Cheer up Leeds, the Premier League is a dysfunctional, uncompetitive, mockery of a competition

John Nicholson
Leeds United striker Rutter
Leeds United striker Rutter

This is the time of year when I ask you to have perspective and not listen to the default thinking. Getting relegated from the Premier League becomes a reality, but it really isn’t a problem. It’s just a reflex indoctrinated by the Premier League. Wanting to be relegated and volubly so should prick the league’s bloviating self-regard; something has to.

And as teams battle it out for the automatic promotion places, I hope their fans realise these are the glory days. You’ve got a great team and manager, you are winning away games 4-3 with heroes everywhere. The football is exciting, you feel you’re going to win every game. You go to every game with hope in your heart. Winning all the time is great and you are drenched in glory as you get promoted. Remember this feeling, it will be but a distant memory soon enough.

Next season starts with the reservoir of hope still full. Then you lose 5-1 at City and 6-2 at Anfield. You have eight points by Xmas and a threat of a points deduction for stupid, can’t-even-count owners spending too much on anonymous players who don’t even care about the club, in an effort to stay up. And you have already sacked the manager you so adored last year. Happens all the time.

Every week becomes a fight and you scrape a draw at West Ham with David Moyes depicting the Hammers as an underdog who ‘should be careful what they wish for’. Even though you have only 10% of their funding.

You are momentarily cheered by beating Manchester United 1-0 because they are having their now traditional meltdown. Finally, in early May you’ve got to get something at Fulham and you lose 5-0. The pain is over, the joy of being promoted only lasted a few weeks and it’s been existential pain ever since. Your much-loved team has become a pinata for everyone else.

You just can’t compete against state-funded sides and clubs supported by infinite petro-dollars and VAR just makes everything worse. They have made a mockery of the word competition and quite deliberately. It’s not a fair fight.

Now you’re on the parachute money trampoline with millions to cheat the new season and there’s an expectation of bouncing back straight away. Sporting competition no longer really includes you because of this golden handshake and privilege. The club has been pulled into the sick, twisted economics of the Premier League even after being relegated.

You’ve got three years before you can shake this financial warp, before you’re free of the Premier League’s tentacles and you will not want to get involved with the sh*tshow ever again until a European Super League takes the sport washers and soft power projects away. Let them play themselves.

So for Leicester, and perhaps Leeds and especially Ipswich, these are the glory days, you won’t feel like this again for years. Only the misery of endless defeat awaits. What has been said to be the Promised Land will be a salted earth where you will be told to be grateful just to be in the league, but somehow you don’t feel privileged, no matter how many times you are told you should. This isn’t why you fell in love with the game.

There’s no joy in losing a lot in a higher league. I’ve long said winning more in a lower league is brilliant and far superior, you need only look at the happiness on fans’ faces. The idea that you get reflected glamour from an elite team as they hand you your arse 6-1 is mere propaganda.

The Premier League is obviously uncompetitive. That means a newly promoted team cannot compete across the season, and can only delight in occasional one-off results or a collapse by a club. There’s nothing you can do. You’re used to playing well and winning, but not anymore. Next season it will be all different, even if you think it won’t and no matter how much you argue it won’t. Leave it all behind. Relegation is your sweet release.

Maybe this year has been hellish as you lost so often; next season, it’ll be different. You’ll enjoy more wins and should be financially superior thanks to the parachute payment. You will be expected to succeed and that will be a pressure, but you will at least be able to compete. That’s not worse in any respect.

I don’t think the Premier League realises that plenty of football fans think the league is a dysfunctional, uncompetitive, mockery of a competition and want no part of it. Or it does realise it but doesn’t care because so many others suck up their propaganda as truth, which seems more accurate.

Relegation has never felt less important, never felt like anything but an escape to freedom and promotion soon feels depressing and crushing. Sorry. Football is still great but it is being ruined as a top-flight spectacle with increased predictability and financial inequality, and I don’t believe you can say it isn’t unless, as may be likely, you’re here for a football exhibition and a predictable result. In which case these are the best of times and you don’t understand anything I’m saying.