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Tom Hardy and Christian Bale lined up to play Robin Friday
Hollywood bad-boys Tom Hardy and Christian Bale have been earmarked to play Reading’s late, great striker Robin Friday on the silver screen.
The story of Royals’ cult hero was penned by journalist and author Paolo Hewitt and Oasis bassist Paul McGuigan in 1996.
After tales of Friday’s legendary status reached tinseltown, film producers and writers have hammered out a script of Friday’s life and are now in the process of sending out their work to prospective actors and directors.
“I read the script in about half an hour and I was in tears by the end of it – it was absolutely fantastic,” Hewitt told the Reading Post.
“Robin was such an ebullient character and whenever anybody spoke about it – scoring the best goal you have ever seen, or dancing naked in a club somewhere, it is always visual with him.
“I think the book really leant itself to a film.” Much like Friday’s life, the money men behind the film aren’t looking at doing things by halves and making a small-scale movie.
“The great thing about the guys in America is that they’re not interested in doing a £1million film, they want to go much bigger than that,” explained Hewitt, who spent time at the Post going through the archives to write his book ‘The Greatest Footballer You Never Saw’.
To have a broad appeal the producers know that the Robin Friday story can’t just be about football.
“Robin’s story is about talent and if you can really have it all.
I think Robin’s tragedy was that he thought he could.
“For two years at Reading he did – he was playing brilliant football and living the life he wanted to live, which was an ill-disciplined one.”
Friday played 135 games for Reading and scored 53 goals – but he has become an iconic figure due to his partying lifestyle and a love of drink, drugs and women.
Friday helped Reading secure promotion for the first time in 50 years when they finished third in Division 4 in 1975/76 – but it all began to slip away following that season.
“He had a lifestyle significantly worse than George Best’s,” said former team-mate Tommy Youlden.
“His lifestyle was outrageous to say the least.”
Ask any Royal supporters who saw Friday play and they will tell you a different version of his most famous goal, a stunning long-range volley against Tranmere in March 1976
“I love the fact that there are so many differing accounts of Friday’s memorable goal,” said Hewitt.
“People will say it started with a throw-on, a free-kick, Steve Death had the ball and threw it out to him. I love that.
“It almost turns Friday into some kind of myth. You can’t access his goals on YouTube – I have seven minutes on a DVD and four minutes of him signing a contract.
“It allows this myth to grow and makes things much more interesting.”
After a game Friday would drink with supporters in the pubs and clubs of Reading.
Even the night before Royals were due to play, Friday could often be found down the local having a pint.
“Another thing the film will do is show the gulf there is these days between football then and now.
“I am convinced that this is an expanding universe where there is a place called planet Premier League.
“All the top-flight players live on there and once a week they beam down to our lives, illuminate them and then go off again.
“Robin was accessible and you could go and talk to him – all the players were.
“Fans would walk to the ground with players, they were all part of the same club, now it isn’t the case.”
Hewitt and Reading FC historian David Downs scouted out Thatcham Town’s ground as a potential venue to film the scene where Friday was spotted by manager Charlie Hurley playing non-league football for Hayes.
“One of the other things that the film will explore is the relationship between Charlie and Robin.
“Charlie’s attitude towards him was correct.
“Reading were in Division 4 and Charlie knew Robin could get them promoted.
“Charlie turned a blind eye to what he did off the field, because if he didn’t let him do all the stuff he got up to – he wouldn’t have been the player he was.
“Charlie knew that as long as Robin was great on the pitch, then he could let him enjoy himself off it.
“There were times when the Reading players got really annoyed with Robin.
“One time they went to Charlie and told him that they wanted him out.
“Charlie turned to them and asked them if they wanted to lose their win bonuses – they quickly backed down.”
For all his flaws off the pitch and his love of everything that would be frowned upon today in the modern game, Friday was always up front and honest. Hewitt added: “Robin was a man without deceit.
“He only tried to hide what he did once. Charlie told him that he was going to give him his debut against Northampton, to which Robin promised: ‘I won’t drink, I won’t go with any women and I won’t get in any fights.’
“Charlie replied: ‘You can lie to me once, but not three times.’”
By Jonny Fordham, Reading Post
20 September 2012
04 April 2019