Menu

Chelsea Fiasco Highlights The Premier League’s Most Worrying Trend

Effra isn’t sure we should all be laughing at Chelsea just yet.

So Roman has sent Jose packing and put an inexperienced crony in charge of a team supposed to win the Champions League twice within six years. Meanwhile Russian vultures are circling around some more London prey, West Ham’s Icelandic owner has flexed his muscles in the power structure at Upton Park, and Daniel Levy has humiliated Martin Jol once again for a fantasy that could never have happened. Not quite just another week in the Premiership for London clubs, but somehow it seems par for the course for what the Premiership is becoming. The new-breed of owner sees opportunities for moving and making money in what is a spectacularly unregulated big-business sector, and assumes that the only business strategy that will work to keep the cash flowing is instant and repeated success. If the manager the owners appoints doesn’t produce the goods then it must be because he is doing something that could be put right by listening to those more ignorant about the game than him.

Of course, one can reasonably question whether Mourinho cared enough about footballing glory rather than mere success, or ask why Martin Jol seems so determined to self-destruct over Jermain Defoe, or wonder if Alan Curbishley really has what it takes to be a top-class manager. But Roman Abramovich, Daniel Levy, Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and their ilk are all far too complicit in their managers’ problems then to stand judge and jury about their supposed failures. If Abramovich and Levy had let their managers buy the players they wanted to over the past year, those managers would almost certainly have presided over better starts to the season. If West Ham’s Icelandic owners weren’t purring away about the supposed prospect of Champions League football in east London within four years, Curbishley might find it easier to keep West Ham’s players, many of whose heads have already been disastrously turned by inflated expectations of their ability, focused on steady improvement so that every step forward isn’t immediately followed by at least one backwards because the players get casual.

What is just dispiriting is that the impatience of the owners seems to be contagious where some fans are concerned. Too many fans seem to think that because these owners have come in and spent more money than their clubs have done in the past that supporting their club is going to be permanently different. How many fans now of clubs outside the big four are convinced that their club has to finish in the top six to show that they have ambition and are on target for ‘the next level’. Assuming that Chelsea don’t now implode only two of them can, but half the rest of the Premiership are supposed to be regarded as failures if they don’t make it into Europe. Lose any game, and increasingly the attitude seems to be that it must be someone in the team’s fault. Sure, sometimes it is, but sometimes losing is just what happens to one team in a contested football match where lots of possibilities collide. Just because we pay a lot of money to go to watch football matches doesn’t give us some sacred right to moan that this that or the other that happens at them is unacceptable.

We all might have more reason to resent the money we spend than we used to given how much the players get paid, but if we end up thinking that forking out on expensive season tickets, away matches, and merchandise still buys anything other than a train seat on an emotional roller-coaster, destined for most fans each year to the land of disappointment, then we’ve become just as blind to the realities of football as the billionaires who are using English football as their financial and personal playthings.