OLIVER HOLT: Jose show is vanity project that struggles to hide truth

OLIVER HOLT: The Jose Mourinho show is a vanity project that struggles to hide an inconvenient Spurs truth… charismatic boss is camouflage for a team that are fading away into the nothingness outside the top four

  • The last two weeks have seen Amazon air Tottenham’s All or Nothing series
  • The documentary grants exclusive behind the scenes access at the club
  • Manager Jose Mourinho is the protagonist, with Daniel Levy the main support
  • But it does not hide the dismal season Spurs had and another without a trophy  

There is an inconvenient truth that sits in the corner of the changing room, the manager’s office, the treatment room, the canteen and the boardroom at Tottenham like a giant elephant throughout the elongated Daniel Levy-Jose Mourinho vanity project that is the Amazon Prime documentary series All or Nothing.

All or Nothing is a trite title anyway, a generic name for what often appears to be a scripted reality show that is a poor man’s Made in Chelsea. But when the answer to the inherent question it poses about Mourinho’s months in charge of Spurs last season is not ‘all’ but ‘nothing’, it succeeds only in drawing attention to the club’s failure.

As this season dawns and Spurs prepare to face Everton in their opening game on Sunday, there is no prospect that Mourinho will be fighting for the title this season. He is not that guy any more. The Carabao Cup? Maybe. The FA Cup? Perhaps. The biggest prizes? Not any more. 

Jose Mourinho is the star attraction in Spurs’ All or Nothing behind the scenes documentary

The series granted exclusive camera access to Tottenham’s entertaining 2019-20 season

That’s why, when you get beyond Tom Hardy’s narration and the atmospheric soundtrack, there is emptiness at the heart of All or Nothing.

‘Nothing’, because yet again Spurs did not win a trophy, even though chairman Daniel Levy said on-screen at the office party that he wanted one for Christmas. ‘Nothing’, because, despite Mourinho’s obsession with catching Chelsea, they finished seven points adrift of them. ‘Nothing’, because they didn’t get close to making it into the Champions League, the task Mourinho was brought in to achieve.

‘Nothing’, because they have fallen backwards since Mauricio Pochettino’s last full season at the club. 

And ‘nothing’ because, as Mourinho pointed out bitterly on Friday, finishing in sixth place, with the early commitments to the Europa League it brings, has condemned Spurs to an insane start to the season that might see them playing nine games in 22 days. That’s not a fixture pile-up. That’s gridlock.

Sure, All or Nothing has some redeeming features: the players come across well. It is hard not to like Eric Dier for his grit and his telling taciturnity, Japhet Tanganga for his openness, Dele Alli for his humour and Danny Rose for the courage and intellectual honesty that appears to disarm and disconcert those of a more Machiavellian nature.

Levy’s a bit David Brent, a little bit too pleased with himself, a little bit of a star-lover. Find me someone who looks at me the way he looks at Mourinho. It’s usually the second season when they learn. 

Sadly, that inferno is going to come too late for All or Nothing. Even Mourinho is not without likeable moments, although he acts like a man who swears to try to impress the cool kids, not because he feels it.

Danny Rose’s feisty conversation with Mourinho during the January window was a highlight

The cameras show team meetings, matchday dressing rooms and everything that goes on

That’s a metaphor for the series, really. It’s hard to know what anybody’s really feeling because so much of it seems false and self-conscious and airbrushed.

Henry Mance, writing in the Financial Times, called it ‘the first draft of hagiography’, which nailed its reverential tone towards Jose in particular and the club in general.

Show me a more subservient assistant than Joao Sacramento and you’ll be going some. He’s Phil Neal in An Impossible Job, a yes-man extraordinaire, but All or Nothing never gets close to providing the same insight as the documentary that gave us ‘Do I not like that’. The unintentional comedy Sacramento provides does not appear to have made the cut.

We always knew Mourinho was a good actor anyway. And I mean football’s version of Oscar-worthy. And he has such fierce charisma he dominates the series.

Levy is part of the support cast in orbit around the star. And the players are extras living in a Jose Wonderland, except it’s a Wonderland that’s Blackpool on a dreary day.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is part of the Mourinho support cast in orbit around the star

It is a shame that the series tries to ignore the fact that Spurs have become bit-part players again after Pochettino reached for the stars. 

They finished 40 points behind Liverpool last season and yet so far they have only signed Matt Doherty, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg and Joe Hart in the summer window. All are good players but, taken alone, they do not speak of great ambition to start closing the gap.

The truth is that Mourinho is camouflage. That is the purpose he serves now. Both on the small screen and at a football club.

The force of his personality, the glare of his charisma and the skill of his management hide a supporting cast of weaknesses and problems. Look at the bright, shining star and try to ignore the fact that the team are fading away into the nothingness outside the top four.

Mourinho’s personality, charisma and management hides a supporting cast of problems

Even before Spurs have kicked a ball this season, Mourinho is complaining about the fixtures and struggling to sign a striker who can act as back-up to Harry Kane. 

Tottenham may well be an improved side this season but the feeling is that others will have improved more. Instead of closing the gap, it may be that teams like Everton will overtake them.

So I’m looking forward to the final three episodes and watching the anti-climax of the battle for sixth dressed up as a great triumph. Spurs fans better get used to it. Sixth might be as good as it gets for a while.

In All or Nothing, any thought that Tottenham would be competing for big trophies were over by the end of episode one.

Ryan Fraser is a good player and, in many ways, a decent signing for Newcastle United. 

But let’s not forget when Bournemouth needed him most last season, he went missing. 

Ryan Fraser has signed for Newcastle but he did go missing when needed at Bournemouth

In fact, he refused to extend his contract so that it lasted to the end of the delayed season and watched on as Bournemouth went down.

Adversity, it seems, is not really his bag, so if things get rough — and they usually do at St James’ Park — Newcastle supporters had better brace themselves for another disappearing act.

In the light of the increasing concern within rugby about concussion injuries, the threat they pose to the long-term health of players and to the future of the game itself, a 10-game ban for Owen Farrell as punishment for his sickening high tackle on Wasps teenage fly-half Charlie Atkinson this month seemed about right.

What seemed wrong, craven and utterly absurd was that the ban should be halved to five games because England coach Eddie Jones said Farrell was a good boy really and he does a lot of work for charity and an independent panel decided that that mattered.

That kind of ‘mitigation’ does not just make a mockery of the disciplinary process, it also asks uncomfortable questions about the game’s commitment to the health of players who are already being asked to put their bodies on the line more than ever in this congested season. 

Owen Farrell has been handed a five-game ban for a reckless high tackle against Wasps

It is looking increasingly likely that Serena Williams will end her career stuck on 23 Grand Slam singles victories, one short of the record of 24 held by Margaret Court. She has not won a Slam since 2017 and since then has finished runner-up twice at Wimbledon and twice at the US Open. Last week, she went close again, reaching the US Open semi-finals before losing to Victoria Azarenka.

But even though she will play the French Open this month, she will be 39 when the tournament starts. The bare statistics may say that she is not the greatest women’s player of all time but any meaningful analysis of the times in which she played and the obstacles she faced make her a powerful case.

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