I don’t know who coined the phrase about someone being so infested with a sense of self-importance that, if they were made of chocolate, they’d eat themselves.
But I’ve always liked it. And it certainly applies to football at the moment.
Because the game has become a sporting Mr Creosote, he of Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life fame as it forces down so many sickly sweet delights (“… just one more wafer-thin Champions League tie, Sir?”) that, obese and pumped full of sticky ego, someone, somewhere, seems to explode into a new frenzy of self-righteous indignation every day or so.
Jurgen Klopp is the latest. Liverpool’s inability to see off Shrewsbury at the first attempt means, of course, the game has to go to a replay. But Jurgen isn’t having it. He’s packed away his expensive toys in a huff and proclaimed that no-one else can play with them until he says so.
Now, to be fair to Klopp, he does have a case. The Premier League, FA and EFL (quite why they were invited along to the meeting I don’t know) all sat down together and decided that, as too many games were now being played with all the resultant demands it put upon the players, they’d all get to have a rest at some point in February.
The fact that too many games are being played is, as a not insignificant aside, down to the very governing bodies that administrate the game. They’ve implemented the ever-growing fixture lists onto the clubs with one hand whilst, with the other, insisting that they now have to take a little time off.
It’s a bit like being ordered to bash your head against a brick wall 38 times except that, after you’ve done it 20 times, you can pop off for a fag and cup of coffee before returning to do it for the remaining 18.
It might look good but doesn’t actually make a scrap of difference. The players will still be knackered, the game still over-exposed and the logistical and financial demands on spectators rendered ever more ridiculous.
Norwich at Newcastle at 7:45 pm on a Tuesday night? Southampton at Wolverhampton on a Sunday afternoon? Not a problem. After all, the players have just had a week off.
Mid-winter break? Gilding the lily. Meaningless.
Much like the concept of competition in English football right now.
We’re still in January, for goodness sake, and the Premier League is already won.
Thus, once again, we are all expected to get excited about who might accompany Liverpool into the Champions League next season.
Except I’m not. Some of you may be of course. But I’m not going to get myself worked up about any perceived race for fourth place.
At the time of writing, Liverpool are 33 points clear of fifth place. Thus, if Manchester United win their next 11 games whilst Liverpool now lose the same number on the trot, then the two of them will be equal on points going into the last four games of the season. A situation that might pique the interest of even the most jaded football follower.
Sky and BT would probably have you think it might happen. The race for the title is still on everyone.
If I’m completely honest with you, I’d sooner the top four, five or six, whatever, all cleared off to their much-vaunted European Super League as quickly as possible. They could hand their notice in now to be honest. I don’t think too many followers outside of their own would be particularly bothered.
The funny thing is, whenever a game-improving initiative is postulated that might, gasp, improve the lot of the majority, the elite, in the manner of Mary Antoinette at her haughty best, raise up their bejewelled petticoats and kick up a fuss.
“Giving Little Postlewick Reserves £100 towards new goalposts? We think that money would be better off coming to one of us. Reconsider immediately or we’ll all go and play in the European Super League”.
Sorry Little Postlewick. It’s jumpers for goalposts for you from now on.
I wish someone would call their bluff. Give Little Postlewick Reserves the cash anyway. And let the bloated ones have their flounce.
Does anyone really think the game in England would irrevocably suffer if that happened?
I don’t. On the contrary, I think it would thrive. I think interest would leap off the scale and that the first domestic season that started without them would be looked forward to with all the excitement and interest that has been missing for so long.
Let’s assume then that, as from July 1st 2020, Liverpool, the two Manchester clubs, Arsenal, Chelsea, and Tottenham have handed in their notice and gone off to play in the Ford Pepsi Nike Gazprom Tencent Sime Darby European Supernova Lightning League.
With Sky paying £600 billion for the TV rights.
That leaves a suitably adjusted 20 team Premier League for the 2020/21 season that consists of the following clubs-
Aston Villa, Bournemouth, Brentford, Brighton, Bristol City, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Everton, Fulham, Leeds, Leicester, Newcastle, Norwich, Nottingham Forest, Preston, Sheffield United, Southampton, Watford, West Brom and Wolves.
(Based on the remaining 14 Premier League clubs plus the top six in the Championship at the time of writing)
Think that might be a bit more competitive, a bit more interesting and a bit more inclusive?
OK, whatever TV deal the ‘new’ Premier League garnished for itself wouldn’t be anything like the current one. But it might bring about a new level of fiscal responsibility within its member clubs and see prices adjusted accordingly.
Player wages, transfer fees, admittance prices. You name it.
There would also, whilst we’re at it, a policy of free collective bargaining rights through the new Premier League as well as the three leagues below it. One club, one vote. And the equal distribution of money.
No more fleas biting the tail that wags the footballing dog. But taking the game back again.
And here’s another thing. Would, in amongst all of this brave new world, the recalcitrant six be missed?
I don’t think so. Indeed, I rather think they’d be missing all of us rather sooner than the other way around. After all, how many times can Chelsea play Borussia Dortmund or Liverpool play Real Madrid in a season before their supporters all start to get bored? As well as fed up with 11 pm kick-off times or games being played in Kuala Lumpur or Manama?
The big six have had it all their own way for too long.
The winter break was brought for them. Shutting the domestic season down for international breaks suits them as well. Here’s an idea. Play the league games anyway. They’ve all got enormous squads, so play a league game or two without your international players. Rugby manages it.
Besides, how can you complain about fixture congestion when three, four, maybe five Premier League games could have been played at the same time as the international ones. They wanted the breaks in the autumn so stop whinging about the inevitable backlog that indulgence eventually causes.
Noisy, spoilt, self-indulged and occasionally childish brats adorned in Puma, Nike and Adidas.
Let the buggers go. Let’s feather a new footballing nest without them.