Class of '92 Review

Reviewed – The Class of ’92 by Ben and Gabe Turner

“I’m not sure it will happen again,” says Gary Neville, as he reflects on the rarity of a close-knit group of immensely talented young footballers – nay, friends – rising through the ranks of a club they love and achieving greatness together, as one. It’s a typically thoughtful observation to bookend a splendid 99 minutes of nostalgia, charting the remarkable rise and outstanding success of Manchester United’s class of ’92.

But this isn’t some misty-eyed club shop rehash of a golden era in United’s grand history. No, this documentary has genuine warmth and is perfectly centred around the bond between six young lads (David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Phil and Gary Neville, Nicky Butt and Paul Scholes) who each found global fame amid the youthful optimism of a vibrant 90s ‘Madchester’.

With a smattering of Oasis, a dash of The Charlatans and a healthy dose of the Stone Roses – whose bassist ‘Mani’ features as a talking head throughout – Class of 92 weaves its way through the most important matches of United’s treble-winning season, via tributes to each of the six outstanding players upon whom the spotlight shines.

To the credit of directors Ben and Gabe Turner, this carefully-crafted documentary allocates equal time to the profiling of each player. Entwining intimate one-on-one interviews with a banter-filled gathering of the six at a dinner table helps balance the lavish praise the team-mates have for one another with the joyous repartee of a reunited troupe.

And it serves to provide us with a number of laugh-out-loud anecdotes. Among which, Ryan Giggs describes a bollocking from Sir Alex Ferguson, after he and Lee Sharpe were caught preparing for a big, boozy night-out; Paul Scholes chuckles while fondly remembering the time he nearly knocked out Phil Neville with a football while the defender took a mid-training session wee; and Gary Neville recalls the time he sent Noel Gallagher a guitar to be signed, only to have it returned covered in scrawls of ‘MCFC’.

There is one brief moment of sobriety, however, as both Beckham and Phil Neville reflect on the torrid abuse they suffered after World Cup ’98 and Euro 2000, respectively.

It does feel slightly odd to hear from former Prime Minister Tony Blair, but he contextualises United’s success, even recollecting an awkward state visit where the words ‘David’ and ‘Beckham’ proved an unlikely ice-breaker. Blair and Olympic Opening Ceremony director Danny Boyle are nicely shoehorned in to provide a cultural and political break from the non-stop football chat.

As for the players themselves, they seem as relaxed as ever – even Paul Scholes finds himself at ease. In fact, it’s he and Nicky Butt who, to a certain extent, end up stealing the show. The latter of whom is clearly very well respected among his peers. Gary Neville even admits to thinking Butt was perfect to fill the midfield void left by a banned Scholes and an injured Roy Keane, for the Champions League final against Bayern Münich. The final itself is recalled, quite fittingly indeed, as the dramatic and pulsating climax to the film.

This is, of course, a documentary for the Reds among us – y’know the ones we’re never any more than six feet from. But there’s certainly enough for everyone (even non-football fans) in this wonderfully put-together film. For a documentary that could so easily end up going OTT with the sentimental, the Turner brothers have certainly found a decent balance between fresh insight and classic match footage.
 

THE VERDICT

A splendid look-back at a golden era for both Manchester United and England. Insightful, yet honest and warm, there’s plenty for even non-Red Devils to take interest in. Can you dig it? Oh yeah.

Mark Chapman

In Conversation with… Mark Chapman

Deciding at the age of 13 that he wanted to work in radio,  Mark ‘Chappers’ Chapman dreamt of a job with Radio 1. Having achieved that ambition with a role on first Sara Cox’s breakfast show, then Scott Mills’ drive time, Mark moved on to present ‘Football Night’ on Channel 5, while hosting a number of sports shows on BBC Radio 5Live. Fast forward to the here and now and the 39-year-old Manchester United fan is being dubbed the ‘rising star’ of the Beeb’s sports output. He’s also set to take over from Colin Murray on Match of the Day 2 next season. TBo4 caught up with the man himself…

 
TBo4: Next season you take over from Colin Murray as the presenter of Match of the Day 2, are you looking forward to it?
Mark Chapman: Yes, I am. It is one of the most iconic sports shows on television, so to be given the opportunity is very exciting.

 
TBo4: What sort of thing are you hoping to bring to the role?
MC: I think that is for others to judge. Hopefully I’ll do exactly the same thing I have been doing on 5live and Final Score and hopefully people will like that. We’ve had a lot of meetings already about next year and I think it’s about bringing the best out of everybody involved.

 
TBo4: Is presenting a big highlights show like MOTD something you’ve always wanted to do?
MC: Honestly, no. I hadn’t even thought about it. I always wanted to work at Radio 1 when I was a kid so once that was achieved I had ticked off quite a big ambition. I was happy with the balance I had between 5live and 606 and Final Score and had never even thought about Match Of The Day 2 until I got the call.

 
TBo4: You’ve been the host for lots of big live events – has there been a particular highlight from your career so far?
MC: This might be because they have been the two most recent things I have done but the Super Bowl and the Masters are high on my list because it was great to see how the Americans do sport.
Plus the Super Bowl is probably the most technically difficult show to present so I liked the challenge of that.  The London Olympics was a real buzz – just knowing how many people were listening to you, bringing that to life and the atmosphere around the place. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa was my first for 5live, so that was very special and the 2002 World Cup in Japan for Radio 1 was an amazing experience, mainly because it was my first time in that country and I found it culturally fascinating.

 
TBo4: What do you love most about your job?
MC: The variety. I obviously switch between radio and television so that’s great, but I get to do so many different sports. In the old days, sports presenters did all sorts, but it has become so much more specialised in recent years so I am grateful that I am allowed to do so many different things. People question your knowledge about some sports but as I try and point out to them, my job is to get the best out of the experts, not be an expert myself!

 
TBo4: You fell for what you said was the ‘oldest trick in the book’ when you read out a Tweet from ‘I MacHunt’ in front of big audience at a BBC 5 Live event. What was that moment like?
MC: It was fine! It wasn’t ideal to do it in front of a live audience but these things happen. The worst thing was that the production staff got a telling off for allowing the tweet to come up on the screen and for me to read it. I felt bad about that because it wasn’t their fault. Nobody did it deliberately, we apologised, nobody died and we moved on, although people still bring it up!

 
TBo4: Have there been any other embarrassing moments like that?
MC: Well, the whole of Chappers and Dave thing was probably embarrassing for a lot of people.
 

“People question your knowledge about some sports but as I try and point out to them, my job is to get the best out of the experts, not be an expert myself!”

 
TBo4: You’re a big Manchester United fan; you must be delighted with their performance in the league this season?
MC: I am, although they haven’t provided the excitement of some of the great 1990s teams that I enjoyed so much.

 
TBo4: How did you get into supporting the club?
MC: My dad took me to Old Trafford for my eighth birthday, in 1981. We beat Wolves 5-0 and Bryan Robson signed for United on the pitch before the game. He was my boyhood hero.
Wonderful! Who has been your player of the season this term?
Michael Carrick.

 
TBo4: … And who do you think should replace Sir Alex Ferguson when he eventually retires as manager?
MC: David Moyes.

 
TBo4: Has there ever been a time when you’ve been on air and wanted to celebrate a United goal or victory (but couldn’t)?
MC: Nope. I can be very professional despite giving the impression otherwise!

 
TBo4: Okay, let’s do some quick fire questions on a few big talking points in the world of football. Let’s start with goal-line technology – Yay or nay?
MC: Yay.

 
TBo4: Is the Premier League still the best league in the world?
MC: No, and I am not sure it ever was.

 
TBo4: How about Luis Suarez – is he more trouble than he’s worth?
MC: No.

 
TBo4: Is Lionel Messi the greatest footballer of all-time?
MC: No, Maradona for me. He won the 1986 World Cup single-handedly… no pun intended!

 
TBo4: And how about Arsene Wenger – how much longer should he stay at Arsenal?
MC: Till he wants to leave because I think he has earned that right.

 
TBo4: Last one, in your opinion, should Rangers and Celtic leave Scottish football and try to join the English leagues?
MC: No.

 
TBo4: Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Good luck with MOTD2!
MC: Thank you.

 

Jez George

In Conversation with… Cambridge United’s Jez George

We’d all like to think we’d put our bodies on the line for our clubs, but how many of us would actually do it? Let’s say, for example, walking 25 miles to watch your team away. That seems a bit much, doesn’t it? Well, for Cambridge United’s Director of Football Jez George, 25 miles is nothing. In 2009, George decided he wanted to raise money for the club’s youth development scheme, which had fallen on hard times following Cambridge’s relegation from the Football League in 2005. He walked 260 miles from Torquay to Cambridge and raised £45,000. Completing another fund-raising walk the following year, he racked up a further 400 miles by marching from Wrexham up to York and then all the way down to Wembley Stadium. The 43-year- old then took over as manager of the Blue Square Bet Premier outfit in October of 2012. But having stood aside to let former Luton boss Richard Money take over first team affairs, Jez was back on the road last month, walking 100 miles from Cambridge to Lincoln to mark the club’s centenary year. We caught up with him a week after the walk…

 

TBo4: Hi Jez. Tell us about this latest fund-raising walk…
Jez George: It was a fund-raiser but also a unique way of repaying the fans for their fantastic support by giving them an opportunity to own part of their football club. Also, it’s the club’s centenary year and it’s been a bit of a disappointing season so there was a bit of a parallel in that it’s about 100 miles from Cambridge to Lincoln and it worked out that we had a game on Saturday and a game at Lincoln on Monday. Lincoln were Cambridge’s first ever opponents in the Football League back in 1970 so we thought it would be a unique way of getting fans to buy into the club in terms of shares for the centenary. We asked them to sponsor me £1 a mile and we gave them 2,013 shares to mark this special season.

 

TBo4: So, how did it all go?
JG: It was horrible! Matt Walker and Joe Hutchinson were with me and they’ll pay testament to that. I think it’s easy to look back on it and remember the good bits but there were some really tough moments. I walked 26 miles on the Saturday night, had four hours kip and then walked 52 miles Sunday without sleep. The last 22 miles on Monday were really tough. But if the mind tells the body to do something it tends to follow. Somehow I got through it.

 

“I walked 26 miles on the Saturday night, had four hours kip and then walked 52 miles Sunday without sleep. The last 22 miles on Monday were really tough.”

 

TBo4: Were there any particular highlights?
JG: Reaching Sincil Bank would have been one? Yeah, getting to the outskirts of Lincoln and seeing the stadium was pretty good, having limped around for eight hours on Monday and not walking very quickly. People were telling me ‘Oh, only ten miles to go, Jez!’ but in my head that equated to four more hours so that wasn’t much of a motivator. But once I saw the floodlights and the stadium and I knew it wasn’t far so I think I sped up a bit.

 

TBo4: How much training did you have to do in order to prepare for this?
JG: How much I did do versus how much I should have done are probably two different things! [Laughs] I went out and did as many 10 and 12-mile walks as I could but there’s no point putting your body through something that’s going to be tough anyway in advance of the actual thing. But there was nothing that could quite compare to the 26 miles and then the 52 miles the next day. This so intense that the job was only just done just in time.

 

TBo4: What has the reaction been like?
JG: I know the players have donated a bit of money and the fans have donated a lot – they’ve been tremendous. During the weekend we had all these supportive texts and tweets and the fact that they’ve been able to raise over £30,000 coupled with the fact that some people cheered us on en route – one group even bought us lunch on Sunday afternoon – and took photos and things has been tremendous.

 

TBo4: Are there any plans to do any more walks in the future?
JG: [Laughs] Absolutely not! Actually, when I was getting interviewed in the medical centre at Lincoln I said that I’d remembered hearing Sir Steve Redgrave saying ‘if you see me near a boat again shoot me’ and actually getting shot on the Monday was one of the best things I could think of happening to me! I think we better find a way of raising money that doesn’t involve much more physical pain.

 

TBo4: Well, you look like you’ve recovered…
JG: Yeah, I’ve recovered well. The couple of days after it weren’t too pretty. My ankles were twice the size and every little imbalance I found in my body was magnified. I was literally struggling to walk. Eventually I got the swelling down with lots of anti inflammatories, ice buckets and swimming – I was good as new!

 

Football's most frustrating blog.

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