The eighth episode of Ripping Yarns
, the series of splendid adventures set in the early 1900s created by Terry Jones
and Michael Palin
. "Golden Gordon" was first aired on 17th October 1979, and featured Palin as football fan Gordon Ottershaw, and Bill Fraser
as wealthy scrap-metal dealer Arthur Foggen.
Yorkshire, 1935. Barnstoneworth is a small town without much going for it now. It has seen better days, and best of all was its football team, once one of the great teams of the top league, now plunged precipitously through the divisions and losing all its matches. It has now lost ninety-six in a row. One of the very last faithful fans is Gordon Ottershaw, who has even named his son Barnstoneworth United.
After yet another miserable defeat, 8-1 down to Brighouse, a team so unathletic that their centre forward wears glasses while playing, Gordon staggers home and vents his fury on their furniture and ornaments. Mrs Ottershaw is resignedly used to this, and a little later they all appear raggedly patched together. She tells him she's having a baby. Not hearing, he trudges off to drown his sorrows. She repeatedly tells him this as the story advances, but he thinks about nothing but the football team.
At training, some of the players are off sick, the centre forward's mother refuses to let him come out to play, and others are having a bitter tearful dispute about who's wearing whose shorts. The manager flips out and shouts at them that shorts don't matter! It's the pumping muscles underneath that matter, the two legs of iron for running around kicking the ball! It doesn't matter if they're blue serge shorts, white cotton shorts, green flannel shorts, monogrammed shorts, hand-stitched shorts, signed shorts, shorts made in Austria or pink shorts that light up at night. They're not important! As his harangue gains momentum, he rips off his own shorts and pumps his flabby white legs up and down to demonstrate, and runs out of the ground, dwindling into the distance and an indecent exposure charge.
The club chairman calls an emergency meeting and announces that they've decided to sell the club, the grounds, and the premises for scrap. It will be turned into a steel scrap crushing factory by the Arthur Foggen Scrap Corporation. With only six goals in three years, it was all they could do, so the coming match against Denley Moor would be the last.
The ruined and despondent Gordon decides to visit Mr Foggen himself, who is a blunt plutocrat who lives in a lovely house full of scrap metal. He's always loved scrap. The only thing he likes better than scrap is success, and that's why he can't stand what Barnstoneworth United has become. As he talks to Gordon they begin to reminisce and then enthuse about what it used to be, back in the early 1920s with the great Neville Davitt, who shot goals off his bald head, and other star players of the old successful days.
Young Barnstoneworth spends most of his time memorising lists of old team players, to the detriment of his prime ministers, which makes his mother angry even as she's trying to tell Gordon about the baby. But Gordon, by now the only man on earth who still believes Barnstoneworth can beat Denley Moor, has an inspiration. He rushes out, cycling round to other towns seeking out elderly gentlemen: retired, in nursing homes, or quietly managing their businesses. He is reassembling the great United team of 1922.
That Saturday afternoon at the Sewage Works grounds everyone is expecting another ignominious disaster. Hardly any of the current team have shown up. Then suddenly Gordon's recruits arrive. The 60-year-old butcher Davitt rips his toupee off, and everyone gasps in recognition of the legendary goal-scoring pate. The geriatrics defeat Denley Moor. Gordon rollicks home and wrecks the furniture and ornaments in celebration.
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