There was a time when Rod Turner (Ian McShane) was one of the most successful football players in the English game, but that seems a very long time ago now he is relegated to the lower divisions, mostly thanks to his hard drinking lifestyle which saw to it he lost a lot of prestige as well as a lot of friends and allies. He lives with his girlfriend Susan (Glynis Barber) who puts up with his bad behaviour, but even for her he is getting too much as he wanders into their house at all hours, usually just to get something to eat and collapse on the bed to sleep, only rousing himself for a match, to see his father (Sam Kydd) at the working men's club or to coach a group of orphans. Yet what if there was a chance to prove he still had it in him to win?
Yesterday's Hero was one of four British movies penned in the late nineteen-seventies by bonkbuster author Jackie Collins, whose enormous success in the literary field did not quite translate into the same effect at the world's cinemas as her films failed to set the box office alight. That said, they did pick up a cult following, especially her double whammy of The Stud and The Bitch which starred her sister Joan Collins, yet the other two have been somewhat neglected, even though they enjoyed the same potential for camp. The World is Full of Married Men remains a largely undiscovered item of trash, but Yesterday's Hero fancied itself as a more serious work, a sincere attempt to bring the fans of football to the big screen in the same way they attended matches every Saturday.
Naturally, it failed to work out that way, since even the least interested observer in the so-called beautiful game could tell the plotline here was hopelessly contrived along the same lines of Sylvester Stallone's Rocky, that was the apparently over the hill sportsman, here based on the infamously squandered career of George Best, making a comeback and doing rather well out of it. This meant many scenes of Rod being his salt of the earth self with a bunch of working class types to prove his man of the people credentials, the idol of orphan Paul J. Medford (of future Eastenders soap opera fame), or struggling to sustain a tab at the bar when his fortunes were so unsteady. However, this being a Jackie Collins script she was not content to allow her protagonist to stay in this kitchen sink milieu.
Therefore when Rod is called up by the big boys to return to the most promising F.A. Cup contenders and make sure they win the championship, we were treated to scenes more aspirational and fitting for a Collins' story, though the sexual content was surprisingly low (we did see McShane starkers, but that was in the group bath). One aforementioned big boy was the improbably named Clint Simon, who seeing as how he was played by Paul Nicholas who had spent the decade trying out for the pop charts was not only a football manager but a celebrity singer as well, not the most obvious marriage of two worlds and indeed when his scenes of tiresomely repetitive tunes interrupted the action at regular intervals you could only surmise someone had great faith in the soundtrack album. Yes, that did indicate the inevitable disco scene, where you could see Ian McShane shaking a tailfeather to The Dooleys.
American import Suzanne Somers was there too (notably this movie was not imported the other way across the Atlantic) as the singer Clint frequently duets with, apparently with only two songs in their repertoire, and an old flame of Rod's he can have a rekindled relationship after Susan gets fed up with him nodding off in front of Sportsnight on the TV. Adam Faith was Clint's strong right arm, the Mr Nasty to his Mr Reasonable, leading to an altercation in the changing room when he catches Rod taking a tipple at half time. Now Rod is suspended in spite of scoring a crucial goal, so will he be able to play in the final or is it all over for him? Paul and his dad are on tenterhooks, their faith in him must be restored, as meanwhile you're thinking you'd be very surprised if the "hero" didn't manage to at least put the winning goal through the posts in the last five minutes. So what do you think happens? As it veered between the clichéd and the absurdly era-specific, Yesterday's Hero merely joined the ranks of not very good British football movies, but it wasn't quite hilarious enough for some. Music by Stanley Myers.