Sunday, November 06, 2005

Tottenation Street


The late legendary Tottenham Hotspur manager Bill Nicholson

The Joke would surely be lost on Sir Alex Ferguson. Manchester's most famous soap, Coronation Street, has been used by its producer to promote Tottenham Hotspur.

In the two years he has been in charge, Spurs fan Tony Wood has peppered the scripts with the names of dozens of players and coaches revered by supporters of the north London club.

Most of the current squad, including Jermain Defoe, and former players such as Mbulelo Mabizela, have been mentioned, along with Tottenham's greatest manager, Bill Nicholson, who won the FA Cup and League double in 1961, and the 1981 FA Cup-winning side.

Mr Wood's tactic has been to slip in the names of characters who appear only off-screen, when they are referred to in dialogue.

A firm of solicitors was named Robinson, Jones, Greaves and Allen - after the current England keeper Paul Robinson, Sixties Welsh winger Cliff Jones, and two England forwards, Jimmy Greaves and Clive Allen. A butcher's shop was named Blanchflower's, after Danny Blanchflower, the 1961 captain.

And inevitably, Mr Wood has banned all mentions of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United - with the honourable exception of Schmeichel the dog, which shares its name with the former United goalie. Even the Baldwin family are now ardent Spurs fans.

A Tottenham fan since he was 11, the 40-year-old ITV producer said he hit on the idea after moving up from London to Manchester to take command of the soap in January 2004.

He said: "I found myself showing my support in a radically different way. I realised I had at my disposal a means of subliminally promoting Tottenham Hotspur to 12 million people five times a week.

"It started slowly. Sophie Webster's maths teacher became Mrs Mabizela, Chesney's headmaster Mr Defoe. We had solicitors called Robinson, Jones, Greaves and Allen.

"Soon, as I grew in confidence, Blanchflower's Butchers got a mention and Audrey Roberts's first love went by the name of Sheringham [after former striker Teddy]."

Writing in a Tottenham Hotspur match programme, Mr Wood went on: "By the turn of 2004, I'd named characters after the entire Double team; the '81 Cup team, with the exception of Ossie Ardiles and Glenn Hoddle who stood out like a sore thumb, and two-thirds of the current squad.

"In our New Year's Eve episode, Norris Cole, the world's least likely football fan, mourned the loss of the great Bill Nicholson - neither actor nor character had any idea of what he was talking about."

Mr Wood is leaving the soap at the end of the year to take up a post at Mersey TV, which makes Hollyoaks and Brookside. He added: "Still, as a leaving gift to the programme, I've ensured the Coronation Street railway arch is beautifully adorned with highly prominent THFC graffiti."

His replacement is Steve Frost, who arrives in December from ITV's rival soap Emmerdale - and who is not a noted football fan.

Source: The Mail on Sunday


Manchester United’s goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel

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