Just before we start, has anyone considered Birmingham City FC for a documentary? I know they play in the Championship, and finished last season in 20th, which is almost as low as you can finish without not being in the Championship any more, but they have won a major trophy more recently than Tottenham Hotspur. As have Wigan, whose fans just last week managed to cobble together £500k to keep the club going until an actual buyer materialises. Now that’s a story!
No? You’re dead set on Tottenham, are you? The same Tottenham that counts Dele Ali’s repertoire of Fortnite goal celebrations as one of the club’s foremost achievements? Ok, fine.
First, a few initial thoughts from the opening montage:
- Tom Hardy’s narration is a very good idea. He somehow speaks directly to your crotch. And though they may not understand it, by god will the Spurs fans like it.
- Hardy speaks of a “team full of global superstars”, but… um… whomst?! Harry Kane, I suppose, who is officially very good but somehow still not very exciting. And Son Heung-Min, of course, who I will openly admit to loving. But then who? Neymar is a global superstar; Harry Winks is the pride of Hemel Hempstead. There’s a difference.
- “Can Tottenham Hotspur return to the glory years?” When were they then, 1961? That time David Bentley threw water over Harry Redknapp? Gary Lineker’s short-shorts? Maybe José should get some MTGA hats made up for the lads to wear before games
In truth, my glibness dissipated as soon as that hyperbolic intro had finished. I didn’t watch the Man City documentary – almost everything about that club is soulless and/or diabolical – but the Sunderland one was good, if a little lacking in pizzazz. It was fascinating to see the inner workings of a once powerful club’s eye-watering fall from grace, and the insight into how a club can genuinely engage (or not, as the case may be) with its fanbase, and how transfer deals are conducted when you have no money and nothing to offer incoming players, was ace. But for all the gumption, pies and inevitable heartache, it wasn’t very… sexy.
Enter All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, a show “full of global superstars”, and Eric Dier. Perhaps the mighty, mighty Lilywhites could give me what the Black Cats couldn’t. Spurs play Champions League football, they have a shiny new stadium (which, from my flat, resembles a lardy cruise ship touring the Haringey Ladder) and they wear snoods and those weird three-quarter length sports tights in training. They must be the real deal.
But it quickly becomes apparent that the Spursness of this documentary is redundant. All or Nothing is the Jose Mario Santos Mourinho Felix show, and everything else is just circumstantial. Serge Aurier’s origin story serves to demonstrate the seismic shift in wealth and living quality many footballers experience when they hit the big time. And the bit when Dier gets subbed before half time is compellingly cringe-worthy. But the real scoop here is how and why Mourinho is Mourinho. The man has occupied our collective football consciousness for the best part of 20 years, time and again winning trophies and pissing people off and slamming critics and generally being an enigmatic, world-beating twat. I used to hate him (which, in football-fan terms, is not real hate), but that hate softened to a wry appreciation, then to an astonishment as to how this man keeps getting hired. He was fired from the last two jobs before Spurs, and Chelsea and Manchester United both had better global reach, better players and more money than Spurs. So why did Daniel Levy think The Special One could make it work at Spurs?
The Chief Exec says there are only two top managers in the world; one of them already had a job in the Prem (Pep Guardiola, we assume?) and the other is Mourinho, so he had to hire him. (And fair enough. He had to fire Mauricio Pocchetino, I think. After five and a half years, it wasn’t working, and as an Arsenal fan I know what happens when a manager stays too long.) Clearly players are wary, and fans and pundits are divided, but we all win, because we finally get to see behind Mourinho's bluster. Spoiler, he is only slightly less annoying than he is in interviews, or in any of the many, many adverts he does.
We witness him unpacking boxes in his new office (and very neatly, I might add), like a fresher in a new hall of residence. We see his limp banter with players in training, like a stepdad trying to bond with jilted teenagers. We see him telling Harry Kane that he is not yet ‘global’, but with Mourinho’s help he can be. Mourinho is global, you see. He’s saying, “I’m better than you, but I can make you like me.” We see him telling defender Serge Aurier that he gives away penalties, and it scares him. In front of everyone, shortly before kick-off. (Spurs then concede two goals in the first half.)
However All or Nothing’s gleeful deep-dive into Mourinho is also its shortfall. We don’t get to see any tactical exposition, just loads of footage of the Portuguese being funny, acerbic, warm, considerate, stirring, generous and downright mean. I’d like some explanation as to how he sets up his team against certain opposition; what specific actions he made to win throughout his managerial career, and how he will do it at Tottenham. And the show only briefly touches on the tumult of his predecessor, who was like a god for most Spurs fans. He never actually won anything, but he was infallible. Perhaps the club recognises that it might be best to gloss over how it had to kill the thing the fans loved most.
The next trio of episodes lands today, and my hunger for actual footballing insight might be sated, but I doubt it. There will be more shots of Mourinho swearing charmingly at a room of blank-faced young men, desperate to get home to buy more Amiri jeans. There will be more footage of players and coaches high-fiving ad nauseam because it turns out that just saying ‘hello’ or ‘well done’ isn’t enough, you have to clap your palms together like Roman centurions. And there will be yet more illustration of the municipal drabness of football stadium interiors. Why all the grey? Why all the glass? The chrome? Have they never heard of ‘Shabby Chic’?
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