Friday, 20 March 2015

Total Eclipse of the Premier League


Well that's what the wife said when I got in, but it's what a lot of you have been tweeting darkly over the past few months, Well I've been working in America, home of the freak-based sports of basketball and US football, so I've not really caught up with the footy save by social media.

The fact that my absence both in the real and cyber worlds has coincided with a vein of form of Bill Gates-sized richness by my beloved Boro has filled your correspondent with no end of dread. Better surely to shut the fuck up until May and hope that sees Aitor's Avengers over the line?

Plus I've been working with this bloody Watford fan who keeps crowing about his scatty ragbag of a team so I really don't want to put the kybosh on my boys.

What we have agreed on though is that Championship football far surpasses Premier League footy for excitement, intrigue and unpredictability. And we'll keep saying that if neither of us get that promotion.

Then again, most Europeans would agree with that damning indictment of what they call the EPL. Any league that finds an absolute Horlicks of a team like Manchester United in third place has to be struggling.

The runaway leaders, mean-spirited ref-badgerers that they are, hardly represent the most thrilling entertainment you'll see this summer. Apart from the occasional glint of brilliance form Hazard, Chelsea seem to spend most of their recent games up the noses of the opposition. Everybody's bogey team, in other words.

PSG, shorn of their chief antagonist by a collective act of cynicism that would have made HSBC blush, deserved to grind their way past Mourinho's miserly misfits. But at least Chelsea got close.

Manchester City were taken apart like a poorly constructed Lego kit by a Barcelona whose early season travails seem long gone. Mind you if Burnley can roll them over then there's trouble in them their Etihads.

Arsenal failed to recover from an abysmal first leg v Monaco, and seem intent on provided plucky but fruitless second legs. Wenger will probably bag the FA Cup again and retain his job but if that club is going forwards then I must be walking backwards.

Liverpool ducked out at Besiktas and now have a bullish manager talking up an apparently revived squad. And Everton, the last hope, surrendered so meekly last night it was embarrassing. Rumours are that Martinez has got the team in early today to watch a film together: Escape From Alcaraz.

So should we be worried about the prevailing standards of our club football? Well first of all the days when we all got behind a British club in Europe are long since past. Celtic famously won the 1967 European Cup with a team made up of lads born within twelve miles of Parkhead. The next British club to win the Champs League will probably have at least two players from outside the Solar System.

It's hard to identify with a team whose only relationship with the country is that it is nominally based here. You look at Man City and you just see a collection of mercenaries who can't be bothered to be good for more than one season at a time. Had not Joe Hart De-Gea'd his way through the game at the Nou Camp we might well have seen one of the greatest humiliations in club football in recent times.

Chelsea too are little more than a managerial wish-list made real. You want to try and identify with the Brits involved but when the heart and soul of a club is John Terry even applauding them leaves you feeling soiled.

I think there's another factor at play here though. The rich clubs play with this ludicrous sense of entitlement, and with that comes complacency. It's as if George Osborne has designed the Premier League pecking order. Arsenal showed it against Monaco; Citeh against Burnley. The sheer delight of both of the uber-rich bastards getting turned over by Boro and Bradford in the Cup still brings me a rush of joy so complete that it almost means I have no need of alcohol.

The fans feel a similar inevitability about success too. It's partly why the Wenger fundamentalists are crumbling at the Emirates. And why Pellegrini has blown it, despite last season's success. And why even Brendan Rodgers, after a ridiculous level of over-achievement last season, was being ushered to the exit door by impatient Koppites before Christmas.

Then there's those of us that wait in line to see these moneybagses have to trundle up our street and take on our lively lads. Of course I'm desperate for the Boro to get there this season. They deserve it. But what to we get for it? Some top players at the Riverside. A better standard? Technically, yes, although compared to German and Spanish clubs, hardly the best.

But also you get to roll around in that trough of inbetweenness currently occupied by Leicester, QPR, Sunderland, Hull... Clubs that are on a weird extended holiday in a posh hotel but are really just waiting for some superior Maitre D to tap them on the shoulder and point them in the direction of Pontins.

Still, we'll take it, be grateful for 17th and hang around trying to become a Stoke or a Swansea. It could happen. We've got a top manager. We play nice stuff. But damn it, I'm getting ahead of myself, and putting the mockers on it already.

Because yes it'll be great to have these Euro also-rans down our way but we're not kidding ourselves. Citeh, Chelski, United... welcome back.

But don't get ahead of yourselves.

It's not like your Bayern or Barca is it?