And so this brilliant season rolls on. These are the arms around the shoulders, punching the air, the whole bar singing the chorus, good old days, my friends. We are living and breathing nostalgia. Now is back when anything could happen. Back when, as every Premier League game kicked off, neither you, nor I, had any idea who was going to win any game. Or not unless it involved Aston Villa, anyway. And it was brilliant.
We are living in a golden age. And I never thought this day would come. I didn’t think it was possible anymore. A status quo seemed to have been long established. The idea that the biggest spend wouldn’t equal the most trophies seemed to belong to a long-forgotten past of flared trousers, brown bri-nylon underpants and split ends.
And yet, here we are.
We all know, in our heart, soul and water that this season has provided a glimpse into a better life. A life where the Premier League is a proper competition and not a procession of corporate marketing targets. This is what sport is supposed to be: random, chaotic, exciting and unpredictable. In short, the exact opposite of what the money men (it presumably is almost all men) want. How can you put all of those things into an income stream projection spreadsheet?
Can it last? Is it really just a blip? A freaky one-off? I don’t know, but we’ve seen a better world. Who would want to go back to a more dull, more predictable, less exciting world now? And if we did, what would that do to our feeling for the Premier League, knowing as we now do, that a more fun competition walks side by side with us?
A lot of rich people like to think they’ve worked out football, from the weird cheap horror movie devil-baby Ed Woodward, to the creepy Scooby Doo fairground villain Michael Emenalo, to the comedy cartoon that is Mike Ashley. This season has revealed all too clearly that this is not true.
What none of them knew and much less understood is that money has a finite capacity to improve your squad of footballers. These people assumed that there was an infinitely elastic correlation between money spent and success gained. And they were right for a while.
Inflation of valuation, due to increased ability to pay, has distorted everything. Extraordinary fees are paid for ordinary players. Wealth, like a powerful vacuum, doesn’t just attract quality, it also sucks in the over-priced and over-rated. But the money men can’t seem to tell the difference.
In their world, the more expensive a player is, the better he must be. They see the world as though men are cars. You pay more, you expect more performance and expect people to look at you with a mixture of admiration and jealousy. Not my words, Carol, but the words of Top Gear magazine.
It’s a lazy notion, but then some of the rich are notoriously lazy. Why wouldn’t you be? You buy your way through life, using money as a substitute for empathy, intellect and understanding in the hollow space where your soul should be. Since your money can buy you everything you need in football life, what’s the point in youth development? You can just let poorer clubs develop players and then you can buy them. Yeah, development is for the poor.
You only scout top leagues because if anyone was any good, they’d have been signed by someone half decent by now. Let the poor do the hard work of finding talent, then you step in and play sugar daddy. Big money loves to boss it like that, and they were all so sure that’s how it worked and how it would always work.
But are they so sure now? What else can they do after this season?
Clever is a far more premium product than rich will ever be. And the dumb rich hate that. Rich is very one-dimensional. They try to tell us that the one with the most wins, but when we don’t believe that, we take away their power. And this season, our belief in their concept has taken a bit of a kicking.
Leicester City have thrown down the gauntlet. Here’s the challenge to the assumed mediocre. If they can do it, why can’t you? The money cat is out of the bag. The lie that money means everything has been skewered. We’ve been indoctrinated into the religion of the supremacy of cash, to know the price of everything and the value of nothing, and it’s a horrible, sinister theocracy with cold, hard eyes.
The way it has been for the last 20 years is no longer good enough. And no amount of corporate drone-speak will make it good enough. It turns out that more democratic, non-monetised values in a progressive localised customer aggregation are stronger than corporate created brand loyalty. Or, put another way – our soul beats your gold.
Imagine if 2016/17 sees a top four of Manchester City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea. That sad, slumped feeling in your belly as you read that, that’s important. No, no, no. We don’t want that. We’ve had our fill of that.
Outside of those clubs’ fans (and even perhaps within it), after this season, it’d be a huge turn-off if the likes of Leicester, West Ham and Spurs are not in and around the top four. Or why not Stoke City, Southampton, Everton or Palace or any other team who can coalesce around a well-organised, well-motivated, clever manager? Imagine if it’s just the richest clubs competing amongst themselves again, who wants that? Disinterest is a powerful virus which can spread through the body of football; it feeds off knowledge that something better is possible.
2015/16 is a real problem for the status quo. If football is a product – and that’s what they think it is – then to us, any season not as competitive and exciting as this one is far less attractive and far less worthy of our money and attention.
We were told all of this couldn’t happen. Now we’re being told it’s a blip. One thing is for sure – it turns out that all along, the emperor was naked.