I wrote an article last season sparked by foreign ownership and community about a long standing Stoke City cult hero, Neil “Nello” Baldwin. Nello had just been awarded an honorary degree degree by Keele University in recognition of his positive impact on university life over fifty plus years in residence.
I had been saying for years that the tales that surround Nello’s period as kit man at Stoke City were legendary enough that somebody ought to attempt to tease the story of the man and his life out in full for everyone to read.
Lo and behold not long after WST indulged me by publishing my homage to a rather obscure character it came to light that the BBC would be producing a 90 minute biopic about Neil Baldwin. Great minds and all that I reckon.
Well now the film is finished and due to air on BBC 2 at 9pm on Thursday September 25th. Marvellous is described by the BBC Media centre as “The film tells the beautiful, funny, true story of Neil Baldwin, a man who confounds our expectations: he has been a circus clown; a lay preacher; kit man at Stoke City (Lou Macari has often described him as his best-ever signing, and they became firm friends), once famously leading the City attack against Aston Villa in a testimonial match; he is on first name terms with leading sportsmen and senior clergy; and most recently, he was awarded an Honorary Degree by Keele University for the contributions he has made to campus life there across the last 50 years. In a world in which we seem intent on labelling each other, Neil has consistently defied any definition at all.” Make no bones about it, as fantastical as it may seem this is a true and truly inspiring story.
Written by Peter Bowker who was inspired by the same Guardian article I first picked up on Nello’s story from the The Guardian.
It stars Toby Jones, who describes himself as a huge Stoke City fan (Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, Captain America, Infamous) as Nello and is directed by Julian Farino (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Entourage, Newsroom). These are some real heavy hitters in the fantastical story telling world that is international film and television, and going by the reviews this weekend they’ve tackled the story with all the class, charm and sympathy it deserves. Marvellous has been awarded 5 stars generally by most critics and has been touted as ‘watch of the week’ in much of the UK tv press.
There’s a real buzz about this on The Oatcake message board as Nello really is one of our most unlikely, but hugely beloved, icons. By all accounts, for once, it’ll show our club and the city of Stoke on Trent in a positive light for once. I have seen no more than the previews that have recently been released but am bursting with pride that this has come about, and so swiftly and professionally after it was first mooted.
The more you learn about Nello the more you realise what a positive force he is and you get the impression that is only half joking when he says that Marvellous will win some prestigious awards. Hopefully if that happens we’ll be able to add to silverware to the Stoke City trophy cabinet.
To finish here are a few links to the BBC trailers, interviews at the premiere in Stoke on Trent and a rather good interview with Toby Jones from this weekend’s Independent on Sunday. Hopefully you will all get the opportunity to see the film on BBC USA in the near future, if so do not bet against Nello conquering America. For the Manchester United and Celtic fans who know him Lou Macari features heavily in this so please take time to have a look at a man who was a hero for both our teams.
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