Robbie Savage: Making Macclesfield FC – this would be touching TV … if football’s court jester would shut up | Television


If you’re in a particularly strange mood can I recommend you watch the Robbie Savage documentary that is also a little bit about Macclesfield, Robbie Savage: Making Macclesfield FC (Saturday, 11pm, BBC One). Nominally it’s an hour-long documentary about Macclesfield FC, a phoenix club remade in the ashes of the wound-up Macclesfield Town FC, and how small towns need local clubs with big hearts as much as teams at the lower end of the footballing pyramid need the love of local fans. But mainly it’s about Robbie Savage, who is also there for some reason. Here he is, look, wearing an incredibly absurd pair of trousers, doing the crossbar challenge. Here he is again, interrupting the actual manager to give a ferociously bad team talk halfway through a game they are winning. He makes the camera operator turn round so we can see that he’s got chocolate on his hoodie. Robbie Savage, Robbie Savage, Robbie Savage.

Savage is an interesting facet of British culture. As a professional footballer, he was a high-level player who played for middling teams and seemed to exist purely to collect yellow cards and annoy opposition fans. Since retiring he’s sort of carried on doing exactly that, somehow. As a broadcaster he lurches between court jester and wind-up merchant, and at some point you have to sit down and admit: the football ecosystem needs him. The sport itself is about wins and losses and goals. Supporting football is about the ether: who could do better, who could do worse, who is or isn’t out of their depth. Discussion needs conflict, and Savage is an infuriating lightning bolt of it.

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In this programme, however, he is just annoying. The rough format is this: last year, after mounting debts of more than half a million pounds, Macclesfield Town FC was wound-up after a court ruling, with its assets listed for sale on Rightmove. Local businessman Rob Smethurst bought the club and went about rebuilding it as Macclesfield FC, with a 3G pitch, a new stand, a two-floor gym and a bar that serves as a community hub, as well as an entirely new first team. For some reason he got Savage involved, because he lived nearby. This hour-long documentary is the story of the regeneration – or at least it would be if Savage would shut up.

No documentary is without sin but Making Macclesfield FC veers toothlessly away from saying anything about the complications of taking over an institution that means so much to people who live in the town it’s in, and deciding to make Savage the director of football. Fans of a team they followed for decades had misgivings about the takeover, and fears that another uncaring owner might fall over the same hurdles that dogged the last administration. The closest we get to hearing their criticism here is an unfilmed town hall meeting where select quotes include Savage reading out tweets that call him a “wanker”.

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The documentary finds itself torn in two. On the one hand, it cannot resist the allure of old Razzle Dazzle Savage palling around with the less glamorous staff who run the club; on the other, every time it threatens to tell an actual story we get pulled back to the PR effort. We meet a father-son duo who were long-term fans of the old club and whose enduring support got them through a family catastrophe; we hear nothing about them again. We meet Macclesfield’s volunteer oddjob man Jimbo, the kind of what-needs-doing-I’ll-do-it bloke that lower-level football is built upon, but the most intriguing footage we see of him is interrupted by Savage.

Without any players – and with a budget larger than any comparable team in the league – there are interesting stories to tell about start-from-nothing recruitment and the life of a travelling lower-league footballer. What we get is Savage in front of a whiteboard, laughing at a player who asked for a free gym pass in their contract. Making Macclesfield FC had a chance to be a fascinating look at the reality of running a lower-league club in a system that so heavily rewards the teams at the top. Instead it suffers – as every football fan in this country eventually has to – from Robbie Savage’s main character syndrome.

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