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A new team versus an old tired one? 1. Leicester 1 c 2. Ipswich, 2 c 3. Leeds, 3 c 4. Southampton, 4 c 5. West Brom 5 c 6. Cardiff 7 c 7. Sunderland 8 c 8. Hull 9 c 9. Blackburn 10 c 10. Middlesbrough 12 c 11. Stoke 13 c 12. Swansea 14 c 13. Birmingham 15 c 14. Watford 16 c 15. Norwich , 17 c 16. Coventry 20 c 17. Huddersfield 21 c 18. QPR, 23 c 19. Sheff Wed 24 c 20. Portsmouth 1 L1 21. Bolton 3 L1 22. Barnsley 5 L 23. Derby 7 L1 24. Blackpool 8 L1 25. Charlton 11 L1 26. Wigan 17 L1 27. Reading 24 L1 28. Swindon 10 L2 29. Wimbledon = MK Dons 12 L2 30. Bradford 16 L2 31. Oldham NL 1 12 Listed in order of league position as of 11/11/2023 C= Championship L1 = League 1 L2 =League 2 NL = National League Only the Premier League matters? The 31 teams above have gone out of the Premier League since Sky invented football in 1992/93 31 years ago, an average of one per season. I don’t like the way the previous history gets wiped out by commentators, tv stations, etc., but in this case I have a point to make about the Premier League so I will use statistics from it mostly. Blackburn -will they ever make it back up? Now we at Arsenal sit privileged and smug as we laugh at all those suckers who support teams who fall out of the big time. We are at the main table, we pay huge prices to support our team, and scramble every match for the privilege of doing so. There are many ticket forums with people pleading for tickets. For most of the teams in this list, getting tickets is not a problem, nor are the prices high in comparison to Arsenal. Winning can still turn you into losers Two of these teams have won the Premier League, Blackburn in 1995 and Leicester in 2016 so that is no guarantee of safety. 3 teams go every season and some rarely or never make it back. There are plenty of teams on that list that will probably never get up again. Bye bye glory days. The cups provide the only hope of a top team coming but stuffed with reserves. From Coventry down are in real danger of never getting back up. And as for a truly new club, that doesn’t really seem possible. Wimbledon, which rose from the ashes of the old Wimbledon, which relocated and went to Milton Keynes, is still a successor to the old Wimbledon. Will either get back up? Leicester - may come straight back up The problem is that football in England is very conservative. There are probably families who have supported their team since they were formed in the 19th century. Fans who switch clubs are regarded as traitors, and even the fabled golden sun supporters are most likely made up of young people looking for a successful team to support and not old ones switching allegiance. I know very few people who have switched and I have been hanging around football fans all my life. We never switch Support continues throughout families, passed down like sacred script. We are an Arsenal family, another is Man U, another is Everton. The problem is that if a team disappears, as some have, it leaves no obvious candidate to take its place. Become a traitor and support a rival? No chance! Hands up those of you who would switch to the Spuds if Arsenal went out of business? A grand old club struggling in the National league But can you see the problem here? Drop down a division and you lose both revenue and support as no club retains all their support. Maybe it is partly down to the new young supporters not wishing to support a lower team, as they emerge every season looking for teams to follow. But unless you get back up quickly, you are on a downward spiral of less money, fans and ability to attract. You could go down again, and again until like Oldham, you go out of the 4 divisions. A new team can’t rise up Oldham are in football heartland in greater Manchester, with a huge football population, they were inaugural members of the Premier League, and yet they are floundering outside the main league. Attempts are being made to stop the slide but will they work? Los Angeles Rams moved from St Louis in 2016 -a massive distance New teams really do not emerge in England. And teams are generally tied to their homeland in their title. Arsenal are among the very few that aren’t. After the fiasco with Wimbledon/Milton Keynes Dons, I doubt if a club would be allowed to relocate too far away from their home. And even Arsenal, I feel, would not risk moving outside Islington or changing their name. Conservative forces are the driving force of English football. Not for them to have famous teams relocating to different cities as happens in America. Or indeed, for new teams to emerge. These are some teams that have gone all with towns in their name: Bury FC Rushden & Diamonds FC Chester City FC Macclesfield Town FC Maidstone United Aldershot FC Darlington Wimbledon Accrington Kettering Town The excitement of Pele and the New York Cosmos in the 1970's It is almost impossible in England to start a new team. You have to start in low divisions and try and work your way up, a long and gruelling job which will probably never bear fruit. I remember the excitement when new leagues were set up in the USA, with big names like Pele, Beckenbauer and George Best among many others. That cannot happen in England. Is it a good thing? I think there can be an argument for allowing new clubs. The teams that fell apart invariably had bad management and ownership, which led to weakening the fan base. A new team, let’s call them Oldham Warriors, could find a fresh focus with genuine football based owners, and galvanise the town, giving them a reason to believe. Is there a way to make it happen? How could it be achieved amongst the existing structure? Not easily, as you can scarcely kick out a team to make way for a newcomer. One way may be to change the existing rule of promotion from the National league, currently at one, to Division two, to continue, but allow 2 teams to come instead and relegate 2. One is the NL champions and the other a new team. There would have to be strict criteria for the newbies. A proper ground, genuine football people involved, backing from the local community, a very solid business plan, and a demonstrable dedication to making the club a force in the game would be areas I would see. This could be better than clubs crawling on their knees every year, trying to pay staff, lurching from one crisis to the next, and struggling to have viable local support. Is this the only option we have for new teams? New clubs could give fresh impetus and hope to disillusioned fans. It would create an interest in the lower leagues as unheard of teams start to push up, and we wonder if they can make it to the Premier League? 4 years is the minimum, but coming from nowhere, they could attract fairly big crowds as they climb the ladder and realistically, success would be getting promotion, and playing better teams. Will it actually happen? This is an idea that could work, but the conservative forces in England will not allow it. The world keeps spinning, we need new ideas all the time, and keeping failing football clubs alive in intensive care for the sake of it may not be the way to go. Does my idea have merit? I think so. Does anyone else? Maybe not. A rebrand, not a new team? Arsenal did a rebrand that worked, moving ground and totally changing the environment in which we watch games. It was necessary, yes? Otherwise we start to fail, maybe go down and into a sinking spiral leading to National League. We had the people to build Arsenal up, to ignore the conservative forces saying that we had to keep Highbury. The Spuds did the same and Liverpool and Everton are in the process. Chelsea are trying to find a way to increase their capacity. At this moment you need huge revenues to be a top team. Rebranding a top team is far easier than at the bottom as the fans can see that it is necessary to stay challenging. I feel that two things will not change – teams will keep getting into deep trouble and it will be almost impossible to make a new team to freshen up football.
True shocks don’t happen in elite sports Was this really a shock? Home Away Key: Arsenal 1969-1970 Arsenal 1970-1971 Leicester 2014-201 Leicester 2015-2016 Arsenal 2021-2022 Man City 2021-2022 Sometimes in life, amazing things happen and we say wow! In elite sports they don’t, not really. You have to be top class to win. Leicester, in 2015-16, bought extremely well that season. N’Golo Kante, Christian Fuchs, Robert Huth and Shinji Okazaki came in to great effect. Also Jamie Vardy proved himself to be top class as did a young Rihad Mahrez. Kasper Schmeichel finally showed himself a worthy successor to his father. Sometimes goalkeepers bloom late. Leicester proved the launching pad for great players and with the big guns having a bad season, romped to the title. It was a surprise but not amazing. They had several players capable of gracing any teams. We just didn’t know how good they were until that season. Selling key players proved their undoing as did the demands of European football but they remained a far better team than in the past. The teams are always good Now, I know what you are saying, Gus, this is an Arsenal column, what’s all this guff about Leicester? Well read on, I will try to underline some areas which I have seen in my lifetime and how shocks come about. But also emphasise that in elite sports they are not such big shocks after all. And so let’s go back through the mists of time to my first row, Arsenal in 1969-1970. We were poor and finished 12th. We won a total of 15 matches out of 42 and we finished 12th. But we drew 18! So you can see how we could have chalked up many more wins. We only drew 7 the next season and won 29 times to win the title. We had top top players The difference between us and Leicester was that we did it with more or less the same set of players. I believe that the massive confidence boost of winning the Fairs Cup (Europa League) in 1970 got the players to feel tall. A mostly English squad had players overlooked for England because of the star names in front of them, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Gordon Banks, Jack Charlton, Terry Cooper, Geoff Hurst, Alan Ball and others stopped Bob Wilson (later declared for Scotland), Peter Simpson, John Radford, Ray Kennedy, Charlie George and Geordie Armstrong and others from getting more caps. They were only at best a shade behind the superstar names. They were bloody good players. We should not have been 12th. And so we proved as we won the double the next season. But we definitely played above ourselves as did Leicester. Leicester got a massive boost by going out in front and gaining confidence all the time as the other teams forgot they had to finish above Leicester to win the title. We never do things easy We had to do things the hard way as we didn’t get off to a flyer, drawing our first 2 but we had several good runs and we kept in touch with the top, finally beating the Spuds away in our last game to climb the mountain. Look at this list of names Nottingham Forest came up from the second division in 1977 to win the title the next year, which is even better than Leicester or us but they had the incomparable Brian Clough and amazing players such as Martin O’Neill, Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, Archie Gemmill, John Robertson, Peter Withe, Tony Woodcock and plenty of others. Truly that quality of players made it no shock. Again we may not have known it at the time but those players had great careers. Can we provide an upset? And so to now and Arsenal. My second last row is us last season. 13 losses! But would it be a huge shock if we won the league? No, it wouldn’t. We have added some players who are proven winners. All our young players are a year older, they know that the only thing that matters is not to give up as we did against Man City, Liverpool and the Spuds as examples that come to mind. And not to lose concentration like against Everton and Palace. Will this guy be a world great? It would, of course, be a surprise. The final row shows what we have to do. The gulf between us and City is enormous, you just have to look at those stats to see what I mean. What we need is simple, for the ultimate blossoming of our young talents unto a level that means greatness. For the team to gel, to battle, to be consistent. Man City lost 3 matches, Liverpool 2. That’s what we need. I have said many times in this column, the only currency that Arteta can trade in is, not bitcoin, not dollars, but wins. And this guy? The right shock The question is, do we have players like Kante and Mahrez, and yes, Vardy, who stepped up to become leading players of their generation? I hope so. Bad teams don’t win the league and there are no true shocks in elite sports. I will be happy with a nice surprise and a red team from North London sitting on top of all the others. I will not be happy if we don’t improve on last season. That will be a shock I don’t want to see. And I want to see us beat Leicester next game. Surely at home, with key players gone, they can't cause an upset? Up the Arsenal! Especially this guy?