English Football And The Self-Entitlement Problem

Ollie Irish

18th, January 2011


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.

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  1. Ray Harkness says:

    This would be a good article for Peter Beagrie to read when talking about Leeds. Oh, and the majority of Leeds fans too. Top article.

  2. Jack says:

    The obvious example is Leeds, a club that bought a bit of a success, paid for it with a couple of relegations, but people seem to think they belong in the Premier League.
    I’m not sure that Manchester United’s decline is inevitable. Huge global fanbase, massive revenue, 76,000 tickets sold a week – ultimately these things do win matches because they’ve allowed United to spend record-breaking transfer fees and attract top players.

  3. audiodrifter says:

    Strange, no mention of Spurs, and the fact that they last won the league in black and white.

  4. Rich says:

    yet even with blackpool they look to the history and how they were “a massive club”

    never saw wigan get that credit when they shook the prem up and even made the carling cup final

  5. Rich says:

    and by “they” i mean the soccer saturday massive

  6. Johnnysack says:

    Seriously? You obviously have some issue with Liverpool or you are jumping on the media bandwagon of having a go. Boring stuff really. Why don’t we moan about English youth not being good enough and the crazy money footballers earn as well while we are at it. Again boring. Just watch football and enjoy it.

  7. The Yank says:

    Hypocrisy thy name is Guy Gorman! Saying English football has a problem with self-entitlement and then declaring “City WILL become the dominant force, not just in Manchester but in all of England.” is laughable. You don’t believe Liverpool “deserve” to be in Europe because of their history, and yet you claim City will be THE English club because of their big-money spending. Instead of glorifying the history of the English game, you make it count for nothing. Then, you furthermore dishonor the game by supporting clubs not built on success, but on money. City WERE a proper club but are no longer. They don’t care about proper football in the slightest; they just throw money at it. As a United supporter, I’d rather see Liverpool lift the Premier League crown by winning it properly than any club doing so by buying it (CHELSEA). You are a hypocrite and dishonor the game by believing spending massive amounts of money is the “proper” way to win.

  8. PhilandoTorres says:

    Footy’s no fun anymore.

  9. Barry says:

    The problem with the article is that clubs like Blackpool and West Brom were successful in the days when the wages bill for the playing staff was not such an automatic indication of success.

    Clubs like Liverpool and Man Utd have massive global revenue streams that allow them to pay bigger wages than the likes of Blackpool and West Brom.

    City are rising fast with unlimited cash at their disposal but that system is totally reliant on a billionaire benefactor continuing to pump funds in until the club become successful. Look at what’s happened to Chelsea now Abramovich has lost some of his enthusiasm and his willingness to throw money at the team.

    For a club like Liverpool to decline to the point where people like Blackpool could compete with them in the long term, it will take much more than a couple of bad seasons from Liverpool and a plucky have-a-go attitude from Blackpool.

    Blackpool have beaten Liverpool twice this season – and deservedly so, but realistically, 4 or 5 injuries and Blackpool are in serious trouble. They don’t have the squad depth, or the funds to stay in the Premiership long term and the only way they can ever achieve that is to punch well above their weight for several years until the revenue starts to increase.

    This is why the big clubs will continue to be the big clubs – because their global revenue streams allow them to buy better players and pay them more. It’s nothing to do with entitlement or an idea of an unsustainable status quo – it’s basic economics.

    Until some kind of wage cap is introduced in football, a handful of teams will continue to dominate in the long term. Yes, Liverpool have had a bad couple of seasons, yes City are buying everyone in sight for now and yes, Blackpool are living a dream – but the reality is that the teams with the most money will continue to dominate British football. In other words, the big (ie richest) clubs.

  10. Nick Holloway says:

    The Yank – well said mate spot on

  11. Guy says:

    The Yank, you’re missing the point, I’m actually having a little bit of a go at city, I called them a “vanity project” I never spending money is the proper way to win, I’m saying clubs believe that because they have money and history they are entitled to win.

    By the way, I’m a Liverpool fan

  12. Chris says:

    Famous clubs that “bought” success:

    Real Madrid (bankrolled by the monarchy)
    Juventus (bankrolled by Fiat)
    Inter (bankrolled by wealthy Italian businessman)
    Manchester City?

    Apparently, it’s alright to buy success as long as you did it a very long time ago.

  13. Thomas says:

    @barry Well said. Simple economics is all you need to understand why Phil Thompson (or any other former player of any team) thinks Liverpool should be up challenging. That and of course the fact that he is a FAN.

    Since when was it a crime to be disappointed about the poor performance of your team? Liverpool fans, Leeds fans and anyone else you care to mention have this “sense of entitlement”, as you put it, not because they think the club some how deserves success based on merit(because that would be hard to argue in their cases). They think the way they do because they care what happens to their clubs and want them to be winning all the time.

  14. Chambers says:

    You do talk some tripe….

  15. Santi says:


    I was wondering whether The Yank was ‘yanking’ our chains there when he went off in a rant about Man City, clearly misunderstanding that you were using them as an example of a team with a superiority complex.

    All in all, nice article mate.


    There’s no reasons why you can’t enjoy football anymore. Despite all this commercialism, globalisation, blah blah blah… I still enjoy it for what it is, which is kicking a ball around trying to get it in a net.

  16. Fredmeister says:

    Arbroath for the cup

  17. technowax says:

    @ Chris
    I don’t know how famous City actually were before they were taken over by the arabs.

  18. Dan says:

    Salary and spending caps are what keep some level of equality in American sports. Despite the ‘designated player’ rule, which allows clubs to pay tons more money to specific players that they view as better than the rest, the salary cap and collective bargaining agreement keep clubs wage rates close. This is what makes trading in American sports so necessary. You just can’t splash around massive amounts of money without freeing up some space in your roster. Bottom half teams could compete with the Man U’s and Chelsea’s if they had an equal amount of spending power. The problem with this system is that it can’t catch on outside the states unless every league were to enact it; if the prem established a cap then watch all the top talent fucking off to Italy or Spain where they’d be paid more. All the non-Big Four teams can hope is for some random billionaire to snatch them up and inject capital to lure better talent.

  19. Connor says:


    2 titles, 4 FA cups, 2 league cups, and a cup winners cup, and in the late 60’s/early 70’s were a dominant force… so yes if you know your history they have been successful, not to mention the largest home attendance ever and fairly consistent attendance even when in the lower leagues, so a good deal of fame.

  20. The Yank says:


    I understand the point that NO team, no matter how great in the past, is “entitled” to success and I agree with that wholeheartedly. However, I don’t agree how you come back on your own words by saying City will become the “dominant force” in England. Its clear your love for Liverpool has had a major influence on this article, highlighted by the clear jabs at United in the “Lord Alex of Fergieshire” paragraph (and the comment below on Berbatov, the Leagues leading scorer). By saying City will rise and United will fall, you degrade the entire point of the article. And no, you didn’t call City a “vanity project”. Here is the full quote: “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.” That “rightly so” implies you truly believe it. If sarcasm was intended, deliver it better. Or, better yet, leave out those two paragraphs and the article would’ve been much stronger.

    @ Nick Holloway – Thanks. Its nice to know my thoughts are appreciated.

    @ Santi – Learn the difference between a “rant” and a constructed, supported response.

  21. RdDvls says:

    @Guy: I’m curious to know what you mean by “In American sports, teams rise and fall like Berbatov in the box. Why not in England?”. As far as I know, there is no mechanism for sports teams in the US to be promoted/relegated. Or did you mean in popularity terms?

  22. Tinez says:

    Good article in parts. Poster number 2 has clarified the only major deficiency.

  23. Montesquieu says:

    Inter is bankrolled by Pirelli Calendars, I mean, tires.

  24. Fulhamfc says:

    Of course fans are going to think this, that’s what makes being a fan a fan. It’s not a problem to have pride in your club and it’s supporters. I agree that analysts shouldn’t say this

  25. Ollie Irish says:

    @ RdDvls – I added that bit about American sports, not Guy.

    I mean that in the major American sports you never can truly predict if your team will have a good, bad or indifferent season. Much more yo-yoing, if no actual relegation. As one commenter mentioned, the draft system plays a part in that.

  26. Tom Addison says:

    Agreed, no club is “entitled” to success, no matter how much they’ve won in the past and how long it’s been since that day, but fans of certain clubs are justified in feeling frustrated that their team should be doing better given the resources (e.g. revenue, fan base, catchment area) available.

  27. gamblino says:

    Yes Connor! Good reminding.

    Up the Wolves! The greatest massive team in the history of the ball-into-net kicking world!

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  29. marajonna says:

    The yank is clearly failing to understand the subtleties of this article.

  30. […] English Football And The Self-Entitlement Problem » Who Ate all … […]

  31. RedSkywalker says:

    Hypocritical and Biased.

    So your implying that all the United fans that shell out a large percentage of their salaries are prawn sandwich-eaters?

    “born of destiny and prophesy’ no. Born of PETRO-DOLLARS

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  33. TravisKOP says:

    @The Yank: Hear Hear chap!
    @PhilnandoTorres: its easy to see things that way with how football has “progressed” over the last 20 years

    lolol love how Ollie comes and and comments just to set someone straight then disappears into the night!

  34. Varun says:

    5 European Cups
    That sort of DOES legitimize the argument of “entitlement”.

    Legitimate is the key word here.

  35. Guy says:

    Clearly some of you still don’t get the point I was trying to make so I will reiterate my point about Manchester City…again

    I was trying to say certain fans of City believe in the aformentioned destiny and prophecy stuff, not me. Stop taking it so personally. That is unless you are the sort of fan who believes your club deserves success, in which case you should take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror!

  36. S-League Player says:

    Great article! In my younger days, I started out thinking we (Liverpool) were entitled to success too. I absolutely hated teams like Bradford, Ipswich, Middlesbrough, Barnsley and the like who while obsivously not good enough to stay in the Prem, still managed to nick a win against us. How dare they! Then somewhere along the way I finally understood that you are only as good as your last/next game, not the last trophy you won.

    Fans of successful or previously successful clubs would always believe that they deserve to win, that’s just fans’ optimism. It only gets overboard when they claim they deserve to win because they had the best disciplinary record in the 1978/79 season. Now that’s delusional.

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