It will remain a goal for clubs like Everton, Aston Villa, Blackburn, Newcastle, Portsmouth and Tottenham – but they may find it acts as yet another handicap for breaking up the Big Four.
Tottenham boss Martin Jol isn’t putting much importance on qualifying for the UEFA Cup, at least when it comes to bringing top players to the Premiership to play at White Hart Lane,
‘The UEFA Cup is not important, the Champions League would make a difference,’ said Jol. ‘I had one situation with a player at a top club in England now, he said ‘I want to play Champions League’.’
While playing in UEFA Cup is probably quite fun for the fans and the players who haven’t been there before or haven’t played in the Champions League, it isn’t really going to turn the head of any major stars. Europe’s top competition is a draw because it allows players to compete against the best with the entire world watching – neither can be said of the UEFA Cup. In fact, a lot less can be said about the UEFA Cup.
There’s also a reasonable case to be made, as Reading boss Steve Coppell has, that competing in the UEFA Cup brings relatively minimal gains while actively hurting your chances of doing well in domestic competitions. Tottenham are still well placed to finish 5th or 6th this season, but their squad has been stretched by playing nearly twice as many games this season as last.
The financial rewards don’t balance the demands put on your team. Everton have done well with a very thin squad this year, using the same 14 or 15 players each week. Even with summer investment will they have the depth in quality to compete in whole new cup competition and maintain, let alone improve, on their Premiership and domestic cup performance? Without the UEFA Cup matches, Spurs may have been able to compete properly for the last of those Champions League spots rather than fighting to get back to where they finished last year.