Friday 28 October 2016

The 'Prem' is back, for better and worse

Published 07/08/2016 | 02:30

'With football, with the Premier League in particular, we can never move on. This is where we live, baby!' REUTERS
'With football, with the Premier League in particular, we can never move on. This is where we live, baby!' REUTERS

It has not been so bad this summer. Our suffering has to some extent been eased by Euro 2016, and we may even find something in the Olympics to get us through these last days before the Premier League starts, and life has some meaning again.

  • Go To

Indeed the Olympics has helped to fill the void in other ways, by forcing Wimbledon and the British Open and the Horse Show and other such amusements to start earlier than they normally would, thus giving us a few morsels at least to sustain us through the endless night of this accursed close season.

But the show in Rio is also telling us what really matters in this world, and what is only a passing fancy - would we be speaking so freely about all the doping that is clearly going on down there, if these sports were really important to us?

It is an interesting question, to which the most truthful answer is probably "No".

When we are holding forth about runners and jumpers and cyclists and swimmers and shot-putters and their unbelievable performances, we are aware that our personal happiness in no way depends on these sports, that we may give them a week or two of our time if we can be bothered, but that we do not engage with them on any deeper level.

We get a free shot at it, and then we move on.

With football, with the Premier League in particular, we can never move on. This is where we live, baby!

So if something astonishing happens again this season, and a team comes from nowhere to win the league, we will observe this great enthusiasm for the "fairytale" narrative; we will endure the arrival of all these normal people into our world, chasing the 'human' angle.

And then they'll return to their own soap operas, leaving us to ours, the one we sometimes call the Greatest League in the World -partly, I guess, because the world seems to regard it as the greatest league, and while the world is wrong about many things, in this case, oddly enough, it might just be right.

Clearly there are these 'human' factors, these strangely magnificent characters such as Jose Mourinho and Jurgen Klopp, the new ones Pep Guardiola and Antonio Conte.

And throughout the league at all levels, in terms of players and their agents, on the administrative side or in the media, we find a large number of really bad men - the sort of men who will always gather in these places where disgraceful amounts of money are to be found.

And bad men, if we are being honest, tend to get higher ratings than good men.

While we may appreciate on an abstract level the excellent work of the people who run the Capuchin Day Centre, for example, there is as yet no demand for their activities to be shown on pay-per-view television in territories from Sub-Saharan Africa to Uzbekistan.

Most of us are aware that the Premier League is some sort of a monstrosity. But it is the very obviousness of the observation that the Premier League is a monstrosity which demands a response.

Any fool can see that when they reach the esoteric heights of the Champions League, the most celebrated of the Premier League sides can look dull and unsophisticated. And yet it should be even more obvious to these critics that football is not entirely a search for brilliance or sophistication, no more than music is all about modern jazz on a late-night radio station - if football was entirely a matter of brilliance and sophistication, there would be no Stenhousemuir. There would be no Rochdale. One might even question the validity in these terms of an Athlone Town.

The grand old clubs of England still have this strange power which has made it seem natural for someone in, say, Manorhamilton, to regard his support for West Bromwich Albion as the most important aspect of his life.

Paddy has always known this thing that is now increasingly evident to the peoples of the Far East and the Near East, this ancient magic of the football clubs which commands such loyalty from people who may never even have visited England, and who have no intention of going there.

The knockers are forgetting all that stuff, and anyway they appear not to have noticed that anyone who wishes to see the supposedly superior German or Spanish leagues can do so quite easily these days on the same Sky Sports which provides them with their top Premier League action. And yet, mysteriously, you will still see few people walking the streets wearing the jerseys of Bayern Munich or Schalke 04, or of Valencia or Deportivo la Coruna.

Likewise, you had fellows thinking they were smart, claiming that England's poor display at Euro 2016 had exposed this grotesque lie that is the Premier League - which somehow overlooked the fact that several of the countries which did very well, also had players from the Premier League.

That said, the 'Prem' is undoubtedly decadent and depraved, in league with the devils of our time, the massive rewarding of corporate mediocrity, the welcome for owners who are not all exemplars of best practice in the workplace, the collusion with the betting industry.

All of these things are true, all the time.

With the Premier League, everything that you know is right.

Sunday Independent

Read More