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1966 All Over Again?

What a week it’s been for football, and some English pundits are getting carried away again!

Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester United - Premier League
The ever-likeable Gary Lineker, making sure we all know by tweet, that English club football is at the top of the world, or is it?
Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images

It’s been a brilliant week for football at the highest, wealthiest and greediest of levels, the very top!

The action has been spell-binding, barely credible and compulsive viewing. Even those that lament the order of the old ways, when the gap between super-rich and the not so wealthy was much narrower, would have to admit that.

Doesn’t make everything right. Doesn’t make it wrong either. It all comes down to personal preference, I guess.

The English are cock-a-hoop at the outcome of recent events, and when the English are cock-a-hoop over football, they tend to let everyone know. They’re quite nice about it actually, but ask the Scots, Welsh and Irish who’ve all been hearing about 1966 ever since, well .... 1966! It’s a long time to listen to the same old record. And now it seems like it’s beginning all over again with this week’s club successes.

World Cup Victory
We still hear about this today, but could it ever happen again, with the Premier League in existence?
Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

But why shouldn’t they? Their clubs have literally dominated the two major European club competitions providing all four finalists. Indeed they also had four clubs in the last eight of the Champions League, the highest level in the club game.

So they should be proud. Right?

Well, yes possibly, but not so fast ...

Considering the obscene riches available to English top flight clubs and the level of domestic competition all that provides, shouldn’t they absolutely be able to dominate proceedings in Europe’s major international club tournaments?

And then, there’s the matter of calling the top domestic league in England, ‘English’, which doesn’t sit as comfortably as it once did. For sure the match-going fanbase of the Premier League is overwhelmingly made up of Englishmen and women, and the league exists within the framework of that country’s great footballing tradition, but is The Premier League really an English League? Many would argue it’s an international competition operating in England under the jurisdiction of the FA. And they’d have a point.

Many of the clubs’ owners are foreign, there’s more foreign coaches than British, never mind English, and about 67% of its players are non-English.

The top British coach, going on current league placings, is Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City, 9th), while the top English coach is Roy Hodgson (Crystal Palace, 12th). There are four more English coaches and an Irishman, but their clubs range from 13th place to 19th, meaning two of those will be relegated!

And remember, ... an English coach has never won the Premier League!

It’s all very well hearing Rio Ferdinand get carried away trumpeting the achievements of the ‘English’ game. After Spurs amazing comeback he was quick to point out, “We have two teams in the Champions League Final, and English football could have two in the Europa Cup Final too. How good is that for English football?”

But is it really the English game any more? Is it even the British game?

Gary Lineker tweeted today -

Let’s take a look at the players who participated for the four English clubs in the decisive second-legs of the European semi-finals this week. Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal and Chelsea had 57 players appear at some stage during each of their games. All used three subs except Chelsea, who used four.

Would there have been enough Englishmen seeing action over the past three days, to make an eleven-man team? The answer is ..... just about, but they would need an outfield player to slot into goals. There were precisely 11 English players, all outfield, no goalkeeper, who featured across the four matches: Tottenham (3), Liverpool (5), Chelsea (2) and Arsenal (1).

The only English player who managed to get on the score-sheet, from the combined total of 12 goals scored was Rueben Loftus-Cheek.

Liverpool’s hero was Dutch or Belgian (take your pick!), Tottenham’s, Brazilian, Chelsea’s was Belgian, and Arsenal’s, Gabonese!!!!!!

Ajax v Tottenham Hotspur - UEFA Champions League Semi Final: Second Leg
Tottenham’s Brazilian hero, Lucas Moura, who produced an ‘out of this world’ performance on Wednesday.
Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

The coaches were from Argentina, Germany, Italy and Spain. Not an Englishman in sight!

So despite what Messrs Ferdinand and Lineker, both for whom this writer has utmost respect, say, is it really so good for England, or English football in general? To this observer, it seems merely to be good for the Premier League, its tunnel-visioned fans, and for those who make vast amounts of money from the organization.

No more, no less.