It’s that time of the week again! We’ve reached episode 2, and I must say, it’s an absolute urmmmmm… ‘Classic’.
The scene is set, we’re two weeks into the unique troubleshooter experiment (coincidentally, we’re two weeks into my ordeal of watching this series again), and Ronald Frederick Atkinson tells cameras at the training ground that he is feeling positive about Posh’s season. This positive tone last for a matter of seconds, as Danny Crow displays a teeny weeny bit of training ground dissent towards his caretaker manager Bleasdale…
Anyway, Posh are preparing for a weekend trip to Plainmoor to take on the team propping up the entire football league: Torquay United. The club almost gives out a professional vibe at this stage, with the long journey to Devon broken up by a training session at Tiverton Town’s ground, and an overnight hotel booking has been arranged for the travelling party. Again, that vibe is again destroyed as we learn of the prospect of Mark Arber’s season being cut short; the Sith Efrican had been accused of tampering with a sample during a routine drugs test, and could face a hefty ban.
To the morning of the match, and the now familiar sight of Big Ron’s Merc is back, as our tanned messiah arrives in Torquay, and enters the team hotel- performing some bizarre fist pumping that feels David Brentesque- to address Bleo. As well as running through the team Bleasdale has selected, it’s a somewhat flagship moment for the series, as the ‘peace deal’ Barry Fry had negotiated between the two parties is upheld, as Ron is confirmed as being inside the Posh dressing room for the first time.
It’s quarter to two, and Bleasdale is addressing his troops. He highlights his concern that the team lacks motivation and is not getting out of fourth gear on a match day; Atkinson is impressed with how the Scouser spoke. It’s clear early on that Steve’s instructions have fallen on deaf ears. The side is struggling to perform the most basic tasks and the inevitable happened: Tony Bedeau makes it 1-0 to Torquay. This triggers Ron to leave his place in the director’s box and place himself behind Steve Bleasdale offering irrelevant pieces of advice to the new boss in some sort of tribute to The Fast Show’s pub bore Billy Bleach advising punters on how to beat a fruit machine.
It finishes 1-0 to The Gulls, and Bleasdale explodes post match; my rough tally estimates he shouted ‘FUCK’ (or some variation) 8 times in 25 seconds. Mercifully, an ad break spares me from this shambles for a few seconds.
We return, and have been transported to Bedfordshire, as Big Ron arrives at Casa Del Fry to assess the financial state of the club. Baz paints a bleak picture. He explains how everybody told him to pull out of his original deal to buy Posh, how he’s had to remortgage everything he owns, cash his pension early and put his own neck on the line to keep the club afloat. Atkinson has perceptively noticed there is an ‘anti-Barry segment of supporters’, allowing Fry to push his sob story further. The gravity of the situation probably would have meant more to me had the production team not cut to Ron at this point. He was eating lasagne with his fingers. Lasagne. Fingers. LASAGNE! There was béchamel and minced beef coating his sausage-like digits as he caressed the remainder of the meal. He slowly opened his mouth to- I’m going to stop now, I realise it sounds like I’m writing a very niche genre of Italian porn.
I’m sure you all want to get that out of your heads, so let’s focus on Posh’s upcoming match against Barnet. Throughout the episode so far, Ron *NARRATIVE CLAXON* has been commenting on the lack of fire power Posh possess in the final third, and recommends a striker is brought on board. Like a postman with Tourettes, Fry fackin’ delivers, bringing in man-mountain Njazi Kuqi from his former employers Birmingham City. Bleasdale looks content with his new man, claiming he will be a ‘definite asset’ and he ‘knows how to score goals’. They even show him kicking a ball really hard in training and everything!!
Match day once more, and Steve (again, with Ron present) tells his players how today’s visitors only have one tactic-a long diagonal ball-and that we have the ability to hurt them on the counter attack. There is an air of confidence about London Road; an exciting new striker facing poor opponents means we’re destined for 3 points, surely!? Come on Boro!!
Yeah, we all know how well that went. Kuqi appeared to touch the ball once, and that was only because we had kick off. The only word that came to mind when I saw the big Finn in this televisual masterpiece was ‘trudge’. Andy Hessenthaler (a man who was five times my age the day this game took place) gave the Bees the lead, but professional petulant child Danny Crow equalised for the home side. Half time saw Kuqi pulled off *snigger*, and his replacement Richard Logan put Posh into the lead. In a trait that we’re really REALLY unfamiliar with in PE2, Posh fell apart towards the end of the match and were lucky to come away with a 2-2 draw. The immediate reaction to this result was to send Njaz Kuqi back to the West Midlands, the poor man.
This section of episode 2 is devoted to finding a replacement for Kuqi. Fry and Atkinson decide an experienced man is needed up front; why consult the manager when the powers-that-be can dictate!? Ron suggests QPR’s Stefan Moore, and it sounds like he’s moved heaven and earth to broker a deal for the former Villa man, and it is ENTIRELY down to Ron that we could be blessed with a man who had scored 3 professional goals in 5 years. Meanwhile, Bleasdale is frantically trying to identify his own targets, travelling to Portman Road to scout a promising Chelsea youngster, and to Berkshire to watch a Reading reserve. Narrator Stelling describes how Steve has no time to lose… Apart from the time it took for the camera crew to set up outside the Madejski Stadium to get a candid shot of Steve running to a turnstile.
The following day, the deal for Stefan Moore is about to be signed off, before a shock eleventh hour development. Bleasdale has handed a trial to pub footballer Lloyd Opara, and wants to sign him instead of Moore. Fry is dubious, and rings his manager for a final decision. Citing cost, Bleasdale insists on signing Opara; this simultaneously frustrates Atkinson and provides the first recorded case of a Posh chairman ‘always backing my manager’ when signing a player who turned out to be shit.
The Opara deal is signed off, and the focus turns to Atkinson exploring other departments of the football club. He meets with Joan Hill to investigate how more revenue could be generated, and comes up with an incredible idea… a golf day! Because it’s not like every business/charity/club/society since time began has organised a golf day to raise money! Ron is so far ahead of his time it’s bloody scary.
Next up, the youth academy. Helpfully, the fact that the original Peterborough United youth set up was closed by a man whose name rhymes with Gary Pry isn’t mentioned, the only details we’re given are that Posh are hoping to rebuild a programme to generate young talent and make money in the future. After a cameo from everyone’s favourite marine Dave Robertson, ‘Atkinson’ organises a trial day to select who should receive the final scholarship place that year. Isn’t it a stroke of luck that there just so happens to be one space left?
Over 100 boys turn up hoping to muscle their way into the youth set up, with the best eleven selected to play in a match at London Road where Ron will choose just one player to sign. This ‘accolade’ is won by eloquent local Sean White, who when asked “what does this [being chosen by Ron] mean to you?” replied “good”. Thanks Sean.
As episode two mercifully draws to a close, Posh prepare for a trip to Oxford United, who have been rejuvenated in the week thanks to a takeover fronted by their legend Jim Smith. Pre-match, Posh’s manager explained his process of working towards promotion: “I imagine a big cake, with loadsa icing. I like taking little slices, and we want nobody else to have that cake. Once we have 4 or 5 slices of that cake… Urrrmmm… That’s what it’s all about.” I have literally no idea what it’s all about Steve. Diabetes perhaps?
Anyway, Posh are without skipper Dean Holden, who is replaced in the matchday squad by new boy Opara. Stelling describes a lack of stomach from the Peterborough players; he isn’t wrong. Tyler’s goal is peppered with shots, and I’ve had spoons with more of a cutting edge than the forwards possessed that day. Inevitably, Posh fall behind, and Steve gambles by throwing on this Opara bloke. He does absolutely naff all, and the match draws to a close. 1-0 Oxford. There is obvious discontent in the dressing room, which comes to a head just as the Sky cameraman arrives. A scuffle breaks out between Paul Carden and Mark Arber which sees the whole squad pile in, whilst Sean St Ledger and Bleasdale trade insults. Everyone ends up failing to take responsibility.
Winston Churchill had no idea that his ‘we will fight them on the beaches’ speech would still resonate today, Martin Luther King probably didn’t realise his dream would catch on. All great leaders have a line that would go down in history. Little did we know, Steve Bleasdale was about to etch his name into folklore with what he was about to say: “You don’t win fuck all in this league for playing fucking football, I’m gonna go route fucking one, 3-4-fucking-3. Sure, I fucking love to pass. When it’s right to play, you pass it, but WHEN IT’S A BATTLE, YOU FUCKING BATTLE”. Poetic Steve. Poetic.
The cracks are beginning to appear in the Bleasdale regime, I wonder if he turns it around in episode 3? Find out: same time next week. In the meantime, why not share your memories of that series and feedback on this on the forum?