Episode 4 of The English Game begins in Darwen, as Fergus returns and finds a rude greeting from the workers. He heads into Walsh’s office, who asks him about the Blackburn deal. Walsh tells him he could have been a hero and as he leaves, Jimmy follows and tells Fergus he should have told him, especially given Darwen is his family home now.
In Scotland, Alma and Henry enjoy their time together until they visit Betsy in the Refuge. It turns out she was forced to give up her child to remove the “black mark” hanging over her. Alma decides to take matters into her own hands though and secures a list of the adoptions and the families they’ve moved to, handing this to Betsy in the hopes of her finding her daughter.
Fergus heads in to see Martha and apologises. Although he’s now playing for Blackburn, he’s still staying in Darwen and wants to be part of her life. He’s later shown round the new facilities by Cartwright and sees what he has to work with.
Martha finds herself fired from her position, and while she stews over what this means for her family, Arthur talks with the others about Blackburn and their ambitious plans of bringing all the best players together. Only, on the pitch Fergus is lost and fails to gel with the players, eventually ignored completely by the others and kept on the fringes in favour of Hunter, their star player.
After the match however, Arthur speaks to Fergus and gives him some words of encouragement to take forward. As they both part ways, Arthur sits down to dinner but Alma excuses herself, prompting Arthur to follow and talk to her about Betsy’s child, something that hits particularly hard given the circumstances.
In the aftermath of the match, Fergus speaks to Jimmy about the Blackburn offer and pleads with him to join too, in a bid for making history together. Fergus apologises for what happened and lets him think over what to do next.
Arthur and the Old Etonians show up at Preston and talk about the business of the game and how quickly everything is changing and progressing. As Fergus is questioned over his commitment to Alma, he ponders over what to do as they near the front entrance of the stadium.
Eventually he makes his decision and finds Alma at the adoption centre, snatching up Betsy’s babe and leaving with her by his side. Arthur decides to try and make a difference and put his wealth first. When they return home, she hands back the baby to a very grateful Betsy.
Meanwhile, the Darwen players surround Arthur in the pub and tell him to leave. Jimmy admits that he’s joining Blackburn too and after some deliberation, they finally agree to settle their differences on the field.
The match between Darwen and Blackburn gets underway but things turn violent when emotions run high, resulting in Tommy clattering into Jimmy’s leg, while the crowds turn violent and storm onto the pitch.
The injury is a bad one too, so much so that he passes out from the injury and looks close to losing his life, where the episode ends.
As we cross the midway point of the show, it seems apparent now that the series is being torn in two ways and it’s not always clear whether this is for the benefit of the story or not. On the one hand, the class war and various sub-plots cropping up surrounding Northern hardship and baby woes paints a really bleak outlook of the North in the 1800’s and certainly makes for some big melodrama to spin out from this series.
At the same time, the uplifting football story, as the game changes and evolves over time almost feels like a completely different show. Sometimes these two elements do blend well together though but in terms of overarching plot, The English Game feels like a show that’s going to garner a different reaction post-watch compared to in-the-moment feelings. For now though, the show crosses its halfway point and leaves things wide open for the future.