While Alma struggles to get over her miscarriage, episode 2 of The English Game begins with Fergus improving Darwen and giving them new team tactics; instructions on how to adapt their game in rain or sunshine. With Darwen on the verge of striking over the wage cuts that threaten to cripple the community, Fergus becomes more determined than ever to right those wrongs and win the FA Cup.
Meanwhile Arthur is tasked with visiting Blackburn on bank business where he stays with Monkey and Ada. Martha heads to work as a maid and as she does, she overhears Arthur and the others discussing more wage cuts. This time by 10%. With this news threatening to destroy the community, rumours run rampant around the mill until Smalling confronts Walsh about the issue.
The rumours prove to be true and the workers strike. Fergus and Jimmy begrudgingly join them, before finding out none of them have shown up at training the next day. Fergus tells the team they only have 1 chance to make good on this FA Cup and as the players tell him “it’s only football”, he mutters “not to me” as he walks away
Meanwhile, Alma arrives in Blackburn and surprises Arthur who doesn’t seem best pleased to see her. He excuses himself for another meeting, although they agree to go for a walk later in the day after she admits that his Mother wanted her to head down and see him.
Jimmy tells Fergus that they’re part of the community now and they should be joining in together. After some persuasion, Fergus speaks to Walsh and agrees for him to pressure the board to try and end the strike, coming to an agreement in the process. Unfortunately things go sour in the process and the workers promise to show true “mob mentality” when the guild reject their offer of a 5% cut rather than 10%.
With both sides at a stalemate, riots loom on the horizon as Arthur cancels his plans with Alma and instead heads down to the community to check on them. Jimmy proposes to Doris and as they celebrate back home, Fergus joins the riot and gives a rousing speech in the process.
The group march on Jackson’s house while Arthur scurries away and hides, narrowly avoiding Smalling and the others.
In the aftermath of the march on Jackson’s estate, Douglas Stokes, the man who broke in to warn Jackson of the impending mob, is sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. Just before the judge agrees this however, Arthur steps up and speaks his piece, telling the court Stokes is innocent, at the same time investing in his T-Shirt business to generate more money for football shirts.
On the back of this, Walsh goes up against the guild and they eventually succumb to the 5%, meaning the players will go back to the mill and continue playing football. With the match against Brigg imminent, Fergus is approached by a recruiter for Blackburn who offers him £100 upfront plus double what Walsh is offering him. It’s a big offer and one that clearly rattles our protagonist as the match gets underway.
With some good character development for Arthur and much more of a consistent focus on the class war sitting at the heart of this one, The English Game does well to keep things interesting across its episode. With less on-pitch action this time and a look at the mill workers in particular, Netflix’s latest period drama does a pretty good job setting things up for some melodrama ahead. Fergus in particular has a big choice to make and quite what the outcome to this will be, remains to be seen.