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Premier League – They’re having a laugh

3 years ago
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Premier League – meh!

With Newcastle sitting reasonably pretty mid-table, is it time for black-and-white optimists like me to come up out of the trenches, take off our tin-hats, and say – “Premier League?? – meh! –  not that great!”.

It’s the Greatest League in the World, so we’re told. And it’s undoubtedly the greatest at selling itself. But as for the football – is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Newcastle fans have pretty much got used to the Premier League over the last 20 years or so – but dropping out of it for a season gives a bit of perspective.

Iknow one thing I noticed last season was just how little attention a club gets when it drops out of the Premier League. As far as much of the media is concerned, it’s as if the relegated teams have dropped off the edge of the world. There were times last season, especially when we were playing away from home, that it was like going back to the 1970s. Trying to find out what was happening during the match, it was almost like listening to the transistor radio back in the day, waiting for the music to be interrupted by “It’s a Goaal!”

It’s not surprising I suppose. Media giants like Sky and the BBC have invested squillions in the rights to broadcast the Premier League. They are hardly going to lure in punters by saying:

“The Premier League – this week two mediocre teams slug it out in the pointless quest for 8th place!”

No – they’ve laid out their money, and they way they’re going to get it back is by persuading us that we will be watching the best league in the world, with teams full of superstars, and a weekly diet of high-stakes duels between fantastic teams playing fantastic football.

So a myth is generated by the media – and to some extent we all buy into it – that the Premier League is marvellous. And a part of that myth is that all the teams in the Premier League are miles and miles better than all of the teams in the Championship.

It just isn’t true.

Don’t get me wrong. It would be daft to argue that the standard in the Premier League isn’t higher – it is. But to listen to the pundits and the journalists, you would think that all of the teams in the Premier League are miles better than all of the teams in the Championship. The classic example of this has been in the media’s treatment of Newcastle as this transfer window drew to a close.

The view you heard from Uncle Tom Cobley and all was that Newcastle had a Championship-standard squad, and that without massive investment we would have no chance at all of competing against Titans of the Premier League such as…..Bournemouth, or Swansea, or Burnley.

It’s just nonsense and it’s easy enough to demonstrate that it’s nonsense.

If the Premier League was so much better than the Championship, you would have a situation every season where nearly all of the relegated teams came straight back up, and nearly all of the promoted teams went straight back down. And that just doesn’t happen. Ever. Last season the numbers of teams bouncing back was on the higher side of the average – a total of 3 out of 6 (Newcastle back up, Boro and Hull back down). But the average over the years is less than that. Less than half of the promoted teams come straight back down (45%) and less than one in three relegated teams go straight back up (29%). That comes out at 37% of teams bouncing straight back – roughly one in three, or 2 out of 6 per season.

Those are the statistics. But we can see the same thing if we look at the teams we’re playing against and the players in those teams. Last season we came up against plenty of good teams, and plenty of really good players. Newcastle won the league – we had the best team. But as often as not there would be somebody in the opposing 11 who you would wish was playing for us. Pontus Jansson, Tammy Abraham, Anthony Knockaert, Lewis Dunk, Tom Cairney, Ryan Sessegnon – those are just a few off the top of my head, but there were plenty more.

And then look at the competition this year in the Premier League. I’m not talking about Spurs – they aren’t the competition. The Premier League is, in reality, two distinct divisions – the top 6 and the rest. Yes, the top 6 are on a different level. But the rest?

What about Swansea? Imagine you could swap any of our starting 11 for their player in the same position. How many would you swap? If it’s me choosing, I might take Fabianski and Abraham – but the rest of them you can keep. And what about Stoke? I might turn out to be wrong but I’d expect us to give them a game. They just aren’t all that great.

And of course the most important person is sat on the bench directing operations – and Rafa is top 6 quality. One of the very best.

Look at our friends down on Wearside. They knew last season they had a rotten team. But because of the myth of Premier League excellence, there was a fairly widespread expectation among the Mackems that they would still be good enough to steamroller most teams in the Championship. Not looking like that at the moment, is it!

Back to the media. They are the ones who persuade us that the Premier League is so fantastic and as a part of that blinkered view, they just don’t see anything else that’s going on elsewhere.

Did you see Jamie Redknapp on Sky after the Swansea game, talking about Jamaal Lascelles? This is the Captain of the team that won the Championship last season we’re talking about. He didn’t even seem to know his name!! You can bet your bottom dollar – a couple of good games in the Premier League and Jamie and his fellow pundits will be all over Jamaal like a rash. But he’s just the same player.

So, for all of the critics saying “Oh, Newcastle have still just got a Championship squad”. Maybe we have. But it was good enough to win the Championship and it’ll be easily as good as a fair number of the Premier League squads we’re going to be competing with this season.

The truth is, most of them aren’t that great.

(There. I’ve got all the way to the end without a single mention of you know who.)
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