Review | 'All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur' episode one
If the Michael Jordan epic The Last Dance’ was the most hotly anticipated sports documentary series of 2020, 'All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur' wasn’t far behind.
The all-access docuseries finally dropped on Amazon Prime this week.
‘All Or Nothing: Spurs’ documents the club’s 2019/20 campaign, from Mauricio Pochettino’s sacking to Jose Mourinho’s appointment, and features everything from transfer drama to the coronavirus pandemic.
In this article, David Smith reviews episode one, 'A New Signing'.
Episode number: 1
Episode title: “A New Signing”
Length: 50 minutes
Narrated by Tom Hardy, the opening five minutes of the episode provides the viewer with a recent history of Tottenham Hotspur, from Mauricio Pochettino’s appointment right up to the Champions League final defeat to Liverpool.
It is as slickly edited as you’d expect, and Hardy’s voice makes for a welcome change from the standard dramatic American tone we’re used to hearing in these documentaries.
Daniel Levy is introduced early on, with the Spurs chairman openly discussing his reputation as ‘hard-nosed’ and the difficulties of balancing ambitions and reality.
Unfortunately, the series decides to hurtle through the opening months of the season in a matter of minutes, and the deterioration of Pochettino’s five-year reign is frustratingly condensed into less than half an episode.
Most fans were as eager to see the devolution of the Argentinian’s tenure as the subsequent arrival of Mourinho, but Amazon have taken the editorial decision to relegate Pochettino to a footnote in the story of Spurs’ season.
There are the obligatory ‘Premier League Years’ type flashes of bad results and difficult moments, as well as animated updates of the league table.
We aren’t taken inside the dressing room during or after the humiliating 7-2 defeat at home to Bayern Munich, which is a shame.
We don’t really get to see Pochettino interacting with the players at all, though the episode does include players such as Harry Kane and Heung-Son Min defending the under-pressure manager.
Perhaps the paucity of screen time allocated to Pochettino in the documentary comes out of respect to the club’s former manager, with the editorial team deciding not to subject Pochettino to further embarrassment by visiting the team’s sudden decline in too much detail.
Still, it feels fans - Spurs fans in particular - have been robbed of the unique opportunity to get a birds-eye view of Pochettino’s final days in the dugout.
It is interesting to get Levy’s take on Pochettino’s departure, however.
“It was the most emotional decision I’ve ever had to make,” he says solemnly.
“I think at the moment, things are a little bit raw.
“It’s not a nice experience for either of us.”
The hiring of Jose Mourinho takes place in the blink of an eye, and the Portuguese native is every bit as captivating and charismatic as you’d expect.
If ever a manager was born to appear on TV, it is Mourinho down to the space opera like music playing in the background as Jose settles into the manager’s office.
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the episode is watching the players nervously await Mourinho’s arrival on his first day.
In particular, Harry Winks acting like a child on the first day of school:
“How are they going to approach training? Do you reckon they’ll be on us straight away?
“I reckon it’s going to be so tactical!”
You can almost sense the nervousness as Mourinho waved the players out on to the training ground pitch for his first training session.
After quickly gathering the players in a group to introduce his background team, it’s straight down to business for Jose.
“I belong to the game,” he tells the camera passionately.
“I was empty. I needed my place.”
If the intense side of Mourinho was to be expected, it is enjoyable to see a lighter side to him too as he engages in banter and jokes with the players on the training ground.
“You,” he tells Dele Alli, pointing a finger at the midfielder, “are fucking lazy.”
He reveals later on in a discussion with Levy that the only advice Sir Alex Ferguson gave him in two-and-a-half years at Old Trafford was to sign Alli. In the same conversation with Levy, Mourinho laments Alli’s laziness in training and discusses how to get more out of the midfielder.
Next, he tells Kane to go home to his children, but to visit Mourinho in his office the next morning.
“There must be something wrong with this team,” Jose then observes as the players walk off the training pitch.
“Because I played against you so many times and nobody insulted me, in the tunnel or nothing, man.”
Later on in the episode, he teases Davinson Sanchez about losing the Europa League final to Mourinho’s Manchester United while the Colombian defender was at Ajax.
“Do you have balls?” Mourinho asks the centre half.
“When you played the final against me with Ajax, everybody shit yourself. I won the game in minute one!”
Mourinho’s meeting with Kane is fascinating, with the manager saying he could see instantly that the English striker is a winner.
Kane makes his motivation clear;
“I want to be like Ronaldo, Messi,” he says.
“I can help you to explode,” Mourinho tells him, before telling Spurs’ talisman that it is not enough to be at the club without winning trophies.
One of the episode’s inadvertent highlights comes when Mourinho briefs the team ahead of the West Ham match - his first in charge - and the Football Manager 20 logo appears on the computer desktop projected behind him.
What follows next is vintage Mourinho.
After reassuring the players who will either be on the bench or left out of the squad entirely, Jose warns them that if he wants them gone, they won’t feel it, they’ll “know it”.
“For 90 minutes, you have to be ****ts,” he tells them.
Then we are taken inside the dressing room at the London Stadium, with Mourinho telling his players that they must be confident at all times.
After an impassioned call-to-arms from Kane, the players take to the pitch.
An episode which begins with Spurs and Pochettino looking to kick on after the heartbreak of that Champions League final defeat in Madrid ends with the visit to West Ham.
The episode ends with the Hammers and Spurs making their way out on to the pitch in a cloud of bubbles.
One thing is certain from this access is that Mourinho, one of football’s most successful managers, has not lost the fire in his belly. A career without winning is an empty one, he tells the camera in the closing moments as the screen fades to black.
I already can’t wait for episode two.
Moment of the week:
Watching Mourinho writing out team sheets while listening to disparaging reactions to his appointment on Sky Sports News via the TV hanging in his office.
His muttered utterance of ‘fuck off’ as he turns off the TV, just as the voice on the screen says “Mourinho is past his best” is one of the greatest moments of TV this year.