Being: Liverpool - First look at new behind-the-scenes documentary on Liverpool Football Club
With the roar of expectant Liverpool fans tumbling down the tunnel, Brendan Rodgers asks his players to huddle around him so he can offer his final words of wisdom before the first game of the season.
"Today's the start of a long hard journey for us," he tells the likes of Pepe Reina and Glen Johnson. "You can only trust yourselves, no one else, you can trust the supporters because they're the best and you can trust your family at home."
For a documentary billed as a behind-the-scenes look at life at Anfield, Being: Liverpool which begins this Friday on Channel 5, opens in promising fashion, and the access throughout the opening episode of this six-part series is impressive. Viewers see inside the homes of Steven Gerrard, Lucas Leiva and manager Rodgers. The camera crew travels with the team on their pre-season tour of America and access is granted to Liverpool's Melwood training ground.
Yet for all the access, there is a strong sense that we only see what Liverpool Football Club want us to see. Which is understandable. The recently aired documentary on QPR - The Four Year Plan was as embarrassing as it was essential viewing. Owner Flavio Briatore came across as ludicrously out of touch and egotistical and chairman Gianni Paladini an embarrassing, overly-emotional stereotypical Italian. The only thing more stunning than the footage was that the Four Year Plan (set out in 2007 with the aim of gaining promotion to the Premier League) was actually achieved despite the inept management behind the scenes at Loftus Road.
There have been other examples where allowing the cameras in has proved a PR disaster. Such as when Manchester City, wanting to show off their coup of signing Samir Nasri from Arsenal, aired footage of the Frenchman's arrival at the club. First off we see Patrick Vieira apparently just hanging out around the offices but it is when Nasri enters the office of Garry Cook and the chief executive greets the new arrival with 'How are you brother' that the footage really backfired.
So bearing in mind the lessons of past documentaries and with sensitive subjects including the recent departure of club legend Kenny Dalglish to contend with, there was rightly concern among supporters about this film. But a club like Liverpool, and one run by owners for whom attention to detail is everything, this documentary was never going to allow viewers to lose sight of the vision they are curating at Anfield.
As such at times Being: Liverpool feels like an hour long promotional video for the club - such as when narrator Clive Owen tells viewers that captain Gerrard "is by consensus one of the greatest English players in history". Yet the first episode does provide some insights into the running of LFC, and particularly new manager Rodgers who comes across as eloquent, intelligent and above everything, determined to succeed.
"It doesn't matter whether you're a football player or one of the cleaners, it doesn't matter to me, it's about respect. If we end up in years to come winning the Premier League, they will have had just as much to do with it as me sat here," says Rodgers. And this quote is not the only evidence that he once worked under the man who dubbed himself 'a Special One'.
"It's not just about winning, it's about how you win on and off the pitch," Rodgers explains in one of a number of sit down interviews. "It's not just about training players, it's about educating players. You train dogs," he says in another. "We were brought up not with the silver spoon but the silver shovel," he says of his upbringing.
Much of the focus is on the arrival of Rodgers, with the documentary seemingly at pains to elevate the standing of the former Swansea manager.
"He's so organised. He spent three hours the other night giving me a primer on how his system works and what he wants to accomplish," says a rather tired looking principal owner John Henry.
The filming of Being: Liverpool actually began at the end of last season, but with the departure of Dalgish and arrival of Rodgers over the summer, a natural (and somewhat convenient) beginning to this story was provided. Much less time is devoted to the explanation of Dalglish's departure ("decisions were made with a great weight on our shoulders," says chairman Tom Werner) than the arrival of Rodgers, who is filmed wandering alone around the Anfield pitch and on his first visit to Melwood.
There are some light moments with the players, with the most time devoted to midfielders Gerrard and Leiva. "I think what you'll notice when you go into my house is no-one's really interested in football," Gerrard promises viewers, rather uninterestingly. The England captain explains to the cameras that his house is full of women (he is married to Alex and they have three daughters) but this is remedied by having "the lads round" we learn.
Leiva also has friends over to his house, and on the occasion the cameras are there, it's team-mate Luis Suarez that has popped round. And what do these millionaire, supposed playboys get up to? A game of Monopoly of course, during which Leiva's guest looks decidedly frustrated.
During Liverpool's pre-season tour, which takes in Fenway Sports Group's other sports team, the Boston Red Sox, there are some genuinely entertaining moments. Jamie Carragher cracking into a grin as he is taught meditation is among the more natural moments in the documentary, but it is when Daniel Pacheco, holding a baseball, asks a member of the Red Sox "what is this" that is perhaps the best moment.
Being: Liverpool has already begun airing in the US, and when the FA Cup is described as "the oldest and biggest tournament in English football" it becomes painfully, and somewhat irritatingly obvious that this documentary was made with American audiences in mind. Despite that, football fans, and particularly Liverpool ones, should welcome its airing in the UK. And with five more parts to come, there's still hope for some more revealing moments.
Being: Liverpool is exclusively on Channel 5 starting Friday 21 September at 9pm.
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