This documentary focuses on the England football team’s failed campaign to qualify for the 1994 World Cup under the management of Graham Taylor, which led to Taylor resigning as England manager 6 days later; the piece of information that ends the documentary.
Overall, I found this documentary really insightful. Taylor grants broad access to his decision-making process, his training and his thoughts during matches from the touchline. This is a privilege I doubt many England managers would grant a documentary team, especially considering the constant media scrutiny they’re under, which this documentary explores also.
We see Taylor rage on the side-lines at poor refereeing decisions, we see him explain to David Platt that he will no longer be captain now Stewart Pearce has returned from injury, and The main downside of this documentary is just that it isn’t longer; England failing to qualify for a World Cup when they were denied qualification to the final of the previous tournament only by penalties is a story that seems to justify more than one hour and 15 minutes of content.
While it’s fascinating to hear Graham Taylor staunchly defend continuing to keep Paul Gascoigne in the team, as opposing sides continue to fear him, expansion on these kinds of crucial decisions that defined Taylor’s time as England manager would help better illuminate his thought processes on the decisions, so we can better understand what he was trying to do in his time as manager. I suppose, however, during qualification Taylor didn’t expect not to make it to the tournament, so wouldn’t think that justification and explanation was needed. Perhaps though the documentary team should have pushed for that, so they could cover more outcomes with sufficient explanation.
In terms of accessibility, this documentary is very strong for Graham Taylor himself, but where it could have improved is in its access to other actors in this story. We see a lot of the England players in this documentary, but never hear from them in much beyond a superficial way. While it’s fun to hear Ian Wright say hello to his mum to the camera after a game; it would be more insightful to hear some of the England players’ thoughts on the team’s woes, or some of the media for their criticisms of Taylor’s England.
These other opinions would help put the results we see in the documentary in better context, and understand the details of the criticism Taylor is facing. Whereas in its current form it just seems like Graham Taylor doing things as England manager, and you broadly get the sense it’s not going well, and Taylor continues to do things, then
In terms of authenticity, this seems very authentic. Taylor gives great access to his time as England manager, with a notable highlight definitely being seeing and hearing Taylor watching a game from the touchline as manager, and all the emotions and discussions that come along with that. When hearing Taylor swear at the referee’s decisions, or shout at his players to pick up the pace of their game, you certainly don’t question the authenticity of what you’re watching.
However, the question of authenticity could be raised over the perspectives chosen to be shown in this documentary. By focusing essentially entirely on Taylor and his struggles in the England job, especially with the media, you can’t help but side with him, but that England team not qualifying for the World Cup was a serious failing on Taylor’s part, and having more of the opposing argument in the documentary, preferably from someone in the media, but even just a pundit would suffice, would help balance the piece and make it a more authentic portrayal of public opinion on the matter.
This is a Graham Taylor focused documentary, and that is not a bad thing, but by almost entirely neglecting that side of the story; the piece begins to feel less complete and less informative, as you come away somewhat understanding that you have missed out on the full picture here, and that the world is not as simple as a vicious media consistently hounding kind-hearted English managers out of a job.
Perhaps an exploration of whether the media stirs up negative feeling among the public, or simply reflects what is already present in public opinion, could have been an interesting sub-plot that would have added to the themes already present.
However, these are small criticisms overall, and the documentary is an enjoyable, insightful watch. The final clip, even after the credits and the information that Taylor resigned soon after, being Taylor grimly giving the advice to his successor to: “make sure your team doesn’t lose” is a powerful ending.