Greed and corruption – Don Shaw's film Red Card to expose evils of football
DERBY'S award-winning writer, Don Shaw, has been commissioned to write a film thriller set in the world of Premiership football – featuring corruption, greed and murder.
Labelling Red Card as a "labour of love", die-hard Rams supporter Mr Shaw is thoroughly enjoying researching and writing a subject close to his heart.
The film is due to star movie hard-man Ray Winstone and Mr Shaw confessed the plot and characters have drawn heavily on real-life experiences he has collected from people in the football world. This includes former Derby County favourite Rory Delap.
Mr Shaw said: "The film may be fictional but aspects of it are real.
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"Several clubs have fallen into the hands of criminals over the years and the corruption and virtual bankruptcy featured in the film are based on fact."
His roots in football began at the age of 10, when Mr Shaw paid sixpence to enter the boys' enclosure at the Baseball Ground. An ardent fan, he led the "Keep Clough at Derby" campaign in the early 1970s.
Mr Shaw said: "Brian rang me from Brighton and Hove Albion's football ground to ask my permission, or not, to sign as Brighton manager.
"'I've got half the nation's press here,' Brian told me. 'Whatever happens, I'll be in Derby tonight for your big meeting.'
"My reply, with only a few moments allowed for thought, was he should do what he wanted – thinking he would not sign to keep our campaign and the spirits of the Rams team charged up.
"It was bad news. Brian arrived that night at The Queen's Hall, in Derby, as manager of Brighton. Brian shed tears that night at the Queen's Hall and I have suffered guilt these past 40 years as a result.
"If I had said 'no', I think Derby County's future would have been infinitely better than the course it has run to the present date."
Mr Shaw, of Mickleover, is also regretful he did not write his book Clough's War before David Peace's The Damned United was published. He said: "My book would have become a film and been much better received by the Clough family.
"So, instead, I am putting my footballing passion into this screenplay – which clearly exposes the way big money has been a disaster for the game and people involved in many instances.
"The idea for the story began in 2008 in conversation with Spurs fan Mark Pegg, the film producer of Artifice Films Ltd, based at Elstree Studios, in London."
It involves Sean Dexter – a young footballer tipped for stardom and great riches – who suddenly finds himself grief-stricken by the disappearance of his girlfriend.
It seems to him the police are uninterested in his loss, which drags him deeper into a mesh from which there seems no escape.
He is suspicious of his manager, agent and team captain and, when the club's east-European owner reveals himself as an international criminal, Sean is forced to risk his own life to drive the story to its conclusion.
Mr Delap, of Duffield, is currently with Stoke and on loan to Barnsley. He said he was pleased to be helping Mr Shaw with his screenplay. Mr Shaw said: "He told me fascinating stories about shady dealings which go on in football, with players' agents coming in for some caustic comments.
"He went on about the scandals and the dangers affecting young footballers and said: 'You can't expect boys, out of school into a football club who know nothing of the world, to handle the shock which riches bring.'"
Mr Delap said: "I have been lucky my career has not been tainted with bad agents and conmen – but it's easy to see how it can happen.
"I am with the sixth club in my career and I always knew I wanted to play football from being young. But, for some youngsters going from a £20-a-week paper round to earning £3,000 a month, it can be overwhelming."
Mr Shaw will have completed the screenplay by the end of May and filming should start next year. He added: "The film will be shot with Alexa digital cameras, used for the first time by makers of Bond movie Skyfall.
"If we can gross a fraction of their box office, I'll be happy. Otherwise, I shall be as sick as a parrot."