Fields of Gold: English actor Thomas Turgoose on mad youth, music and why he has no time for fans in the red half of Manchester.

By Daniel Tickner
Photography Nick Thompson

This is an extract from Issue 8 of The Green Soccer Journal, Winter 2015. The full version of this article can be found in the latest edition of the printed magazine, now available to pre-order from our online store.

 

‘Through nights of mad youth / I have loved every sluice in your harbour / And in your wild sands, boyhood to man / Strangers have found themselves fathers.’ So sang Elton John on ‘Grimsby’, from his 1974 album ‘Caribou’.

If anyone’s embodied mad youth on British screens big and small over the past decade, it’s 22-year-old Thomas Turgoose. Thrown in at the centre of Shane Meadows’ critically-acclaimed film This Is England in 2006, his own teenage years fought for attention with those of his on-screen character, the young skinhead Shaun Fields. The story continued by way of two television miniseries, This Is England ’86 and This Is England ’88, with the awkward transition from adolescence to adulthood, and the inevitable emotional minefield it requires Shaun to navigate, acting each time as the pivot on which the drama turns. In a few days’ time he will make the short journey to Sheffield to begin work on the final instalment of a drama that’s pulled no punches in its gritty, brutally honest depiction of post-Falklands, pre-Britpop England. In doing so, he will get to experience 1990 for the very first time.

Today, though, he’s at home in Grimbsy – in more ways than one.

As we make our way up the east coast, our train rattles through a veritable who’s-who of lower-tier English football. Doncaster and Scunthorpe both feature en route, but neither have fallen as far as Grimsby Town. They relinquished their place in the Football League in 2010, and the one-in, one-out policy hasn’t been kind to a club who beat Liverpool at Anfield little more than ten years ago; only the lottery of the play-offs now offers an escape route. But it’s not all doom and gloom — at least initially. This is, after all, the only football club where every game’s an away game, or so they say. For the ground is not actually in Grimsby at all, but nestled neatly by the sea in nearby Cleethorpes.

“There was nothing to do and we just wanted to go out, but your idea of fun was smashing someone’s window or beating someone up.”

It’s impossible, having prepared for, er, grimmer surrounds, not to be cheered by the seaside charms that greet us on our arrival. Nevertheless, it feels slightly odd to be hailing a cab to Blundell Park from the beachfront. Jack, Town’s Promotions Manager, meets us in the office at the stadium; behind his hipster beard, it’s obvious that he harbours a passion and a deep concern for the club he’s followed all his life, and for which he now has the good fortune to be working. “All it takes,” he says, “is for one rich investor to buy a rival club and we miss out for another year.” Grimsby’s fate may ultimately lie at the whim of a speculative millionaire but, speaking to Jack,
it feels as if it’s in safe hands for now. He leads us down corridors through open doors until there, emerging Stars-In-Their-Eyes-like through the steam of the home dressing room, is Turgoose, a raconteur in a Fred Perry polo, warm and wisecracking, expletives flying. This is Grimsby.

“I didn’t know he’d done that song but yeah, my youth was pretty mad.” Elton’s 70s tribute to his hometown pre-dates Turgoose but is not that far wide of the mark. “I grew up on a couple of estates where I was knocking about with the wrong people – not the wrong people, because that would mean I didn’t like them and some of them were my best mates I loved to bits. Maybe we all got up to the wrong type of things. It was the area. There was nothing to do and we just wanted to go out, but your idea of fun was smashing someone’s window or beating someone up. It was no one else’s fault other than my own. I just wanted to be like the rest of my mates.”

 

This is an extract from Issue 8 of The Green Soccer Journal, Winter 2015. The full version of this article can be found in the latest edition of the printed magazine, now available for pre-order from our online store.

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