English football has finally lost its identity
While the criticism of too many foreign imports and ridiculous amounts of money being pumped into the Premier League ruining English football has been around for many years now, Chelsea’s Champions League performance and subsequent exit on Wednesday night against Paris St. Germain really did sum it all up.
Despite the dramatic finale at Stamford Bridge, this game will be remembered for the poisonous way it was played with awful an awful refereeing performance not helped at all by play acting, gamesmanship and outright cheating.
While the RTE panel have often been known to throw out an over the top view from time to time, the comments from John Giles that Jose Mourinho brings a dark side to the game and his actions are a cancer within football are very hard to disagree with after this latest controversial game.
The surrounding of the man in the middle by all ten outfield Chelsea players in an attempt, and a successful one at that, to get Zlatan Ibrahimovic sent off is a scene not reserved just for the Premier League or Chelsea but it is an ever growing one within the English game.
The other constant running theme that consistently broke up the play on Wednesday night was the on running battles involving Diego Costa. While it takes two to tango and the likes of David Luiz were only too happy to join in these off the ball incidents, Costa has gained almost cult status at The Bridge for his workman like attitude.
However, stamping incidents seen this season against Liverpool are nothing short of a cowardly act and should not be stood for by fans of the English game. Far too often this season the talking points having revolved around poor refereeing and controversial incidents with last weeks spitting saga the perfect example of how far English football has sunk.
In a week where football lost one of its great hard man, Dave Mackay, the Tottenham great would never have stood for trying to get a fellow professional sent off as has become the norm in the modern game.
Jamie Carragher and Graham Souness were quick to air similar views after the full time whistle in London midweek with Carragher laughing at the fact the Premier League is labelled the best league in the world while Souness claimed ”we are kidding ourselves” with all the money coming in to the league.
In a year when the new TV deal caught over £5 billion for the Premeir League, Newcastle fans are this week protesting over having to pay almost £60 for a ticket to see their team play against Liverpool on a Monday night. Supporters paying that sort of money obvbously want to see their team win but what they also want to see is good football but above all an honesty and effort from both teams.
What they do not want to see is diving, cheating and play-acting and that is exactly what the Premier League has become. Souness was quick to throw out the ‘foreigners brought diving into the game’ line on Wednesday night but this season we have seen numerous cheating incidents involving Wayne Rooney and Ross Barkley among others.
While there may be more money than ever in the English game, the standard of football continues to drop as European results have shown year after year while the national team is further away than ever before from winning any sort of competition.
High tickets prices, a reluctance from the authorities to open a debate on safe standing despite great success on the continent, and the lack of honesty and integrity left in the game is a far cry from the proud identity the English game has always had.
It has recently been discovered that non-league attendances all over Britain are on the rise and given the gap in finances between the top tiers and the bottom. it is certainly not down to finances. No, the reason for the up turn in fortunes of so many non-league sides is it offers a throw back to the fundamentals of the English game so rarely seen in the modern top flights.
Cheap match day tickets, players and fans who identify with the shirt, a grit and determination to be better than your fellow pro but in a fair manner and the more laid back stewarding and ground regulations meaning you can enjoy a pint and a pie pitch side and at prices that won’t see you needing to take out a loan have all contributed to the revival of local football.
While I am far from trying to suggest the English domestic game is in any sort of immediate trouble, there needs to be a turning point at some stage. Football fans are for the majority a die-hard breed who will do anything to watch their team play but with so many grievances building up on and off the pitch you just get the feeling a tipping point is coming.
We have a habit of looking back on times gone by with great nostalgia and while they may not always be as glamorous as we might like to remember, perhaps it’s time to Premier League went back to basics with more power to the fans and an attempt from the FA to kick out so many of the poisonous elements currently within our game.
It took the dinosaurs over our game a decade longer than it should have to eliminate the goal line debate with the lack of controversy over goal line decisions this season a clear sign of technology’s success in this sector.
As a result, technology and review systems to eliminate the diving and off the ball incidents currently sucking the life out of the beautiful game are now being discussed and all we can hope is these so-called decision makers don’t hold our game in the dark ages for as long as they did before.
Should this technology have the same effect as the goal line systems being used, it should go a long way to cleaning up our game but hopefully that will not come at the expense of the supporter who the clubs continue to milk dry.