fri 05/06/2020

Harry's Heroes: Euro Having a Laugh, ITV review - jokey documentary delivers painful emotional truths | reviews, news & interviews

Harry's Heroes: Euro Having a Laugh, ITV review - jokey documentary delivers painful emotional truths

Harry's Heroes: Euro Having a Laugh, ITV review - jokey documentary delivers painful emotional truths

It's back to the Nineties with Redknapp's band of brothers

The Expendables 4: Harry and his old lags head for Euroland

Former Liverpool manager Bill Shankly famously commented that football is far more serious than a matter of life and death. This couldn’t quite be said of Harry Redknapp’s renewed adventures of footballers reunited (ITV), yet behind its jokey facade of a bunch of Nineties-era England veterans drinking their way across Europe, Harry’s Heroes is strangely poignant and delivers some painful emotional truths. The cameras follow Harry as he tries to prepare his squad for a re-match against their German counterparts (England beat them in last year’s first series), but the real story is the players’ battle against time, depression and obsolescence.

Once a footballer’s career is behind them it can be like falling off a cliff, and many can’t cope. The way even the relatively fit players have been piling on the excess pounds was faintly shocking, and it was no surprise when they were trounced by a younger, fitter team from Metz in Monday night’s first episode. In part two, they had to mount a herculean effort to overcome the cheeky part-timers of San Marino (a name that lives in infamy in the hearts of England fans after a humiliating debacle in 1993). Redknapp’s troops were falling injured at such an extraordinary rate that he had to call in his doomsday weapon, the notoriously thuggish Vinnie Jones, to scrape a win. Vinnie spelled it out for them: "I don't think there's such a thing as a friendly, lads, to be honest."Whatever happens in episode 3’s climactic Germany game, it was the insights we gained into the players that will stick in the memory. The big drama of episode one was a confrontation between Paul Merson, himself an alcoholic and former gambling addict, and Neil “Razor” Ruddock, who seems hell-bent on boozing himself to death, ignoring medical warnings about his soaring blood pressure, ballooning weight and irregular heartbeat. Merson’s intervention blew apart the cosy atmosphere of lads-having-a-laugh, and exposed Ruddock’s tragic self-deception and his wife Leah’s terror at her husband’s looming fate (pictured above, Ruddock with Mark Wright).

Part two brought further revelations from the youngest member of the squad, 43-year-old Lee Hendrie, who tearfully recalled his nightmare experiences of bankruptcy and attempted suicide. Even Redknapp chipped in with the story of how he almost died in a bus crash during the 1990 World Cup.

Not that it was all gloom and psychotherapy. Assistant manager John Barnes’s hopeless efforts to get the boys to show some interest in the artistic treasures of Florence was satiric genius, while a surreal practice match against a team of nude Frenchmen prompted goalkeeper David Seaman to flounce out in disgust. This is unmissable television.

Redknapp chipped in with the story of how he almost died in a bus crash during the 1990 World Cup

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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