The controversy stirred by Niall Quinn over stayaway, see-it-in-the-pub supporters, quickly followed by his candid admission that Sunderland AFC are not serious Premier title challengers, set Jeremy Robson thinking. Where the thought process led him is not calculated to please those for whom English football sits at the top of the world …
The Emperor’s underpants are looking shabby.
We’ve been told the English Premier League is the best in the world. As much as we all love the league and our teams that participate in it, as well as the premier league betting that comes with it, to call it the very best league in the world may be a slight over-exaggeration at this point.
Commentators and summarisers wax lyrical over games which barely stir the pulse. Millions of pounds are handed over with little thought for not even mediocre players who really couldn’t justify a place in the car park, let alone the starting XI.
The working man’s theatre (just how long is it since you heard that term?) has become the preserve of the middle class with ticket prices spiralling in a way that can only be matched by the price of a litre of unleaded. I can’t blame Gaddafi for the decline in interest that I have begun to experience in recent years, and which appears to be shared by many more lifelong fans than I ever could realise.
As a boy, I dreamed that Sunderland would eventually challenge for domestic honours with stadiums constantly bursting at the seams as we went on to conquer Europe too. OK so it’s time for a reality check.
Niall Quinn has acknowledged that we will never be able to compete to win the league. This is a strange comment from a chairman who has turned the club’s fortunes around in unprecedented fashion in a remarkably short period of time. His latest comments follow from those “despise” remarks of his in recent weeks.
To determine whether he sees the two issues as related, you would have to ask him directly.
Following our move to the SoL, 20,000 people developed an interest in football as the result of a venue change. This remains completely mystifying to me, as it did at the time. Of the additional 20,000 that appeared a decade and a half ago to watch Sunderland, there are now 6,000 down the pub if Mr Quinn’s estimates are reasonable, with the remaining 14,000 still turning up at the turnstiles.
The reality is that in the current climate of football which is driven more than ever by money via the cartel known as the Premier League the number of candidates for the top spot remain virtually unchanged since Leeds Utd won the title preceding the beginning of real English football (as some seem to see it) in the early 90s).
The Premier League was designed to maintain the status quo, to the extent that those who even fall from the crumb chasing seats at the fat cats’ table face the prospect of financial meltdown at worst or an uncertain future at best.
If we can summarise the reasons for widespread disenchantment with the modern game, you can put overpaid, wastrel players to one side for a moment. The Premier League has devalued competition as the only real contest is sorting out the order of the top four to six each season.
The rest are just scrapping to avoid relegation. Finishing mid table may guarantee that the coffers are filled again next season, but it’s really just downright dull, particularly when the expectation for the following season and the year after that remains the same. Dull as bloody dishwater. It almost makes you wish for another relegation scrap that you can really get your teeth into.
The owners of West Ham (described elsewhere on Salut! Sunderland by the Sixer as pornographers) have never been known to miss a trick and have elevated our end of season game to the A list despite the fact that the likelihood is that the home side will be scrapping it out to survive against a side comfortably in mid table with little to play for.
You will get some change out of 50 quid for the privilege of watching this in the flesh. The football that people over a certain age grew up with was all about dreams. Without the dream of challenging to be the best, there’s really not that much to play for, and the public have started to cotton on.
The FA Cup is a dead man who won’t lie down, and the PL is the crucible in which collective souls have been stored my Mephistopheles. A good cup run used to help league attendances and winning a cup meant something.
Sadly, no longer. Watching the best of English football used to be a treat. Most of the time these days, it can send me to sleep. The Premier League. It’s really just not what it’s cracked up to be.