As I follow the EPL this season, I will not be following Manchester United. I have decided to pick a club outside the Big Four as ‘my club’ for this season. It will be a tough change (I’ll probably still root for them when they are not playing against my newly adopted club) as I’ve been a United fan for about 10 years and have enjoyed that but I think its time to change.
I think Kevin Keegan (inappropriate to say as it might have been) was spot on when he said the Premier League is boring at the top and that it’s essentially a league within a league. However, I disagree with his assessment that its down to a simple matter of cash. I think that beyond simple cash outlay, clubs are struggling to compete beacause of an over-reliance on the transfer market and not enough investment in scouting and development systems. Middlesbrough comes to mind as a potential exception but even they splashed out 10 – 12 million on Alfonso Alves last season. They say the English talent pool is not as strong as it used to be but when clubs even in the Championship or League One are preferring to look abroad rather than develop talent, what chance does the English player have? A similar situation is threatening to occur in MLS with increased reliance on imported Latin and European players while North American players are cut loose.
Gone are the days of a club like Burnley (First Division Champs in 1960) who won the title in the final season before the maximum wage rule (then £20/week) was abolished. Contracts binding players to clubs for life were also scrapped. Both of those moves were great for the players but also started the trend of ever upward spiraling salaries. It in fact did not take long for salaries to escalate as the first £100-a-week player was Johnny Haynes who was bumped to that level by Fulham in 1961. Clubs of that era also contended with gate sharing and no Bosman rule transfers or TV income. The Bosman ruling caused salaries to take that next spiral upwards.
So how does a smaller club break into the Top 4? One way would be to focus on their league fixtures at the expense of any potential cup runs. Forget about the FA Cup and League Cup (depsite the potential for added ticket revenue) for a season and focus on winning your league fixtures. Rest your best XI for the league matches and blood your young academy/reserve players in the Cup games. The cash to be made from qualifying for the Champions League will more than make up any lost income that those domestic cup fixtures might have brought. And who knows, the kids might just shock a few people and win a round or two for you !
Anyhow, I’m sidetracking and need to get back to the focus of this post. I’m soliciting ideas for a new club to follow from you. If you’re a fan of a non-BigFour club, post a comment and tell me why you support the club that you do. What’s your connection with the club beyond wins and losses? How did you come to support your club and why have you stuck by them?
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