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TVMucho Show of the week

Football’s Foreign Legion

Mon, February 18th, 2019

Thursday 10.45pm – 11.45pm, ITV

Ossie Ardiles recalls the advice he was given by his friends and family when he was considering moving to Tottenham Hotspur to play football in England. He states “A lot of people said to me, No Ossie, got to any country but don’t go to England because in England they don’t really play football.’Meaning that the ball is in all the time in the air and see how they bypass the midfield and so on, But I thought, ‘We will see about that”. Of course, Ossie was right and he became one of Tottenham Hotspurs’ legends. Life wasn’t always easy for the trailblazing foreign players who changed the English game when they arrived over 40 years ago. Not everyone was happy about the ‘foreign invasion’ into the game. A far cry from today’s game where foreign players dominate the league.

As early as the 1930’s saw teams try to bring in foreign players, nearly all were met with hostility and protest. There were exceptions of course, once the Jewish community promoted Bert Trautmann in the 1950’s he was welcomed and became a legend in his own right.

In 1978 the pitches were bobbly, tackles were very different, there were no theatrics that give the game a bad name nowadays and both bureaucracy and negative attitudes made it difficult for foreign players to play the beautiful game in England. Yet in 1978, Argentinian World Cup Winners Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa brought a technical touch to Spurs’ game. In Suffolk the Dutch duo of Frans Thijssen and Arnold Muhren brought flair and charisma to the Ipswich side. Players also appeared from behind the Iron Curtain in the League. Not to be outdone, British players headed overseas to test themselves – The Bundesliga and Germany as a whole embraced Kevin Keegan as he shone on and off the pitch. Graham Souness and Trevor Francis also proved very successful in Italy’s Serie A for Sampdoria.

Narrated by Todd Carty (Grange Hill and Eastenders) this ITV documentary explores the tale of those foreign players in the 70’s and 80’s who changed the way the nation viewed them and the way the game was played. With contributions from players Tony Woodcock, Frans Thijssen, Arnold Muhren and Ossie Ardiles, along with journalists Robert Peston, Jonathan Wilson, Paul Hawksbee and Patrick Barclay, plus PFA Chief Executive Gordon Taylor.


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