Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Get used to it, money rules

As football finances lurch further out of control, do fans care at all or has winning at all costs taken precedence over common sense and morality?

Sheikh Mansour maybe a grabbing headlines with seemingly endless spending. He may yet buy the premier league title but it is all coming at a terrible cost to football as a whole. Transfer fees are exorbitant because one team are willing to break record after record with weekly wages regularly over £100k a week. And all of this during a recession. We should all be deeply worried but a possible change in the hierarchy of football in this country is compelling enough for now. At the other end of the scale, Liverpool and Man United are carrying huge debts. It is hard to swallow for many fans used to seeing them compete hard in the transfer market but the reality is that money is not available and it sits uncomfortably with most fans that American owners are ruining both clubs. How long, though, before another billionaire decides it’s time to invest in these great clubs. How will the fans feel then? It’s not the solution is it? But maybe that’s what it will take for both clubs to compete at the highest level. Maybe that’s what it comes down to now. This should sit even more uncomfortably with all fans, in my opinion.

City fans won’t care less and perhaps nor should they. Less than 5 years ago they were festering around the nether regions of the lower divisions and a world away from competing for the premier league title so these are truly exciting times. Does it worry them at all that they may be accumulating a squad of mercenaries who will cause untold dressing room unrest or is that part of the overall intrigue. Do they mind that they are fast becoming the most hated club in the UK. Not a bit of it if potential turns into success.

For the rest of us it has become clear that we all singularly want City to fail. In the same way as we all wanted Chelsea to fail when Abramovich arrived on our shores waving wads of cash in our faces. It didn’t take long for cash to turn into prizes but the situation was a little different. Chelsea already had a strong backbone and with clever investment and an outstanding, if arrogant, manager they gelled far quicker than most people expected. City have further to go. There is no spine. Even now they resemble a bunch of individuals all pressed into playing together with little in common except the lure of gold.

So what should we make of City’s rather convincing victory over Liverpool on Monday. On balance I think it says more about the deficiencies at Liverpool than the gathering momentum at City. Liverpool were truly woeful and Hodgson, famed for his tactical acumen in guiding Fulham to last season’s Europa cup final, seemed rather at a loss, a bit out of his depth maybe? Playing two strikers away from home was ill advised against a team set up to build from midfield and utilise their wide players. Liverpool were over-run and out-thought. City didn’t have to try too hard to settle in front of their hugely expectant fans but they will surely face tougher tests this season. The jury is still out.

Elsewhere it was a remarkable weekend for goals. Arsenal played the most attractive football. Drogba was irrepressible. Toon have a new hero at no 9 and United were uncharacteristically sloppy.

In the fantasy stakes, is there any other player in better form than Drogba? Well Gareth Bale, maybe? What is it with the Welsh and left sided wingers? He’s had another stormer in the CL qualifier tonight too. An absolute must.

My other tip is Kevin Nolan. He’s down as a midfielder but is playing as an auxiliary striker. He looks good value on this basis.

There are some tasty looking ‘home bankers’ this weekend for Chelsea, Liverpool, Spurs and United. We could witness another avalanche of goals. Long may it continue.



  1. Goops,

    With respect, I think you have a Big 4 mentality. The Establishment of ManU, Chelsea, Arsenal & Liverpool think it is their divine right to occupy the top four berths in the Premier league and to play in the Champions league every year, often against each other. They see no problem with the fact that this nets them huge wealth and makes most of the best players want to play for them, thereby creating a huge chasm between them and the rest of the Premier league.
    The Establishment watches Spurs in the Champions league this season and waits to laugh smugly when they come out of their depth. They hate Man City buying good players and playing well because City are nouveaux riche rather than old money. They think its fine to trouser all of the Champions league cash but not fine to secure funding from other means.
    Those outside of the Establishment take a different view. We remember when English football fans disparaged the Scots because only two teams could win the league until it became the same in England. We remember when teams like Derby, Forest and Aston Villa won the league and when Man Utd slipped, albeit briefly, into the second tier.
    Those outside the Establishment applaud Spurs for finally making it interesting by breaking into the top 4. We feel frustrated that Everton who have been consistently excellent just can’t do it because the system conspires against anyone breaking the Establishment monopoly. Dare I say it, but the hostility to Man City and our new found wealth is a feature of the Establishment, with those outside feeling we deserve our place in the sun – we have waited long enough.
    The shocking thing about this year is surely not so much the amount that Man City have spent but the amount that Man City have had to spend to bridge the chasm. If you factor in that Man U and Liverpool are being raped by their owners then Man City’s net spending advantage is even greater. But that is the nature of the chasm and the Establishment never complained about it before.
    Whilst I do resent the amount of money the top players earn, the disruption of the Big 4 cartel is a wholly good thing for the Premiership and for football.

  2. Decent riposte Derek. I'm not going to argue that a big 4 mentality exists and that i'm hardly writing this from a purely objective stance. So i actually agree it would indeed be good for the PL to break the Establishment stranglehold and have more teams challenging for the league. That's why Spurs breaking into the top 4 has been widely greeted with joy. They deserve it and whilst they have also spent good money to get there it's not been at the expense of football morality. You can't be a fan of £200k a week for Yaya Toure. Is that the only way to attract players to City? I don't think so. Whilst, as you rightly say, Utd and Liverpool are being 'raped' by their owners, City could have taken the opportunity to formulate a strategy - a 2-3 year plan - to knock the Big 4 off their perch which would have been largely applauded. Instead there is no strategy. There is no rhyme or reason to the spending. There's no effort to build a decent spine first and then supplement with experience. It's all about instant gratification and misguided hope it will all fall into place. It is this 'kamikaze' spending, to quote your favourite man, that most fans resent, even those outside the Establishment. If it works, in the short term it may change the dynamic of the Premier league but actually in the longer term it is extremely bad for football.