This week’s abrupt sacking of Mauricio Pochettino and rapid arrival of Jose Mourinho at Tottenham Hotspur were not met by universal acclaim from the club’s fans, but there was one party who would have been delighted by the managerial movements in north London.
Amazon’s decision to commission a documentary series on Tottenham’s 2019-20 season for its Prime Video service was not predicated on such off-field drama; a look behind the scenes at a Premier League club would interest enough followers of football regardless of its storyline.
But after just a few months of filming, the high-drama dismissal of a well-liked long-standing manager and his replacement by the most famous coach in the world, who brings with him a unique aura and narrative, undoubtedly comes as a massive boost to the programme’s makers.
While Pochettino is a brilliant coach and worked for five and a half years to take Spurs to the next level on the pitch, when it comes to a US retail and media giant trying to attract the attention of a wider audience, he doesn’t even come close to his successor.
In his later days at Spurs, Pochettino, a low-key presence anyway, cut a stressed and unhappy figure. The Argentine was an openly reluctant participant in All Or Nothing: Tottenham Hotspur, as the series will be called, and was reportedly angered by the stationing of Amazon cameras in his office after similarly-priced ones were refused by the club hierarchy for training purposes.
“When the club agreed the deal with Amazon, of course we were worried about it,” Pochettino said last month. “It is so complicated, it is another thing to worry about and of course that adds a lot. I hope there is a happy ending, but if not, you are going to see another point of view, from a different vision.”
With Spurs sitting 14th in the Premier League after 12 games and having suffered humiliating defeats at the hands of Colchester United and Bayern Munich over the past few months, that different version has come to pass.
Mourinho professes to have changed his tune in the 11 months since he was sacked by Manchester United in bitter circumstances, but his first press conference as Spurs manager on Thursday put to rest any doubts at Amazon headquarters that he would be anything other than box-office.
The Portuguese, who pointedly said “you cannot buy class” in August 2018 in response to Manchester City’s similar commercial deal with Amazon, put on a show to a packed press room which will surely feature heavily in next summer’s finished product.
Mourinho insisted he has “always been humble” but has been misunderstood by the media, and said that if does make mistakes this time around they will be new ones, rather than repeating previous errors.
Upon announcing the series last month, Amazon said it would include Tottenham’s “broader story” – the club’s women’s team, its work in the local area, the workings of its new stadium, its NFL connection and more. Now that Mourinho is in town, you sense some of those aspects might have to take a back seat.
The man behind both the appointment of Mourinho and the Amazon documentary is Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy.
Levy has proven a divisive figure to Spurs fans over his 18 years at the helm of the club, with some fans accusing the 57-year-old of putting off-field matters ahead of what happens on the pitch.
However, his pioneering work in seeing through the construction of the £1bn multi-use Tottenham Hotspur Stadium and integration of NFL games deservedly earned him praise for keeping Spurs ahead of the curve.
It is in this context that his decision to accept £10m from Amazon for the club to become the subject of a documentary series must be viewed. Levy knows the global reach of the US giant can feed into his other projects and help build the club’s brand.
But is all publicity good publicity? Will Spurs follow the example of Manchester City’s series: an insightful, behind-the-scenes public relations win, full of heroic speeches, glimpses into players’ personalities and trophies?
Or, after a shaky start to the season and major gamble on a combustible manager, will the series end up looking more like Netflix’s Sunderland ‘Til I Die: an eminently more watchable, human interest story, but ultimately much less desirable depiction of a club in freefall?
Only time will tell, but Amazon will lap it up either way.