Replacing something you have loved and lost is never easy. But the time has come. The final three episodes of Amazon Prime’s All or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, are out there. Our shared time has come to pass. Now, we’re not saying it’s like the passing of a beloved pet, or in the words of Jose Mourinho, “My dog has died and I’m f**ked. Deeply f**ked”. But we shall miss this enthralling series, with its intriguing insight into the man himself, and the game he’s such an integral part of. Here’s five sporting docs that might, just might, help fill that Jose-sized hole in your life...
Anelka: Misunderstood. Netflix
Nicolas Anelka’s CV is perhaps one of the best in football. He’s worn the shirt of some of the world’s biggest clubs, including PSG, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester City and, erm, West Brom. But his 13 clubs, six of them coming in just eight seasons, only scratch the surface of the man who lies behind some of football’s great stories.
A true maverick, in 1999, he scored two goals past England at Wembley wearing goalkeeper gloves. Yes, you did read that right. He wore goalkeeping gloves throughout the entire game, scored a brace and to this day, nobody knows why he did it. In 2010, he was at the centre of one of football’s biggest scandals as the French squad fought with the coaching staff. Anelka was vilified and sent home in disgrace from the World Cup.
Supremely talented, énigmatique and passionnant, this is his side of the story. Strap yourselves in, it’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Bobby Robson: More Than A Manager. Netflix
Has a title ever been more fitting? Sir Bobby Robson, one of the truly iconic figures of football has a documentary befitting of his great life. His story is wonderfully illustrated by some of the biggest names in the sport today, all of whom were influenced by this heartwarming Geordie.
He is the reason Pep Guardiola became a manager. He got the best out of the great Ronaldo, who scored 34 goals in 37 under his leadership. He inspired a young Jose Mourinho as Barcelona manager, and he was a beloved father figure to a young Paul Gascoigne. In fact, it was Gazza’s quote that stuck as the title for this truly emotional film.
This incredible documentary covers his remarkable career, from the abuse he received as England manager after Maradona’s Hand of God to Italia 90, his personal health struggles, to his spells at Barcelona, Newcastle and, in particular with an unfashionable Ipswich Town side who he took to FA Cup and UEFA Cup glory. Watch this, then watch it again and again. We can never get enough of Sir Bobby Robson..
Take The Ball, Pass The Ball. Netflix
Forget the argumentative, politicised Barcelona of today who are falling apart at the seams, instead cast your mind back a decade or so, to when they were not only the greatest team on the planet, but perhaps the best of all time. Pep Guardiola’s Tiki-Taka, started by his idol Johan Cruyff, was perfected as Barca dominated world football.
A young kid called Lionel Messi (we were all young once) was transformed from a tricky winger into a false nine, where he became the greatest of all time. Barcelona won two Champions Leagues and six trophies in one season as they blew away their opponents with ease. Two of Sir Alex Ferguson’s great Manchester United sides, featuring the likes of Wayne Rooney, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, were torn apart in both 2009 and 2011.
This was not just a great team. This was another level. Reminisce about the good old days with quotes from all of the players, including a misty-eyed Messi, as they talk you through just how they did it.
The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats Its Young. Amazon Prime
This race has the most gobsmacking origins. James Earl Ray, the assassin of Martin Luther King Jr, had escaped from the local Brushy State Mountain Penitentiary and run into the woods at Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. Thankfully, he was caught after 55 hours having only covered eight miles, to which Gary ‘Laz’ Cantrell mocked, “I could have done 100 miles in that time.”
And so in 1986, the ultramarathon, accurately and menacingly nicknamed The Race That Eats Its Young, was born. It covers 100 miles of the most difficult forest terrain on planet earth and has to be negotiated in less than 60 hours. There are finisher’s trophies or medals, and even if it did, most people wouldn’t win one anyway - out of over 1000 starters only 18 runners have ever finished the full course in the permitted time limit in 34 years. Check this one out if you need some motivation to go for your morning run.
Athlete A. Netflix
Sport has a dark side. It isn’t all celebrations and joy, sometimes there are serious and uncomfortable stories that must be uncovered. Netflix’s 2020 release Athlete A, is exactly that. It tells the story of the sexual abuse scandal that poisoned USA Gymnastics for almost two decades and those responsible being brought to justice.
Dr Larry Nassar worked for USA Gymnastics between 1996 and 2014 and abused underage girls as young as six during that time. This sickening story was uncovered by local newspaper the Indianapolis Star and the documentary, although challenging to watch, becomes a tale of the strength of the women involved. As said in court by one of the abused girls, face-to-face with Nassar, they are not victims but survivors.
These women are not only talented and inspiring, but stronger than you could ever imagine.