So the finals of the two major European football competitions will this year be contested solely by English teams. A great achievement you might think, a shining example of the quality of the Premier League and back-up evidence of the progression of the English national football team?
But that’s not the case really is it? The clubs are English in name only, with the vast majority of the players involved recruited from overseas, with Chelsea and Arsenal by far the worst culprits.
Between 1976/77 and 1983/84, English clubs won seven out of eight European cups, with Liverpool winning four of those. The champions of England became the champions of Europe the next season each time, with the exception of Nottingham Forest, whose second win was on the basis of them being defending European champions. This year’s Champions League final will be contested between the teams that finished third and fourth in their national league, clubs that haven’t been champions of their own leagues for 59 years and 29 years respectively.
It’s even worse in the Europa League which is open bascially to anyone finishing fifth onwards, and then swelled by the third placed teams in each Champions League group. There used to be two other cup competitions, the UEFA Cup and the Cup Winners Cup. The UEFA cup was for the league runners-up and the other one did exactly what it said on the tin; you had to win the League Cup or the FA Cup to be part of the competition (or on very rare occasions of a double-winning side, the beaten FA Cup finalists). At least Chelsea won the FA Cup (and Arsenal lost in both cup finals).
Back in the late 70s/early 80s, the teams were stacked full of English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish players. There were quotas in place about how many “overseas” players you could play in European competitions, and at that time, it included the Welsh, Scots and Irish. As more and more European and South American players arrived in Britain, gethering momentum from the 1978 Argentina World Cup onwards, the juggling of players between midweek and Saturday fixtures became routine.
But the Home Nations international performances remained woeful.
So with the dilution of home-based teams with overseas players, are we still right to call these teams “English”? The supporters probably think so, but even the ownership of the clubs (other than Spurs) isn’t in English hands. And there isn’t a single English (or Welsh, Scottish or Irish) manager taking charge of these teams. In the 70s and 80s it was Paisley, Clough and Tony Barton, Howard Kendall and Keith Burkinshaw.
And yet this country apparently wants to sever all ties with Europe……………………