The English Game – Netflix

Posted on March 31, 2020

I have just completed the Netflix drama, ‘The English Game’. I did this with some ease. In isolation, when the dog is walked, there is little else to do in the evenings other than watch TV or write blogs.

The English Game is a six-part drama about the birth of football as a professional game in England and features a cast of actors which annoy the shit out of you. This is because you get yourself all worked up trying to remember what you have seen them in before.

The Storyline

The storyline is about Fergus Suter, widely regarded to be the first ever professional footballer. Suter had signed for Darwen FC as they tried to topple the monopoly of the FA Cup by the old English public-school boys (notably Old Etonians).

The land of gentry was increasingly aware of football going viral around the factories, mines and cotton mills and as a consequence, they were fearful of losing their grip on a game for gentlemen. Fortunately, Old Etonians was also made up of the members of the FA.

However, not all the posh chaps hated these northern monkeys and one of the Old Etonian players (Arthur Kinnaird) was a visionary. He understood why these ruffians with hard lives needed to be paid to play, so he fights their cause.

There is romance too. Kinnaird nearly loses his wife because of his love of football. However, he proves to her he is a man of the people, not just the aristocracy. His love for the game and the bond it brings between him and his wife, is just, lovely.

The Twist

The story takes a further twist when Suter joins Blackburn for even more money than Darwen can pay (an olden day Alexis Sanchez perhaps?) and everyone from Darwen suddenly hate him. A game between Darwen and Blackburn ends in crowd violence, but the two chairmen (both cotton mill owners) make it up and decide they must unite if they are to topple Old Etonians.

Blackburn reach the final, but the FA hear of the violence and ban them. Enter Kinnaird, who is appalled that the FA (in effect Old Etonians) have banned Blackburn. He sits on an appeal and tells his FA friends if they uphold the ban, he will form a breakaway cup for northern types.

The Final

They back down and Blackburn meet Old Etonians in the final. It’s a cracking encounter played out by the devious posh types and the rough but honest, good old down to earth northern peasants. Kinnaird who got Blackburn reinstated opens the scoring, but Suter gets the winner for Blackburn.

Kinnaird is devastated at the loss, but he is greeted at the end by Suter and they tell each other how great they both are. It is a tear jerking coming together of the gentry and the peasant. Kinnaird also wins the approval of his father.

Stern and hard, Mr Kinnaird Senior, sees football as a child’s game. However, when he goes to watch the final and sees the spirit in which his son plays and how he takes defeat with dignity, he realises he is longer a boy, he is a gentleman.

Suter goes back to Blackburn where he is greeted as a hero. In the background his father, an obligatory abusive Scottish alcoholic, slopes off into history, taking the bitterness towards his son’s success along with him.


If I am honest, it was a load of sentimental old nonsense. However, such is the state of the world at the moment, at least it was nice. I don’t mind a bit of nice right now. The English Game does also teach you a bit about the battle between the gentry and the working classes as the ‘beautiful game’ went viral throughout the industrial heartlands.

In summary, I thought it was an enjoyable and watchable drama for lovers of unrealistic and delusional nostalgia in a time where watching ‘Nordic Noir’ or ‘The Handmaids Tale’, might not be an advisable form of escapism.

Call it a guilty pleasure.   

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