Channel 5’s Being Liverpool: Fabio Borini, John Henry, Jamie Carragher, Lucas Leiva, Steven Gerrard front this beginner’s guide to the world of LFC

by Matt D

I would like to preface this review by saying that I have very little interest in football and am often upset by how often it takes valuable TV time away from real programmes, however at the same time I’m always marvelled by how many people base their lives around if their team wins or loses from one match to the next. Being Liverpool, which starts on Channel Five tonight, is essentially a beginner’s guide to the love that the English have for football as seen through the eyes of the players, owners, staff and fans of Liverpool FC. This first episode of the series, which is produced by Fox Sports in the USA, focuses is on the turnaround at the club following the departure of Kenny Dalglish and the subsequent appointment of Brendan Rodgers.

The opening scenes of Being Liverpool are shot from the perspective of the fans watching the FA Cup final, in which their beloved team are playing Chelsea, in their local pub The Storrsdale which one regular describes as their place of worship. As most Brits know Chelsea won that day 2-1 and soon after Kenny stepped down from the managerial position however as Chairman Tom Werner and owner John Henry revealed, that had always been the plan ever since Dalglish agreed to return to the role. Americans Werner and Henry, who were also the men behind the Boston Red Sox baseball team, were eager to appoint a new manager as soon as possible and eventually found one in the form of former Swansea manager Brendan Rodgers. Throughout the documentary Rodgers came across as a thoroughly decent guy, a man who had worked since he was young he also had fought to prove himself as a manager due to the fact that he’d never really made it as a player with an injury causing his career to be cut short at the age of 20. Rodgers was keen to turn the fate of Liverpool FC around, as we were told towards the start of the programme they were currently going through a three year lull of mediocrity, and had plenty of plans in place to do this while in addition he had to bond with his new team.

At home we saw Rodgers’ loving extended family included his adorably cute niece and his daughter who was dating the son of his assistant manager.

As well as following the change in management at the club, Being Liverpool was also keen to introduce an American audience to some of the players in the team. As captain of Liverpool, Steven Gerrard was an obvious character to focus in on as we followed him home and met his three daughters as well as his amazingly attractive wife Alex he told the cameras that when he’s in at home football barely gets a look in and in the this female-dominated environment he feels a lot more relaxed. Then we met Brazilian mid-fielder Lucas Leiva who suffered an injury in the previous season and was keen to get back into action as soon as possible with the documentary focusing on his recovery and the possibility of him joining the team for their pre-season matches. Through Leiva we also saw what life was like for a non-English footballer living in this country as he found friendship with the other members of the team who were from South America namely Uruguayan players Sebasti├ín Coates and Luis Suarez who, if the documentary is to be believed, often gather at each other’s houses with their respective families to play board games. Being Liverpool also met Jamie Carragher, presented as a veteran player who was eager to see what Rodgers could bring to the club, and 19 year old John Flanagan who was eager to prove himself to the new boss.

As Being Liverpool moved on it also introduced the audience to the concept of the transfer season in which the team acquired new talent including Italian striker Fabio Borini, who had previously played for Rodgers at Swansea, we followed him as he arrived at the club looking fairly nervous until he saw Rodgers in person. For me one of the most unnecessary scenes in Being Liverpool was following Borini while he had his medical examination because I’m well aware that all players have to go through this and I don’t think there was anyone who particularly wanted to see the man taking a blood test as well as having all the other usual medical checks. We also saw how the transfer window also could work the other way around as striker Andy Carroll was thinking of leaving with the insinuation being that he wouldn’t be able to adapt to the style that Rodgers would want him to play.

The final part of the documentary saw the team journey over to America for a fourteen day pre-season in which they would train in Boston specifically the Harvard University training ground in Cambridge. This gave Henry and Werner a chance to see how Rodgers was getting along, with the two singing his praises magnificently describing him as both personable and affable, as well seeing how the team were gelling with one another. I imagined that this first episode of Being Liverpool would end with us seeing the team’s first pre-season game but instead it ended with a tour of the Red Sox dressing room and the presentation of the respective team shirts between Rodgers and the Red Sox coach.

There were certain aspects of Being Liverpool I really enjoyed most of them relating to the production of the documentary which allowed the team unprecedented access to the ground, training field and the player’s homes which they used to their advantage creating a programme that made use of all the advantages they’d been given. On the whole the programme was also wonderfully shot with two training sessions, one in this country and one in America, being highlights in terms of camera-work. As this was made primarily for an American audience I thought the introduction of the central characters and the passion that the fans have for their team was done in a way which was both easy-to-understand and at the same time never patronised.

At the same time I found Being Liverpool incredibly one-sided with every figure presented in a completely positive light and footballers presented as family-men who never do anything wrong. If an American who had no idea about British football at all watched this they would think that all Premier League footballers are family men who spend all their spare time with their children or playing Monopoly with their teammates. I’m not saying that’s not true for some of the players as we Brits know not all footballers are virtuous men who never put a foot wrong something the documentary fails to touch on a tall. Similarly we see Rodgers questioning why Andy Carroll would want to leave the club as he feel that the striker would be able to adapt to his style but surely he would move to another club if he thought he could get more money from them? I also found some scenes unnecessary such as when Rodgers showed us round his house, which to me felt like an extended clip from MTV’s Cribs, as well as the aforementioned medical scene. The narration, provided by ardent Liverpool supporter Clive Owen, was a bit over-the-top and laughably theatrical in nature for example when he talks about Gerrard returning home to his family Owen recites the line, ‘there is no path further from the pitch than the route home.’

Overall I found Being Liverpool to be an enjoyable incredibly well-produced documentary even if it was on a subject that I have little interest in. It introduced the passion that the fans have for the club and some of the more interesting men who play for the team. Even though at times I found it a little one-sided I would imagine that Liverpool fans would be happy with the depiction of their team while American viewers would’ve been given a decent beginner’s guide to who’s who at Liverpool FC. I don’t even think it alienated a non-football fan like myself as the players and the manager all came across as incredibly decent people who cared about what they were doing to the extent that I couldn’t not like them though I did get the feeling that subsequent episodes would become fairly repetitive. While Being Liverpool didn’t really make me want to rush out and watch a football match straight away it did give me a better appreciation of why the majority of the population support their favourite teams in the way that they do.

Did you watch Being Liverpool? If so what did you think? Leave your comments below.