The English Game





Spring 2020

I received a call out of the blue from a producer asking if I would be available to choreograph the new Netflix series about the beginnings of football. I was intrigued as this was different from much of the work I was already doing. I was asked to join the team and immediately set about researching everything that I could about football in the late 1800s. I realised that there was so much I didn’t know! The offside rule was even stricter. Players could kick each other as long as someone didn’t hold someone to be kicked! It was considered ungentlemanly to appeal for a foul and seen as an unfair advantage if a team trained. They were expected to be naturally fit and any preparation would consist of long walks and eating healthy amounts.

I wanted to try to get as many of these unusual elements into the action as possible. One such feature was that the Old Etonians used to line up with eight forwards and would travel in packs, more like a rugby scrum and dribble the ball over the line or close enough to shoot. The working men from the north who were less well off and not as sturdy as their southern counterparts would have to pass the ball around the opposition to have any success. Therein was born the beginning of total football as we know it and also the birth of the professional game.

I worked with the footballers and actors to master this style of play and also to define the sequences we needed for each scene to tell the story well. There was an element of artistic license in the story which shows a training scene with the Old Etonians but this was very unlikley to have happened. What we do know is that Fergus Suter from Scotland was a hero of the times along with Kinnaird of the Old Etonians. Each of the actors playing these roles were good footballers and this really helped on set. I admired the way that they were willing to keep going if it meant getting the scene right. Overall, I was pleased with the action and I thought that it was a very interesting series.

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