Interview / Print / Sport

Q & A: John Simm discusses all things Manchester United

Official Manchester United Website
M Froggatt, A Bostock
May 2013

John Simm on Manchester United

John Simm discusses all things Manchester United

The Mad Dogs star sits down to reveal his Red credentials, recall bygone eras and cast his vote for United’s Player of the Year award…

When did you start following United?

“From as far back as I can remember – I can’t put a date on it. My dad, who was born in Crumpsall, used to regale me with tales of George Best and when I was kid I went to school in Nelson, where Mike Phelan was born. I watched Burnley a little bit because I couldn’t afford to go to Manchester, but when I got really interested in football during my early teens, I went to Old Trafford. My first game was in 1983 against West Ham in the FA Cup and Steve Coppell scored. He was my hero growing up, as well as Bryan Robson.”

What do you recall of Old Trafford in the eighties?

“The atmosphere was better back then. You always remember walking into the stadium for the first time and it’s an incredible feeling – you try to explain it to somebody but you can’t. I took my son for the first time when we were 2-0 down against Spurs at half-time and we won 5-2. I remember him being devastated at half-time but I told him to keep the faith and, bang, we had won. But it was different in the eighties; it was violent, edgy and there was something quite dangerous about it.”

And you portrayed the hooligan days of the seventies in Life on Mars…

“That was a great episode actually. Originally, the script said Sam Tyler and Gene Hunt were both Manchester City fans but there was no way I was having that – I put my foot down. Gene Hunt supported City so I should support United because they were meant to be at odds with each other. Philip Glennister is actually an Arsenal fan – a slightly camp one at that – but he has a soft spot for United. But that was a great episode of Life on Mars, we were very proud of that one.”

Somehow, you managed to make your character in Mad Dogs a Red as well?

“If it is feasible, I try to. The first job I ever did was a sitcom called ‘Men of the World’ and I made him a United fan so I could get the free shirts and scarves. My character in Mad Dogs is a United fan because he’s from Manchester, so it works. Max Beesley is also a fan as well so we tried to get some references in. In fact, there’s a massive one in the first episode when we’ve just escaped death. I’m asked what went through my head and I say, ‘I never thought I’d get to see United again’”

What’s your standout moment as a fan?

“We’ve been blessed throughout the Fergie and Giggs era. There have been many memorable moments but it has got to be the treble. I went to Tottenham game and then the FA Cup final. I even had a ticket for Barcelona but I was filming something and they wouldn’t let me go. It was horrendous. I taped it on VHS and banned all televisions from the set, which didn’t make me popular. I then wore earplugs and a blindfold in the car until I got home, then poured myself a glass of wine and watched in absolute horror. I phoned my mate with just a few minutes left, saying it was a nightmare. He told me to put the phone down and pay attention. We obviously then scored twice and I nearly had a heart attack – in the house on my own. It was the best night of my life.”

Which is your favourite Old Trafford match?

“There was one in 1996 against Porto when we won 4-0. That was a great game, simply because of a pass Cantona made to Giggs on the wing and I was on that side – it was amazing. If I had to pick one, it would be the 4-3 against Real Madrid when we went out. That was incredible, what a night. And then Beckham came on all angry with his bleeding eye and flowing locks, but he had an absolute blinder. That was pretty memorable.”

How does this season’s title win rank against previous efforts?

“It ranks quite highly. We overtook Liverpool with our 19th title, but the 20th is just as special because of what happened last season. City thought this would be their era, but we came back and won it at a canter which is an incredible achievement. We saw off Wenger’s Arsenal and Mourinho’s Chelsea, but beating this admittedly magnificent – yet expensive – City team is the big one.

Who gets your vote for Player of the Year?

“Robin van Persie would have to get it because he has been the deciding factor. It is not all about him, nowhere near, but he has been absolutely incredible. And he came out of a baron spell to score ‘that’ goal against Villa, which is so romantic. Michael Carrick has also been sensational, this has been his best season and he’s finally getting the credit he deserves. He’s a beautiful player to watch, an artist. Jonny Evans has been absolutely fantastic too and has really come of age.”

John Simm is currently starring in BBC1 drama The Village, which airs its final episode this Sunday. You can also catch the third series of Mad Dogs this June.

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