Isolation Essential Viewing
Four weeks since the release of Sunderland ‘Til I Die series two, football fans will be looking for their next fix with the obvious lack of live sport on our screens.
Binge-watching series and documentaries has been solace for the majority of us who spend the vast majority of their time in their own homes and the beautiful game has provided a backlog of viewing material, that since the rise of streaming services like Netflix, has increased substantially and given us a variety of insights into the game.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die reminded us of how much football means and the emotions it fills us with, with the passionate supporters in the North East providing a fitting protagonist.
Sparta looks at some of the best football documentaries/docu-series you can watch free of charge on YouTube, to tide you over until the hopefully not-too-distant event of live football coming back on our screens.
Sunderland ‘Til I Die is not the only docuseries based on the Wearside club, as BBC cameras followed Sunderland to a produce a fly-on-the-wall series capturing their inaugural Premier League season in 1996/97, their final at Roker Park.
Allowing more access to the dressing room than the aforementioned, Premier Passions relayed warts-and-all views of Peter Reid’s explicit half time team talks and boardroom discussions on vital decisions regarding the interior of the state-of-the-art new stadium, with the familiar backdrop of a relegation battle.
Speaking to Chairman Bob Murray, Peter Reid, several players (including club legend Niall Quinn) and everyone from the security to ticketing staff, you will see all areas of the club for what they were during the most significant season in Sunderland’s recent history.
Forever the soap opera club, the conclusion of the documentary includes a dramatic climax to their relegation battle in the top division, but if you didn’t know the outcome already then we won’t provide any spoilers.
Airing on BBC one in February 1998 the six-part series is available on YouTube and you will be impressed with the production value and editing considering the time.
An Impossible Job
Graham Taylor’s ill-fated tenure as England manager was relayed for all to see in the form of a Channel 4 documentary, aired a couple of months after failure to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the US.
Starting part-way through the unsuccessful qualification campaign, the documentary focuses on the efforts of Taylor to put out various fires and follows the former Watford and Aston Villa boss intensely. You will see every detail from thoughts behind tactical changes, set piece training and even confronting racial abuse towards John Barnes from a spectator at Wembley.
If you have watched Mike Bassett: England Manager a lot will seem familiar, in fact it is in fact a parody of the documentary and you will make the character comparisons almost Immediatley.
Assistant manager and first team coach, Lawrie McMenemy and Phil Neal respectively, have been ridiculed as both are somewhat portrayed as quite dull and merely repeating everything Graham Taylor has just said on the dugout, with touchline tirades such as ‘I do not like that’ making great viewing.
Appropriately named, the one-off 75-minute feature will likely evoke feelings of sympathy towards the late Graham Taylor, who conducted himself with great dignity in the face of disgusting treatment from the British press.
The full programme is available on YouTube.
This one has a very different feel to it than the other two and is far more light-hearted viewing, a fly-on-the-wall documentary following Neil Warnock as his Sheffield United team look to gain promotion to the Premier League in the 2004/05.
You may have already seen clips circling social media of Warnock’s team talks in the documentary and unsurprisingly the Steel City native provides superb entertainment.
Giving a glimpse into his quiet life on his Cornwall farm and visits to his local church, The Blade’s promotion push is very much a sub-text in what is essentially a one-man show.
That being said, all the vintage moments of the documentary occur inside United’s dressing room and the tunnel, mostly composed of Warnock launching into and evening arguing with his own side, who he labels as ‘also-rans’ at one stage.
Made with the grit that you would expect from a mid-2000’s indie production, a bust-up in the tunnel away to Millwall, in which Kevin Muscat headbutts ‘Keeper Paddy Kenny, is the perfect linchpin for the documentary and of course met with sufficient rage from the ex-Cardiff boss.
The one-off documentary is also on YouTube for free.