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18th Oct 2019

How does Footballers’ Wives hold up in 2019, in light of recent events?

Ciara Knight

Should’ve called it WAGamamas, tbh

January 8, 2002. The first episode of Footballers’ Wives aired on ITV, with each episode gaining an average of 5 million viewers.

Filmmakers, TV enthusiasts and football fans alike were quick to recognise the show as a dangerously powerful force, sure to transcend the industry like nothing we’d ever seen before. Real footballers’ wives were rightfully scared amidst the threat of their livelihoods being very accurately portrayed for all to ridicule.

Series 1, episode 1 begins with a close-up of a Jeep, the pinnacle of grandeur in 2002 Britain. Instantly, we’re aware that this belongs to a footballer. Nobody else had that kind of expenditure in the same year that Beyblades were the most popular Christmas present.

We meet a man, presumably a footballer as opposed to a wife, frolicking around his moderately sized back garden with a young girl on his back. “She’s a natural”, he announces to his probable wife, although it’s uncertain as to what this could be in relation to. See: acting as a backpack, accepting a piggyback, being easy to transport, etc.

The couple engage in some flanter, then kiss goodbye. In 2002, people kissed goodbye because that was how we emoted. Now, we sigh in each others’ general direction and stifle a frown, heavy under the weight of climate change’s advancements. Sometimes merely an exaggerated blink will suffice.

In a slightly bigger house with two sports cars and a two-tier water fountain outside, a handsome guy peruses a topless model in a newspaper, who transpires to be his particular lady friend. They kiss loudly, only to be interrupted by his hungover mother, Kathy from EastEnders(!).

Completing the hat trick of lingering kisses, a married couple, presumably to each other, have a quick smooch before he scoots off. Before leaving, he looks into the mirror, stares dead into his own eyes and says “I can’t wait until tomorrow, because I get better looking every day”. Although quite frankly appalling patter in this day and age, that was peak banter back then.

The boys congregate at football training, driving themselves there because that was an unpeasantry thing to do in 2002. They wear tiny tinted sunglasses and hair sodden with Brylcreem as per the contractual contra obligations put in place long before their casting. Everyone is happy, despite it being around the time that Michael Jackson dangled his son off a hotel balcony in Berlin. No one is visibly concerned.

Precisely twenty seconds into the training session, proceedings wrap up and the boys hit the showers. A low camera angle allows us to see two things: A montage of footballers’ butts and a very low level of water pressure coming from the communal shower systems. Water pressure has come on leaps and bounds in the past decade and a half. It is laughable to think that a communal shower with weak water pressure was part of an early 2000s footballer’s daily routine.

Evidently the black sheep of the Footballers’ Wives clan, we see one of the wives sheepishly cutting a ‘Lipsy’ label off her dress. Initially it seemed as though in 2002, Lipsy was widely regarded as the clothing brand of scum, but later in the episode it transpires that this savvy fashionista actually saved £10k this way to pay a man to find her son that she gave away aged 13. It’s amazing what a little ingenuity can do. Nowadays, we have Depop.

One of the footballers gets a parking fine, but the warden offers to waver the fee if his wife gives him “a quick flash”. With Brexit and inflation, the value of such a service has massively increased now. A market value quick flash in 2002 is now worth 3.5 quick flashes in 2019. Although the couple declined the warden’s offer, they could’ve saved a lot of money in the long run.

The handsomest footballer arrives home to his wife, a blonde lady who’s midway through a cocaine administration, but he is wearing bootcut jeans and a pair of flat Puma ballerina shoes, so it’s hard to say who was the bigger scourge on society in that exact moment. Opting to contribute to climate change, he tucks into a midday can of beer while she smokes indoors, taking full advantage of the smoking ban that didn’t come into effect for another five years. After two sips, he smashes a painting and glass against the wall because he is, evidently, A Hard Man. The 2019 version of A Hard Man is someone who watches Peaky Blinders and posts lyric videos to his Instagram stories.

Later that day, furious that her husband is late for an in-house catered dinner, blondie phones the last known location of her footballer using the house phone. This is a degrading addition to the show. Although the footballers and their wives were stinking rich, they couldn’t acquire early release mobile phones before the rest of civility. They had to wait it out, just like everyone else, using peasantry means of communications such as a landline and registered post to ascertain the whereabouts of their lover, who was wearing a tank top and shagging in a nightclub toilet at the time. As a sinister act of revenge, his lonely wife made it look like she took an overdose to scare him, which was a very 2002 thing to do. “You sad, stupid bitch”, he calls her.

During a fancy dinner, the head housewife (blondie, always smoking cigarettes) confronts the meek housewife (saved £10k by wearing Lipsy) for not wanting to attend her husband’s matches. She’d rather put her kid to bed, even though her sister is babysitting on this particular night. Blondie goes in pretty hard, then we cut to her husband making an unscheduled house call to £10k’a house, where her sister is watching telly. Inevitably, they fuck while blondie does a cheeky line of coke in the toilet, still at the fancy dinner. He’s back before the main course because traffic clearly wasn’t a huge factor in footballers’ escapades 15 years ago.

In the same year that Ben Affleck was voted the sexiest man alive, the episode ends with the club signing a new player who has a ponytail and a necklace, and instantly, everyone is threatened. “F off, we’re walking”, the main guy says when a black cab pulls up. In 2002, it was actually cheaper to walk than get a taxi somewhere. That is still true to this day, so they’re pound for literal pound with that reference, credit where it’s due.

On the walk home, blondie and her man are stopped by Frank, the chairman of the football club. He’s apologetic for essentially ending this guy’s career with the new hire, but things get heated and blondie ends up shoving him into the bumper of his own car. He hits his head and probably, he is dead now. It was dark out, so it’s impossible to see if Frank had bull bars fitted to his car. As of 2007, bull bars had to be EU compliant, so there’s scope for argument that Frank may be responsible for his own death if he was operating on 2002 bull bar laws. End of scene. End of show.

At this point, I refuse to watch any more than one episode of Footballers’ Wives. I have gotten the gist. I know what happens. Everyone is carefree, unperturbed by the fact that Daniel Bedingfield continued to sit at number one in the charts for five weeks with ‘Gotta Get Thru This’ while the show was airing. They are footballers and they have wives, with varying levels of marital success. Everyone is at different ranks of being rich, but they still can’t get a decent haircut or the ability to stick to one partner.

Their problems are very ‘of the time’. Nobody is (allegedly) selling stories to The Sun. Their troubles run deeper, such as skimping on babysitting costs by enlisting a family member. Confidently, I can deduce that the 2002 cast of Footballers’ Wives would not survive in today’s world. Detective Inspector Coleen Rooney would have them for lunch.

Lead image via ITV