The End of Relegation?

At the risk of sounding like a broken record; foreign investment is slowly killing our beautiful game.
Yesterday there was a report on the good ol’ BBC (which you can read here) that mentioned that discussions were taking place between owners of British football clubs about the possibility of removing relegation and promotion from our domestic leagues. What we’re talking about here is the death of football as we know it. No more, no less.
The word on the street is that several of the foreign owners have mooted scrapping relegation as a possible means of protecting their investments here. Now, before I jump into a lengthy bitchfest, let’s get one thing straight; I (and a vast majority of football supporters across the country) couldn’t give the tiniest iota of a shit that a bunch of rich foreign blokes have invested money in our domestic game.
We’ve got one of, if not the, most exciting leagues on the planet. It’s not surprising that some wealthy investors have earmarked it as a potential place to throw some money around. You have to question the wisdom in investing in such a variable sport, but that’s the nature of the beast and that variation is what makes English Football top of the class.
I can’t see this dastardly plan ever coming to fruition. Relegation and promotion are the cornerstones of a division system that has stood the test of time and flourished. Imagining the sport without the competitive carrot of promotion is very hard to do. It would destroy the Championship and League’s One & Two in one fell swoop. Yes, they would continue, but in a much more limited capacity.
Though rather than just trash it as an idea, lets look at it properly for a minute.
For starters, how do we choose which teams get to be in the new Stagnant English Premier League. Is it a case of musical chairs? When the music stops do the teams in the top flight at that moment get to stay? If so that’s good news for Blackburn, Wigan, Norwich, West Brom and Swansea – but it sucks if you support Birmingham, West Ham, Leeds or, god forbid, either of the Sheffield teams.
So how about we have the teams with the highest average attendances? Surely they’re the teams that deserve to sit at football’s top table. That means in with Derby, West Ham, Southampton and Nottingham Forest and out with QPR, Wigan and Swansea. There’s even League One teams with better average attendances than QPR – so surely they shouldn’t be in the new look Zero Relegation EPL?
Ok, what about we go for the most successful clubs from English league history? Sure the usual suspects are still there, but so are Derby, Forest and Sheffield United at the expense of teams like Stoke, Wigan and QPR.
Let’s just presume that the teams currently in the top flight are the ones that would find themselves as permanent residents of the Premier League. Lucky you Wigan, lucky you Blackburn, lucky you Swansea. To the rest of you clubs, notably those from the Championship – you can fuck off. We’d like to thank you for your long and devoted contribution to the English game, but we’ve got some money from America, Russia, the Middle East and the Far East and, frankly, we don’t need you any more.
There’s a collection of quality football clubs that, if the changes were ever to take place, would never again taste the big time: Derby, Forest, both Sheffield teams, Leeds, Middlesborough, West Ham, Birmingham and Palace – all on the scrap heap, each an example of a bygone era when clubs would rise and fall based on individual merit.
So what happens next? Well, the rich keep getting richer and the poor keep getting poorer. We have the major leagues and the minor leagues; a system from which there is no escape. It doesn’t matter how well you play Leeds, you’re stuck where you are. It doesn’t matter if you continue to be perpetually shit, Wigan, you get to keep your seat at the top table.
What’s the big problem (I hear one or two of you calling from the back)? Who gives a shit about a load of old has-been clubs from the lower leagues? Well, I do and I bet so do plenty of other supporters. I seriously doubt that I’m the only one who considers it essential that relegation and promotion remain intact in the modern game. After all, what’s more exciting; the league title that is usually sewn up a week or more before the end of the season and is between two teams rolling in money, or a relegation scrap between five or six teams all fighting for the right to stay in the big time, the final outcome unknown until the end of the last game of the season?!
I’ve got a soft spot for Norwich City, so given the new system, right now they’d be sorted. But let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Norwich get relegated this year and next season they implement the proposed changes. What happens to Norwich now they’ve slipped back down to the second tier? An eternity of mediocrity, that’s what!
Suddenly there is nothing to play for, no possibility of Premier League football for supporters to hope and dream about and/or to angst over. Yes there is still a migration of players from small to big clubs, that will never stop, but the clubs themselves will never get the chance to compete at the top level again. Don’t worry, the players will be fine; the cream will always rise to the top. So who exactly is it that’s going to feel the effects of these potential changes most acutely? Well, the group that are going to get royally screwed if this nightmare becomes a reality are…… drum roll please….. yes you guessed it; the supporters.
Yes, working man – that means you. Once again you’re being exploited by a handful of billionaires, because you’ve got something that they want – loyalty to your club (or brand as they’d call it). A dozen or so rich individuals have graced the big boys with the presence of their extensive bank accounts and they’d like to say to you, the loyal supporter of the lower league team: fuckyou very much for everything, get your coat on your way out. Grew up in Middlesborough? Fuckyou very much, how about you leave us alone to make some more money. Been a loyal Derby supporter all your life? Fuckyou very much and enjoy the Minor Leagues. Love West Ham? That’s right…. Fuckyou very much and thanks for 1966.
Why the hell is this even being considered? Who’s bright idea is this? Oh yeah, that’s right, it’s coming from those rich bastards coming over here and throwing their cash around our favourite sport. You might have distracted some people with your fancy yachts and your opulent mansions but you can’t pull one over the eyes of this cheeky mofo. Nobody asked you to come here spend millions on OUR football clubs. You did, that’s fine, but don’t try and shift the goal posts know that you’ve got your grubby little mitts onto something that we Brits hold very close to our hearts; our football clubs. Let me repeat the sentiment spelled out earlier; nobody gives a shit about you or your money, so don’t think that having invested in OUR national game it gives you permission to change the things about the sport that don’t benefit you. If you didn’t like our best moves when we first met then why’d you get into bed with us? Could it be that you’re a bunch of greedy, money grabbing whores?! But I digress…..
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not completely naive. I realise that the foreign investors have brought some good things to the game: The overall quality of teams from all divisions has improved quite a bit, the Premier League is now a global brand with fans across the planet and they’ve added a dash of glamour to proceedings. But, as contributions go, are they enough to justify the wholesale changes being talked about at the moment?
I know these are just preliminary discussions, but the fact that they’re even happening should be worrying enough. I would like to think that the FA has big enough balls to stand up to this potential initiative (though I wouldn’t bet on it). Even if they do, they’re going to need our support to make sure that this never happens. We’re a pubic hair away from completely selling out everything that has made English football the most watched domestic league on the planet? Why? For no better reason than to protect the investments of a few rich wankers who signed up to the format willingly.
If you don’t like the way we run things over here, then don’t spend your money on our game. It really is that simple.

Transfer Deadline Day # 1

Arsenal have been busy busy busy today. They’ve confirmed the signings of two defenders: Mertesaker and Santos. Two great bits of business by the looks of things. Now all they need is some midfielders. Arteta is looking like the man they want, though if I were Wenger I’d be suspicious; he went through the Barcelona Academy. Perhaps he should have a DNA test as part of his medical.
Joe Cole has picked Lille (the French champions), over Aston Villa. You’ve got to feel sorry for Cole; he was supposed to be the next best thing and he’s….. well….. not. That signing fueled all sorts of rumours regarding Eden Hazard, but so far it looks like that ain’t happening.
Wilson Palacios and Peter Crouch still don’t know where they’ll be playing next season. Presumably they’ll go wherever you can get a better deal on a tube of Pringles. Those curved little buggers just get Crouchy dancing. Expect them to head up North somewhere.
Owen Hargreaves has signed on the dotted line for Man Citeh. Presumably they’re trying to keep their physios busy, after all they pay them and it’s not fair if they just sit around on their arses all day doing nothing.
Villa have made two underwhelming signings with Alan Hutton and Jermaine Jenas heading over to the second city. I envisage they got sold purely to fund…..
Last seasons Player of the Year – Scott Parker – has just signed for the Spurs. Great bit of business by that scamp ‘Arry ‘fuck off I’m a football manager, not a wheeler dealer’ Redknapp. Can’t believe nobody signed him before today.
Greasing the wheels of that transfer were the loan signings of Bentley and Lansbury. I reckon that West Ham have done a good bit of business there. And here was me thinking they were skint. Staying in the Championship momentarily, West Ham have also signed the player with the best name in world football; Papa Bouba Diop. I never get bored of saying that.
Christian Poulsen has come out of retirement at Liverpool to sign for France’s answer to Peckham Springs – Evian.
Zdenek Grygera signed for Fulham. Expect to see him worshipping at the shrine to Wacko Jacko any minute now – it’s in the contract.
Davide Santon went from Milan to Newcastle late last night. Boy, he’s in for a shock.
There have been some other transfers but none of them did anything for me, so I’m gonna pretend they didn’t happen.

Transfer Bollocks

Transfer gossip is reaching fever pitch tonight with the window closing in just over 24 hours. Tomorrow I’ll take a look at who’s bought who.
By the time you read this, expect some of the mentioned deals to have gone through.
Arsenal need new faces and fast. After getting well and truly spanked by the Champions on Sunday, Arsene Wenger’s red cheeks have emerged from the darkness of the Emirates to place several bids on several players. Some of them might have even passed puberty. The shock. The horror.
Mertesaker is seemingly on his way to North London. That will please Gooners everywhere. Santos looks like in interesting attacking full-back, if the deal is done. After kidnapping Park Chu-Young (see yesterdays blog here) Arsenal seem to have sorted their striker shortage.
With the exception of Mertesaker, whose signing will no doubt please most supporters, Arsenal have yet to address their most pressing issues. The most notable of which is the gaping hole in the middle of their midfield. Apparently Dortmund have politely given Arsenal the finger following an unsuccessful bid for Mario Goetze. Though, given the fact that he’s only just grown pubes, most Arsenal supporters will probably breath a sigh of relief.
The Gunners have also been sniffing around the Chelsea subs bench of late. Apparently they like the smell of Malouda, Alex and Benayoun. I predict that one of these might go. Maybe. But then what do I know?!
In Wenger’s usual stomping ground of Ligue 1 there are rumours aplenty. Lucho Gonzalez is too old for Wenger so don’t expect to see him. Marvin Martin is a possibility as is nearly every other creative midfielder worth his salt. M’Vila looked likely but apparently Rennes want 30 trillion for the player. No, I can’t see it either.
I know, I’m banging on about Arsenal a lot. Don’t worry, I’m nearly done. But I promise you the dealings there are more interesting than at any other club. You’ll see.
It might be easier to list the players that Arsenal haven’t been linked with. Maybe not, but you get the idea. There are fecking hundreds of them. Here’s a digest, in no particular order.
Cahill, Samba, Jagielka, Dann, Baines, Vertonghen, McCarthy, Arteta, Hazard, Jadson, Willian, Elia, Pereira, Zarate, Benzema, Defoe, Doyle etc etc etc etc zzzzzzzz. There are more, but I stopped giving a shit halfway into that list.
Aston Villa are apparently having a look at the perennially-crocked Owen Hargreaves. That sounds like a really ‘good’ idea. Unless he’s going to give them a cut in his next fitness video I can’t imagine why anyone would want him on their physio table. They must be desperate.
Alan Hutton might be on his way from Spurs. They also quite fancy Yossi Benayoun. That cheeky little Israeli scamp must have put something in the water because everyone seems to want a piece of him today. Scott Parker has an outside chance of signing for the Villans.
At the end of the day I don’t expect anything exciting to happen over there. It’s almost as if Alex McLeish has sucked all joy out of that place.
Blackburn Rovers once dreamed of signing Ronaldinho, but since he realised that they intended on paying him with giblets, there has been an unsurprising lack of transfer activity going on at the club. They look like they might sign Scott Dann from Birmingham and they’ve also been linked with the not world-famous furniture store Bangura’s of Stockholm. Meh.
Bolton might have condemned Gary Cahill to Europa League football. The bastards. By playing hardball with Arsenal and pricing the player out of the move he wanted, it looks like Cahill’s options are now limited. He said he wanted to play Champions League, so lets see if he waits for a free transfer or if he goes for the payrise that Tottenham will surely offer.
The Wanderers have been linked with that pint-sized bundle of pace Shaun Wright-Phillips. Good signing he would be I think. Well that’s how Yoda would write it if was: 1. Real. 2. A football writer and not a Jedi Master. They’re also looking at NGog from Liverpool; presumably they’re not missing enough easy chances.
Chelsea have probably done most of their business. After all, they’ve spent enough money to make Solomon blush. Word on the street is that they’re talking to Stoke about loaning out their 20 million signing Lukaku. Can’t see it myself. Seems like they’re spending money now before the Financial Fair Play comes into effect, effectively stockpiling players for a rainy day. It’s not fair, but nobody seems to have noticed.
The one possible signing that could happen in the next 24 hours is Modric. Is he worth the reported 30 mil that Spurs are after? Maybe, maybe not. But lets face it, nobody gives a toss if Chelski get ripped off, do they?! Still, he’d be a good signing for them.
Oh, I nearly forgot about Gregory van der Wiel. Another quality full-back for the subs bench. Presumably Chelsea plan on arming the defenders with air rifles and forcing them to compete in a work-experience-boy shoot-out for a place in the first team.
Everton have no money. They might get a loan signing but I doubt it. They’re that skint. The vultures are circling now and expect one or two first teamers to ship out tomorrow. Arteta to Arsenal, maybe. Coleman to Liverpool, maybe. We’ll see. It’s a shame cos Everton are a great club. It proves just how difficult it is to compete with the big boys if you don’t have a sugar daddy to sit behind you, stroke your hair and buy you nice handbags.
Fulham are definitely on the prowl for new players. Their options seem limited because: 1. They don’t like to spend lots of money. 2. They’re just not that exciting. 3. Mohammed Al Fayed insists that all new signings worship at his private shrine to Michael Jackson. Just the thought of it sends shivers down my spine.
They’ve cast their beady eye on Grygera from Juventus. I won’t lie, I haven’t got a frickin clue who he is. More likely is Zaha from Palace and Jerome from Birmingham. Nothing scares fans more than pillaging players from the championship. I expect a tough season for them.
Liverpool have lots of money and they’re not afraid to spend it.
Some crazy rumours are about involving Joe Cole (almost certainly on his way to Lille on loan), a wedge of dirty five pound notes, a bottle of lubricant and Eden Hazard. I think it’s gossip mongers grasping at straws, but hey ho.
Sebastian Coates looks like a done deal. Look forward to loads of ‘get your Coates love, you’ve pulled’ jokes. I know I am.
Coleman looks a possibility, though it remains to be seen whether Everton want to suffer the indignity of dropping on all fours and selling one of their prized assets to a much hated local rival. Though money makes people do the strangest things.
Afellay is a long bet from Barca. And I read somewhere that King Kenny is going to have a head-butting competition with Arsene Wenger to see who will sign Pereira from Parma.
Breaking news. Liverpool in for 1 goal in 4 game striker Zarate. Do me a favour. NO CHANCE.
Manchester City, fresh from signing everyone good, have probably finished with their shopping. Though you never know. Fernando Gago from Real, maybe? Hargreaves from the United treatment table is more likely. Some people have called this one a gamble. Though it’s not really a gamble if you have all the money in the world, is it?!
I’ll be honest, I don’t really care what they do.
Manchester United proved at the weekend that they don’t really need to sign anyone else. That said, they’ve been heavily linked with the excellent Wesley Sneijder all summer. It’s a deal that may still happen. If it does, United will have put the cherry on top of an excellent midfield. Pound for pound they might not have the best players, but they’re a cracking team. Couple that with more injury time minutes than you can shake a stick at and you’ve got a winning formula.
They’ve also been linked with some dude called Ganso. He’s probably good. If you really care then google him.
Next.
Newcastle. Now that Mike Ashley is putting the finishing touches on dismantling the team that got his club promoted, he’s looking for cheap replacements to help them kick on. They’ve already made some interesting signings and they look like that they might make one or two more.
Davide Santon is the most likely. Having sold Enrique to Liverpool they need a cheaper alternative. They’re looking to loan Macheda from the Red Mancs. PSV’s Pieters looks like he might be on his way; expect him to be cheap too. I also read a rumour about Aly Cossokho from Lyon.
It seems like Ashley and co., are following the Wenger method. Sell your players at home, buy replacements of dubious quality from France and hope that it all works out. Perhaps someone should point out to the Newcastle board that it hasn’t really worked out all that well at Arsenal.
Norwich City’s survival this season hinges on who they have and who they will sign this summer. They’ve recruited from the lower leagues so far with Vaughan and Ayala the only exceptions. To be honest, rumours are a bit thin on the ground here. The best I could come up with is a last ditch attempt to sign Lansbury from Arsenal. I’m sorry, don’t hate me.
QPR – now this is more like it. They’ve got a few quid laying about somewhere I think. They’ve been linked with Scott Dann and Shaun Wright-Phillips. Can’t see either happening, but never doubt the power of the pound.
Someone somewhere says that they’re interested in signing Liam Ridgewell from Birmingham. I know many Villa fans will be disappointed that he’s not going back to them, but they’ll get over it.
They have just signed left-back Traore from Arsenal. Obviously he did a great job of selling himself on Sunday.
Stoke have been strongly linked with footballing journeyman and Pringles salesman Peter Crouch and his side kick, Wilson Palacios. Pretty boring rumours if you ask me; however, I think both would fit right in to Pulis’ team. If they sign them both then I think most Potters fans will be pretty chuffed with their summer spending.
Sunderland are a team who have spent this summer. They’ve got loads of new faces in at the Stadium of Light. Whether they’ll gel or not is a different matter; time will tell.
In an attempt to undo all their good work in the market it sounds like they’re trying to waste some wonga on signing Samaras. I think the only people who would be happy about that deal are Celtic fans.
Interestingly they’ve been linked to Papiss Cisse from Freiburg. He’s been scoring goals for fun in Germany. If they sign both Cisse and Samaras I think they’ll cancel each other out and they’ll be just as good as they were before they signed them.
Also, I just read that they too like the cut of Peter Crouch’s jib. It’s all about the strikers up there it would seem.
Swansea have, according to those devils over at Sky, just signed German keeper Gerhard Tremmel for free. Expect him to never play.
They also want to sign Master Bates from Middlesborough. I’m so funny.
That is all.
Tottenham! Why the exclamation mark I hear you scream? Well, I expect old ‘Arry ‘fuck off I’m a football manager not a wheeler dealer’ Redknapp to do some serious business in the next 24 hours.
They’ve been linked with Owen Hargreaves. Though I imagine he’ll stay up in Manchester one way or another. They’ve been heavily linked with Scotty Parker and, to be fair, it looks like a good match. They’ve also been giving Yossi Benayoun the eye today, hoping that he elopes with them instead of one of his other suitors.
Craig Bellamy has been touted as a possible signing. You never know, the no-necked bully might fancy a bit of London action. It also looks like they might make a move for Gary Cahill in a player plus cash deal, but he’ll only go if they buy him some Milk Tray.
They’ve been linked with Damiao for a while now; thats a maybe. According to the Times they’ve been passing love notes after class to both Fofana of Le Havre and Barta of Barca; it’s called hedging your bets and we’ve all done it.
Harry’s been trying it on with Joe Cole all summer, though it looks like he’s fallen in love with the French. He likes the accent and the ease at which they surrender to his charms. Allegedly.
I expect one or two of these players to sign. And probably one or two that we haven’t even heard of. He moves in mysterious ways does old ‘Arry.
West Brom are going to be tough to write up. I can’t find any decent rumours. They looked like they might sign Owen Hargreaves, but even he bolted when he realised just how boring they are. Expect Woy Hodgson to make one signing that nobody has ever heard of and expect it to be very boring. To be fair he has transformed them from being the team most likely to get relegated to being the team most likely to be terminally boring. Yawn….. You see what I meant about Arsenal now. Bet you wish I could rub some funk into this section don’t you?!
Wigan have just signed Albert Crusat from Almeria. According to some news outlets. It’s probably true. Why would they lie? Everyones favourite hate-rag – the Daily Mail – reckons they want to sign dos Santos from Spurs. Not really that interesting is it?!
A carrier pigeon just arrived here with news that Wigan are in talks with Celtic over the signing of Shaun Maloney.
I read somewhere on Twitter that they were looking at two South Americans called Canuhe and Fernandes. Sounds about right. They tend to make most of their signings by buying prospects from across the Atlantic. Expect one or two transfers and expect them to be just good enough to help keep Wigan up by the skin of their collective balls.
Wolves. Why do I feel like I’m talking to myself right now?! Well, as far as I can tell, nobody wants to sign for them and between you and me, I’m not surprised.