Crystal Palace’s ‘Behind The Badge’ documentary is a dream come true for soccer fans

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One of the biggest differentiators of NBC’s coverage of the Premier League is that it brings you closer to the game. From the pre-match footage of players in the tunnel to the ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ anthem played without commercial interruption, NBC Sports brings the Premier League into your living room via television like never before.

Carrying on that level of world-class coverage, this Sunday NBC Sports launches a brand-new documentary series entitled ‘Behind The Badge: Crystal Palace.’ World Soccer Talk obtained an advance copy of the first episode, and I can honestly say that the first episode of the four part series is a dream come true for hardcore soccer fans.

‘Behind The Badge’ takes you behind the scenes of what a typical week is like at Crystal Palace. Narrated by Gary Lineker, you see the type of training Palace footballers go through as well as Palace players relaxing on their team bus en-route to Southampton as well as the team arriving at the team hotel and preparing for their next match.

The unprecedented access is coupled with exclusive interviews with manager Alan Pardew and backroom staff as well as Crystal Palace Chairman Steve Parish. You’ll also see things you normally wouldn’t such as academy coach Mark Bright breaking the news to one of the U-21 players that he’s heading to Newport County on loan, as well as Parish discussing how they’re tracking the number of soccer fans from the United States (and around the world) who are becoming official members of the club thanks to the help of their database software and tracking tools.

It’s this focus on the United States, in particular, that’s one of the most interesting subplots of the first episode. There’s no doubt that Palace are envisioning that by providing rare access to the behind-the-scenes working of their club that this will help grow its audience of Palace fans in the US. After all, the USA is still a very fertile ground in terms of growing and attracting new fans especially those who haven’t picked out a favorite team yet.

‘Behind The Badge’ is a blatant effort by Crystal Palace to win the hearts and minds of American soccer fans. The opening of the debut episode features Pardew speaking directly to Americans about what makes Crystal Palace an exciting proposition:

“To see a team like us in England is a different kind of atmosphere to the NFL, baseball and National Hockey League.

“It’s not quite the same.

“It’s a kind of tribal warfare going on.

“It comes over in the songs and messages.

“It’s brilliant.”

Later in the first episode of the documentary, Pardew takes it one step further by talking openly of his love for the Green Bay Packers and specifically Vince Lombardi and how he’s an inspiration to the Palace manager of how to develop success through hard work.

All in all, the documentary offers a fascinating look into what happens behind the scenes at a Premier League club. What the documentary does exceedingly well is to develop anticipation for the game that’s being featured. Even those who aren’t Palace supporters will feel the suspense in the build-up to the match.

As bad luck would have it, Crystal Palace are currently on a run of 5 winless games in the Premier League. While they won the FA Cup game featured in episode 1, episodes 2 and 3 feature losses and episode 4 will presumably focus on their next game, which is against cross-town rival Spurs. It’ll be interesting to see if the series can hold the attention of the viewers given Palace’s two losses in a row.

However, given what the first episode offers, there should be enough here to keep the viewers hooked. The series is produced by Lineker’s production company Goalhanger Films, and it aims to mirror the successful Hard Knocks series on HBO. According to Lineker’s business partner at Goalhanger Films, “The only thing [Pardew] won’t allow us to film is team talks about the opposition. As a mark of respect, he doesn’t want to discuss other teams’ weaknesses on camera.”

Whether you’re a Crystal Palace supporter or not, ‘Behind The Badge’ is must-see TV and a dream come true for hardcore soccer fans who want to see what the life and atmosphere is like at a Premier League club.

Sunday, January 17, 2pm ET — Episode 1 (NBCSN)
Sunday, January 24, 1:30pm ET — Episode 2 (NBCSN)
Monday, February 1, 8pm ET — Episode 3 (NBCSN)
Saturday, February 6, 1pm ET — Encore of episodes 1-3 (NBC)
Saturday, February 6, 2:30pm ET — Episode 4 (NBC)

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