Byline: PADDY SHENNAN
IF life really did imitate art, England fan Ricky Tomlinson would be a little worried.
For, in the film Mike Bassett: England Manager, we saw the reins of a desperately struggling national side being handed to an unlikely hero.
So far so good. And accurate. The new man had his critics, but went on to prove them wrong by inspiring his team to go on a glorious World Cup run.
So far, still so good. And accurate.
``But then we were beaten 1-0 by Brazil,'' says Ricky, aka Mike Bassett.
Though Ricky/Mike adds: ``I think it's actually a very good sign, because the boys out there in Japan will have learned a lot from our game.''
Still, the Brazilians are a formidable force, with coach Luiz Felipe Scolari able to call on the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
``The three `R's? My a***!'' says Ricky, dismissively.
And he's speaking from some experience, having rubbed shoulders with Ronaldo - and even the legendary Pele - while filming Mike Bassett.
He recalls: ``We filmed at the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro, so I know all about playing football in sweltering conditions. I found it knackering just putting my boots on.
``It will be hot out there, but at least they've got those special shirts - the ones that keep you cool in winter and hot in the summer!''
Perhaps the secret is to make `em laugh . . .
``I was filming a scene with Pele, which we had to do about seven times - because he kept falling about. Pele said to me `I'm sorry, but you keep making me laugh!' I was made-up, because that's my job.
``But it was a lovely experience. Pele is so nice and humble and it was absolutely brilliant to work with him.
``Ronaldo was there as well, but I didn't see that much of him to be honest - I was too busy giving team talks to my lads.''
So, should England coach SvenGoran Eriksson organise a lastminute screening of Mike Bassett: England Manager, in a bid to inspire his boys to victory?
``I'm sure they've all seen the film already, because I've had hate mail from all over the country,'' says Ricky.
``Sven will probably tell the lads that if they don't put on a good show, he'll put it on in the dressing room at half-time.''
Mike Bassett, himself, has, apparently, already had a few words with Sven, in a bid to boost his side's chances.
``I was talking to Sven about the Sunderland manager, pundit and exEverton player Peter Reid, who's a friend of mine.
``I told him that if he wanted to gee the lads up by using a few swear words he ought to ring Reidy at three in the morning.
``Reidy's great. He actually invents swear words. I'm told that, when …