John Nicholson has changed the way I think about football in general and the Premier League in particular. I sit here watching, admittedly from the corner of my eye, an interminably boring game between two former giants, Manchester United and Arsenal. The atmosphere is stilted, more the library of dreams than the theatre. If ever you wondered whether the Premier League was overrated, you would know tonight it definitely is. It really is that awful and the shadow of Nicholson’s era-defining book Can We Have Our Football Back hangs across Old Trafford.
Martin Tyler, has long since lost his position as the doyen of football commentators. He’s still good, but more than ever he toes the line. Tonight, he has defended the indefensible VAR system and at no stage admits what we can all see in front of us, which is a truly terrible game. His right hand man, failed manager Gary Neville, adds nothing to the picture. Like Tyler, he tells us what we can already see with zero added analysis. When asked whether Fred is likely to be a long term fixture in the United team, former United legend Neville mumbles; sitting on the fence. His autobiography was not called ‘Red’ for nothing.
When discussing David de Gea’s new contract at Old Trafford, a contract incidentally worth between £250k and £275k a week, Tyler informs us that a clause means de Gea gets the goalkeeping coach he wants. All this with no comment, implying that this situation is completely normal. Sky values its Premier League deal so much, criticism of any kind is not even attempted by the team. Until Roy Keane comes on to put the boot in. Another failed manager. He might be a failed pundit if he keeps telling the truth.
There were multimillionaires all over the pitch, many ‘earning’ a million quid a month. Not one of them, with the exceptions perhaps of de Gea (on his day) Paul Pogba (but not tonight), are world class. ‘Superstars’ like Jesse Lingard who hasn’t scored a Premier League goal since 2018 and the long line of overseas ‘stars’ at the Arsenal don’t impress me much. I still keep thinking: is Rashford really that good?
And these are the so called big teams, producing dross that even committed armchair fans could not possibly pretend was worth Sky’s subsription. Tonight was dire but it was Brazil v Spain compared to the recent 0-0 draw between Newcastle and Brighton.
Nicholson’s book has brought me crashing back to earth. Even I was partly taken in with the ‘best league in the world’ hype. I’m not sure it’s even the best league in England.