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More Money, Less Quality In Average Premier League

Winners and losers from 2016..

As we’ve climbed the hill, peeked over it and are now skiing downhill to the Premier Legaue and Football League conclusion in May I thought I’d have my final say on 2016 in football and, as you’d expect from the best pundit in the country, tell it with conviction and honesty!

The Premier League 2016 So Far
Average to poor if I’m being honest. The fact that the best side in 2017 currently didn’t qualify for Europe this season, and the reigning Champions didn’t have Europe the season of their historic triumph tells its own story.

That squads generally can’t cope with the demands of the league and continental competition, so let’s stop kidding ourselves that this is a premium football competition, it’s not, it’s a premium grind and battle over nine months, which is great, but the standard of technical football, individual skill, outrageous character and belief in players and teams in 2016 was poor and viewing figures bear that out.

As the money goes up, the quality is going down.

Not good enough, not value for your 80 quid a month subscription or grand season ticket.

Leicester City
A superb achievement and proof of my thoughts above, namely that graft, graft and more graft with little dollops of quality in the Premier League will always, always usurp pretty patterns and over thought chalkboard football philosophy.

I’d have been frankly embarrassed to have played for one of the big boys and let a team finish above me who were relegation favourites, but team after team, even the big boys were happy to play Leicester, show no fight and get their arses handed to them.

A great and historic achievement but proof of a competitive but certainly not a premium technical league.

Super Managers
The British are a strange bunch. Almost seems as if they have an inferiority complex when it comes to all things foreign. UKIP, Brexit and the latest craze, getting over excited about managers from abroad who have repackaged the very best of British football values (Rush did Gegenpressing in 1980s, Liverpool of the 80s kept the ball as well as Pep’s Barca, British teams like Mourinho’s Chelsea or Fergie’s Ferdinand/Stam defended better even than Conte’s Chelsea) and passed them off as their own!

While good managers – who, given half a chance and the same budget as these special ones could I’m sure be successful here or abroad – get much maligned. Rowett, Monk, Howe all doing well but none of whom would be in contention for one of the premium jobs unless they won the World Cup, Kentucky Derby and Olympic 100 metres first!

I’m all for the very best coming to show us different things but there isn’t one of the super managers who’ve yet convinced anyone of anything other than they can work with a huge budget!

How cool would it be to stick Conte into Blackburn, Pep into Charlton, Jurgen into Ipswich and let’s see exactly how good they are!

Player Power
Most noticeably enforced by Costa, Fabregas and Hazard. They get paid a lot of money and accept the delineation of “professional” because they get paid for a consistent level of performance over their careers. Poor form happens to us all, so does the odd game where you are human and you’re not as in tune with the game as others, which is fine.

But essentially downing tools for a season because you don’t like the manager, what he may have said and essentially toss the whole season off is perhaps the most unprofessional thing I’ve ever seen happen in English football over 38 (sorry, 37, Hazard turned up at Anfield as his pre Euros warm up) games. Way more so than Cantona’s kung fu kick, for example. But why? Because there are many thousands at Chelsea who pay four figures for a ticket, and frankly they were muted off. But it’s ok though, they are good again now…

England
I’m glad Gareth Southgate is our new manager. He’s done the knowledge, worked with the Under-21s, is certainly no yes man (intimated by fans who’ve never met him and I can only presume think this because he happens to be well-spoken) and may just be the guy to prove that English coaches can be flexible, forward thinking and adaptable enough to get England playing some good, fast-paced football with the hallmarks that made English football successful back in the day. Attention to detail, use of physicality, no little ability and a strong will to win.

It may even inspire one or two more English coaches to dream that they may find work in their own country rather than have an inferiority complex ingrained in them for generations to come. Let’s support the guy rather than slag him eh, after all, unlike Capello he won’t be trousering 6 million quid a year to furnish his Swiss apartment with fine art, he’ll be here, involved in making the sport in this country better for the long haul. Not a bad thing to support.

Premier League 2
Expect it to be whispered at the moment, that idea first muted by the late Phil Gartside over a decade or so ago. And I was a massive opponent of it. But I’ve changed my mind.

Why?

Well if we are going to be honest, there are 5 or 6 super clubs drifting away from the rest, one or two who bob along like West Ham or Southampton who dream of the Europa League and the rest fighting relegation. I want to see a league with different winners annually, the biggest games featuring the biggest rivalries and that can only happen, whether we like it or not, with the biggest clubs.

The notion that clubs get a huge parachute payment for gross failure like my club Villa is an absurdity, but then is a situation where many clubs in the second tier who’ve more than paid their top flight dues over more than a century essentially lose out on the gravy train by a rogue owner, poor stewardship or the latest megalomaniac who comes and promises the earth but delivers little. Leeds, Newcastle, Wolves, Villa, Derby, Forest all fall into this category, so before you say “it’s a meritocracy Stan”, it’s actually not, because bigger clubs seems to attract nuttier owners than the tiny club you can pick up for pennies, thrown a few million onto and ride into the Premier Legaue, so those bigger clubs are thrown into turmoil precisely because of their size and being open to rogue ownership rather than a meritocracy.

If the Premier League and Football League fit and proper persons test were enforced properly, I don’t want to disappoint you but the top league would be the traditional 20 biggest and best contributors from the last 100 years, it’s just a fact, and whether you like it or not, the clubs now wallowing in the Championship, Richard Scudamore, Sky, BT and armchair fans want Leeds v Man United, Villa v Newcastle, Wolves v WBA, Derby v Forest in the top tier to keep their brand growing and let’s be honest to add the spice, historical excitement and tradition these games bring.

No disrespect to Watford v Hull or Bournemouth v Swansea but not only are these games not a draw, they inherently come with a flaw, and that flaw is none of these clubs believe they can win the league or challenge the status quo, whereas the traditional big boys, their fan bases demand they compete, and before you say “what about Leicester”, all that proves is that the league is so devoid of top quality competition that a freak occurrence has blinded us as to how poor the week in week out quality this league now is.

Europe
We are miles behind, and unless we treat the Europa League seriously, unless clubs spend prudently on the 23 players who will guide them through the season, unless we stop allowing clubs like Chelsea to stop hoarding players to punt them out elsewhere or to stop rivals buying them and until we, the fan, the consumer demand more bang for our buck, the Premier League will feel it’s doing very nicely thank you very much.

I’ve been around 45 years and saw six successive English Champions Cup triumphs, commentated on the first all English Final in Moscow and if anyone tells you that any of the current top six can hold a candle to any of those teams, they are lying. This season’s Champions will either have not played Champions League football for over a year, or despite the gross domestic product of an Emirate will have the sum total of one semi-final to show for it. All while Real Madrid, Barca, Bayern, even Sevilla et al park the excuses and win the trophies.

Worst pool of Europe capable English teams I’ve ever seen, again at a time we have the most wealth.

Fans
Starting to have their say finally, and until they are listened to, embraced and taken seriously in 2017 the numbers will become more stark for broadcasters, newspapers and radio stations. There is only so long you can bullshit someone that a product is the best, whilst charging an obscene premium for it, whilst telling fans they are customers, whilst allowing any old Joe to run their club with gaudy adverts for some crooked company, that fans will take before they go elsewhere, and elsewhere is where many are going. Viewing figures down 20%, fans going to lower and non-league as they feel welcomed and valued more, more empty seats at stadia, more gimmicks like FNF which is aimed not at the football fan but at the entertainment viewer, making a grand old sport look twee, comedic and frankly cringe. You reading this will have what you want in the coming seasons, of that I’m 100% sure.

You’ll get ..

Lower prices.
A return to sensible kick off times.
Investigation into price fixing of replica kit.
A change in Premier League CEO and a recalibration of its values and practices.
The end of one or two broadcasters calling all of the shots to UK based fans.
A price war on subscriptions on the back of the above point Premier League 2 which will revitalise and recalibrate the four divisions.

Or the bubble will burst. You can feel it already, we all have this season.




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