With the Premier League restart set for 12th September, fans have little in the way of rest-bite when it comes to witnessing the action on the pitch once more. The promotion of Leeds, West Brom and Fulham completes the line up, replacing Bournemouth, Watford and Norwich who return to the Championship. Of course much has been made of Leeds’s return to top flight football since 2003, as I have seen many suggest that this is a Premier League season to really get excited about due to the size of the clubs competing in the division.
The term ‘big club’ or ‘tinpot club’ is often branded around among modern football fans in today’s game. It’s undoubted that the size and history in time gone by is used as a metric among certain media and fans as an entitlement as to where a club belongs to be. You’ll often have heard Leeds being ‘back where they belong’ for example. Sadly for the likes of Nottingham Forest and Sheffield Wednesday at the moment, league tables decide where a club is placed in the English league standings. But will the forming of a ‘bigger’ set of 20 clubs really contribute to a more eye-catching division?
Nothing to lose
The Premier League 2019/2020 campaign was undoubtedly the worst season of all time. ‘It’s not football any more’ and ‘f*ck VAR’ ringed around several grounds to sum up the mood from the stands. That was up until March before fans weren’t even able to attend due to the coronavirus pandemic. Scandalous decisions from officials, poor quality and rule changes midway through the season involving drinks breaks and 5 substitutes constituted towards this complete farce of competition, with little integrity.
No matter what clubs make up the league it’s surely undeniable that the top flight needs to have a serious re-think if it can even try and claim to be ‘the best league in the world’.
Making a burning introduction
The newly promoted clubs are always a lease of life for what it is often the same outfits year on year. We have seen Sheffield United take the league by storm where as on the flip side Norwich left with a whimper, and just 5 wins all season. But while every club leaves its own mark one way or another, do we need the ‘big clubs’ to enhance the competition?
Aston Villa are the most recent example. It’s hard to argue that they are not a ‘big club’. Rich in history and a size-able fan-base, they have struggled to establish themselves as a Premier League club in the last decade with their best finish 15th since 2011. They have certainly not been a good addition to the Premier League since returning. Despite forking out a fortune on players they have built a mediocre squad, carried by local lad Jack Grealish and play some pretty uninspiring football. Their departure to the Championship in 2016 was lame and no matter how many fans they had at Villa Park, their contributions to the competition were and still are nothing out of the ordinary.
Newcastle are also in the same boat, having experienced a couple of relegation’s since 2009, the Geordies have been dragged through a period of frustration with Mike Ashley’s lack of ambition or care in charge. Their dull defensive football used to keep them ticking in the Premier League has got the Toon Army bored and neutrals equally enthused I’m sure. Newcastle are rarely a team you are pleased to see on the TV and their owners focus on keeping the shackles on makes them somewhat of a passenger when it comes to bringing the fireworks towards the competition.
Whether it be Sunderland, West Brom or the clubs mentioned above, a ‘large’ clubs exit from the Premier League through relegation would not have been greeted with despair among the masses due to the quality of football they play. The atmosphere brought by these fan-bases on their way out are not significantly better than those around them. We’ve also seen with the likes of Everton the repetitive nature of the competition can suck the life out the supporters on a weekly basis making it hard to get up for a more low profile fixture.
‘We all hate Leeds scum’
Leeds’s return will no doubt stir the pot. Their vocal fan-base would undoubtedly have made an introduction from the promotion bounce that we always see with clubs when they are high on drive and looking to make an impact in the division. But I feel their clever and thought provoking football is the backbone behind their appeal to the division, underpinned by their pragmatic coach in Marcelo Bielsa.
There is something to be said for the size of the club making a statement. You’d expect Leeds to ruffle a few more feathers than that of Fulham. They might not be popular but Elland Road could at least bring some life to the Premier League, should they play their part in some captivating matches along the way and generating some feisty atmospheres.
Does the Premier League really need ‘big clubs’?
The Premier League does not need big clubs, it needs clubs with direction, ambition and style which Wolves and Sheffield United have set as a marker. Bournemouth’s 5 year stay is perhaps the epitome of what a club can bring, despite only having an 11000 capacity their fluid and attacking football gave them a sense of adventure which made them a more attractive watch than bigger outfits around them, before they became a stale outfit and departed with minimal fuss.
There’s no doubting bigger atmospheres have greater appeal, and overall there is something to be said for having greater potential in achieving this through ‘big club’s’ but this is somewhat redundant when a club is playing miserably in front of a big stadium.
If the Premier League is to brand itself as the best league in the world then it needs to possess high quality, entertaining football with clubs competing to thrive rather than merely exist and this is not defined by how many seats are filled in a stadium.
What do you make of these thoughts? Let us know in the comments below!