Without a doubt, Premiership football changed forever with the inception of the Champions League. At club level it it created a brutal divide. The ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ if you like. Those that basked in the prestige of being recognized as one of the finest football clubs in the world and those that simply did not make the cut.
The prestige was one thing but the financial rewards another. No other club competition on the planet has ever paid out such vast sums. And on top this the value of competing is tangible across so many different revenue streams that for those taking part and having a ‘good run’ in the tournament really is Christmas coming twice a year.
On the other side of the coin domestic competitions have suffered badly. The intensity of the Premiership combined with that ‘special allure’ of the Champions League has too frequently turned tournaments for trophies like the League (now Carling) Cup and the FA Cup into second string competitions; were managers frequently fielded teams featuring players who didn’t routinely play first team football.
Liverpool won the Carling Cup and finished 8th in the Barclays Premier League. Manager Kenny Dalglish was fired for his trouble. Tottenham finished 4th, but due to pesky old Chelsea winning the Champions League it meant that Spurs needed to secure 3rd or they wouldn’t qualify. Harry Redknapp was fired for his trouble.
Holding a domestic cup aloft is a precious, frequently iconic moment for fans. The path to glory can include braving a wet and windy Wednesday night in front of a few shivering thousand in Colchester or facing one of the world’s most expensive XI in Manchester, the images beamed across the globe to an audience of tens of millions.
Few clubs boast a tradition of winning League titles. But for lots and lots of clubs simply having taking part and having nearly slayed a giant or two is enough. For a few other clubs, they have decent form (but they will tell you it is a tradition) of competing fiercely and winning domestic cups.
What matters most to me as a supporter who lives and breathes the game to a ridiculous extent, is that football clubs remember that while they might owe nothing to the past as such and our love is unconditional, don’t forget that the majority of supporters just simply love to win, whatever the competition.
I want to see my club play every game with style and ambition. Thankfully the days of players competing on pitches that you wouldn’t send a horse out onto to to hoof something akin to a medicine ball about on are long gone. Players who used to compete at the top of their profession in the sixties are now hitting the age where hip and knee replacements are now almost mandatory.
The players are fitter, the game flusher, what matters most to me is that football doesn’t forget where the grass is truly greener.
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