The latest media-driven criticism aimed at Chelsea is that Roman Abramovich’s millions have turned a competitive league into a procession. This is tripe of such immense proportions that it richly deserves to be slapped down.
First of all let’s examine the notion that the top division in English football has long been a happy haven of competitiveness, until Chelsea spoilt the party (I’ll leave out Glossop Engineers doing daring deeds in the 1880s). Instead I’m going to look at the modern era, the last 30 years, from the 1975/76 season onwards. In that time, prior to Chelsea’s win last season, eight clubs had won the League: Liverpool 10 times, Manchester United eight times, Arsenal five times, Everton twice, with Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Blackburn and Leeds United all recording one triumph each.
What that tells you straight away is that three clubs have utterly dominated English football in modern times, between them winning 23 out of the last 29 League titles. The trend is also very clear; if you narrow it down to the last 20 years, losing Forest and Villa from that list, it’s 17 from 20 for the top three. If you further narrow it to the last ten years you lose everyone bar Manchester United and Arsenal, giving a ‘perfect’ 10 from 10. The big fish had grown so big there was no room in the pond for anyone else. That’s a fact.
Is anyone seriously claiming that because Abramovich bought Michael Essien and Shaun Wright-Phillips that this has cruelly denied any of Charlton, Wigan, Spurs, Birmingham, Newcastle, West Ham, Portsmouth, Sunderland, Blackburn, West Brom, Everton, Villa, Bolton, Middlesbrough or Fulham their shot at the title this season? Does anyone seriously think if Chelsea had not come along it would be Wigan and Portsmouth jostling for top spot? No disrespect to those clubs incidentally, I’m just using them as an example. What the Premier League had become was a nasty, elitist feeding frenzy where only three clubs, and more recently only two clubs, could sink their noses into the trough.
You tell me how this situation was supposed to keep the spirit of competitiveness burning bright? The big three got all the UEFA Champions League money, the big three got the vast majority of the TV money, the big three got the most prize money for league placing, the big three all voted to keep their huge gate receipts for themselves, the big three got the biggest sponsorship deals. Basically the rich got richer and to hell with the rest of us. Incidentally, the big three are all in G14, an organisation exclusively and unashamedly devoted to keeping snouts firmly in the trough.
You could argue that these three had got so far ahead of the rest that the only way for anyone outside this charmed circle to break in was to spend the kind of money Abramovich has spent. You tell me how West Ham or Charlton, for example, were ever going to overhaul Manchester United or Arsenal, or even Liverpool? The fact is they were never ever going to and nor was anyone else, including Chelsea, until Abramovich came along. That is also a fact.
The other implication in the statement that the League has suddenly become predictable is that no one can possibly catch Chelsea any more, which is also a huge load of tripe. There are at least three clubs who could overhaul Chelsea this season; see if you can guess who those three clubs are? Yup, you got it, the Trough Boys, all bent out of shape because someone else has stuck their snout in. Much as I dislike all three of them they all have the players and the potential to beat Chelsea, no question. The large yellow streak that has appeared is mainly media-based, it isn’t generated by the three clubs’ fans, who aren’t as gutless as the press.
Sure Abramovich’s money has only helped one club and all we’re really doing is elbowing in to take a place at the trough, that I cannot deny. I would genuinely prefer it if 10 clubs had a realistic chance of winning the League (as long as one of them wasn’t Spurs). Nothing would give me greater pleasure than an almighty scramble on the last day, between a host of clubs, to determine where the title went. But that’s impossible because to even get into a position to challenge the Trough Boys you need to drop at least £200m.
Nor were Chelsea exactly bottom of the pile when the cash dropped in. In the period prior to Abramovich’s arrival we had won FA Cups, League Cups, Cup Winners’ Cups, European Super Cups, finished an agonising four points off the title one year and qualified more than once for the Champions League. In the Premier League we were usually jostling for the prize the Trough Boys allowed the rest of us to have: fourth place. Even from there it took a vast amount of cash to propel Chelsea into Trough Boy status, again proving how far ahead of the rest the original Tough Boys had got.
There are rumours that West Ham and Aston Villa could be bought out by investors. The sooner the better as far as I’m concerned. The nostalgic notion that England’s top league is competitive was out of date 20 years ago. All English football has been for many a long year is a self-fulfilling glory chain for three clubs.
Now it’s four. I sincerely hope a few more arrive. Then the only thing that would be predictable is more squealing from the clubs who’ve had it their own way for far too long.
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- Time is right for Ferguson to go on the attack
- Title race is wide open – Lampard
- Chelsea have duty to reach for stars – and find beauty
- Fear and Loathing
- Paying the price
- Fan apathy could hit players, warns agent
- Don’t blame Chelsea
- Chelsea not to blame for boring Premiership
- Big three clubs join talks to halt fan drift