Modern day footballers aren’t just natural athletes; they are assets, they are vessels, ready to be filled up and poured out, they are specimens.
Premier League players are engineered to hit the heights, fill up trophy cabinets and etch smiles onto thousands of faces every time they do their day job.
And they certainly aren’t left to their own devices. The future direction of a club does not merely lie in its current stable of talent, it is dependant on an environment designed to unlock potential and optimise the function of every cell – literally – in a player’s body to succeed.
That’s where The Lodge comes in.
Tottenham Hotspur have followed in the footsteps of several teams before them and allowed camera crews to prod, probe and observe every moment of life away from the pitch at their state-of-the-art training facilities in Enfield.
All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur is Amazon Prime Video’s next hit series, launching on 31st August, and will follow the team’s rocky ride through the 2019/20 season, starting with the fallout of a Champions League final defeat, continuing with the arrival of a Special One, and ending in an unprecedented time for global football.
RadioTimes.com was invited along to The Lodge for a behind-the-scenes taste of life as an elite Premier League footballer to witness first-hand the processes a player must enjoy and endure in equal measures to achieve footballing glory.
We were put through our paces in a gruelling workout session led by Jose Mourinho’s right-hand man, fuelled up by a crack team of nutritionists and chefs, before expending those calories in a training session led by Spurs legend Ledley King.
A whisper of the name ‘Carlos’ around The Lodge is always greeted with the same reaction, a smile, a grin, a intake of breath.
Carlos Lalín, Venezuelan-born, Madrid-educated. He has followed Mourinho from Real Madrid to Chelsea, from the Bridge to Manchester United, from Old Trafford to Tottenham.
He is a demanding figure, the type of man who feeds on the look of fear on your face as he outlines his plans for the next hour.
Whether you’re a collection of the world’s finest footballers or a rabble of less-than-shredded sports writers fresh from five months on the sofa, Carlos does not make concessions.
He name-checks every individual in the room, you are not one of many, you are a student of his regime, his infectious enthusiasm fuels a series of drills ranging from press-ups to lunges.
That was only the warm-up. He is a muscle-clad smiler whose goal is to end you.
Carlos’ routines are quick, sharp and logical. His latest plan – approved by Mourinho himself – involves a series of short, intense bursts designed with footballer movements in mind.
Every movement is crafted to replicate a natural position a player is likely to find themselves in during a game situation. No time is wasted, no drop of sweat oozed in vain. His job is to stretch his subjects to the limits.
Once that has been achieved, The Lodge itself becomes more than a building, it becomes an environment in which to grow.
Upon leaving Carlos’ underground abode, players have the option of sliding into hot or cold pools, a session in each is the preferred routine.
A range of jets and gizmos will automatically massage players in targeted areas to prevent seizing up or soreness in the aftermath of a fitness session.
A theme from the day is that absolute rest is a pillar of success.
The Lodge building is centred around a main farmhouse in which Mourinho himself occupies the upstairs quarters, his zone for the most confidential discussions between his most trusted inner circle.
Downstairs, a cosy living room complete with a resplendent fireplace, a space befitting of the most luxurious cottages.
It’s a world away from the rest of the state of the art facilities, but there’s a purpose. And the purpose is simple: rest.
There are just two Tottenham badges in the entire Lodge complex, purposefully so. This is to put players and staff at ease, to take their minds away from the rigours of the day job, and to simply allow them to switch off. Recovery is crucial.
Each player is assigned a bedroom in a two-floor wing of the complex. Each is designed down to the microscopic details.
Bedroom phones cannot reach other bedroom phones to cut down on prank calls and unexpected disturbances, while lights automatically dull or brighten to a certain percentage depending on the schedule of the day. (Immediately post-workout the light is ambient to inspire rest.)
A sofa is included in every room to provide protractor-perfect angles so that a player’s posture isn’t ruined by a Fortnite binge. The rooms are also equipped with 100 per cent noise cancellation to avoid waking others up when a player actually does win round of Battle Royale.
The club don’t want their assets crumpled in half binging on a PlayStation in bed. Downtime is for recuperation, not further stress on the body.
Bedding is bought to replicate a player’s bed at home for consistency purposes. In some cases, players have conversely ordered training ground beds to be installed in their own homes, thus is the level of comfort.
The beds themselves don’t even come with legs or bases to prevent a toe-stubbing injury. Every detail, every inch, every millimetre of a player’s bedroom is designed to enhance the chances of beating X, Y or Z on any given matchday.
The corridors are dimly lit, restful, and adorned with constellations. Only on a third or fourth pass did the true meaning behind the star map become apparent.
Small touchscreens at the start of each wing contain a selection of 37 goals cherry-picked by former boss Mauricio Pochettino.
The installation is named ‘The Universal Game’. Each constellation is a visual representation of a goal, the lines between ‘stars’ represent passes between players and the eventual strike.
First on the list? Maradona’s 1986 wondergoal for Argentina against England. Pochettino had also included clips of Alan Shearer, Wayne Rooney, Paul Gascoigne, Lionel Messi, former Arsenal star Robin Van Persie’s header against Spain and Erik Lamela’s outrageous rabona effort against Asteras Tripoli.
The Lodge is more than a hotel, it’s an immersive world designed to wrap its arms around you and keep you from looking back out into the world. You’re there to rest, relax, recover and go again.
Before we go again, it’s fuel time. This is where The Lodge really does feel like a return to its farming heritage.
Food is not lazily served up, it is considered down to a molecular level and portioned up to the optimum amount required for a footballer to find the balance between gaining energy, battling fatigue and keeping the fat at bay.
Players burn up to 5,000 calories on a matchday, that’s double the recommended intake for an adult male.
Head chef Ted Turner is tasked with overseeing the preparation of food under the orders of Performance Nutritionist Craig Umenyi.
Umenyi has experience behind the scenes at Everton, Arsenal and now Tottenham, and his entire role revolves around making sure every cell in a footballer’s body is in the best shape possible to win.
“With the intensity of the Premier League and different cup competitions, recovery is so much more important. You really have to focus on the stuff a lot of people overlook, like micronutrients, vitamins, minerals, other compounds and properties in food. We’re fortunate science has really progressed,” he said.
“We’re aware of how things work at a cellular level, we have that knowledge of exercise and biochemistry so it’s quite nice to think of it as science but then actually be creative with food.
“The big thing for me is the longer-term well-being of the players. If we can help players healthy and fit and available for selection or if they are injured help with their rehab process and reducing those recovery times, that to me is the big thing.
“Of course we always want to see them perform because that’s the name of the game, we like to think we do that as standard, but I take a lot of pride from allowing players to maximise their training and playing availability.”
Craig speaks as though he and the team are fuelling a car, fine-tuning their engines to perfection with each passing day, or developing livestock, as The Lodge did once upon a time.
A range of green juices, collagen – usually found in cosmetic surgery, and even the humble banana bread are all given a place in the dietary schedule of players, each with a specific purpose, deployed at a specific time.
Like a parent trying to feed a reluctant child, small bite-sized snacks are created to provide vast quantities of nutrients with minimal effort of actually eating the things.
After defeats, traditional meals are scrapped in place of ‘finger food’ as players won’t be in the mood to sit at a table with tensions boiling hotter than the meal they’ve been served.
Fuelled up and ready to roll, we actually saw our first football of the day.
It speaks volumes that the actual ‘training with a football at your feet’ part of the day took up a relatively small portion of the Premier League footballer routine.
These elite athletes have played with a ball at their feet for as long as they can remember, they will not simply lose their touch, but the various luxuries and lavishness of The Lodge haven’t been known to many for long.
Football has moved on from being simply about the game itself, and Tottenham are deeply invested in priming their stars throughout every minute of the day.
Fitness regimes are designed to develop players’ mobility, core, strength and explosiveness.
Rest is designed to reduce stress – both physical and mental – to promote and build on the platform laid by working out.
Nutrition plans are crafted to further advance on the previous steps, to energise, fuel and activate players’ potential.
And then it’s time to play.
Spurs legend Ledley King – who has since been appointed to the club’s coaching staff – was on hand to inspire a session.
(Taking a deep swig of indulgence here, splitting two defenders with a backheel pass to the approval of King felt like some form of life goal completion.)
The coaches’ logic is simple. They want the ball at the players’ feet as much as possible, to be an extension of the body, not a separate entity.
The grass carpet is kept in typically sublime condition, another nod to the world-leading base Tottenham Hotspur now call home.
Success may have been muted, even backtracked, in 2019/20, as we’re going to see in All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, but in The Lodge, the north London side have a facility that will engineer success in the long-term.