Life on Mars Wiki
LOM Episode 5.jpg
The Footie
Air Date: 6 February 2006
Written by: Tony Jordan
Director: S. J. Clarkson
Antagonists: Pete Bond
Malcolm Cox
Previous episode: A Conflict of Interests
Next episode: The Deadline

The fifth episode of the first series of the British time travel police procedural television series, Life on Mars, was first broadcast on on 6 February 2006. The episode, known erroneously as "The Footie", was produced by Kudos Film & Television for BBC One.


The murder of a football fan results in a clash of methods as Sam and Gene go undercover in a local pub to solve the crime. As Gene looks like he's set to drink the pub dry, Sam worries about their chances of finding the killer before Saturday's big match. And his relationship with the young son of the murdered man brings Sam's memories of his own father flooding back.

Detailed Plot Summary[]

DCI Gene Hunt and DI Sam Tyler are in a car chase. The cars veer off the street and on to a football pitch, scattering the players. The keeper dives out of the way as the chased car comes to a stop and the net falls down around it. As the police take the suspect away, DS Ray Carling reports a body found in Trafford Park.

The victim, Collin Clay, is lying face down in a back alley, covered with blood. Sam finds a red and white striped scarf next to the body. It looks like a stabbing, but there’s no visible entry wound. Seeing the Manchester United scarf, Gene right away figures an attack by a Manchester City fan. Sniffling from a cold, Ray offers to “let his old lady know she can join the singles club.” Sam decides to handle it himself.

Sam goes to the Clay house and breaks the news to Collin’s wife and son, Ryan. As he’s leaving, Ryan gets Sam to promise he’ll find the killer.

Back at the station, Gene orders the team to start pulling in known football hooligans, but Sam thinks the attack wasn't football-related based on the fact that Collin Clay wasn’t beaten. Gene does things his way while Sam and DC Chris Skelton interview friends, neighbours, and workmates.

At the morgue, the pathologist tells Sam that Collin Clay was killed by a nearly invisible stab wound, only three inches deep, from a serrated blade. Sam later finds young Ryan at the site of his father’s murder, having left the mourning friends and relatives at home. Sam walks back with him and they commiserate about absent fathers. Ryan’s dad was going to take him to the match, but now he has no one go with.

Back at the station, WPC Annie Cartwright tells Sam he smells nice and they have a chat and a little flirt. Later, going through the items recovered from the alley, Sam finds a “Blakey” (a small metal plate to stop shoes heels wearing down) which didn’t belong to the victim. Checking the fibres adhering to it, he finds they match the rug in the Trafford Arms, where the victim spent his last night, meaning, according to Sam, the crime wasn’t football-related. Gene rejects this theory, based on his gut and the lack of a motive for anyone to attack Collin. Sam proposes going under cover, another idea Gene rejects, until he finds out it's undercover at the pub, then he’s the first volunteer.

Gene has Ray arrest the landlord of the Trafford Arms, orders Chris to get a plonk with the “proper qualifications” for a barmaid, and they’re all set, except for not knowing how to run a pub. Nelson, however agrees to train them up for the job, and Gene, Sam, and Annie spend the night serving rowdy policemen at the Railway Arms.

That night, Sam is taunted by the Test Card Girl, and has more unreality flashes.

On the way to the Trafford Arms the next day, Sam sees Ryan and his friend Wayne, and feels more pressure to solve the case. Inside, Sam reviews what they’re looking for, and Gene gets a little irritated when Sam (and even Annie) call him “Gene” as part of their cover. Sam is relegated to kitchen duty and manages to produce chicken and chips, in a basket, much to the confusion of the punters. He decides the food is off for the night.

A customer gives Sam a newspaper that blames Collin’s death on football hooligans. Just as Gene agrees to the “softly, softly” approach, he suddenly decks a man, explaining he didn’t pay his tab. In fact, the man is someone Gene arrested recently and he didn’t want his cover blown. Gene and Sam drag him unconscious to the kitchen. Back at the bar, Sam talks to Pete Bond and Malcolm Cox, who says that Collin was a great guy and that City fans are to blame. Gene decides to loosen some tongues by spiking the beer.

Sam gets rebuffed by some of the lads, but Gene reckons he can do better because he’s their sort of people. By himself behind the bar, Sam gets in conversation with Pete Bond again. Sam says he hasn’t been to a match in a long time, but Pete tells him he should go back, because, “once a Red, always a Red.”

Stepping out for air, Sam hears shouting and breaks up a squabble between Ryan and his mate, Wayne. Ryan is worked up from the papers saying City fans killed his dad, and vows never to go to a match again. Speaking from his own experience, Sam tells him he shouldn’t give up the things he and his dad did together.

Back in the pub, things are about to kick off. Sam drags a drunken Gene into the back for a word, but Gene, suddenly sober, turns on Sam and tells him he’s just acting drunk. The man in the back wakes up, but Gene punches him back to unconsciousness on the way to the bar.

Later that night, the pub is less crowded and Sam chats with Pete Bond. Bond describes “Coxy” as the local hard-head, and at the tables, Coxy is the one calling for City blood. But he gets suspicious when Sam and Gene seem to be overly interested in his plans. Gene ingratiates himself by threatening everyone and punching that poor man from the back again. Pete is more friendly with Annie, but his only attractive quality seems to be wearing the same aftershave as Sam.

At the end of the night, Gene is barely conscious, and Annie and Sam realize they haven’t found out anything useful.

The next day, Gene decides to pull in more hooligans in the hope that it might intimidate potential trouble-makers.

Sam visits Ryan later and is puzzled by the lad wearing his dad’s United scarf, since there was a scarf in the alley presumed to belong to Collin. Back at the station, Sam gets Chris to check Malcolm Cox for previous and makes Annie smell the scarf again. She says it smells the same as Cox’s aftershave.

Sam lays it all out for Gene: the scarf in the alley wasn’t Collin’s, Cox’s aftershave is on the scarf, when Gene and Cox squared up at the pub, Cox put his key through his fist—a ready-made weapon that would match the unusual wound in Collin’s neck. Collin was likely attacked to anger the United fans and killed by accident. Since the theory absolves the City fans, Gene approves.

Sam and Gene bring Coxy in after a chase around the neighbourhood. As Sam takes him through the scenario, Cox denies everything, laughing it off. As the evidence mounts, however, he gets scared, and when Sam matches the Blakey to his shoe and arrests him, he cracks, and fingers Pete Bond. Cox admits he was there, but says Pete had the idea and hit Collin with the key.

Sam tells Phyllis to call the radio stations and have them announce the arrest of Collin’s killer, in hopes of preventing violence. Then half the police force of Manchester (barring Ray, who phoned in sick) pile into vans to break up a planned fight between the City and United fans in an abandoned factory. When they arrive, Sam is a bit disconcerted to find out that weapons are not provided—everyone else has brought garden tools and cricket bats—and he goes in unarmed.

Inside, the police outnumber the hooligans and start cracking heads. Sam spots Pete Bond and chases him up a flight of steps. They tussle and Sam cuffs Pete and lectures him emotionally about the stupidity of fighting over football and that it all leads to tragedy. Handing him over to Chris, Sam takes Pete’s match ticket.

Outside, Sam and Gene bicker somewhat childishly over who was right and who was wrong about the case. They stop when Sam spots Ray walking to the match. Ray sprints off as Gene runs after him.

Sam spots young Ryan and gives him the match ticket and he heads to the match with his friend Wayne and Wayne’s uncle. Sam turns to go back down the alley, through a lively crowd of adults and kids. Among them is a small boy, walking hand-in-hand with his dad. Sam catches his gaze, realises that it’s his younger self, and stares.


Cultural references[]

  • After arresting the suspect on the football pitch, Gene says, “little sod. Should bring back National Service.” A continuation of wartime conscription, National Service meant that, from 1949 to 1960, healthy males 17 to 21 years old were expected to serve in the Armed Forces for 18 months, and remain on the reserve list for four years. “Bring back National Service” is a British phrase that at one time was second in popularity only to “God save the Queen” and was the refrain of those who felt, like Gene, that National Service would reduce crime and improve life in the UK generally.
  • Arguing that Colin Clay’s murder wasn’t done by Machester City fans, Sam tells Gene, “He didn't have ‘Georgie Best is a tosser’ written on his forehead.” George Best (1946–2005) was a professional footballer from Northern Ireland, who played for Manchester United and the Northern Ireland national team. Still considered one of the greatest footballers ever, his glory years were with Manchester United where he played from 1963 to 1974. George Best is depicted in the “United Trinity” statue at Old Trafford along with Bobby Charlton and Denis Law.
  • Gene tells Sam, "You do that, Sherlock, and if that doesn’t work try the butler." Gene is referring to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's world-famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, and to the classic mystery cliché that whenever an unexplained murder occurs in a rarefied setting, suspicion always falls on the butler.
  • Joking with Annie about his “time travel” situation, Sam says, “well, I went to see Doctor Who ...” Doctor Who is a British science fiction television programme produced by the BBC about a time-travelling humanoid alien known as the Doctor, who explores the universe in a time machine called the TARDIS, which looks a blue police box. It is the longest-running and most successful science fiction TV show ever. The original version ran from 1963 to 1989, and Annie would have been familiar with it. Sam would have likely watched it as a kid and may also have seen the programme relaunched in 2005. In 1973, the Doctor was played by Jon Pertwee (1919–1996) and the recurring villain known as The Master was played by Roger Delgado (1918-June 1973). Between 2007 and 2010, John Simm played the Master for the series relaunch, reprising the role in 2017.
  • Responding to Annie’s playful suggestion that Sam just uses “that stuff” to chat up girls, Sam jokes, “Please shag me, I'm in a coma” and Annie is offended. While the British slang word “shag” (meaning sexual intercourse) is still a taboo word in 2006, the more relaxed attitudes of today mean it is much more common on television and in mixed company. However, saying it to a woman in 1973 would have been considered quite crude.
  • Gene says, “Listen up. Einstein here's come up with a plan.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955) was a German-born theoretical physicist who developed the theory of general relativity, effecting a revolution in physics. For this achievement, Einstein is often regarded as the father of modern physics and one of the greatest intellects in human history.
  • Trying to ingratiate himself with the United fans at the pub, Sam says, “All right lads, what do you reckon? Bobby Charlton on the score sheet tomorrow? Fancy Lou Macari meself.” They don’t respond; maybe they didn’t like the comparison. Bobby Charlton was a long-time United player, and a hero in 1973, but Luigi "Lou" Macari (1949–) had only been playing for the team since that January.
  • Gene says, "there will never be a woman prime minister as long as I have a hole in my arse." In fact, Margaret Thatcher (1925–2013) would become leader of the Conservative party only two years later, and the country's first female prime minister on 4 May 1979. In Sam’s time, although in her eighties, she was still fairly active and still speaking out on issues of the day.
  • Gene points out to Sam that, “they don't give away DCI badges in Lucky Bags, you know,” a bit of wisdom he later passes on to Annie. Lucky Bags are bags given out at kids’ birthday parties or other special occasions and contain various treats or toys. Usually each one is a little different and the contents are a surprise.
  • Sam shows Gene a copy of the Manchester Evening News, a real regional daily newspaper covering Greater Manchester. It was founded in 1868.
  • Working undercover at the pub, a frustrated Gene angrily criticizes Sam’s gentle approach to getting information, describing it as, “pussy-footing about out there, asking what colour underpants Denis Law is wearing …” Denis Law (1940–) is a Scottish football player, who enjoyed a long and successful career as a striker from the 1950s to the 1970s. He is best known for the eleven years that he spent at Manchester United, where he scored 237 goals in 409 appearances and was nicknamed The King and The Lawman by supporters. Law left Manchester United in 1973 and returned to Manchester City for a season. Law is also United's second highest goal-scorer behind Bobby Charlton and is depicted in the “United Trinity” statue at Old Trafford along with Charlton and George Best (see above).
  • Chris identifies the fragrance on the scarf as Hai Karate. Hai Karate was a budget aftershave developed by the Leeming division of Pfizer and launched in 1967. It sold in the UK from the late 1960s to the 1980s. It is best remembered today for its marketing, which was based on the idea that users would need self defence to fend off amorous women. This was promoted by a small self-defense instruction booklet included with each bottle, and by humorous TV ads. All of the spots contained the catch phrase, "Be careful how you use it".
  • While interviewing Coxy, Gene says, “I'm just waiting for the Boy Wonder here to get bored, then I'm gonna bounce you round the walls.” “The Boy Wonder” was the epithet of young superhero Robin featured in DC Comics. He was partnered with Batman and his addition in 1940 attracted a younger readership and boosted the sales of Batman comics. The 1966 film and hugely popular 1966–1968 Batman television series starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as Robin made “bat-terms” into household words. In the UK, ITV ran the show in 1966 and it was rerun for many years, so both Gene and Sam would know it.
  • Gene says, “see, jurors love all that, it makes them feel like Columbo.” Columbo is an American crime fiction television film series, which starred Peter Falk (1927–2011) as Lieutenant Columbo, a homicide detective with the Los Angeles Police Department. The show was unusual in that each episode began by showing the commission of the crime and its perpetrator, and the plot revolved around how Columbo, seemingly naïve and absent-minded, would catch the criminal through his eye for detail and dedicated approach. Columbo aired regularly from 1971 to 1978 on NBC and was broadcast in the UK on ITV.
  • Sam denounces the dangers of football hooliganism, saying, "we have to put up perimeter fences, herding people like animals. Then how long before something happens? How long before something terrible happens and we are dragging bodies out?" Sam is likely thinking of the Hillsborough Disaster on April 15, 1989. There was a massive influx of Liverpool FC supporters into the already-crowded central bays just before kick-off, which resulted in the fans at the front being crushed into the perimeter fencing that had been installed to help prevent hooliganism. The situation was not immediately recognised and the game started, but within 10 minutes of play, fans had forced open a small gate and were streaming onto the pitch to escape the crush. Police initially believed it was a pitch invasion and sent in reinforcements to stop the escaping fans. By the time the truth was realised, many fans had been crushed to death while still standing. A total of 96 people lost their lives at the scene or as a result of their injuries. It should be noted that the cause of the disaster was not truly known until well after Life on Mars was filmed. The crush of fans was in fact caused by officials directing people into an already-crowded area at the end of a curved hallway, meaning the crowds already there couldn’t be seen until it was too late. Police were found to have altered records to hide the facts, and the truth only came to light through the relentless efforts of the victims’ families.



  • "Call the Police" - Thin Lizzy
  • "Good Thinking" - Status Quo
  • "The Rocker" - Thin Lizzy
  • "White Room" - Cream
  • "Jeepster" - T.Rex
  • "Would You Believe" - Roxy Music
  • "Urban Guerrilla" - Hawkwind
  • "Ejection" - Hawkwind
  • "I Can’t Live Without You" - Colosseum
  • "Mother of Pearl" - Roxy Music
  • "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" - Nina Simone


The newspaper Sam shows to Gene is dated April 20, 1973. Visible headlines are, "United Fan Killed / Tensions Rise for Big Match" featuring a picture of Gene shouting at reporters, "Package Explosion sparks new alert", and "Union leaders meet again for crisis talks".

External Links[]

Official Manchester United Website

Official Manchester City Website

Manchester United FC at Wikipedia

Manchester City FC at Wikipedia

Old Trafford at Wikipedia

Episodes of Life on Mars/Ashes to Ashes
Life on Mars:
Series 1 (2006): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8
Series 2 (2007): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Ashes to Ashes:
Series 1 (2008): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Series 2 (2009): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Series 3 (2010): Episode 1   Episode 2   Episode 3   Episode 4   Episode 5   Episode 6   Episode 7   Episode 8  
Mini Episodes:
Fire Up the Quattro (2008)   Ashes to Ashes does Sport Relief (2010)