Controversy Over David Tennant’s Soccer Drama

United

David Tennant in 'United'

In the wake of Friday’s glorious return to Doctor Who activity, it seems one former Timelord’s return to UK screens has been less rapturously received.

On Monday night, David Tennant appeared in a new BBC drama United, about the 1958 Munich air crash which killed 23 people, including eight players for Manchester United Football Club. The players were part of a young squad who had been dubbed “Busby Babes” by the press, after the club’s manager Sir Matt Busby (as played by Dougray Scott).

David played team coach Jimmy Murphy, who helped put the club back together while the survivors were recovering, with the help of star player Bobby Charlton. But the drama has not been without its critics, not least the Busby family.

Sandy Busby, Sir Matt’s son, says he is “disgusted” by the show, and how it portrays his late father.

He told BBC News: “I can’t understand it, it’s called United, all about the Busby Babes. You think they’d contact the Busby family wouldn’t you?”

“I was disgusted with the portrayal of my father. He had this camel coat on, and a fedora, and all through the film he was never seen in a tracksuit. He was known as probably the first tracksuit manager at that time. I was disgusted.”

He went to question why certain key people were left out, saying: “Why didn’t they include other players that died and were injured in the crash? If I was one of their family I would be very upset. There was about eight players never mentioned. They never mentioned Tom Curry, who was a trainer at the time. He was the trainer in the dressing room, he was like a second dad to the lads.”

A BBC spokesman said: “It was a dramatic choice to focus on the stories of Jimmy Murphy and Bobby Charlton but the same story could have been told in many ways as all are equally important.”

“The film was researched using biographies, testimonies, documentaries, personal accounts, first-hand interviews and Manchester United FC Museum.”

“The story of the Busby Babes is of huge social and cultural significance in this country and this film is a respectful and fitting portrayal of the spirit of the club and community as they fought to overcome this tragedy.”

And, tackling the issue of whether the families of the people involved were consulted, they added: “As soon as the film was finished, a private screening was arranged in Manchester for the survivors of the film and the relatives of those who lost their lives. No one came forward to object.”

Should ‘factual’ drama get all the details right? Tell us here.

Fraser McAlpine

Fraser has been writing and broadcasting about music and popular culture for over 15 years, first at the Top of the Pops website, and most recently for the NME, Guardian and MSN. He also wrote BBC Radio 1's Chart Blog and reviews albums for BBC Radio 2.

He is Anglophenia's current resident Brit, blogging about British slang and running around the Mall taking snaps of the crowd at the Royal Wedding, as well as reigniting a childhood passion for classic Doctor Who and cramming as much music in as he can manage.

Fraser invites you to join him on Twitter: @csi_popmusic

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