There are few football clubs in the world with such naked ambition as Tottenham. The Premier League outfit, which proudly sits on the ‘Big Six’ table of English football, was going places this time last year.
When Amazon Prime’s cameras started rolling, Spurs had just moved into a new £1 billion stadium in north London, had reached the Champions League final and boasted a partnership with the NFL that promised to catapult their brand States-side.
Granting a TV crew access into the training ground, The Lodge, dressing room and club offices for the latest All or Nothing docuseries would only boost the Spurs’ profile. What could go wrong?
As it turns out, plenty. But the drama that unfolded over the 2019/20 season arguably saves All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur from the growing scrapheap of club-controlled, highly-glossed sporting documentaries.
Pochettino presence threatened series
All or Nothing: Tottenham is the latest in Amazon’s sporting insights library that generally charts the successes of sport’s elite teams. Rugby’s All Blacks, Manchester City and five NFL teams have previously received the AON treatment.
And there was a very real worry this latest instalment could follow the rather mundane All or Nothing: Manchester City experience viewers trudged through back in 2017.
The Tottenham instalment just about avoids feeling like a club-backed PR exercise — but that’s only because of the misfortunes the cameras captured at Spurs.
The series provides the usual mix of matchday footage, close-up interviews and fly-on-the-wall shots that we have become accustomed to.
It sets out during the 2019/20 pre-season as Tottenham return to life on the training ground having just lost the Champions League final to Liverpool. Manager Mauricio Pochettino is unhappy with various issues — and doesn’t seem too keen on Amazon’s cameras recording his every move.
The Argentine is uptight, terse and appears by no means comfortable with this new media presence in his corridors. It makes for an awkward, hostile start — and is uncomfortable for the viewer, who has to rely more on narrator Tom Hardy’s explanations of events, rather than hearing from the profiles involved on screen.
Had Pochettino grimly put up with the series for a year then the show’s producers may have struggled to find anything of real substance in what was an average season for Spurs.
Yet chairman Daniel Levy – who at times threatens to slip into a David Brent parody but keeps just the right side of the line – delivers the shot Amazon needed to make this series a genuine watch.
He sacks Pochettino and appoints Jose Mourinho.
The Mourinho show
As soon as the new boss walks through the doors the series relaxes. Gone are Hardy’s exhausting overviews of events inside the club. Instead, the producers let Mourinho do the talking.
And it works. The new manager has the charisma, the cheek and the b****rdry to captivate viewers — just as he has done with media and football fans alike for the past two decades.
Mourinho is willing to have the cameras on him — and Amazon are grateful he can drive the show without much explanation.
Some of the best sports documentary moments come when the personas forget the cameras are on them, when they reveal their true colours. When John Sitton challenges two Leyton Orient players to a fight. When Graham Taylor shouts from the bench, “Can we not knock it!”. And, in the case of All or Nothing: Tottenham, when Mourinho is in the dressing room.
It is disappointing that Amazon don’t focus more on the wider social impact of Tottenham’s redevelopment since their stadium move. We don’t really see how a £1 billion investment in north London has transformed, improved, maybe even adversely affected the lives of those close to White Hart Lane. After all, what made Netflix’s Sunderland ’Til I Die series so engrossing was the social context in which Sunderland AFC is embedded.
All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur partially overlooks this. Yes we see players interacting with the local community. But we don’t witness first-hand the raw emotion of local supporters, the hurt and the euphoria along the side streets of White Hart Lane, the impact Tottenham’s new spaceship-like home has on one of the most deprived areas of London.
And that is a real shame. But then again, it’s not at its heart what All or Nothing is about. We must remember that this show is supported by a multinational company that is desperate to get into the Premier League broadcasting game. Amazon love the drama and they gladly show us plenty — but there are many more secrets under the Spurs rock that haven’t been revealed.
Had Mourinho not entered stage left midway through episode one, it’s hard to see where this series would have taken off.
All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur is coming to Amazon Prime Video on Monday 31st August 2020. Sign up for Amazon Prime for £7.99 a month with a 30-day free trial. If you’re looking for something else to watch, check out our TV Guide.