Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.
R2 - United Kingdom - Network
Review written by and copyright: Paul Lewis (6th April 2010).
The Show

Please also see our review of Jack Rosenthal's 'Ready When You Are, Mr McGill'.

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Written by Jack Rosenthal and directed by Michael Apted, ‘Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.’ (Granada, 1971) was originally broadcast as part of ITV’s Saturday Night Theatre anthology series. A bittersweet comedy drama, ‘Another Sunday…’ begins with Eric Armistead (David Swift) leaving his house early on a Sunday morning. His wife Polly complains to him that ‘Other husbands sleep late Sunday morning. Not you though; you have to be different, don’t you. I don’t know what you see in it’.

The ‘it’ that Polly refers to is Armistead’s commitment to amateur football; each Sunday sees Armistead act as referee for two amateur teams. ‘Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.’ details a football match between Co-Op Albion and Parker Street Depot. The drama offers an observational perspective on Armistead, his relationship with the various members of the football teams, two elderly men (Joe Gladwin & Fred Feast) who watch from the sidelines, a disillusioned young park-keeper (Michael De Freyne) who has been asked to paint the lines on the pitch, and two middle-aged women (Clare Kelly & Lynne Carol) who happen to be walking their dogs in the park. Using the football match as a narrative pivot, ‘Another Sunday…’ cuts between the various groups, offering a naturalistic perspective on the events that take place on the park on a Sunday morning – which add up to very little, the ‘Sweet F.A.’ of the title.

Apted’s background in documentary filmmaking is evident throughout; the scene is set through the easy accumulation of detail. Armistead’s ineffectual nature is established very early on: as he leaves his house, Armistead encounters two teenaged boys fighting in his gateway. Armistead attempts to pacify the boys and get them to move on, but he is unsuccessful and, his path through the gate blocked, resorts to climbing over his garden wall. Upon his arrival at the football ground, Armistead is ignored; he trips, and a young boy laughs loudly and calls Armistead a ‘Big girl’.

Where the football teams’ players demonstrate camaraderie in their respective changing rooms, Armistead is alone, taking part in a regimented exercise routine. On the pitch, the players sarcastically refer to Armistead as ‘Lord Longford’. The players’ contempt for Armistead is thinly-veiled: ‘Like a bloody tape recorder’, one of the players asserts after listening to Armistead’s pre-match comments.

Armistead is only interested in ensuring that the game is played fairly; as he tells the players, ‘What we’re now about to witness is called a football match. Not the beginning of World War III, not the destruction of the human race; a football match’. However, his battle is not just with the players: the spectators vocally criticise the players for aggressive behaviour (‘They’d kick their own grandmothers’), but in the next minute they are cheering the players on, encouraging them to be more aggressive (‘Go for his left kneecap, the one with the bandage on’).

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When Armistead is forced to reprimand two players, he finds that despite being on opposing teams, they band together against him and refuse to tell Armistead exactly what happened. 'Like a couple of orangutans fighting over a bloody banana', he tells them.

Later, Armistead threatens to abandon the match: 'We shall play the game according to the rules or not at all. I shall not have my authority flouted', he tells the players. One of the players shouts accusingly, 'That's it, isn't it. It's you that matters, you and your bloody whistle [….] Showing everybody who's boss'. Armistead replies by asserting, 'It's the other way round [….] I just want to be fair'. Armistead sees himself as mediating the match, ensuring the players are fair with one another; conversely, the players see Armistead as imposing his authority on the match, being concerned only with asserting his power.

In his narration, Armistead highlights the confusion that takes place on the pitch and the hope that the players will learn to play fair: 'That's a foul. Oh, forget it: he clobbered him a minute ago. Mind you, he deserved it for calling him what he did. But then again, he called him it himself in the first half. A vicious circle. So where do you start? Tell them to play the game, obey the rules [….] Not that it ever sinks in. But all you can do is tell them to be fair [….] Yes, lads: I know being fair isn't fair, any day of the week. That's why we turn out on Sundays, hoping this time it will be. It never is'.

‘Another Sunday…’ features off-camera narration by several characters. Armistead narrates over a montage of the game, commenting on the predictability of the players and their lack of willingness to accept responsibility. Meanwhile, the disillusioned park-keeper’s narration asserts that ‘If I was interested in bloody football, I wouldn't be a park and gardens employee, would I? [….] Piccadilly Gardens, that's where I should be, planting chrysanthemums. I told them that at the labour exchange, but no-one bloody listens'.

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At the end of the play, Armistead is confronted by one of the players, who tells Armistead ‘I’m sick of bloody football. Bloody sick of it’. In response, Armistead tells the player, ‘You should hang your boots up then; you shouldn’t play’, before revealing that he once had a promising football career. Armistead is mocked for this, but at the end of the drama an ‘action replay’ of the only goal scored during the match reveals Armistead ‘heading’ the ball into the goal, a moment of glory reflecting on his days as a footballer. As the referee, Armistead sanctions the goal. ‘I still think it was unfair, really’, Armistead is told; in response, he states, ‘Only in the eyes of God, lad. And he’s needed new glasses for nearly two thousand years’. (This moment recalls Brian Glover’s performance on the pitch as Mr Sugden, the PE teacher, in Ken Loach’s Kes, 1969.)

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‘Another Sunday…’ offers some gentle observational humour: the two middle-aged women walking their dogs are discussing, quite knowledgably, world politics; whilst the players are on the pitch, two young boys break into the changing rooms and take the money out of the players’ pockets and wallets.

The subject of the play, according to Rosenthal himself, is the theme of ‘Fairness and unfairness’, which are ‘hobbyhorses of mine and I ride them in virtually every play I’ve written… Another Sunday And Sweet FA made no bones about it’ (Rosenthal, 2006: 182). According to Rosenthal, Armistead sees ‘life [as] an Immorality Play. Right never triumphs over wrong. Good never vanquishes evil. No one knows the meaning of “fairness”. Which is why he’s a Sunday morning referee – hoping that in his own small way, in a foreign field that’s for ever Manchester, he and his whistle might change the world’ (ibid.). Ultimately, Armistead’s Sunday mornings are spent in the thankless pursuit of ‘fairness’. ‘Would you like to go to hell?’ one of the players asks Armistead after being reprimanded for offering a bribe. ‘I’ve been, laddie. That’s why I’m here’, Armistead quips back.

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‘Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.’ runs for 52:38 mins (PAL) and appears to be uncut. The break bumpers are present.

Video

Shot on 16mm film, ‘Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.’ has a naturalistic, documentary-like aesthetic. This DVD offers an excellent presentation of the play, presented in its original broadcast screen ratio of 4:3.

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Audio

Audio is presented via a two-channel mono track. This is clear and without problems. There are no subtitles.

Extras

There is no contextual material.

Overall

A warm and well-observed television play, ‘Another Sunday and Sweet F.A.’ benefits from Apted’s background in documentary filmmaking and Rosenthal’s keenly-observed script. The characters are well-rounded and there are some clever, almost postmodern, tricks deployed throughout: the use of multiple narrators and the ironic ‘action replay’ at the climax are the most obvious. ‘Another Sunday…’ is a rewarding watch, although fans of Jack Rosenthal may prefer to pick up Network’s Jack Rosenthal at ITV release, which contains ‘Another Sunday…’ alongside a number of other dramas and sitcoms written by Rosenthal.


References
Rosenthal, Jack, 2006: By Jack Rosenthal: An Autobiography in Six Acts. Robson


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