Disillusioned by its predictability and fed up with the nastiness contained within, last November I said Farewell to the Premier League. I’ve since been hounded by a recurring phrase uttered by Lloyd Bridges’ stressed air-traffic controller in the 1980 film Airplane!, ruing his decision to give up smoking the week that a terrible crisis strikes. It looks like I picked the wrong season to quit the Premier League.
A title race decided on the last day, the final Champions League place decided in the penultimate game, and most surprisingly, the top three teams losing twenty-two matches between them (quite extraordinary compared to previous years, and oddly comparable with the twenty-four reverses suffered collectively by Man City, Aston Villa and Everton). Ok, so the quality wasn’t the best – as reflected by the limited English progress in the Champions League semi-finals – but in terms of interest, this was the best iteration of the top flight for several years.
Let’s gloss over the bottom half of the table, where aspirations climb little higher than survival, and the reluctance to reduce the number of clubs to 18 guarantees at least one disinteresting game each week. And I’ll ignore that fact that only two or three teams can win the league, and the whole bunch of them should be hugely embarrassed and very worried about Portsmouth going into administration. (Talking of which, quite why they are allowed to pay football debts ahead of the taxman is beyond me?)
For, to focus on the negative is to forget about Fulham. Their run in the Europa Cup was astonishing, not because of who they beat ( they were the seventh best team in England last year so it is perfectly understandable that they could reach the final of the European tournament which excludes the best teams from Europe), nor because of their final defeat, but because of the manner of their numerous victories.
The true pleasure of Fulham has been their manager. Even in defeat he retained a sensible head, sensitive words, and a sense of perspective. If the sport is to retain a role as a form of entertainment and not just be a business, it needs likable people. Looks like I picked the wrong season to quit Roy Hodgson.