Best Football Documentaries

November 22, 2014
The 10 Best Football

The new Fox sports documentary ‘Being Liverpool’ gets its first UK airing on Channel Five this Friday, promising an ‘intriguing insight’ into the Anfield dressing room as Brendan Rodgers tries to mould the team in his image.

It is just the latest instalment in a rich tradition of fly-on-the-wall football documentaries going back over 50 years – some brilliant and some utterly bizarre.

Sportmail picks eight of the best from this unique genre.


QPR: The Four-year Plan (2012)

If it was ever possible to depict the Premier League as more chaotic and random that it appears on the surface, then The Four-Year Plan certainly succeeds.

It tracks what happened when Formula One mogul Flavio Briatore saved Queens Park Rangers from extinction in 2007 – and, perhaps naively, announced he would deliver the ailing club to the Premier League with a four-year plan.

Mat Hodgson’s behind-the-scenes film shows managers being hired and fired in a farcical carousel and all manner of fan mutinies, moving from the ridiculous to the sublime as Neil Warnock fulfils the prophecy by winning promotion to the top flight in 2011.


Accrington Stanley: Exactly! (2009)

Narrated by the unmistakable voice of Stuart Hall, this Granada series shows in gory detail the hand-to-mouth existence of League Two Accrington Stanley and, in many ways, social life in the North-West.

The episodes examine, by turn, what it's like to be a manager, chairman, player and fan at the bottom of football's pile, with amusing consequences (and mandatory expletives).

Big Ron Manager (2006)

Continuing the football swear-athon is this 2006 tale of Barry Fry and Ron Atkinson’s double act at Peterborough. But despite a cacophony of f-words from two of the most colourful characters in the game, it’s fledgling manager Steve Bleasdale who is the star.

Instead of calling upon Big Ron’s experience, Bleasdale tried to banish him and, inevitably, there are fireworks.

One memorable scene sees a dressing room punch-up between player Mark Arber and Paul Carden, before Bleasdale spectacularly resigns after Fry himself delivers the team talk before a match with Macclesfield.

Orient: Club for a Fiver (1995)

A classic nineties documentary shot by film student Jo Trehearne about her local club, Leyton Orient, which snowballed from a peek behind closed doors to a warts and all documentary about one of the worst seasons in the club’s history.

There’s gripping drama on and off the pitch. In the boardroom, the chairman Tony Wood steps down after his coffee business goes bust and a takeover by local businessman Phil Wallace rumbles along without resolution – having a knock-on effect on underpaid players and under-resourced staff alike.

In the dressing room, the foul-mouthed half-time tirades of manager John Sitton, as the players lurch from one abject performance to another, helped define the caricature of the vein-throbbing manager.

One half-time barb, with the team trailing 1-0 to Blackpool, has passed into immortality on the clip below.

England – Do I not like that (1994)

A documentary that simply wouldn’t happen today. A camera crew given unlimited access to the England dressing room for an entire World Cup qualification campaign, especially following a European Championships debacle, is just unthinkable.

Graham ‘Turnip’ Taylor was already drowning under the weight of ‘The Impossible Job’ – sometimes literally: ‘I sweat a lot. I’m waking up with the usual pyjamas wet through’ he confides.

Unfortunately this film does absolutely nothing to improve the public perception of him as England fail miserably in their bid to reach the 1994 World Cup.

Taylor is clearly a likeable, committed manager – in one clip, he turns round to lambast a fan for criticising John Barnes: ‘He’s another human being, you know’ – but he doesn’t help himself with unwittingly comic soundbites that later inspired Mike Bassett, including ‘What sort of a thing is going on here’ and the title, ‘Do I not like that.’

Steel City Blues (1984)

A largely forgotten documentary which broadens the focus beyond football to also examine the effect of the game in the local community. It presents an interesting argument that Sheffield Wednesday’s fortunes are linked to those of the city’s steel industry.

It includes footage of the 1935 FA Cup final against West Bromwich Albion and the poignant line of commentary: ‘Inside three minutes, Palethorpe scores for the Wednesday and this makes Sheffield almost a nice place to live in.’

Things have come full circle by the time of this documentary in the eighties, with one in four out of work and steel mills closing every month. But what comes across is the unwavering support of Wednesday’s fans despite the massive social upheaval of the time, helped by successful times in the First Division.

City! A club in crisis (1981)

Again, a state of affairs that is inconceivable today, but this 1981 documentary follows cigar-chomping Malcolm Allison’s attempts to cling on to his employment at relegation-threatened Manchester City.

He certainly has some unusual methods, including delivering his pre-match team talk dressed only in a pair of tracksuit bottoms and dragging the players to an indoor gymnasium to do some running drills at half-time.

With results getting worse, he is relieved of his duties and there’s a genuinely touching moment when he says goodbye to the players on the training ground.

The documentary’s second part follows he side’s resurrection under John Bond, which sees them reach the FA Cup final.

Meanwhile Back in Sunderland (1973)

A film make before, during and after the famous 1973 Cup Final when Sunderland stunned Leeds United 1-0, offering a nostalgic glimpse not only into life in the North-East at the time, but also the enthusiasm the FA Cup used to generate.

From fans sporting impossibly big red and white rosettes and spinning rattles catching the Milk Train to Wembley, to shops closing early so their staff could rush home to watch on TV.

From the crowd watching outside Radio Rentals to the mental celebrations after Porterfield’s goal and Montgomery’s save – this film evokes plenty of memories for those of a certain age.

14 Best College Football Movies and Documentaries Ever
14 Best College Football Movies and Documentaries Ever
Zinedine zidan france best football player france documentary
Zinedine zidan france best football player france documentary
The 10 Best Football Documentaries You Can Watch Online
The 10 Best Football Documentaries You Can Watch Online ...
Share this Post