The Antagonist - No surprises in the Premier League
Published: 30 Apr 2010 - 06:43:07
The Premier League doesn't do surprises.
For Chelsea and United supporters, this weekend is fraught with excitement. For the rest, it is either a battle for fourth place, Europa Cup qualification or a kick about in mid table with minds more on what to wear at the end of season fancy dress party than any meaningful footballing outcome.
This year, even all the relegation places have been sorted out with two games still to go. Yawn, yawn!
These days, clubs can be clearly classified in terms of their realistic aspirations for the forthcoming season.You have the 'yo yo' teams like West Brom, Hull, Burnley etc who get promotion and then set their stall out to stay in the Premier League and nothing more. Their aim regularly falls short, however, and they end up bouncing between the leagues; too good for the Championship but woefully lacking enough class for the top division.
The next tier comprises the teams who have maybe survived by the skin of their teeth for several seasons and are starting become a little more ambitious, thinking in lofty terms of a mid table position or even dreaming, perhaps, of the Europa Cup.
These are the Sunderlands, Blackburns and Boltons of this world.
Europa Cup hopefuls like Villa, Everton Tottenham, Fulham etc always have an eye on that coveted fourth place, but are realistic enough to know that it needs one of the big four to fall grossly short of their normal standards to open the door to them.
Finally, we have the top dogs who have dominated the league since its inception in 1992. Only Blackburn, in the very early years of the competition, have interrupted the procession of wins by Man Utd (11), Arsenal (3) and Chelsea (2) and that obviously isn't going to change this season.
In fact, apart from Blackburn, who won it once and were runners up once and Newcastle, who were runners up twice, no-one else outside the main four have figured in first or second places in the whole history of the competition. Only six different teams have shared the thirty four winners and runners up places between them.
Compare that to a similar period around thirty years ago (1960-1977) when there were nine different winners in 17 years and a total of 14 different teams occupying first and second positions.
It would be considered inconceivable today that a side could get promoted from the Championship and win the top league in successive seasons as Ipswich Town did in the early sixties.
It has become hugely predictable league dominated by the status quo and clubs' ability to generate massive quantities of cash to finance the purchase of individual players for the sort of money that would build a small stadium.
Man City may break into the select coterie next season, as Chelsea have done in recent years, due to massive player investment, but, for the rest, the predictability will continue. For most, success equates to survival: filling the trophy cabinet a distant dream.
Excitement, for the neutral, is couched in unpredictability. Of course Ferguson, Wenger and Ancelloti view unpredictability with disdain because it threatens the 'natural order'. That is why they are fearful of 'Brit Hater' Michel Platini's vision to deflate football's runaway economy.
On the face of it, his proposals are aimed at preventing clubs like Portsmouth spending beyond their means. A side effect, however, would be to restrict the apparent limit-less spending of the major clubs; a move which may go some way to equalise opportunity within the league. This would possibly allow other, less fashionable clubs to once again rise like cream to the top and experience the sweet taste of success.
In the meantime, predictably, it's business as usual.
PS Apologies for not submitting my blog for the past two weeks. Due to volcanic dust from an Icelandic volcano, I was marooned on a Greek island. Now who could have predicted that?
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