The Fat Lady Sings
Well, thank God that’s over for a few months. Many more of those bombastic Sky adverts that are so loud that they’re threatening to cave my living room walls in, and I think I’d have gone mad. The biggest problem with the Premiership isn’t the hyperbole that surrounds it, or even the gulf in quality between The Top Two Plus Two and the rest (that will be bridged slightly by the new and improved TV rights deal when that kicks in later this year, and the stars of Chelsea and Arsenal are definitely on the wane), but the fact that everyone takes it so damn seriously.
I’m serious about this. The Tevez situation has been, from a neutral standpoint, hilarious. West Ham covered up the fact that his signing was against Premiership rules, and hid the fact from the authorities for as long as they could. Nobody seemed that fussed while he was acclimatising to the league (in fact, more people shrugged their shoulders and wondered what all the fuss was about while he was bedding himself in), but then he absolutely single-handedly kept them up. There hasn’t been a team so utterly dependent on one player since Eric Cantona dragged Manchester United by the upturned collars of their shirts to the double in 1996. In the run-in, his performances on their own were enough to get them picking up the points that they needed to survive. Having done this, the chairmen of their relegation rivals are absolutely spitting feathers. They’re now threatening legal action against West Ham, the Premiership, the FA, somebody, anybody – and they haven’t got a prayer of winning.
The last couple of weeks have been a farce of sufficiently stupendous proportions to be worthy of the pen of Dario Fo but, because everybody takes the damn Premiership so seriously nowadays, everybody is shaking their head solemnly, forecasting doom & gloom, and wondering where it will all end. At the top of the table, Jose Mourinho has been teetering on the brink of a nervous breakdown since it became apparent that Manchester United were going to walk away with the title. One of the highlights of the season came in the immediate aftermath of their dismal semi-final against Liverpool, when he claimed that they had been a better team than the winners over the two legs of the semi-final, and the Liverpool chief executive Rick Parry responded by saying, “I guess when you’ve invested £500m it’s a fantastic season to win the League Cup”. It is, in other words, time for the rest of us to stop worrying about how much money they’re all going to win or lose, and start to just sit back and enjoy their ridiculous squabbling for the childish posturing that it is.
If you take the top four out of the equation, it was a terrific season in the Premiership, with everyone beating everyone else, and European places and relegation places being contested until the last kick of the last day of the season. We could revel in the continuing disappointment of The Unluckiest Supporters In Britain, as Newcastle United and Manchester City continued their underachievement into its fifth decade, guffaw as Charlton Athletic brought in “The Hapless” Les Reed and then panic and replace him with Alan Pardew, chortle as Joey Barton laid into the England World Cup team (“I played shit. Here’s my book.”) and bellow with laughter as Paul Robinson scored against Watford from ninety yards out (and let’s not forget that it’s not even the first time that he’s done this). It may not be the best league in the world (that honour goes to the Bundesliga), but it’s certainly the most ridiculous, and that’ll do for starters.