First of all, let me say that I am a huge admirer of Jamie Carragher, obviously as a player but increasingly also as a pundit. His dovetailing with the already well established Gary Neville has been one of the surprise hits in Sky’s footballing schedule for this season. I have also been following him on twitter and again he makes a lot of sense, but in one area I disagree with him: English teams in the Champions League.
Carragher said this week that he was, in effect, a temporary supporter of Arsenal and Manchester City because they were English teams in Europe. Well, both clubs play in England, that’s for sure, at stadia whose names are more closely related to the Middle East than the cities in which they play and neither club is English owned. More importantly, hardly of their players are English either.
Of the four ‘English’ clubs in the Champions League, only Liverpool had a good scattering of English players and look what happened to them: they crashed out before the knock out stages. Chelsea usually start with two English players, both centre halves and one of whom has retired from international football and Manchester City have two, the goalkeeper Joe Hart and utility player James Milner. Arsenal, who unaccountably lost over two legs to Monaco, started with just the one English player and that was Welbeck.
For my sins – and there must have been a few in my life – I have always had a soft spot for Liverpool, which has grown even more in recent years since my separation from Bristol Rovers. I would ‘support’ them, in the most distant terms (I regard supporters as people who go, not those like me who just watch on telly!), no matter what the competition but would I, should I, support Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City because they are English? The answer to that is no. I didn’t sit there cheering PSG against Chelsea because I didn’t really care about the outcome and similarly I didn’t get too het up about Arsenal’s loss to Monaco, even if it was funny. And I certainly don’t want Manchester City to beat Barcelona, another team I have started to glory-hunt in recent years, as my love affairs with La Liga, Spanish football and Barcelona deepen.
I see the top four Champions League teams as being the representatives of Richard Scudamore’s Premier League behemoth, the self-styled ‘best league in the world’, which is patently isn’t. The Premier League thud and blunder is certainly as exciting as any league in the world but it cannot be described as the best league. The current inability of Premier League clubs to excel in Europe, despite their rich benefactors, says it all about the quality of ‘English’ football. Our teams have looked light years behind the best teams from Spain and Germany and recently even the best teams in France have beaten us.
Personally, I couldn’t care less that the Champions League is off to BT Sport next season. If I have to pay any more for it, then goodbye BT Sport. It’s something to watch in the long, cold winter months but I have better things to do than watch Arsenal depart in the same round ever year.