“Are you coming to watch the football?” asked one of our fellow guests in Corfu. I am not going to pretend I didn’t know who was playing – it was a match between the money men of Abu Dhabi and a Russian billionaire’s plaything – but I was almost tempted. If I had not been lying on my sun bed, reading “All The President’s Men” (again), listening to Toto (sorry) and about to consume yet another large Royal Ionian beer, I might have been almost tempted some more. But there was one thing that stopped me: I wasn’t really all that interested.
Manchester City versus Chelsea was obviously of great interest to the supporters of both teams, and the thousands at home who have pledged armchair allegiance, in preference to supporting a team located far nearer their homes, but sometimes I do find it hard to get worked up about teams for whom I have little interest, other than contempt. And that’s not a good place to be, wanting teams to lose rather than wanting them to win. In the case of these two “clubs” – clubs, I ask you – I’d have spent 90 minutes cheering goals being conceded rather than goals scored. I’d have been gloating at Jose Mourinho’s tetchy, boorish behaviour as his team was getting beaten, the score suggests soundly and I would have been raising my eyebrows at his usual post-match “we was robbed” tosh.
I am certainly not pretending that all Chelsea supporters have only recently joined the bandwagon. I imagine most of them were there from the start when they rarely won anything and things are so much better now that they can buy the best manager – well, he used to be, it seems – and the best manager could buy the best players. That’s the same throughout the Premier League, of course, except that Chelsea and Manchester City have deeper pockets than anyone else. I am not just picking on them because they have more money than everyone else, but when you have the most money in football, you are more likely to win things. That’s as near to being a fact as you can get.
As a proud Englishman, I have an old-fashioned affinity to my national team too and it gives me no pleasure to see the top teams almost devoid of English players. Chelsea and Manchester City have shown almost no interest in developing homegrown players but they are no alone. Even Manchester United, who gave us the generation of Beckham, the Neville brothers, Giggs and Scholes buy in talent these days. It’s such a shame, but this is the price we pay for Thierry Henry’s laughable assertion that the Premier League is the best league in the world. Tell me that without laughing when Leicester play Stoke.
“My team”, Liverpool, again with no homegrown players in the team, who I never watch “live” and have no familial connections with the City, merely illustrate my own rank hypocrisy on the subject. I can get quite worked up watching “the lads” for emotional reasons that completely escape me.
I’m probably not going to watch the clash between the Reds and Bournemouth, the fairytale story, (if you can call a small club being bankrolled by a very rich foreigner a fairytale story, which I can’t. Liverpool, by contrast as are bankrolled by very rich foreigners which is of course completely different) on “Monday Night Football”. That is because of the aged old reason that I can’t be bothered.
Unfortunately, I have brought my worldly-wise cynicism across the Med and whilst the football is on, I am going to do my best to park it for the next 12 days.