I recently stumbled into this delightful little show called “Rovers,” from 2016, and it’s one of my favorite football distractions I’ve found during Covid Time.
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I grow weary of the superstar bios and the behind-the-scenes looks at big clubs. And I just don’t have much interest in watching old games, unless it gives me a sense of what the atmosphere and old grounds were like.
But “Rovers” (watch it on Amazon Prime) is something else: a six-part comedy series set entirely in the bar of a tiny club in about the 8th tier of the football pyramid. “Redbridge Rovers” don’t really exist, but they are a charming stand-in for clubs at that level, where the club shop is in a trailer, the bar serves tea and cookies at halftime, the players lounge is just next door, and a handful of dedicated supporters keep the whole thing going despite attendances averaging in the dozens.
The actual ground where the external shots are filmed does exist, by the way. So I will absolutely be adding New Mills AFC of the North West Counties League Division One South to a future groundhopping run.
In these six half-hour episodes, though, no one is ever seen actually playing football; it’s all about the folks around the club. There’s the dedicated nut job fan; the club historian and his domineering mother; the longtime employee who runs the cafe; the shop guy who’s never seen making a sale; the best mate whose new relationship causes a stir; the goalkeeper who shows up occasionally just to drop something; the woman whose attraction to the club historian is as entertaining as it is mystifying.
It won’t give you a history lesson like The English Game, or show you a large and passionate fan base like Take Us Home Leeds United. But it made me laugh out loud several times, might have made me tear up just a little in the last episode, and generally made me really appreciate when a bunch of funny and talented writers and actors dig into the eternal wellspring of human stories that is any and every small football club in the world.