Researching my new book, I became quite nostalgic for what football used to be about. Looking at the 1991-92 season, the last one before the start of the Premier league, I saw that Leeds United, the champions, were the only team to qualify for the old Champions league. The ONLY team! Arsenal finished 4th and it was a failure. Manchester United were second and that was not good enough. The only place to finish for everyone was first place. Every decent team at the start of the season aimed to win the league. I can’t stand the fact that teams now are fighting over fourth place. Fourth place! I would love for it to return to being about winning trophies again. For me, a good season for a club of any size should always be based on silverware: League title, FA cup, league cup and European cups.
Brings me onto European football. The Champions league. It bores me. Champions league, yet you don’t have to be Champions to qualify for the tournament. A bit like America with their penchant for calling everything the World series even if it is only them taking part. Up to the knockout stages the Champions league is tedious, and I rarely watch. But the Champions league now is where the money is and consequently that is why fourth place is so important to everyone. I am always disappointed when I hear fans celebrating a place in the top four and yet barely raising a complaint when their club doesn’t even try to win any of the domestic cups.
There has even been a few times when it has felt that teams have spent more time looking over their shoulder and aiming for top four than risking it and going for the title. Arsenal were always a good example of this at the end of Wenger’s reign. One or two players from a serious tile challenge but seemingly happy as long as they got their top four spot. I got the impression that Tottenham were doing that recently but their transfer dealings at the last window suggest that they may be actually going for it. I hope more teams will follow suit.
As a footnote, Sheffield Wednesday finished third that year having only been promoted that season. They were only 3 points behind Manchester United and only lost one more game than Leeds United. Trevor Francis was player-manager that year. Not sure he ever got the credit he deserved. But then I guess hey never won anything…