If you haven’t seen it, Class of 92 Out of Their League is back for a second season on the BBC. It’s a brilliant watch and I urge you to get yourself over to BBC iPlayer or Youtube or wherever it may be available.
This is exquisite documentary making. Sure it isn’t as toe curling as a Louis Theroux special, but the film makers involved in this show have managed to critique the Salford City owners in such a subtle way that they were happy to take part in a second series.
For those of you that don’t know, here’s a quick synopsis:
Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt and the Neville brothers have purchased a semi professional club. Their new dream is to take it into the football league.
The class of 92 aren’t accustomed to failure. They’ve all had extremely successful playing careers at the highest level. The hypothesis must’ve been; ‘we’ve won everything there is to win in this sport, so we’ll bring our expertise to this level and it’ll all be fine’.
That’s why it’s so entertaining to watch them come to terms with the realities of non-league football. Spoiler alert, it’s a struggle.
In the first season Phil Neville finds himself perplexed by the idea of someone being late for training as a result of finishing work (real work) late. In the second season the cameras capture Gary questioning why one of their ageing players is opening a cheese shop. To be fair to Scholes he does highlight the fact that this player will probably need to get a job when he finishes football.
This series is full of these little gems. Slightly detached multimillionaires who find it difficult to get their heads around what football is actually like for 99% of people who play the game. And they’ve only dropped down to semi pro.
The contrast of multimillionaire mansions and semi-pro-semi-detached houses perfectly captures the different worlds that the characters in this show occupy.
The film makers have certainly put more of an effort into representing the part-time players in a sympathetic light in the second season. These guys live for football like so many of us do. They work all week in jobs they hate just for that hour and a half of escapism on a Saturday afternoon.
Even the overly angry managers come across like sweet guys just chasing their dream between shifts. Albeit they do this by abusing all of their players in almost every scene.
Meanwhile, when results aren’t going Salford’s way, the class of 92 simply throw money at the situation. This has the inevitable consequence of potential players holding the club for ransom and demanding extortionate wages. Who would’ve thought it?
Paul Scholes recently spoke of how he has fallen out of love with the Premier League. According to Scholes the top flight of English football has lost its charm as a result of the influx on money. It’s interesting that Scholes et al have decided to act like the Roman Abromoviches of non-league football. Pot-Kettle-Black?
Despite having achieved two consecutive promotions and an admiral FA Cup run last season, there is something a little empty about these achievements given the financial advantage that Salford has over most of its rivals. Sure the surroundings might not be glamorous, but the wages they’ve reportedly paid top players does border on excessive.
Of course any documentary will have an angle, and this isn’t to say that Giggs & co don’t care. They do. They seem completely enthralled in their new project. As mentioned, Scholes has spoken of his disillusion with the Premier League and love of the semi-professional game.
In the first season Gary Neville talks of keeping a concrete block wherever the club goes. He stands on this slab to watch the games, and genuinely seems to have fallen in love with the idea of a club with community at its heart.
The Class of 92 didn’t grow up as multi-millionaires, and I’m sure that they do understand the challenges of normal people. After all they were normal once upon a time. The problem is that its football, and they can’t quite separate their experience of the professional game from the semi-professional one. It’s almost a different sport.
They expect too much from young men who are only part time. Of course their star striker is going to have to miss a game or two for work. He has a daughter to support, and a life to lead after football.
And to be fair to Giggs, Scholes and the neglected Nicky Butt it’s mostly the Neville brothers who exhibit the most detached and delusional behaviour.
I will leave you with this image. Phil Neville turning up to watch (yes watch) a midweek Salford City game in his Manchester United training jacket. You don’t work there anymore Phil.