Sports on Screen: Tottenham Hotspur: All or Nothing (2020)

Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

Following on from our popular Poker on Screen series of articles, we’ve decided to take a look back at some of the great sporting moments on screen. They could be a cameo appearance in a Hollywood movie or a documentary revolving around some of the world’s most exciting teams and sportspeople.

This week, the focus is on White Hart Lane 2.0 as the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium plays host to an incredible documentary series, All or Nothing, which is available on Amazon Prime.

The documentary consists of nine episodes that follow the team at home and away, in the changing room, on the training pitch and of course, on match days. It’s clear that from the start, the idea was to follow up on Spurs’ ultimately tragic but crusading run to the preceding season’s Champions League final, where they ultimately came up short against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool.

Sadly for the initial ideas team, that plan fell apart like a Christian Eriksen transfer spreadsheet or Danny Rose anger management class as Mauricio Pochettino was ingloriously sacked just a handful of games into the league campaign with Tottenham languishing in the lower half of the table.

It’s a shame that Pochettino’s sacking wasn’t covered in a bit more depth during the documentary really, as within one episode, his entire service to Spurs is glossed past, but there is a strong narrative reason for this – the hiring of a certain J. Mourinho.

Daniel Levy, the Spurs owner, is a fascinating character in the documentary, not least because of how present he appears to be throughout any number of fractious situations. He’s never the aggressor, but he is an ever-present member of the cast as Mourinho comes in and sets about changing the very essence and mindset of the club.

How the Portuguese does so is truly amazing to watch. Mourinho, winner of three English Premier League titles, quickly realizes that he is walking into a club with unlimited untapped potential, yet a huge mindset problem. Dele Alli is seen as something of a ringleader amongst the rabble and is swiftly called out for training badly. Danny Rose is shifted to Newcastle on loan for being problematic. Christian Eriksen is ingloriously sold to Inter Milan.

After those monumental shifts, however, and just as Mourinho is getting on top of the club and changing the ethos and ambition of those around him, COVID-19 hits and football itself is suspended.

It is an incredible thing to see in a sports documentary, but how the club deal with the global pandemic from top to bottom is something that really should be watched back in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time. No-one knows what to do, yet everyone does what they have to, and the club – and those within it – come back so much stronger.

It’s easy to say from this position, with Tottenham Hotspur top of the English Premier League after nine games of this season, but the building blocks are put in place during this series. Mourinho realizes that his team can live without Dele Alli and – in particular – Christian Eriksen. The purchase of Pierre-Emile Hojberg, for an stupidly low price of £15 million, coupled with the other signing, Wolves’ consistent right-back Matt Doherty in place of the less disciplined and more attacking Kyle Walker-Peters is clear tactics. Whenever someone looks to be stepping out of line, Mourinho is onto them, humiliating them in front of their millionaire mates if need be, whether its calling out Alli on his attitude, Aurier on his wayward positional sense or even himself.

Mourinho – a divisive figure to football fans – can be seen getting his mojo back after a difficult spell in the game at Chelsea in his second spell and then at Old Trafford in a role he maybe should have waited some time before taking. At his best, he is a superb manager, and the psychological problems that he looked on the brink of collapsing under as Manchester United manager near the end were clearly dealt with in the year between him leaving that position and taking up his post at Tottenham.

All in all, All or Nothing is a terrific documentary and we were engaged throughout. We can’t recommend it highly enough for all sports fans, but in particular football fans who can’t get enough of the beautiful game… in all its forms.