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SIDELINES

TV WATCH THIS MONTH’S SCREEN REVIEW

The Fifteen Signs Before Doomsday is a list, popularised in Europe in the Middle Ages, that details the things to watch out for in the fortnight before the end of the world. And very entertaining it is too. Highlights include “the waters burning from east to west”, “men no longer being able to understand each other” and, my personal favourite, “all sea animals gathering on the surface of the water to bellow unintelligibly”.

Replace “sea animals” with “rightwing newspaper columnists and failed Bristol Rovers managers” and you have a pretty good description of the build-up to England’s friendly with Brazil (Channel 4, March 23). Culture warriors seizing on the design of the new England shirt was ironic, given that it was only the second most divisive cultural outrage to precede the game, just below Steve Bower presenting Sven-Goran Eriksson with some “English shortbread” in a box that looked suspiciously tartan-adjacent. Presumably, the Channel 4 interviewer was unable to source a four-pack of McEwan’s Export or a tam o’ shanter and ginger wig from Heathrow duty free.

Back at Wembley, Bower asked Gareth Southgate whether he had been distracted by the “noise” leading up to the game. Like all England managers apart from Sam Allardyce, Southgate has aged visibly during his time in the job, but he managed a diplomatic, if noticeably weary, response: “All we ever get is noise. We’re used to it.”

“Noise” is also the word Pep Guardiola uses in Together: Treble Winners (Netflix) to describe the Premier League’s decision to charge Manchester City with 115 breaches of its financial rules. Whether these allegations would get a mention was always the most intriguing question surrounding this club-produced account of City’s 2022-23 season. Presumably the production team included it as a rare moment of jeopardy. Because what’s notable about this beautifully produced series is just how frictionless it all feels.

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Not just the stuff around the edges – the private jets, the club hair stylist, the endless massages – but simply being Manchester City. In any other accessall-areas six-part football documentary there would be boardroom intrigue, or management teams agonising over recruitment. But money has smoothed out all these bumps. And nobody really wants us to see behind the curtain. So, City turn up, Elton John pops in to wish them well, they score more goals than the other team and they’re rewarded with the relevant trophies. For all its lavish production values and soaring score, it’s a bit like flicking through an Abu Dhabibased influencer’s Instagram account. Effortless, airbrushed perfection. And then you remember that influence is what this is all about.

Unsurprisingly, Guardiola takes centre stage, running through his repertoire of Pep-isms with studied intensity. Furious when you think he should be delighted, silent when you think he should be angry, eschewing one team talk in favour of getting players to form a circle and look each other in the eye. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Spending this long with him is like being hooked up to an IV drip connected to LinkedIn Premium.

Jack Grealish provides some welcome relief as a sort of anti-Pep – strangely endearing, whether hiding around a corner to jump out and surprise teammates like a giddy toddler, or becoming utterly baffled when someone uses the word “symmetrical”. He’s the equivalent of a dog in the office: a shot of doe-eyed innocence in a cold, corporate world.

The season before Manchester City won their treble, Grimsby Town were promoted back to the Football League. All Town Aren’t We (Amazon Prime) tells the story of this remarkable campaign. Attempting to become one of the very few clubs to bounce straight back from relegation to the National League, Grimsby had to win three play-off games – against Notts County, Wrexham and Solihull Moors. Each went to extra time. If the game at Meadow Lane is nerveshredding, the 5-4 win at Wrexham is one

NUMBERS GAME The figures behind the facts

6-0

£5,000

13

The score by which Ajax lost to rivals Feyenoord on April 7 – their biggest ever defeat in the Eredivisie

Chelsea’s highest-priced hospitality ticket for their match with Manchester United was a Premier League record

Everton’s 1-1 draw away at Newcastle in early April set a club record for league games without a win

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