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United! (BBC-1 1965-1967, Bryan Marshall, Stephen Yardley

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Twice weekly drama series. The problems of struggling football club Brentwich United who unfortunately found themselves languishing at the bottom end of the second division.

This soccer soap which failed to score with viewers probably because its run coincided with England’s 1966 real-life triumph. Even with Jimmy Hill as a script consultant viewers weren’t convinced by a group of actors swanning around pretending to be Bobby Charlton and Geoff Hurst.

It definitely wasn’t in the Premier League of soaps as it focused on struggling Second Division team Brentwich United.

It got flak from all directions even though most of the action sequences featured Stoke City who were then in the top flight. Danny Blanchflower, then of Spurs, complained that it was “wholly unrealistic”.

Quite a number of actors who went on to become household names though, Stephen Yardley, who starred as lecherous Ken Masters in Howards’ Way, was womanising goalie Kenny Craig. It Ain’t Half Hot Mum’s George Layton was striker Jimmy Stokes; Bryan Marshall was tetchy skipper Jack Birkett; and ex-EastEnder Tony Caunter (Roy Evans) popped up at the back.

Doing his best to be the Wenger and Fergie of the ’60s was David Lodge, who played first manager Gerry Barford. Lodge decided to quit — so Barford was sacked in 1966. He was replaced by his assistant Bob McIver, who took on the dashing Mark Wilson — played by Ronald Allen (Mr Hunter of Crossroads) — as his right-hand man.

Co-created by Anthony Cornish, other writers on the programme included Gerry Davis, Brian Hayles, Malcolm Hulke and John Lucarotti. The directors included Innes Lloyd and Derek Martinus. Aside from Cornish, all of these individuals also worked on Doctor Who concurrent with their involvement in United!.

production details
UK | BBC One | 147×30 minutes | Broadcast 1965-67 black and white

Creators: Brian Hayles, Anthony Cornish
Technical Advisor: Jimmy Hill
Producers: Bernard Hepton, David Conroy, John Mcrae, Anthony Cornish

cast
DAVID LODGE as Gerry Barford
BRYAN MARSHALL as Jack Birkett
STEPHEN YARDLEY as Kenny Craig
GEORGE LAYTON as Jimmy Stokes
ARTHUR PENTELOW as Dan Davis
ARNOLD PETERS as Frank Sibley
MITZI ROGERS as Jean Jones
RONALD ALLEN as Mark Wilson

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