Collymore: Out of touch?

Unless you only prefer to read the opinions of actual celebrated and well-recognised figures in football, you’ve probably come across Stan Collymore’s ludacris proposal to “make the Premiership better”. If you can’t be bothered to read through it (and I don’t blame you), Collymore basically thinks around 20-25 teams who he believes to have the most prestige should sit in the top tier of English football and keep it at that. Meaning no clubs gets promoted to the Premiership and the worst teams don’t get relegated to the Championship. Collymore cites that Newcastle and Leeds should be put in this league due to the fact that he believes them to be ‘too big’ for their current league.

As a Newcastle United supporter I’d be the first to admit we deserved to be relegated. We were shocking in the 08/09 season, the club didn’t perform well enough over 38 games and got what we deserved. I was praying on the last day we could get something from Aston Villa but there was no commitment from our players and the team suffered the consequences. This season we are attempting to “bounce back at the first time of asking” as the pundits always coin and in all honesty – I love the championship. Of course i’d prefer to be in the Premiership – that is every clubs ambition, but it has been a challenge and England’s supposed ‘lower leagues’ should be celebrated for their great support and the drama they bring themselves to the game. Newcastle’s most recent game at home against Doncaster was our biggest attendance of the season, in no small part due to over 3,000 travelling Doncaster fans who sang their hearts out for 90+ minutes. There is no way you can justify telling fans like that “sorry, you can’t have any major glory – your club isn’t considered successful enough”.

And even then, clubs in the championship this season are enjoying visiting St. James’ park and playing the club at their ground. Scunthorpe recently broke their home attendance record when Newcastle visited and the club who was promoted from league one last season celebrated long into the night after their famous 2-1 victory over the Geordies. Clubs are also enjoying the extra revenue they receive from having a club like Newcastle in the league, who have so far sold out every single league away game this season.

Leeds United were also relegated, not only from the Premiership, but also from the Championship. If the league had been in Collymore’s format, Leed’s wouldn’t have been relegated, but instead they would be struggling with a makeshift team because of the financial difficulties they faced. Collymore believes that fans want to watch games between Man United and Leeds or Newcastle and Sunderland every season, but would fans want to watch it with such a gulf in talent as Leeds experienced in their most recent Premiership season? It doesn’t matter what league it is in, I jump at the chance to watch derbies such as Nottingham Forrest V Derby, Ipswich V Norwich or Sheffield United V Sheffield Wednesday; they’re still big games even if they’re not being played in the top division.

This shows massive disrespect to the supposed “smaller clubs”. Look at Burnley for example. Burnley, a town in the north west, with a population of just over 70,000 got promoted through the championship play offs last season and have managed to pick up a famous 1-0 victory over the reigning champions Manchester United. You take away that excitement for the fans such as the playoff drama, going to Wembley, seeing world class players come to face your team, and what reason does it give you to support a team? Collymore has failed to grasp that for a lot of supporters in this country, that is what football is all about – hope and glory. I’m pretty sure Burnley fans, even if they lose a game, are loving every second of being considered one of England’s top 20 clubs.

It is great to see big derbies in the top league and famous teams play each other, but it isn’t like the Premiership is lacking in any of those sorts of games. There is a gap in the quality of football between the Premiership and the football league, but that doesn’t mean to say that the lower leagues should become redundant. The main thing I have taken from this Championship season is the excitement from the supporters. There are 24 teams in the Championship and every supporter of those clubs dreams of next season playing in the Premiership and that in itself is one of the spectacles of football. And then there are 48 league clubs below them who hold the same dream and a number of loyal supporters of non-league clubs who would give their left arm to see their team in the big time.

Maybe Mr. Collymore wasn’t given a history of his former employer Nottingham Forrest when he signed for them back in 1993. A certain Brian Clough took Forrest from being what could be considered a small English club to champions of Europe in what is one of the greatest stories in football. He had previously won the old division one title with rivals Derby, becoming manager of the club when they sat near the bottom of the second division. Fans can look on in envy at the times Forrest and Derby had, but it is a great envy because it lets you know that nothing is impossible. It’s true that there is a lot more money in football these days and times are different, but the beauty of football is that you can never predict what will happen.

If you read this Stan, I urge you to issue an apology to a number of supporters that are upset by your comments, in particular the supporters of Wigan, Hull, Reading, Bolton, Barnsley and Watford who are all apparently not worthy of your time. My club, Newcastle United, does not have a special right to be in the Premiership, we must earn it like every other club.

Also Stan, if this league was to include 25 teams, they would not play 50 games a season, it would be 48 games. Maybe you were “salivating” a bit too much at the thought of this and in your excitement forgot to proof read it or perform key stage 1 maths.