereotype: oily football agents; greedy, bling-dripping footballers; but above all Winstone's foul-mouthed, bung-taking and increasingly demented manager. When he wasn't cussing for England ('I'm sweating like a blind lesbian in a chip shop') he was bemoaning the gentrification of football. 'It's people like him who are killing the game I love,' he says pointing to a crooked foreign football agent. 'Sky and all their money and all the shit that goes with it. Face painting and big foam hands and silly kick-off times'. But a Faustian pact with his football agent son (played by Football Factory star Danny Dyer, a kind of third division Ray Winstone) eventually leads to his own downfall and Winstone degenerates into a swearing, gibbering, paranoid lunatic - a cross between King Lear and Peter Reid.

Winstone's character represents old footballing values. He wears a sheepskin coat, moans about 'pasta bars' at football grounds ('What's wrong with a pie all of a sudden?'), hates the influx of foreign players, and thinks that Arsene Wenger is a 'pointy nosed French c**t'. But at the denouement of the film, when the weak-kneed club chairman finally gives him the sack, Winstone starts blubbing like an ickle baby. And when a hard-as-nails, fifty-expletives-a -minute cockney geezer starts weeping it is painfully evident that old football is well and truly dead.

Winstone degenerates into a swearing, gibbering, paranoid lunatic - a cross between King Lear and Peter Reid
I wonder whether Ray and his cockney entourage shed any tears at Wembley? I wouldn't be surprised if they did. It's become almost obligatory for grown men to weep in public on such occasions. West Ham gave it both barrels, as they say in cockney crime caper films, but somehow Liverpool fluked another trophy thanks to Steven Gerrard's heroics. As the goals flowed Motty became increasingly excitable. 'This is a cup final in its own right,' he shrieked at one point, momentarily forgetting that this was the cup final. For once the FA Cup final delivered the 'great drama' that the BBC trailers had promised and showed up All in the Game for the lazy, cartoonish nonsense that it was.

With his dreams of FA Cup glory dashed, Ray Winstone can at least concentrate on the league so to speak. In his case it means fronting the FA's Altogethernow campaign and telling England fans not to be naughty boys in Germany. 'I'm proud to be an England fan and enjoy nothing more than joining in with the crowd to get behind the team,' says Winstone, nominally out of character but still giving it the full East End glottal-stop treatment. 'But let's get this straight - causing trouble at a football tournament is unacceptable. I'm as passionate about being an England fan as the next man, but the moment you get involved in violence, you let the team and the country down'.

Now I don't mean to be cynical but does anyone seriously think that any self-respecting football hooligan is going to think twice about starting trouble after listening to Ray Winstone? 'Wait a minute boys, I think Ray's got a point. Rucking with the Krauts is for mugs. Let's make friends with the c**ts instead'. It's not going to happen, is it? Winstone might be more effective if he played one of his signature cockney hard men instead. Rather than appealing to hooligans' better nature, he should threaten them with physical violence. 'If you muggy c**ts start a ruck, you're f**king brown bread. Do you understand? I'll f**king cut you, you slags'.

It's got to be worth a try. It might not turn hardened hooligans into Guardian-reading Germanophiles but it's far more entertaining than listening to a wholesome, obscenity-free sermon from Respectable Raymond.


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