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Some Clubs Are Bigger Than Others

9 years ago
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Size. It’s very important in many walks of life – painfully so for many of you out there on occasion, I don’t doubt – but when it comes to assessing the relative stature and scale of your average football club, by what criteria should our fine national institutions be judged?

Sky’s resident remedial jester, Paul Merson, kicked off the debate last week by suggesting in all seriousness – or what passes for seriousness when you have the IQ of a table-lamp – that perennial mid-table flounderers Aston Villa are a, “bigger club”, than Newcastle United.

As an ex-Villa player, I can just about excuse Merse his outright partiality on this, especially when the harmless loon clearly drinks from a very different teacup to the rest of us, believing, as I’m almost certain he does, that the moon is made entirely out of lard, most park benches are possessed by evil spirits (“I said most, not all of them…I’m not crazy!”) and United’s primary back-up striker is a player by the name of, “Shameobi”.

However, I feel I must take issue with his assertion or, at the very least, the measure he has applied in forming it. True, Villa have won 19 domestic honours and, admittedly, the European Cup. However their last ‘major’ success was some 30 years ago – ok, they won the League Cup in 1996 but that was before anyone was bothered about it. Newcastle United have won a similar amount of pots as well as tons of other great stuff like the Kirin (Japan) Cup, the Texaco Cup, of course and, just 18 months ago, the much vaunted and internationally renowned Teresa Herrera Trophy. Ayeeeeh!

However, winning trophies is hardly a measure of size is it? Blackburn Rovers could barely muster crowds of 30,000 when they won the Premier League in 1994/5 and, unlike Bobby Robson’s Black and White Army, neither Rovers nor Villa have ever played in the Champions League, or Everton for that matter – another club often deemed bigger than us. Surely the sheer volume of folk who bother themselves to turn up consistently over time to offer their support is the only real guide to the size of any football club, irrespective of how successful they are? Which makes us the 3rd biggest club in the land. So that’s settled then.

Which begs the question – is big really beautiful and if so, how big are we, how big could we possibly be, how big do we want to be and finally, if we do get any bigger, will we have any trouble getting our trousers on in the morning? Should we be bothered? Well, yes we should, if only because the press – and by extension, fans, agents and, crucially, players (i.e. potential signings) – are obsessed with size and all the joy it can bring. For that reason alone, we need to ‘big’ ourselves up…and 52,000 every matchday (ok, just under 49,000) can’t be wrong can it?

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