I wrote a bit about this yesterday in a more reasoned capacity for the Pitch Invasion Sweeper, but this being my own blog, with its own grammatical errors, errors of fact, quotes without citations, photos without attribution etcetera, I'm going to dive in exactly the sort of way that doesn't win web awards.
It could be "anecdotal" (all meaningful truth in this life is based on anecdotal evidence—at this time of year in Toronto you accept the sun has risen on anecdotal evidence), but it seems to me the only supporters left on the entire planet who are completely unaware that, rather than an innocent competitive table featuring twenty teams competing on equal terms in a thirty-eight game home-and-away schedule, the Premier League is in fact a major global business concern in which the majority of revenue is derived from the continued, televised success of the same popular four clubs year after year; are supporters of those same four clubs.
Let's roll the clock back on the whole Mick McCarthy incident, when the middle-of-the-road Wolves manager charged with doing what many managers of his pedigree have tried and failed to do before him—namely, to keep his newly promoted side from falling ass-backwards back down into the Championship—decided to rest his first team against Manchester United mid-week in the hope of getting all the points against Burnley on the weekend (he did, btw).
Suddenly, there was a barrage of criticism lobbed at McCarthy. "You're ripping off the hardworking Wolves supporters," cried one, "you've denied those long-suffering fans from a chance at taking on one of the big boys" whinged another. The Premier League chimed in too, "asking" why Mick made ten changes prior to their 3-0 loss to United on Tuesday, a bit in the same way bankers content to hand out mortgages to people with dubious credit histories "asked" why so many people ended up foreclosing on their homes.
Let's be fair here; there were chants of "we want our money back" from Wolves fans during the reserve squad's game against United, but this was hardly black-armband slow-march stuff. I'd bet memories of Tuesday's loss have already disappeared with the fact Wolves, scraping bottom, are three more points the better after this weekend.
But this won't go away. That whingeing sound you're still hearing isn't coming from Wolves fans. It's coming from Arsenal supporters, Chelsea fans, even some deluded Kopites, who, rather than admitting like Arsene Wenger had the grace to after Tuesday's game—that they only care because title-rivals United got the points "for free"—are instead pushing the notion that fans of "smaller clubs" (a dead giveaway) are getting "ripped off" (says the banker from Crouch Hill with his Champions League package locked in the safety deposit box).
This is what has made my blood boil over the weekend, the presumption of the Big Four supporter that he or she knows what's best for Wolves fans in deciding what sort of team Mick should have put out, the same supporter who buys and then skips out on tickets for the Big Four Carling Cup matches featuring their club's reserve squad. "Yes, we want the Premier League to remain equally competitive on the day, look what happened this weekend," they tell me. Well yesterday's results were great, but we've seen similar results in every league season since 1992, and lo and behold, almost every year since then the same four teams have managed to grab the same four top spots. And the rate of relegation is still significantly higher for newly-promoted clubs too?
This my friends isn't "competition," at least in the traditional sense. No, this is more competition of the "market" variety, you know, free enterprise.
If you don't believe me, look at Manchester City. Now this is a club with no delusions about what "competition" means in a post-neoliberal age. With the efficiency of a quarterly report, Mark Hughes' firing was justified along lines more suited to a plant-closing. "Two wins in 11 Premier League games is clearly not in line with the targets that were agreed and set" reasoned representatives of Sheik Mansour, Man City's money-man whose wealth generation can be attributed to the business-savvy decision to be born with status in a country with oil under the ground ( little less apt perhaps than Roman Abramovic, who like many others knew how to take advantage of a little post-Soviet "shock therapy" to do the self-making for them, but you get the idea).
With experience in that sort of "market competition," the Sheik was made for Scudamore's Premier League. I'd say it's only a matter of a season or two before they strip Top Four status from downgrade Liverpool. Sure, some of the transfers have been duds, but then you just keep going until it works. Keep player wages high, get your hands into the European academies and reserves, promise parents a Kensington flat with commuter service to Manchester. With this sort of set-up, Hughes was a sort of earnest Fezziwig, always destined to get squeezed out.
What was a shock, as I wrote yesterday, was that he was kept around for the first half of the season. I wouldn't be surprised if even that was just a little PR move to keep fans and critics placated with the illusion that money prizes loyalty. That illusion is of the same genus as the belief it was somehow "unsporting" of Mick McCarthy to calculate the easiest and safest way to keep his team in the Premier League, and no, not for glory, but for Wolves' long-term financial stability. Or the illusion that it's inconceivable England's Brave John Terry would take ten thousand pounds in cash to give a private tour of Chelsea's training ground.
Yes kids, it's about the green. It's enough to make you yearn for the nervous innocence of Don Garber and the CBA.