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Film / A Shot at Glory

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"This is oor shot at glory, lads!"

A Shot At Glory is an unlikely football film released in 2001, detailing the story of a provincial lower league team's journey to the Scottish Cup Final to play national champions Rangers.

Despite being filmed by an almost entirely local cast and crew in Scotland, the film was written by American screenwriter Denis O'Neill, whose connections secured the services of comparative Hollywood heavyweights Robert Duvall and Michael Keaton as the manager and chairman, respectively, of the fictional Kilnockie FC.

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Filmed under the more mundane title The Cup, the film is mostly remembered in it's home country as a Non-Actor Vehicle for former Rangers striker (and later, manager) Ally McCoist, and for Duvall's media tour when he spent time in the country researching his role as the ageing, old-school manager Gordon McCloud. His baffling attempt at a Scottish accent is one the film's more endearing features.

Keaton plays Kilnockie's new American chairman Peter Cameron, whose shake-up of the club includes the signing of legendary former Celtic striker Jackie McQuillan, played by McCoist. Scottish acting royalty Brian Cox also plays a humble role as the Rangers manager, and Gordon's rival, Martin Smith.

The film also attempted to tackle, in something of a ham-fisted fashion, the Catholic/Protestant schism that persists to some extent in Scottish football and society as a whole, with the underlying reason for the Protestant Gordon's dislike for the Catholic Jackie being that he married his daughter. Indeed, O'Neill was inspired to write the film in the first place after a learned of the tribal "Old Firm" rivalry between Rangers and Celtic, and their historical connection to the Protestant and Catholic communities.

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Much of the supporting cast is made up of recognisable faces from the Scottish game, and fans can enjoy themselves spending much of the film playing spot the player.


This film contains examples of:

  • Broken Pedestal: Kelsey is in awe of Jackie, but is swiftly brought down to earth with a bump when he actually talks to him.
  • A Father to His Men: Gordon is loved by the squad, with the exception of Jackie.
  • Artistic License – Sports: A lot of the dialogue from commentators, players and coaches will feel stilted and unnatural to football fans. There are also bigger mistakes (or at least, liberties taken), such as the cup semi-finals not being held at neutral venues, the cup final going straight to penalties after 90 minutes with no extra time, and the chairman's somewhat unlikely scheme to relocate a provincial Scottish club to Dublin.
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  • Casting Gag: Ally McCoist plays the part of former Celtic striker Jackie McQuillan, where in real life he played for their hated rivals Rangers.
  • Famed In-Story: As a celebrated footballer with a playboy repuation, Jackie remains a notable celebrity in Scotland at least.
  • Insult Backfire: At one point, Jackie drives past a cycling Gordon in his convertible and sarcastically chides him by asking if he has heard of a new invention known as a "car". Gordon calmly replies that the advantage of a bike is that it does not run out of gas at inopportune moments, taking a shot at Jackie's lack of fitness.
  • It's Personal: Gordon and the Rangers manager Martin used to be a management team at another club until the former was stitched up and left out of a job by the latter. Martin went on to greater things while Gordon was left to scrabble about the lower divisions.
  • Jaded Washout: Zig-zagged. Jackie is cynical and aloof to just about everyone, but he was actually a very talented player in his day. The cynicism comes from the natural waning of his abilities as he gets older, and the fact that if he'd taken better care of himself both physically and financially then he wouldn't be reduced to ending his career at a minnow club like Kilnockie.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jackie and Gordon both, to some extent.
  • Only in It for the Money: Jackie has fallen out of love with the game, and would probably have retired if Peter wasn't paying him well over the odds to play for a lower league team.
  • Naïve Newcomer: The young American goalkeeper, Kelsey.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Brian Cox plays the Rangers manager, Martin Smith, who can be seen as an expy of the former Rangers manager Walter Smith.
  • Pet the Dog: The Rangers manager Martin is largely something of a pompous git, but is magnanimous in victory after the cup final.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Comes as standard with a Scottish football team from the lower two divisions. Jackie is the marquee signing, along with an expensive Italian import who doesn't last long, but the rest are made up of a bunch of experienced grafters and a rookie American trying to break into the British game.
  • Team Spirit: Things only get going when Jackie starts to socialise with the rest of the squad instead of being the aloof outsider.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: Largely averted; Peter does force some signings onto Gordon (a big no-no in British football at the time) and has a hair-brained scheme to move the club to Ireland, but is also open to reason and does seem to have developed an affection for the club and its staff. Overall, he's probably somewhere between a Pointy-Haired Boss and a Reasonable Authority Figure.
  • Underdogs Never Lose: Averted. Kilnockie lose the cup final, with Jackie missing the decisive penalty. Peter does relent and keep the club in their home town, though, and in the background of the plot they win promotion to the First Division, so the club have still probably had the most succesful season in their history. Also doubles as Second Place Is for Winners.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Robert Duvall gives an all guns blazing attempt at a Scottish accent. The result is truly something to behold, and usually one of only two things people in Scotland remember about the film (Ally McCoist, actor, being the other).
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