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When Saturday Comes (1996, Sean Bean, Emily Lloyd, Pete Postlethwaite)

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When Saturday Comes

When Saturday Comes is a cult classic because unlike other mainstream soccer films, it shows a rather bleak, but authentic side of the game.

Starring Sean Bean, the film neither romanticises the beautiful game nor views it through rose tinted glasses. It is cut from the same cloth as Escape to Victory, the John Huston-helmed soccer film. Whereas the latter explored the dark undercurrents of sports during the war (it is, in fact, based on a true story), When Saturday Comes delves into the rough-and-tumble world of non-league soccer, and the struggles of making it to the big time.

Maria Giese’s When Saturday Comes chronicles the career of Jimmy Muir (Sean Bean) playing for non-league side Hallam in Sheffield. Muir is talented, but he is frequently drunk, he’s arrogant, and unwilling to put in the work to get to the next level. The film portrays life as a non-leaguer realistically and shows in real life what many non-league players have to deal with on a daily basis. When Muir is given the chance of a lifetime to showcase his talent in front of his boyhood heroes at Sheffield United, he falls flat on his face. While Muir’s story may seem like a cinematic fantasy, it almost mirrors Jamie Vardy’s “rags to riches story.”

Up until 2011, Vardy was still playing for non-league club Halifax Town, before being scouted and signed with then Championship side Leicester City in 2012. Just two years later, his meteoric rise helped Leicester get promoted to the Premier League and two years after that saw the club win the league title for the first time. Vardy has scored 62 goals for Leicester, with 57 coming in the last three seasons alone, according to Ladbrokes’ feature on Premier League strikers. Curiously, Vardy had some of the same problems Muir faces in the film; going on late nights out, only to be worse for wear the next day. He was undisciplined and unmotivated in his earlier years, too. It took Vardy a while to adjust to life as a professional player but has since changed his ways. Muir, unfortunately, doesn’t do the same in When Saturday Comes.

It is within this context of the “underdog non-leaguer making the big league” that When Saturday Comes’ plot revolves around. Muir catches the eye of local scout Ken Jackson (Pete Postlethwaite) who offers Muir a trial at Sheffield United. But the young man continues to party; come Saturday, the day of the trial, Muir is drunk and fails to impress. He blows his shot at the big league, including his brewing romance with Annie (played by Emily Lloyd) — one of the few who believed in him. While Muir’s failure is cathartic, it comes a little too late. The film ends with Muir realising he needs to change to have a better future.

Part of the charm of When Saturday Comes is that it captures a side of soccer that casual fans are unfamiliar with. At the end of the day, what makes When Saturday Comes unique is that it’s invested in the sport’s working-class roots and an inspirational reminder of soccer’s humble origins. It takes its soul from Muir’s inner struggles, played out on and off the pitch. Muir’s journey is one that people can relate to, and that makes this film a bonafide classic.

Cast
Sean Bean as Jimmy Muir
Emily Lloyd as Annie Doherty
Craig Kelly as Russel Muir
Melanie Hill as Mary Muir
John McEnery as Joe Muir
Ann Bell as Sarah Muir
Ian Taylor as a young Jimmy Muir
Tony Currie as Himself
Mel Sterland as Captain of Sheffield United
Pete Postlethwaite as Ken Jackson

Image credit: Pinterest

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