By Guy Gorman
“We deserve success.” Do you really? It is a strange saying in football as it implies that the maintenance of the status quo – chosen clubs at the top, others always scrapping for points at the bottom – is fair for everyone. After all, Liverpool has won 18 league titles, so for them not to mount a strong title challenge in recent years is surely an affront to the football gods.
Manchester City is a proper club with proper fans. They have been living for a long time in the shadow of their prawn sandwich-eating neighbours; they deserve a title or two, no? Aston Villa were one of the founders of the original Football League. It’s not fair for them to be battling relegation. Why not send down West Brom instead – why, the Baggies don’t even have a European Cup to their name.
This is a strange attitude for many reasons. For one it is selfish. The implication that a club that already has a glorious history must then keep on retaining trophies is unfair and perverse. Take the aforementioned Liverpool. Their former legends – and man, there are many – seem to nowadays wear the look of someone who has just clogged up the toilet at a house party. Phil Thompson can barely find the words to describe his frustration as he endures another toothless display from his alma mater. You can’t help but wonder how long he expected Liverpool to dominate European football after he stopped playing. One hundred years perhaps?
“Liverpool should be playing Champions League football… It’s where they belong… They are a massive club, Jeff.”
It’s a well-used grab-bag of cliches.
Not wanting to pick on Liverpool, there are many other top-flight clubs with a similar – if slightly less well-formed – superiority complex. Many Manchester City fans believe “A blue moon is rising” and rightly so. This bankrolling of the club isn’t just an Abu Dhabi vanity project, but a scheme borne of destiny and prophesy: City will become the dominant force, not just in Manchester but in all of England.
What is happening to Liverpool before our eyes will happen to Man Utd as well. Maybe it will be a slow decline, brought upon by the retirement of Lord Alex of Fergieshire. Or maybe United will plummet like a stone, with even the hiring of King Eric Cantona as manager not enough to put the brakes on. And rest assured, when it does happen, we’ll get David May or Steve Bruce on Sky telling us that “United are too big a club for this to happen”.
These self-proclaimed massive clubs may have billions in revenue, a huge global fanbase and a glorious history, but to my knowledge none of these attributes has ever actually won a football match. But the self-entitlement of the big clubs – and, as I say, their fans especially – in English football is staggering. Why is it so unfair for your club to decline? And, equally, why shouldn’t a fine, now-modest club like Blackpool, once great (in the pre-Sky era, of course), rise again, crashing the tedious Big Four party? In American sports, teams rise and fall like Berbatov in the box. Why not in England? Ah, perhaps because it’s in Sky’s interest to manufacture heroes and icons to sell to the world. (In Andy Gray’s head, Steven Gerrard will never be anything less than world-class.)
The bottom line: no football club deserves a trophy in its cabinet any more than another – no matter what went before. Football owes you nothing.