In Reply To Football Sugar Daddies - Helping or Killing (By Steve Everett)
By Gareth Marshall
First of all, I have to concede that I actually agree with Steve about the crux of his article. There's nothing more satisfying than seeing a team who seemingly represent everything that is bad about the modern game and who have pretty much had riches and success handed to them on a plate get turned over by a side who've got where they are through nowt more than graft and determination. Which is why I, and most other fans in the country, really enjoyed Norwich beating Man Utd so much at the weekend.
I'd hazard a guess that Steve is a Man Utd fan, (though of course, I'll willingly stand corrected
if that isn't the case) as surely no-one but the most avid of fans can present such a skewed
version of reality.
To present Manchester United as English football's knight in shining armour, fending off the advances of evil businessmen armed with wads of cash and trying to corrupt the beautiful game is, to put it bluntly, absurd.
The very fact that United's famous club badge, which displays the now globally recognisable red devil motif, no longer features the words Football and Club to make the Plc (for that's what they are) more marketable should tell you all you need to know about their attitudes to money. The fact that they are probably still the richest club in the world, football owes much more to their successful marketing operations in the Far East than it does to producing a young team which went on to dominate English football for almost 10 years.
Steve is right in saying that United should continue to produce remarkable young talent and fight of tyrants like Abramovich and Glazer. But he seems to have a rather short memory.
Aside from the argument concerning United's recent poor record of bringing young players through, was he looking the other way, Arsene Wenger style, when United splashed out record-breaking fees on the likes of Ferdinand, van Nistelrooy, Veron and most recently Wayne Rooney?
United fans weren't complaining when the club spent around £100 million on these four players
alone, yet as soon as first Rupert Murdoch, and now American tycoon Malcolm Glazer
declares an interest in acquiring the club, they suddenly recoil at the thought
of being tainted by big business.
But they already ARE a big business.
Until Comrade Abramovich arrived on the scene, no one in the country, not even Arsenal, could match United's spending power, or wage structure.
That financial clout wasn't built up thanks to winning the Premiership almost every season (although that certainly helped), and nor was it due to the support of working class folk from Salford who scrimp and save to buy ever more expensive season-tickets. No, it was gained thanks to the likes of Peter Kenyon, head of United's commercial and marketing team - now ironically at Chelsea - who worked tirelessly to build up links with clubs and businesses in China, Japan, Thailand and Malaysia.
It should also be worth noting that, Glazer's interest in United comes when they are a financial superpower in football terms. They own the biggest club ground in Britain, have a team packed full of international superstars and are a worldwide brand. When Ken Bates sold Chelsea to the dodgy Russian billionaire however, the club was on its knees, with debts of upto £100 million. If United were in a similar position at the moment, then I doubt the fans would be putting up the same spirited resistance they are currently voicing to his proposed takeover. They would be probably just grateful to have a club at all.
To be honest, I have no real axe to grind here, and if I come across as an outraged Chelsea fan then I can assure you
that the truth is far different - let's face it, you can't get much further away from the Blues than watching Leyton Orient.
In fact, seeing Chelsea winning everything this season is a bit of a kick in the teeth - although going out and
buying the title is nothing new, as Blackburn demonstrated in 1995.
It's just that fears expressed in the article about an epidemic of multi-millionaires
suddenly buying up a select few English football clubs and destroying the game as we
know it, should already have been voiced years ago.
Football is has been heading in this direction for years, with top clubs building up massive fanbases to the detriment of lower league (and even smaller Premiership) sides, and a generation of kids growing up to follow teams with whom they have no local or family ties.
And there is already a big three emerging, who are winning everything.
No side other than Man Utd or Arsenal has won the League in the last 10 years, and only Chelsea have managed to deny the same two sides in the FA Cup over the same period. The only chance most other sides had of trophy success and a passage into Europe was via beating Man Utd and Arsenal's reserve sides in the League Cup.
The likes of Newcastle, Spurs, Everton and even Liverpool are now merely also-rans as far as the League is concerned, with no realistic chance of winning. This has nothing to do with Malcolm Glazer, or even Roman Abramovich. If Glazer's latest bid for United is finally accepted, then the English game will not self-implode.
The world won't end. Life will carry on as normal for the 17 other Premiership sides who have no chance of finishing higher than 4th, and the rest of the League will carry on being shafted by the FA and the Premier League, just about keeping their heads above water. And United won't have sold their soul buy selling out to a Yank businessman. That was flogged off years ago.
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