If the latest trend of football clubs opening their doors to documentary film crews has taught us anything, its that grit, misery and misfortune is far more entertaining than a relatively seamless success story. While the offerings from Manchester City and Juventus were little more than sleek propaganda from the dominant clubs in their respective leagues, nothing that came out of either series was as gripping as the many stand-out moments from 'Sunderland 'Til I Die.'
Given the plethora of successful documentaries from other sports over the years, it is surprising that it has taken so long for European football clubs to get on the bandwagon. If this new trend is set to continue, it got us thinking about some of the missed opportunities that have slipped away in the football world over the past year.
'Leeds 'Til I Spy':
What a season it has been for Leeds United so far, with the surreal Marcelo Bielsa press conference just the latest chapter in the 'Spygate' scandal, that has horrified the custodians of true English footballing honour while amusing almost everyone else.
The premise for this documentary about one of the most colourful clubs in English football history has everything; a once great club that has found itself languishing outside the top flight after years of mismanagement, a passionate fan base desperate to see their team restored to their former glory after a decade and a half of misery, the tension of a league title challenge being steered by a mercurial enigma in Marcelo Bielsa, and of course, spies! The eccentricities of Bielsa alone could make for great viewing, but the hilarity of his spies creeping around training grounds up and down the country could make for TV gold.
Manchester United: 'Attack, Attack, Attack!'
There is an argument that a fly-on-the-wall film crew wasn't necessary to capture this story, given how much of it played out in front of the watching cameras. The Mourinho-United relationship was doomed even before a ball was kicked this season, as his public displeasure with their dealings in the summer transfer window signalled that a managerial meltdown, similar to what had occurred at Chelsea a couple of years earlier, was on the horizon.
But dressing room footage of the decaying relationship between Jose and his 'dishonest' players could have been very interesting, particularly at the moment when he told Paul Pogba he was a 'virus' after their 2-2 draw away at Southampton. And who wouldn't love to observe a transfer related tantrum from Mourinho in the office of the much maligned Executive Vice-Chairman Ed Woodward, while he is busy fretting over the club app's rating in the Apple Store.
"Respect man...respect, respect, respect."
Newcastle United: 'Fog On The Tyne'
Much like Woodward, another controversial decision maker at a Premier League club who we don't often hear from is Newcastle owner Mike Ashley. This is despite the seemingly endless state of unrest the club has found itself in under his stewardship. Newcastle supporters recently took their opportunity to mock their North-East neighbours over the suffering they endured under the watchful eyes of Netflix, but it is not difficult to imagine them going through something similar if their relegation fears are realised by the end of this season. Or maybe Rio Ferdinand is right, and all we'd get is Newcastle supporters lining up in front of the cameras to express their eternal gratitude to Mr.Ashley.
Rafa Benitez might not be the most charismatic of managers, but his growing tension with Ashley over the club's lack of spending in the transfer market could make for some entertaining footage. If the Spaniard finally decides to heed the advice of long-time Rafa critic Richard Keys and dip into his own personal finances in order to bolster his squad, then it would be a crying shame if there were no cameras present to capture the reaction of Mrs.Benitez when her husband informs her that he has sold the house and cashed in their savings account to sign Mario Balotelli.
Ireland: 'Bad Cop / Bad Cop'
The misery that Sunderland produced for Netflix would be given a good run for its money by the complete shit-show that was the Republic of Ireland in 2018. There's probably not too much that hasn't already been said about Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane's final year in charge.
The results and the performances went from bad to worse as the year progressed, while the on-field struggles were compounded by a number of off-field controversies including the Declan Rice saga and of course, that leaked WhatsApp audio from Stephen Ward. Any subscription-based online streaming service would be mad not to want camera footage of the training ground incident between Roy Keane, Harry Arter and Jonathan Walters. Making presumptions based on the nonchalance of Ward's closing comment in his WhatsApp message, this might not have been the only incidence where "just Roy was losing his head."
Viewers could also be treated to the gripping tension of the dressing room an hour before each game as Martin O'Neill reveals his starting line-up to the players (in no particular formation) one by one like the winning numbers of the lotto.
Cardiff City: 'To Hell With The Rest Of The World'
Neil Warnock has already proven that he is a very entertaining subject for a documentary, with his many expletive-laden tirades from his time as manager of Sheffield United in 2004 having been immortalized on film. But the challenges he faced in his career fifteen years ago are slightly different to what he has encountered this season. Back in the Premier League as a 70-year-old with Cardiff City, under the dark cloud of disillusionment caused by a shameful British government "who won't do what the country wanted" and make Brexit a reality.
Quite how his comments about Brexit went down with the 11 non-British nationals who are part of his squad is a mystery. Perhaps the cameras could capture Warnock doing some soul-searching as he strolls around the grounds of his home on the South Wales coast, or maybe his other country home in Scotland, or if not, his other country home in Cornwall, as he ponders about what might have been had the English game not been poisoned by all of that dirty money from around the globe.
Or maybe, we'd just get a load more team talks about "knob-ends in't 91st minute."
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