Dir: Steve M. Kelly
The Bromley Boys lovingly transports us back to the tatty football terrace of our youth, rekindling that first flush of infatuation with the beautiful game. Recounting the true teenage years of author Dave Roberts (with a sprinkling of rumour, perhaps), we follow his encounters with his local lower leagues, igniting the passion that fuels his writing to this very day.
Transferring from Game of Thrones to the game of throw-ins, rising star Brenock O’Connor plays up-front in the lead, while Alan Davies narrates from Roberts’ present day perspective. Davies doubles up to portray his cantankerous father too, who wants him to have nothing to do with such a pointless waste of time. So it kicks off with young Dave trooping down “to cubs”, a secret charade he shares with Mum (Martine McCutcheon in affectionately maternal mode), allowing him to get to Hayes Lane to cheer on the local lads whenever he can.
The only problem is that the boys of Bromley FC are “the worst football team in Britain”. Seeing them suffer crushing defeat after crushing defeat, he instigates a one-man campaign to oust manager Dick Ellis. He sets about cornering the chairman, unprepared for the attractive lure of his bookish, soccer-shunning daughter. When he’s presented with the opportunity, he can’t resist a snoop through the boss’s desk. What he uncovers shocks him to the spurs. With the very future of the club threatened, someone must act. He might be only fifteen, but he is certain only one person can be their saviour. It’s his destiny.
This joyful and nostalgic sports comedy hazily recalls a time when the game, in fact life, seemed so much simpler. Its charm is in revisiting a rose-tinted era of chopper bikes and school discos; a time of only three TV channels, when Saturday could only mean the game of two halves.
The casting of Davies and McCutcheon fields a back line of homespun familiarity, but the film belongs to O’Connor. He expertly tackles the right balance of youthful innocence and the fire that burns in the juvenile heart when you know you’re right, but no one else can see it. His supporting squad is an ensemble of recognisable comedy faces. Jamie Foreman is in imperious form as the cartoonish barrow-boy boss, with Gareth Hale their luckless manager. And, led by The Office’s Ewen MacIntosh, Dave’s tiny band of allies almost echoes The Three Stooges with their goonish asides.
The Bromley Boys comes across a little like the tale of hapless supporter ‘Golden Gordon’ from Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns re-imagined by Richard Curtis. It is as much a bittersweet paean to adolescence as the devotion inspired by even the lowest rungs of the national game. And with its broad and gently humorous tone, it’ll appeal far wider than your dyed-in-the-wool footie fan. For anyone who has suffered the unrequited love of sticking by your hopeless team through thick, but mostly thin… all the pain, passion and rare unmitigated joy is in here. For anyone else it scores a sweetly uplifting ninety minutes (a pause for oranges halfway through optional) on a Saturday afternoon.
★ ★ ★ ½