With our record-breaking* Dickheads series out of the way, it’s time to get back to our pastiched, holier-than-thou, tiradey ways. At least there is some recognition on our behalf here, that we are pseudo pub know-it-alls. But a mission statement for the new season was needed all the same. To kick off this season’s coverage, it is probably apt that we begin with a meditation on how shit the Premier League is.
Is it just us, or is the top flight increasingly an over-produced, big budget Hollywood clusterfuck of an event that becomes a more abstract concept the more you remember picking Gavin Peacock, Matt Elliot and Muzzy Izzet in the same fantasy football side. For a start, the standard budget for fantasy football this season is £100m. ONE HUNDRED MILLION POUNDS. And the most depressing thing is, it isn’t even enough. It wasn’t too long ago you could buy Ian Harte, Paolo Wanchope and Francesco Baiano for LESS than it now costs to buy Jonathan fucking Walters.
Curmudgeonly? Maybe. Give a shit? No. There’s a reason we’re more excited about Macc and York here this season, respectively, and it’s not that the pies are cheaper and that if we lost our penchant for drinking, sitting and crisps we could probably get a game.
The Premier League is shit. And here’s why, specifically. Over-exposure. To elaborate, when Dennis Bergkamp came to Arsenal from Inter for £7.5m, I think I’d seen him play twice. I never liked watching Inter on Football Italia for some reason. I always preferred Fiorentina and Sampdoria because they had better shirts. Anyway, Bruce Rioch brings Bergkamp to England and when he turns out to be class, it’s exciting. Same deal with Thierry Henry a few years later when he finally fulfilled his potential. But probably more so with foreign players for smaller fees, like Eric Cantona and David Ginola. You might have seen these lads play once in a UEFA Cup game against Liverpool but that would be it. So you’d be swept away with the buzz created by those who had seen these players. World Soccer was a staple for keeping tabs on these exotic leagues full of exotic players.
We are bored of Fabregas, annoyed that Barcelona don’t ever get called up on their tapping up by the authorities, perplexed by Arsene Wenger’s transfer policy; wise to Man City’s. We cannot think of a more boring way to spend nearly £50m – we are looking at you Kenny Dalglish, though we do love Charlie Adam.
Slowly but surely, Sky started its goosestep across football coinciding with bigger and bigger pay packets and more and more coverage hours. All these things fed into each other to create the behemoth we see today, but inevitably with the over-exposure has come a weariness. The best thing to happen to the Premier League last season wasn’t Manchester United winning it or Manchester City getting Champions League football. It was watching Blackpool being on the wrong end of 5-3 scorelines after playing playground attacking football. We loved Ian Holloway for giving us that. Something different at last. That it was an eccentric, fundamentally English extravagance made it eminently more satisfying too. Holloway was our Marcelo Bielsa for a season. Ok maybe not, but you get the gist.
And alright, the Community Shield might have been a good game – everyone loves a good comeback after all – but you’re about as likely to see Fergie making three changes at half time in the regular season (and five in all) as you are to see the Premier League’s 39th game take place on the moon. Even if does sound like a great Nike advert. Which it doesn’t. It sounds like a fucking stupid advert, because how can you play football in an environment where the gravitational acceleration is a mere 16.7% of the Earth’s? It’d be like playing with a balloon.
But we digress. Get used to it.
The league’s personnel is largely unchanged and its home-grown players are gearing up for yet another season of the same. British players are on a carousel that starts and ends in England. And never leaves England. Jordan Henderson going to Liverpool for a potential £20m is not as mouth-watering a prospect as Gianfranco Zola holding up his brand spanking new number 25 shirt at Stamford Bridge. Today’s mass communication means that we are more familiar than ever with John Terry, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. With Stewart Downing and Darren Bent. With Kevin Davies and Leighton Baines. Special mention for honourary Premier League staples like Charles N’Zogbia, destined to forever move from relegation scrap to lower mid-table and back again. Special mention too for a supporting cast of all the other average Premier League players who do exactly the same, moving inexorably sideways to scrap for relative mediocrity for another season. We think Neil Redfearn started this trend in the modern era.
Familiarity has now bred contempt, for us at least, and consolidation is tedious. Maybe we are old and cynical**. But until our football culture changes and we see Jack Wilshire at Real Madrid lining up against Josh McEachran at Inter (and El-Hadji Diouf finally retires), we will continue to post these sub-literate rants. You’ve been warned.
* It didn’t break any records
** There’s no maybe about it