Football Blog: Tangerine Flavoured

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Repeat it often enough and people will believe you...

I'm currently reading 'Can We Have our Football Back' - if you enjoy this post, you really should read that. It's excellent and it defines with precision and a deft touch, what is wrong with the Premier League era. It's quite a long book and there's quite a lot wrong with football according to it - yet it manages to transcend mere grumbling and links football to wider social attitudes in entertaining and powerful manner.

So, with that book in mind, I took advantage of being able to watch a bit of Premier League Football courtesy of Amazon Prime - a free trial furnishing me with exclusive access to the greatest league ever in the history of everything and free one day delivery of the greatest products ever packed in the greatest warehouses ever by the greatest workers enjoying their great freedom to life, liberty and all the wonders of the universe. All without worrying too much about whether my customer service experience would be tainted by the nasty smell of too many taxes or the unpleasant sticky residue that comes with treating workers like people not robots or slaves.

I tuned in to Burnley v Man City. Here are my observations: (At this point, it is important to avoid disappointment, that you let go of any expectation that I am actually going to talk about the football. You can get that elsewhere, all the time)

1) Turf Moor wasn't full.

2) I was so excited at the prospect of watching a Premier League game legally, in my own home for the first time in 27 years, I forgot it was on. (I then repeated this mistake with the Merseyside derby) Maybe some people in Burnley were so excited at City coming that they had an embolism and forgot the game was on. I dunno.

3) The commentator - (who I believe was Guy Mowbray) greeted the third goal with a rapturous celebration of all things Premier League and 2019-2020 based. The subtext was 'this is the best league and it just keeps getting better, it's never been so good and it just keeps reaching NEW HEIGHTS - it might actually burst through the fabric of time and space into a NEW DIMENSION if gets ANY BETTER - WHICH IT WILL, NEXT WEEK!!!' - (He didn't actually say that, but that's how subtext works. It would be dull if I said what he actually said, then explained the subtext as if you couldn't interpret it for yourself. You can imagine what he actually said for yourself. It's a reverse of telling you what he said and letting you interpret the subtext - to be fair to me, I wasn't really listening to him, more sensing him holistically, attuned to the deeper levels of meaning.) 

That shameless sales pitch (after a goal that had essentially ruined any sense of fun in the game) did pique my interest a little and I listened to what he said after this more carefully...

'So, Man City keep up the pressure on Liverpool, who just don't look like losing - actually, the last time Burnley won the league, they lost 11 times and drew 7 - which goes to show, the standards today in the Premier League are something else' (or very similar words)

This is what interested me.

First, Guy Mowbray - I don't know who he is, he's not exactly Brian Moore or Peter Jones, he seems a fairly harmless 'commentator for hire'. He's a bit like a mid range estate car - hard to form an opinion about, a bit indistinguishable from other models. I don't really have an opinion on him. I neither loathe nor like him. He may or may not work for any of the channels on the telly or the radio. See also Jake Humphries.

I tell you this, so you don't think what I write next comes from spite or malice. It doesn't. Me and Guy have no history. I have no axe to grind with Guy.


Guy Mowbray - what the fuck are you on about - are you just a wind up mannequin, spouting empty words from a clockwork mouth, powered by some weird mechanism whose handle is turned by the oil barons, the marketing executives and the Rolex salesmen who run the shitshow of dullness that is the Premier League?

I'll tell you this 'Guy Mowbray' - if that is even your name. It sounds a bit like a made up name to me. The kind of name that is just a bit too 'everyman' to be real, the kind of name you'd give a propaganda spouting robot that was algorithmically programmed to say only the most positive things about a product if you wanted it to blend in to it's surroundings - 1959-60 wasn't shit. It was an amazing season. Burnley (that's Burnley everyone) won the title.

A little crap milltown of 80,000 people, were the best team in England. That is Roy of the Rover's shit, right there. In your generic Guy Mowbray face. They didn't finish 7th. They weren't a miracle (bank rolled by Thai investment) never to be repeated, unbelievable, I never thought I'd live to see this day, it just goes to show what a great league this is, flash in the pan success. They were the best team in England. They were good. They had Ray Pointer. Who is so good I have heard of him even though I was born years after he retired. They were a proper, decent, consistent force in English football.

They won the title by ONE point. A single point. Over Wolves as it happens. They were just TWO points ahead of Spurs. Thats THREE teams, separated by TWO points. Imagine the response if that were a modern Premier League season - picture and listen to the orgiastic frenzy of helicopters and super sunday-tastic hot-air blasts of 'this is the greatest division, greatest season, wow, I honestly don't know if Football can get any better before it bursts all over the world and destroys the universe with it's (insert name of large corporation here) sponsored fantasticness'

That sounds good to me. It's sounds exciting. It sounds competitive. Surely these are the standards by which we judge a sport. Not how dominant the best team is. I hate to say it everyone, but Preston didn't lose a game in 1888-89. Presumably Guy thinks they are the best ever team and that was the best ever season ever ever ever.

Of the top 3 - two of them (Burnley and Spurs) didn't even make the top six the preceding season, suggesting a healthy level of competition within the league. When was the last time two of the top three didn't finish near the top the year before?

I would humbly suggest to Guy Mowbray, if he were programmed to receive such information (I doubt he is), that if he wants to watch a super power, rolling over team after team, week after week then he is welcome to it. He gets paid for it after all. They pay him in chips. Microchips. He eats them. Yum.

Read this next fact and let it settle.

There is already a bigger gap (in new and old money) between first and fifth in 2019 than there was between first and tenth at the end point of the season in 1960. 

The entire top 6 were split by just 7 points - the top TEN by just 11. Yes, this was 2 points for a win, so the gap would be greater in modern money, but not as large as the 20 point gap (after just 14 games) that exists between 1st and 5th right now. 

In other words after less than half the season, the league is more than half as competitive. It's quite hard to put that into words, but let me try. It is half as fun, entertaining, tense, worthwhile, engaging, interesting, meaningful. More than twice as many teams have nothing to play for already. More than twice the number of games are between teams who have nothing really riding on those games.

I'd say judge a league by the standard of excitement, the noise, the atmosphere, the tension, the drama. In 1960, the tenth placed side were Fulham. They'd have started the next year thinking 'we're not that far off - a few more wins, a few less losses....' (they subsequently finished 17th, but that's not the point, it was the fact they had hope.) Hope. It's quite important to a football fan. It's a bit too human to factor into the balance sheets the new era of football as business and product, but it's never the less important

They wouldn't have started off, like everyone from Chelsea down, thinking 'Not much point trying to win this thing is there?' Or like Burnley, who after qualifying for Europe in 2017 (finishing 7th, significantly better than 1960 Fulham's tenth) would have reflected that with a FORTY SIX point gap between them and the title, it would take more than a few results here and there to take them to the top. Probably not much point in trying to 'push on' eh Sean? Only so far having an impressively gravelly voice can take you against the Petro-chemical billions.

Standards Guy. Standards.

If standards is watching athletic male models balletically strike a ball in matches that are basically glorified training sessions and then fawning over it, great. That's what you like. Those are your standards.

Get a fucking grip. This is shite. Give me 'shit' football any day of the week if the cost of this miserable parade of predictability is the utter pointless procession of the same teams to the top of the league every fucking year*

Also Anfield was a morgue tonight and that's supposed to be some kind of cauldron of football or something. And what are those shit 'This is Liverpool - this means more' adverts? Fuck off, you're all on a birthday present visit to Anfield from Scandanavia or Surrey and you think that because you learned the words to shit dirge pop song from the 60s that's some kind of spirituality and kinship. It's shite and the fact you might win the league is down to you hanging around the top, bankrolled by unimaginative, frightened home counties kids who were too scared to go to their local ground because it was noisy and a bit cold, buying your kits in Sports Direct and now eventually it's possibly your turn to win a division that only about three teams can win anyway. Well done. It only took 27 years to win a league it's basically impossible not to nearly win if you are Liverpool. I bet you all call the players by their first name too. 'Jordan' and 'Sadio' and have a fucking podcast to talk about what you watched on telly and do a section called 'banterzone' or something where you read out tweets as if that's a thing, just reading out something someone said on what medium on another medium.

How can you look yourself in the face?

*Except that one time.


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