Diary of a Football Nobody

William Ivory
Nottingham Playhouse Theatre Company
Nottingham Playhouse

Cast of Diary of a Football Nobody Credit: Robert Day
Seamus O'Neill (Jack Wheeler) and Eric Richard (Jimmy Sirrel) Credit: Robert Day
Eric Richard (Jimmy Sirrel) Credit: Robert Day

It was a time when training for a big game involved sinking more pints than there are footballers in a team followed by a trip to the chippy on the way home. Players earned a relatively modest yet respectable £25 a week and didn't baulk at the prospect of travelling by public transport.

This was the mid-1970s when matches kicked off at three o'clock on a Saturday afternoon and the only fixture you got to see live on television was the FA Cup final.

David McVay made 130 appearances over six seasons for Notts County. After hanging up his boots he wrote for the Times and the Daily Telegraph as well as penning a book that's been described as a cult classic, Steak... Diana Ross: Diary of a Football Nobody.

Now Nottinghamshire writer William Ivory has come up with a play which is based on McVay's memoir and it's making its debut at Nottingham Playhouse.

The theatre has been at the forefront of producing plays about the county's sporting heroes. In 2005 the Playhouse produced Stephen Lowe's Brian Clough opus Old Big 'Ead in The Spirit of the Man and last year bowled audiences over with Michael Pinchbeck's The Ashes, about controversial cricketer Harold Larwood.

It's probably fair to say that Ivory, a true Notts County fan, is one of the few people who could make Diary of a Football Nobody work on stage. He was there when the likes of Don Masson, Kevin Randall and Les Bradd were leading the Magpies to unparalleled success before they went crashing back down into the lower divisions of the Football League.

He’s come up with a funny script which rattles along and doesn’t concentrate too much on the on-the-field action. We get to learn about the players’ private lives and aspirations while death and disappointment are also thrown in.

The story is told by McVay, brilliantly portrayed by Perry Fitzpatrick. He's got the mullet and moustache which were popular with young men in the '70s and he drives the action on with the skill and pace of a midfield general.

The standout performance, though, comes from Eric Richard. The man otherwise known as Sgt Bob Cryer in The Bill perfectly captures the mannerisms and voice of the late Notts legend, manager Jimmy Sirrel.

On press night, the audience were over the moon when he first took to the stage with a deliberately unintelligible rant at one of his players. His appearance at a training session wearing a jacket, shirt and tie, shorts, football socks and boots also hit the back of the net.

Director Matt Ashton coaches the team well and gets them all to give 100% in both halves.

Diary of a Football Nobody will probably have little appeal for those who don’t support Notts County. It may also be wide of the mark for theatregoers with little interest in football, which means it's unlikely to play many away fixtures.

But if you're from Nottinghamshire and know a little about the history of the club, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary, the play is spot-on, a real winner.

Reviewer: Steve Orme

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