What do you get if you cross Hollyoaks and Premier League football? The answer is Sky One’s Dream Team. A drama/soap centred around the fictional football team Harchester United and the on and off field antics and scandals.
It also helped launch the careers of American Gods star Ricky Whittle, PacifIc Rim and Warcraft‘s Robert Kazinsky and Coronation Street alumni Alison King, as well as a whole host of people you’d recognise from Hollyoaks, EastEnders, Casualty, The Bill and endless bit parts in everything from Band of Brothers to adverts.
The show merged the off field stuff with actual football–well, kind of, actual football. While Footballers Wives and its ilk never showed any football, save for maybe the odd training ground scene, Dream Team, aided by Sky owning all of football at the time, were able to super impose the Harchester kits onto one of the teams from real footage so it would appear as if you were actually watching the Dragons (that was the club’s nickname, they played at the Dragon’s Lair).
Dream Team was immensely fun but it did tackle serious issues as well. In addition to the affairs, over the top storylines and annual bus crashes wiping out half the cast, Dream Team also approached homosexuality in football, racism, match fixing and mental health issues. If I’m honest I cannot remember how particular storylines were received and handled but it was quite brave for them to be taken on. For example Frank Stone, defender, captain and manager’s son in law was outed as gay. This was over 10 years ago and we have still yet to have a Premier League (or equivalent in a foreign league) player come out as gay whilst still playing.
But lets be honest we were all in it for the ridiculousness. Some of the plots were beautifully manic. The first to really grab my attention was chairman Jerry Block hiring a hitman to kill talismanic Argentine striker Luis Amor Rodriguez at Wembley during the FA Cup final as Rodriguez was doing the dirty with Block’s wife Linda. The hitman missed, injured Linda and killed Harchester captain John Black. There was also goalkeeper Jamie Parker taking the team hostage after being coerced in to throwing games by manager Patrick Doyle. This ended with a standoff with armed police and Parker’s death.
The undoubted star of the show was arrogant striker Karl Fletcher who scored well over 200 goals for Harchester, and somehow never got an England cap, before being impaled on a dressing room clothes peg by manager Don Barker who then drove his car in to the team bus, with Fletch’s corpse in the boot, blowing up the bus and killing all but about four of the playing squad. And, influenced by a real life incident made infamous by Harry Redknapp, a gobby fan was plucked from the stands to play in a friendly. Unlike real life though, the fan, Jason Porter, got himself a contract.
We also had Everton fans winning the club in a raffle, a plane crash, a player being bullied jumping off the stadium roof to his death after the game of his life, blackmail, numerous affairs, somebody playing for Ireland despite not really being eligible, and a player being poisoned and killed in error, resulting in the intended victim having to go in to hiding. It was nothing but a success, even if it did become increasingly over the top, given it began with mostly focusing on a group of youth team players looking to break in to the first team.
Dream Team also crossed over with real life on occasion with Ron Atkinson, a former manager, and ex-Derby County striker Dean Sturridge amongst the playing staff at one point. We even saw a newspaper link Liverpool with the actual, real life, purchase of fictional French centre back Didier Baptiste.
I have the Harchester United shirt and I was a huge fan of the show, as were many friends. I even downloaded the Harchester add ons for both FIFA and Championship Manager at the time. I was borderline obsessed. I am genuinely gutted it was never released on DVD and trying to find a copy is like trying to find a needle in a haystack and in my humble opinion the show is ripe for a comeback… if anyone at Sky is listening.
Steve’s all time Harchester XI
Sullivan Stone Black Tyson
Davenport Sabatier Connelly R Naismith
Subs: Wright, O’Neill, S Naismith, C Alexander, Mackay, Bandele, Hocknell
Manager: Ray Wyatt
Were you a fan of Dream Team? Remember the show? Let us know!