The English Game Netflix Review – How the Working Class Broke into the FA!

The English Game Netflix Review
We review The English Game Netflix football (soccer) series while slating the Daily Telegraph’s shameful 1-star rating with our educated 5-star rating! (Image courtesy of saimart on Vecteezy)

The English Game on Netflix takes you back to an era when football was known as the gentleman’s game, played by, you guessed it, gentlemen. Wealthy Brits stuck together and played a strange game: essentially wolf pack mentality, charging from one end of the pitch to the other.

Think rugby but with a football (no insult intended towards the game of rugby). Rugby is a game of tactics and skills just as much as football, yet the English Game Netflix series is an eye-opener for those who watch the modern game of football. It was effectively rugby with your feet, with tactics involved charging to get the ball over the line. Except in football, over-the-line only counts between two posts.

The 1879 FA Cup came, and working-class players saw the game in a different light. One such player was Scotsman Fergus Suter. He saw it as a game of space and not a herd of elephants bowling their opponents down to eventually get the ball in the back of the net. I say back of the net; they didn’t use nets for the goals back then!

Below I’ll give you my review as an avid football fan, then hit back at the critics that reviewed the film, gave it poor ratings, but clearly didn’t watch the series.

The English Game – My rating is 5 Stars Out of 5

Official Netflix Trailer

I think they nailed it in showing the early days of football in the late 1800s. It is eye-opening to see how the game changed from a rich man’s hobby into something bigger that crossed class lines.

First, if you are a sports history fan, it takes you on a fascinating journey back in time. Fergus, played by Kevin Guthrie, and Edward Holcroft Arthur, played their roles brilliantly. Plus, credit to the other actors and director. Without overdramatizing the events of that time, the series still takes you right into the thick of the adversity the working class was up against to break into the FA Cup and the Football Association.

At the same time, this is not all about football. There is drama on and off the pitch. The whole cast is great, and they help clue you into how wild things were in Britain back then without overplaying it.

Plus, the show just looks flat-out gorgeous with the old-school costumes and settings. The people who made it clearly cared about the era. It’s not just some boring history lesson either. It brings up all these deep questions about sports bringing folks together that we’re still talking about now. Football becoming huge across class parallels and how it connects fans worldwide today.

Yet once again, many of the self-proclaimed ‘movie review experts’ out there got it completely wrong. Like it was a boring review they needed to get out of the way with so they can just get paid. My advice, ignore them and watch it for yourself!

Lucy Mangan from the Telegraph Rates it as a 1-Star!

In the piece written by Lucy Mangan in the Telegraph titled ‘The English Game review – Julian Fellowes football drama is an own goal’, she slates the series. The rating gets a 1-star. I mean, come on, who are you?

Fellowes, known for polished period dramas like Downton Abbey, is just the man to dramatize this class conflict. Yet, as Ms Mengan puts it, ‘on the pitch’. Immediately, she missed the point and downplayed the 6-part Netflix series by saying it misses the mark. Here’s the crux of it, I bet my bottom dollar she didn’t watch it, and here is why.

In her Telegraph report, she even distances herself from admitting she watched it and just uses other people’s opinions.

I assume she knows diddly-squat about football, or films for that matter, judging by her pessimistic account of the series. We don’t mind other people’s opinions, and she has every right to critique the series. Yet, I reiterate that she could have watched the series before writing about it and rating it 1-star. The typical Telegraph reporter’s lazy journalism approach.

How many times have we seen it in British rags? Oh sorry, this rag claims to be a newspaper. It does make me chuckle because this paper really does have a mix of good and bad journalists.

Ms Magan Off the Mark

Ms Mangan completely misses the point of the writer’s aim. The series wasn’t just about telling the story of English football ‘on the pitch’—it was bigger than that. It encapsulated the hardships of the working class off the pitch, too.

As someone who has watched it, I can confidently tell that Fellowes was assembling multiple facets of an era when Britain was truly divided. Call it Oxford graduates vs. those who did not have the opportunity of a decent education. What’s more, those working men challenging for the FA Cup were people not in the high society. Their battle was against intellects, those born into money, and those who had connections to make money, even if they were the worst in their class.

In a roundabout way, she says:

The recent Netflix drama series ‘The English Game’ from creator Julian Fellowes explores an important era in football history. As the sport transformed from an elite amateur pastime into a game of the masses in late 19th-century Britain, working-class players broke into the upper-crust world of football for the first time. So far, I agree.

Then she says that, according to critics, predictable cliches undermine nuanced storytelling throughout the show. Northern industrial town players and their Southern aristocratic opponents come across as stereotypes rather than complex characters. I disagree. Things back in those days truly were that black and white. The grey areas between the upper class and the working class were far, few between, and Fellows does a great job of helping us recognize this.

She goes on to ‘report’ (if that’s what you call it), and stilted dialogue does the talented ensemble cast no favors. Formulaic plot devices involving class tensions offer little surprise or insight. Again, that was the point. This era didn’t have as diverse a culture as today—please wake up!

Finally, to end a completely disastrous account of the series, she writes words to the effect: In the end, nostalgic tropes defeat the show’s aims to dramatize a pivotal era when football became the people’s game. While football fans may enjoy glimpses of early strategy and culture, the historic class clash at the heart of ‘The English Game’ warrants richer, gripping treatment. For such a societally resonant true story, the execution disappoints. To sum up, she didn’t watch it and gave it 1-star.

In Reality – Let’s sum it up for those who watched The English Game Series!

Here is the truth about ‘The English Game’ echoed by those who took the time to watch it and not just write some top-of-your-head rubbish just for clicks. The cinematography captures the period setting, complementing the engaging script that balances on-field action with off-field drama. The English Game is not just a treat for football fans but also for anyone interested in the social history of Britain. It sheds light on the sport’s power to transcend class barriers, making it a timely reminder of football’s unifying spirit.

This series is a compelling watch, offering both entertainment and a thoughtful reflection on the origins of the world’s most popular sport. Say no more!

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