John Nicholson found himself cheering on Porto and Olympiacos on Tuesday evening. Is that wrong? Or is it a natural reaction to the Premier League’s marketing and PR bubble being burst?
I have a terrible confession to make, I love English clubs losing in the Champions League.
I don’t offer this up as a virtue, I merely state it as a fact. I know I’m not alone in relishing seeing these much-vaunted teams making a right royal hash of playing European clubs, more often than not clubs with far fewer resources.
This is quite a new feeling for me. My default position for decades was to support all British teams in Europe, and I still do in the Europa League or if they’re Scottish. So why does it feel so good to see Arsenal and Chelsea, Manchester City and Manchester United get handed their arses in the Champions League?
The truth is, I’m not really sure. Maybe it’s because it’s kick in the nuts for the rich dudes. It shows that spending infinite money does not make your team better, that you need something else. It pricks the marketing bubble around the Premier League and those who are obsessed with telling us how great it is (so much so that they’ve had to moderate the hype from ‘best’ to ‘most exciting’).
It also feels good to see the dumber pundits staring slack-jawed as a well-organised side full of players they’ve never heard of beating a side they had just assumed was better.
I suppose it’s also a celebration of the underdog, to some degree. But that won’t apply when Bayern Munich play Arsenal and I’ll still be delighted if the monied powerhouse that is Bayern win. I love how the form of Robert Lewandowski forces pundits to make comparisons with far more celebrated English strikers and inevitably puts their true quality in a proper perspective.
Maybe it’s also because high-profile players in our league are so over-vaunted and over-worshipped, and so seeing them humbled by people with a lot less profile and a lot less money seems like a blow against elitism.
Perhaps it also proves that what has happened to English football at the highest level is just basically wrong. I don’t know. I’m struggling to understand why I feel so strongly – maybe you’ve got good reasons for celebrating English clubs being defeated. If so, I’d like to know them.