Whatever you do, don’t go rummaging through the bargain bins of DVD shops looking for a good football film. That’s what Craig stephen did when he unearthed this candidate for a Golden Turkey…
If you want to see a good film, avoid the ones about football, as they tend to be cliched, romantic efforts. The Scottish-American co-production A Shot at Glory is no exception but the prospect of seeing Ally McCoist scoring goals in a Celtic shirt was enough for me to spend a couple of quid on the DVD.
Casting McCoist in the role of Jackie McQuillan, the former Celtic legend and hunskelper, was inspired.
By the turn of the century, when filming started, McCoist had left Rangers (RIP), and was nearing the end of his career; so he signed up for one last pay cheque at struggling Kilmarnock.
Coincidentally, McQuillan, the fictional character, had left Arsenal and was nearing the end of his career; so signed up for one last pay cheque at north-east fishing town team Kilnockie.
Meanwhile, McCoist was a lothario who had extra-marital affairs with an actress and an air stewardess. Again, coincidentally, McQuillan is a lothario who beds the first woman he sees in Kilnockie while his estranged wife awaits for a possible patch-up date.
For those shocked that Coisty could appear in the lead role in a film should remember he’d already starred in such classics as Ten’s Too Many and Europe: The Impossible Mission.
After a ham-fisted attempt to fill in international viewers about the ‘Old Firm’, One Shot at Glory begins with Kilnockie coach Gordon McCloud deriding McQuillan to his avaricious American club owner Peter Cameron as “a fucking headcase, a waster”. Remember, all similarities with real-life events are purely coincidental.
While Cameron brushes off his concerns, McQuillan is tearing through Kilnockie (actually Crail in Fife), nearly running over an auld wifie in his flash car. Tracksuited up, he hits the pitch, where he is given an icy welcome by McCloud, played by Robert Duvall – yes that Robert Duvall.
Duvall is joined by Hollywood royalty Michael Keaton, who plays Cameron. Keaton might be the only credible member of the acting team, (though I’ll give kudos to Brian Cox in a relatively brief appearance as ‘The Rangers’ coach) but even Batman can’t save this nonsense. While Keaton retains his American tones, Duvall adopts a bizarre form of Doric that should have required subtitles for both American and Scottish audiences. His gruff exterior is a dead ringer for both Walter Smith and Jim McLean after they’ve just found their daughters in bed with the village idiot.
Cut to footage of McQuillan, in both the Hoops and a full green Republic of Ireland-style top, seemingly digitally altered from actual footage of when he was with Rangers (RIP), with Andy Gray informing us he’s a two-time Golden Boot award winner.
We soon discover the source of McCloud’s resentment at McQuillan joining the club: he is McQuillan’s father-in-law but he hates the striker for “stealing” his daughter while she was engaged to another man, and has virtually disowned Katie.
But it goes deeper than that, as McQuillan tells Katie “He hasn’t been to church for 40 years, and he won’t talk to his daughter because she married someone who hadn’t been to his church for 20 years.”
Above: The Kilnocki manager (Duvall) contemplates 4 additional minutes to be added on at the end of the film.
So, to the football. Without any explanation as to how they managed to wangle their way out of playing in the previous rounds as lower sides are required to, Kilnockie land a home tie against Dumbarton in the last 16 of the Scottish Cup. This thrilling match-up is broadcast live, with Andy Gray and Rob McLean commentating. Can it get any worse? Yes, Mike McCurry is the ref.
McQuillan notches the opener and at half-time the Dumbarton manager does a Souness, throwing crockery around and being confronted by the no-nonsense tea lady. Aye, it’s fictional, nothing like that could have happened in Scottish football.
Cameron gives up home advantage for the quarter-final tie, so Kilnockie travel to Dumfries, and it’s Queen of the South who strike early before our hero nets a hat-trick including a spectacular overhead kick before responding in what could only be described in a Rangers manner to crass sledging by a Queens player and seeing red.
In the Glasgow derby tie in the same round, violence breaks out inside Ibrox with a minute to play,. Three supporters are taken to hospital, and a dozen people are arrested. As McQuillan listens to the news report a group of Celtic fans are rampaging their way through the Gorbals, forcing the star to ‘save’ an innocent graffiti-daubing Rangers kid from, well, who knows what. The barely-concealed implication is that the Celtic fans are behind the after-match violence.
There is a half-hearted attempt to paint the two sides as bad as each other when two fans of Rangers (RIP) chase after McQuillan and Katie in a hotel staircase to offer their best wishes by flinging a full bottle of beer at the pair, leading to McQuillan lamping and hospitalising both. He spends a night in the cells for his trouble.
The fairytale run continues at neutral Premier Park (in reality Rugby Park) where Kilnockie are up against Kilmarnock in the sem-eye final. Kilnockie, having just gained promotion, but without the suspended McQuillan, go a goal ahead, lose their Lurch-like goalkeeper Brian Burns to injury (played by Airdrie’s Lurch-like goalkeeper at the time John Martin) giving a chance to a rookie American stopper who performs heroics to take the teuchters into the final – (remember it’s a joint American production so we can’t just have a bunch of second-rate Scots doing all the heroic stuff).
Above: Duvall channeling his inner Helmut Schoen as he prepares to rattle a few teacups around the dressing room.
So we have a third tier team in the Scottish Cup final, up against “The Rangers,” David versus Goliath, the second division champions against the treble-seeking giants, good versus evil.
And so stirs up a previously hinted at animosity between McCloud and Rangers manager Martin Smith, which began when Smith was McCloud’s deputy at Dundee. The pair vowed to quit, but after McCloud gave his notice to the chairman, Smith went in after … and took the top job. “That must give you the boak that, seeing that prick sitting there like that,” McQuillan tells McCloud. “That could’ve been you gaffer, if that bastard had left his resignation in that room at Dundee instead of leaving with a raise.”
Due to the altercation in the hotel, McQuillan is on the bench for the final, missing a team talk by McCloud in which he sounds like Jim Jefferies after he’s just stuffed his face with a bunch of unpeeled bananas. Spoiler alert here (safe in the presumption that you’ll probably never see the film) but there’s no happy ending, as the favourites, who have Derek McInnes, Boab Malcolm, Derek Ferguson, Ally Maxwell and … Didier Agathe (in fairness he was with Raith Rovers at the time) in their line-up secure a penalty shoot-out win against the “potato pickers”, without having to bother about extra-time. It may not have helped that McCloud is called away from his half-time team talk for a deep and meaningful with his daughter.
A penalty win isn’t really a win at all Smith tells McCloud, which is exactly what The Rangers (2012 edition) would have been saying after the 2016 Scottish Cup semi-final.
But that Holywood influence is inescapable, so after the game Cameron announces that Kilnockie are staying in Scotland, McCloud is reunited with his daughter and Jackie and Katie are formally back together again.
Now, while I haven’t exactly rated this picture, the football scenes are well made, which is something often lacking in football related pics, partly because the footballers on the field are footballers in real life, taken from the likes of Airdrie, while Owen Coyle is also one of the Kilnockie players, and is restricted to crosses and eating oranges.
McCoist wasn’t put off by his experience in front of the camera, later starring in such films as The Petrofac Training Cup Disaster, My Year in Administration, and SAW (Stirling Albion’s Wonders).