All the reasons football is better now than the pre-PL era…

Date published: Monday 9th September 2019 3:01

Send your thoughts to…


Hindshite, Nostalshite and all that
Another typically insightful take on our beloved sport from J.N. this morning. But I wonder if he seems to be suffering from his own nostalshite virus. I agree with his core point: claiming one of two ages of a sport is superior is a mugs game. But I do think you can objectively analyse data that gives key differentiators that can give you a sense whether the past is better than the present or vice versa.

1/ The most obvious is the pass back to goalie rule. Before the rule change, the last 10 minutes of a game would be slowed down and beaten to death by the team in the lead constantly passing back to goalie to kill off the game with only the crowd’s displeasure and fair play keeping the behavior in check. Pre Premier League games would only provide 80-85 minutes of excitement rather than 92-95. Is more excitement unambiguously better? I should hope so since the key metric for better should be “more entertaining”.

2/VAR may be providing us with a modern day pass back to goalie rule: it is early days but if VAR makes goal celebrations premature and the nature and decibel level of celebrations is negatively affected, we may have our modern day dampener of excitement built in which, if it applies to most goal scoring opportunities could be far worse than the pass back to goalie rule.

3/ Then there are a number of other stats that we can bring to bear to compare: number of chances created per side, number of surprise results (this is the metric that has been used to claim football as the best sport: it creates more shock results than any other), number of goal line clearances, of finger tip goalie saves, shots hitting the bar, goals per game, changes in teams in the lead ..if all or the majority of these point in one direction over the other than we have some sense that one era is more exciting than the other.

But underpinning all of this is the key thesis that more excitement is better. But maybe that is the problem JN is getting at: we can’t seem to get our fill. The more we get the less we feel. Could more be a bad, and not a good? If that is the case then yes, perhaps we don’t really know what is good for us and should hold our tongues until someone has studied it properly.
Miguel, LFC (today’s LFC is almost as exciting to watch as the 80s heyday of Barnes, Beardsley, Rush, Whelan, Houghton and co)


…Alas, as I write in yet again about another of Johnny’s articles I almost feel like I don’t want to because his writing is fantastic. Yet, here we go again…

Johnny’s entire piece is focussed around how the EPL is branded as “the best football everTM” and how he doesn’t feel it is because it is not necessarily as entertaining, because better = entertainment.

Now, I fully accept that football is an entertainment business, and as such, you can argue that more entertaining certainly is better. However, that’s not what the branding has always been about (although granted, I was born in 1993 so grew up in a post-conversion world). The football is better in an arguably stats and ability based way. Its gone beyond throwing 11 hungover blokes on to a pitch and telling them to run around – there are PFM-loving “laptop nerds” trying to eek out the last little improvement in every aspect of the game, from the pitch, to throw ins, to training, to diets to everything else. So in a purely factual way, yes, the football now is better than it used to be because the vast majority of pros these days aren’t drinking (oops Danny Drinkwater), smoking 40 a day, and eating McDonalds for every meal etc etc.

This takes me on to the whole point of Johnny’s article, that football isn’t necessarily as entertaining as it used to be (though he also claims repeatedly that you can’t factually state this, so in turn basically ruins his entire argument, but anyway). This is because it has increased in quality. Football needs errors for it to be fun. If it was perfect then whoever takes the kickoff at the start of each half will just pass it around for 45 minutes, but won’t be able to score because the defence/keeper stop everything. That would be shite.

So by this logic, yes, football, back in the “good old days” before corporations and capitalism and greedy owners and associations sucked the heart and soul away from the alcoholic, drugged up football of yesteryear, was more entertaining because it was just a bit shitter in every way.

But you know what? Some of us weirdos quite like seeing slick football and pure quality in the players we watch on a weekly basis, because it reminds us that we really can’t all do it on a rainy night in Stoke.

I would like to honorably mention this argument’s sponsor (again), last week’s Set Piece Menu, where the gents discuss which footballers of old would be as extraordinary as they were, but in today’s world.

Also for those of you that care, the mighty Lowestoft Town got through a tough game against Leighton Town to advanced to the FA Cup 2nd qualifying round at the weekend.

Joe (maybe I’ve got the virus?), off to Wembley


…The moment John Nicholson jumped the shark. It’s about time that, as a business entity, you accept that F365 is a global website, so statements like “we are a deeply unhappy country” have no context in the world of your readership. You only need to read the taglines of the mailbox contributors to realize that. John may be unhappy to accept the glaring fact, but it’s the truth.

But John wants to beat the drum of his agenda:

“How do you measure skill? What kind of ruler do you use? What is the skill algorithm? These things don’t exist”.

“Arguments for the primacy of the of modern are based, as are arguments for the primacy of the past, on subjective notions, not hard facts”.

Away with you, you gobshite. You build a vacuous strawman and spend far too many words tearing it down.

Subjective means I jump out of my seat, my own couch, at home, 6,000 miles away from a game I’m watching when I see some sublime moment from a player on my team, or on another team, I don’t care. It gives me joy. It obviously makes John Nicholson throw up in his own mouth. He is not my problem, nor millions of fans around the world.

John wants to suck all the joy out of a game that millions of people love. That’s fine, go away and sell your book and leave the rest of us in peace while you craft your next bilious article with your thesaurus open on your desk.

As he says himself, “If you can find the the Premier League hindshite virus, delete it”. I hope if I do that, John Nicholson will disappear with it, and leave millions of us in peace to enjoy our football.
Steve, Los Angeles


…I enjoyed reading Johnny Nic’s hindshite article, but, more importantly, it reminded me of a classic, not widely known Irish saying;

‘Hindsight is the foresight of a gobshite’

*Gobshite – a stupid, foolish, or incompetent person
Gavan, LFC, Dublin (Rodgers should’ve played for a draw against Chelsea in the 2013/14 title challenging season)


…Not sure if the question is whether modern football is of a higher quality or whether it’s more entertaining, but either way it can be definitively answered by a quick trip over to @Crap90sFootball.


Prem lucky to coincide with law change
For me, the answer to the quality question Johnny poses on hindsight/hindsh*te is really simple. All top level football played before the back pass rule was introduced in ’92 is inferior to all top level football that has been played since. The first tournament I remember watching as a kid is USA ’94 and when I watch old games back from the 70s and 80s and it is, quite frankly, terrible to watch because of how slow it is and how awfully teams holding on to a result waste time. After goalkeepers and defenders adjusted to this and hilarious back pass clangers became a rarity, football evolved to a completely different level than it was before and it’s all thanks to this one, simple rule change. Michael Cox details this brilliantly in his book The Mixer, which is an essential read for anyone interested in the evolution of the game in England since the rule was introduced.

That the first Premier League season just happened to coincide with the most important and undoubtedly best football rule change since the offside rule was changed in the early 1900s was an enormous stroke of luck on their part, and the PL leadership grabbed the opportunity with both hands and built a brand that would’ve been unthinkable previously.

I agree with Johnny that having bigger/faster/stronger/fitter players doesn’t necessarily mean it’s more enjoyable, I watch lower league football and can enjoy it just as much as a Premier League game, but 1992 was a watershed year. All the individual skill in the world from playes like Hoddle, Maradona et. al. doesn’t compensate for the fact that they were playing a less interesting version of the game.
Martin (enjoyed Wycombe’s left back’s hat-trick on Saturday more than anything else so far this season), THFC


Why a managerial window won’t work
I meant to send this in last week but as the question of managerial transfer windows has popped up again I thought I’d throw my opinion in on why this won’t work.

The problem really is around employment vs registration. (As far as I know unless it’s changed in the last couple of years) players are actually technically free to be employed by clubs outside of the transfer windows, but until the registration window opens Summer and Winter) they can’t play for the club in official matches as they are not registered in the squad. This doesn’t apply to any other members of staff because there is no ‘squad registration’ for non-players. Therefore managers are as free as the tea lady to move from their current employer to another at any time.

The only way round this would be to invent a managerial registration system but like the transfer window change in the UK this would require all countries to sign up to make it effective. Then there’s the question of whether this should only apply to managers? What about the head coaches, or the director of football, or all the various people in the football hierarchy? What about managers vs head coaches vs assistants? Should it go all the way down the ladder to all of the staff employed by a club?

If you thought say, Spurs losing Eriksen after the English transfer deadline has passed (I know he stayed but it’s an analogy) would be bad, can you imagine if Real Madrid came and took Pochettino after the English manager transfer deadline has passed? They’d be stuck with one of the assistants for half a season.


Fancying Frank more than Ole
Seeing the piece about first managers getting sacked reminded me of Di Matteo at Chelsea.

I loved Roberto as a player (that was the era that I fell in love with Chelsea) and was happy for him to become interim manager. I also loved that he won the Champions League for us, but to me he was never a long term manager. From the moment he arrived, even though I really liked him, I never saw him as anything more than a temporary replacement. I know he hadn’t been successful in other roles (not sure if that played a part) but I never believed he’d be a good manager for us.

And this is the same feeling I have about Solskjaer. Although I’m not a Man U fan I always had great affection for Ole. Seeing him come off the bench to score game after game was infuriating but for some reason you could never bring yourself to dislike him. But for some reason I just don’t think he’s a top class manager, maybe he’ll prove me wrong but I just don’t see it.

And then there’s Lampard… He will always be a Chelsea legend and maybe that is swaying me more than Roberto and Ole, but there’s something about Frank that makes me believe he has what it takes. He’s undoubtedly raw and each defeat will teach him something new but he has that little something that instils faith in those that support him. Maybe it’s his eloquence, the fact that he doesn’t just churn out football-isms but actually looks like he’s given the question some thought. Maybe it’s the fact that we know he wasn’t the most talented footballer of his generation but managed to succeed through hard work and intelligence. Maybe it’s because Chelsea is finally playing some entertaining football so I want him to succeed before Roman calls time on the experiment and reverts to the tried and tested.

Whatever it is I believe he’ll be a success in management. My only hope is that he’ll learn quickly enough to see that success at Chelsea.
Ed B

More Related Articles