One of Us Speaks: False Sense Of Entitlement
This week some Arsenal fans wondered why we don’t get the billionaires who own big chunks of our club to cough up money for wages and transfers, and instead choose to pay our own way, adhering to the principle of self-sustenance.
The term reminds me of a place that has long been forgotten by football fans. There are quiet moments when we prize ourselves from the blanket coverage and summer transfer sagas, take a deep breath and almost remember that place. But then, dizzied by new transfer talk its very notion flits from our minds like dandelion parachutes on the summer breeze.
So what is this place? Maybe it’s some kind of metaphor? Maybe it’s inside of us?
No, dipsh*t – it’s the real world. FFS, it’s our own lives. Here we must pay off debts and plan for our future. Here we survive by the basic principal that we spend only what we earn. Here, no able-bodied or able-minded grown up takes pride in being in financial thrall to another person.
In Premier League Land incompetence doesn’t preclude success, as long as some rich playboy is picking up your tab; Chelsea and Manchester City, the Kept Men of the league, showed last season that it doesn’t matter how poorly organised they are or how many comical mistakes they make along the way – if they keep spending big, the big prizes will come.
And yeah, I’m miffed about that. I think anyone who doesn’t support those teams would be. And the people who do support them may in future days doubt the legitimacy of their victories, and worry they occurred in the brief years when English football lost its damn mind.
Because right now, the Premier League is only competitive in a theoretical sense. Look beyond the hype and you find that the real excitement is in the frenzied scramble for table scraps and survival. Last season most teams performed according to their means – Arsenal, Swansea and Norwich did better than that; Liverpool, Chelsea and Aston Villa did much worse.
Say in the 80s, even while Liverpool were dominating, there were a bunch of teams that could begin a season encouraged that they might lift the league trophy. Now all the remaining 85% hope for is to exceed modest expectations and confound the rule that expenditure determines final ranking.
Before this season starts we know that the three contenders will be Manchester United, the team that rode the early-90s football wave to become the biggest brand in the world, Manchester City, bankrolled by an autocracy, and most absurdly of all, Chelsea. Yet another new manager and a raft of overpriced signings will likely shift their trajectory after a dreadful league campaign last year.
It’s just unreal that they should be so poorly managed and still be contenders. And so I back self-sustenance to the hilt, and beseech football, “Be more real, you preposterous bastard! You must change; not us”
Only in crackpot football world does an organisation run with foresight, intelligence and responsibility have to answer calls by so many to abandon common sense. Why would you want to disregard one of the things that makes us different, and frankly better?
There, I said it, and I meant it. It makes us better than the clubs hooked on the Ruble ‘roids or Dirham dope. Only you don’t hear it as often as you should. People who care about the game should have it plastered on sandwich boards and should be shouting it into megaphones.
I’ve never believed that there’s any kind of wacky media conspiracy against the club, just that nobody involved in reporting or even chatting about football has any integrity. That’s natural; I have none either. Everybody has a favourite team – even people who claim to be neutral.
We’ve seen it this summer, with perhaps the most articulate and trenchant critic of single benefactors suddenly warming to the idea when his own club won the league on the back of unprecedented spending. This truth gets lost amid loyalties, claim and counter-claim. I say this sincerely – it’s just sports natter, and needs no accountability.
And fans like me get dazzled by the razzmatazz. So, long before the season starts let this be my one moment of clarity.
We’re the only team that has a chance of subverting this hierarchy. We’re the only ones who could possibly demonstrate that success can be achieved without vulgar spending. And besides Manchester United, we’re the only one of the top clubs that really needs our fans for both income and support. That’s why we’re feeling the squeeze.
We don’t get no respect – no respect at all, I tells ya.
The circus keeps on rolling regardless. My attention’s turning to Poland and the Ukraine. After that we’ll have preseason and before we know it we’ll be kicking off another campaign and looking forward to the Champions League, safe in the knowledge that we’re already there this time.
It’s crazy but it’s still thriving in a country mired in a double-dip recession. In Spain Barcelona and Real Madrid are top of the pile and paying players 200k a week, even with 25% unemployment and a bailout for its banks looking necessary.
And even after we despair at the apparent impracticability of Financial Fairplay, and the fixed fate of the Kept Men will always being up there at the top of the league as long as it’s administrated like this, we’ll all forget that the dice are loaded and get back to dreaming.
Me included. If we can keep our wage expenditure tight, hold onto some of our best players for a couple more years and continue to increase commercial revenue there’s still a good chance, because we’re smarter, we get more from our players and get better value for money on transfers. Fans don’t need to doubt this anymore.
The thing I love is the thing that makes me forget; deeply flawed as it is, this needed distraction, with its blend of outlandish characters, movement, speed, graft, angles and artistry just keeps on keeping on. I just wish it could be less ridiculous sometimes.