The Rise and Hilarious Fall of the Football Blooper DVD

The comedy football video represents (apart from @FootballFunnys) the game's lowest common denominator. The hipster antithesis. This is "footy".

In the age of gifs, memes, Sulia links and internet streaming, the comedy football DVD is leading a charmed existence. In the 1990s, it was enough of a challenge to find footage that hadn't already been guffawed over by John Parrott and Ally McCoist on Question of Sport. Now these beleaguered producers must unearth footage that hasn't already been guffawed over by @BBCSporf, Paddy Power, Soccer AM and Matt Dawson and Phil Tufnell on Question of Sport. As a rule of thumb: if a bloopers DVD includes Peter Devine's penalty, it's probably not going to be a groundbreaking hour of your life.

On the other hand, this sordid corner of the market has been boosted by the fact that football is now apparently more hilarious than ever. Top-flight supporters are now hooked on high-grade schadenfreude, as their rivals' expensive flops struggle in the high-pressure bundle for Champions League places. The unstoppable rise of statistical analysis has spawned jokes actually involving statistical analysis, with endless variables. The cult footballer used to be either a rubbish but well-meaning midfielder (John Jensen, Phil Stamp) or a supremely talented but little-known maverick (Robin Friday). Now, to be cult means to be a slightly unconventional player, of any ability, upon whom a godawful parallel universe of hilarity can be constructed - see Zlatan "Zlatan" Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli or Nicklas Bendtner for examples.

If we are to insist on football being a source of unsophisticated humour (rather than sheer joy, frustration, anger, relief, escapism or whatever it's supposed to be for), then we must return to the blooper, the gaff, the blunder, the ricket and the 'mare.

Much like football itself, the blooper video's Big Bang came in 1992. Danny Baker's Own Goals and Gaffs (above) is, to be frank, the genre's immediate zenith after which the returns have been diminishing ever since. Baker's habit of going completely silent, and letting the bewildering goalkeeping errors speak for themselves, is a far cry from the sound effects and pop-rock soundtracks of later, paler imitations. The original OGandG revels in its pre-multimedia age - Gary Crosby's artful dodging at the expense of a furious Andy Dibble is already two years old by this point - breathing space that YouTube would never allow nowadays.

After a digression of Danny Baker's Right Hammerings (1993), a 1994 sequel - Own Goals and Gaffs 2 since you ask - sticks to the same formula. Still the archive 60s and 70s footage keeps coming and, still, the lack of competition kept it fresh. 1995's rather more turgid Fabulous World of Freak Football signalled the end of Baker's mid-90s stranglehold on the bloopers video market. Segments shot on location in local recreation grounds were a foreboding nod to low-budget productions for the next two decades. Baker, like an over-the-hill Mark Spitz trying to qualify for the 1992 Olympics or the straight-t0-TV Home Alone 5, just couldn't resist one more flog of a dead horse, resulting in 2009's chaotic Glorious Return of Own Goals and Gaffs.

Nick Hancock's Football Nightmares (1996 - eventually lumped together in 2000, in an irresistible DVD deal, with Nick Hancock's Football Hell and Nick Hancock: Football Doctor) was notable for footage of Linsey Dawn McKenzie, wearing only a thong and high-heels, strutting across a non-league football pitch to kiss Jarvis Cocker. The football blooper had gone all certificate 12. Oh, and there's Noah Hickey.

Into the new millennium we went, and Rory McGrath was dragged in to replace Baker as the larger-than-life-hairy-funnyman figure for Own Goals and Gaffs - The Premiership (2002) and More Own Goals and Gaffs (2003)The series' confusing quasi-sequel of Johnny Vaughan's Own Goals and Gaffs III (2009) marks the point at which the whole thing was finally put out of its misery.

The floodgates were now creaking open and, as the number of blooper DVDs increased, a clear formula for their presentation emerged. The low-budget covers predominately feature the semi-famous presenter (often holding a ball, and occasionally also pointing to it) standing in front of a computer-rendered goalnet. To avoid product placement, there's a heavy reliance on the classic (but now obsolete) hexagonal ball design. 

Older VHS efforts would boast on their cover about how many minutes of action they contained. In the DVD era, this would graduate to vague claims about being the "ultimate" or "top" collection of football mishaps. More Own Goals and Gaffs, for example, claims to feature "NON-STOP FOOTBALLING INSANITY", which is not so much a promotional tag-line as a collection of thrown-together words.

Production companies started looking beyond jobbing panel-show comedians and tested the ex-player waters. A perma-chuckling David Seaman fronted the quickfire brace of Goalkeeping Nightmares (2003) and Jeepers Keepers (2004)which both capitalise on the well-worn caricature of the lonesome goalkeeping fall-guy. Responsibly, though, the latter effort is also punctuated with genuine coaching tips for budding custodians. David James would tread the same path a few years later with the existential thriller Who Would Be A Goalkeeper? (2009).

Unintelligible Radio 1 DJs Mark and Lard then took on the Football Nightmares franchise from Hancock, who has barely been heard of since. Meanwhile, a casually-dressed, pre-hairplugs James Nesbitt rode the wave of his Cold Feet fame by presenting Eat My Goal (2004), which sold itself with the indisputable reasoning of "Eat My Goal...because football can make utter fools out of anyone."

In 2005, Chris Kamara Presents: UNBELIEVABLE! attempted to rely on a single season's-worth of inanity, but perhaps history may one day adjudge that 2004/05 was one of the most unhinged Premier League campaigns of all. Nonetheless, the slim pickings are padded out with cameos from "Kammy's" Sky Sports cronies Alan McInally and Rob McCaffrey, and the viewer suddenly starts to feel a bit left out of the in-jokes. Actually, this DVD is a complete figment of my imagination, but it's a measure of the uniform ridiculousness of the genre that you can barely pick it out among the dross that actually made it to market.

If a panel-show comedian or recently retired player aren't available, Plan C is to rope in a celebrity who sort-of likes football. The first heinous crime of Gordon Ramsay's Football Hell (2005) is that the cover art appears to show him flambéing an Adidas Tango on a bed of rocket leaves. As is always the case when trying to shoehorn a non-footballer into a football context, some clumsy comparisons are required - "Gordon proves he's just as much of an expert on the pitch as he is in the kitchen. He's also just about as intolerant of mistakes, which makes watching this carnival of the terminally stupid even funnier."

Amazon customer Alastair Murdoch, however, is unamused: "This was bought for my son by his brother and it is okay, however if you want an exciting football video, this is not for you."

The most scathing Amazon reviews are saved for the decidedly no-frills Football Follies (2005), which just about scrapes into the top 300,000 bestsellers due in no small part to its bargain price of £15.49 (with free delivery). "Unlike the Ronseal advert," one customer laments, "this dvd has probably the most misleading title ever released. If there is an option to purchase and watch this or insert hot needles under your finger nails, the needles would give you a more enjoyable experience." Ouch.

Moving on, and another example of some if-it's-broke-fuck-it-just-do-it-again marketing strategy. Ian Wright, whose post-retirement media career appears to be going in slow motion, fronted It Shouldn't Happen to a Footballer in 2006 and, a year later, It Really Shouldn't Happen to a Footballer. A third edition, No Seriously, This Really Oughtn't Happen to a Footballer was presumably shelved.

Next to ham-fistedly try and marry footballing clumsiness with mental illness was Bradley Walsh's Soccer Shockers (2006), which promises "the ultimate collection of football insanity." And look! Fans dressed as Elvis! Mascots waving at the camera! Referees getting in the way! Gary Lineker's Action Replay (2007) took a more measured approach, and ends up being one of the most bland productions of the lot.

2007's lowlight was surely this: 
Paddy McGuinness All Star Balls-Ups (2007) - "probably the best footy bloopers in the world!". Note the lack of the possessive apostrophe on the surname, which I like to think was McGuinness belatedly trying to distance himself from the finished product. Viewers are not let down on the "All Star" side of things, though - Graham Taylor, John Aldridge, Alan McInally and a climaxing Paul Merson ably assist McGuinness in padding out the DVD with bawdy sketches, in between footage of little-known European goalkeepers conceding rib-ticklingly unorthodox goals:

Lovejoy and Redknapp's Best of Football (2007) earns a mention in passing here for both its laughably vague title and the inevitability that it contains an unhealthy dollop of banter. The football blooper landscape would seem empty without one of its most enduring clown princes. 

2008 saw more non-footballers muscling in on the lucrative Christmas stocking market. Ubercockney Ray Winstone's Football Blinders and Blunders (2008) admirably manages to find hitherto untrademarked wordsin its title to describe its arse-over-elbow football content. Phil Daniels' Football Match Day Madness (2008) is yet another bloopers-by-numbers Christmas compilation of action "from the world's favourite game, featuring the world's favourite stars." Ricky Hatton's Hotshots (2008) sees the weight-gaining boxer go twelve rounds with the autocue, backed by a soundtrack that is dreadful even by the subterranean standards of the comedy DVD genre.

It's hard to establish the alignment between irony and Danny Dyer's career path, so you can't be sure exactly how seriously he takes himself at the helm of Danny Dyer's Football Foul-Ups (2009). It currently retails on Amazon at 88p, but purchasers may yet feel short-changed when they see that the good stuff was clearly kept back for Danny Dyer's Funniest Football Foul-Ups (2010)

Speaking of actors inextricably tied for eternity to a single character, 2010 brought us Ricky Tomlinson: Football My Arse! This claims to be "the funniest football DVD you'll ever see", a groundbreaking cover-mounted boast that extends itself to both the past and future.

Robbie Savage: Football Howlers (2011)
In When Saturday Comes No.322, Cameron Carter rips apart this effort from the (oh god, I'm going to have to say it) outspoken BBC pundit: "Savage does not so much deliver lines as survive them". A 10-second trailer is all a potential customer should require in order to make an informed choice here.

Olly Murs: 7 Deadly Sins of Football (2011) features arguably the lowest-budget artwork of all. A stripy goal, two misshapen footballs and a gurning Murs is all we get. Press play, and it's even more disappointing than it originally threatens:

Finally, one of the final death knells for the football blooper DVD. Skin-crawlingly tacky TV celebrity? Check. Microsoft Paint artwork? Check. Vague superlatives about the "greatest moments from the beautiful game"? Check. Mark Wright's Football Saints and Sinners (2012) epitomises a once-flourishing genre of light sporting entertainment that is patently no longer trying. Perhaps football just isn't funny after all.


Matthew said...

Diabolical not to see this on the list: High, Wide and Hansen

James Smart said...

Amazing and very entertaining games as i always love to play football games because these games enhance the critical skills of players.