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Opinion

These 1980s TV reruns prove to me how much better…and worse Premier League football is now

6 months ago
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It is a regular debate, is Premier League football better than what went before in previous eras?

Obviously it is an endless discussion because there is no definitive right or wrong answer, it is all simply a matter of opinion.

So, in your opinion, is indeed Premier League football the best we have seen?

This current suspension of football has had one small silver lining, with the likes of the BBC showing highlights of matches from previous decades to help fill the void.

We have also seen The Mag featuring more retro stuff, great matches from the past like the 5-0 against Man Utd, 4-3 at Leeds, plus Tino’s unforgettable hat-trick against Barcelona.

So what have we learnt from these steps back in time?

Well leaving aside the standout NUFC memories and looking at football overall from past decades, I think two things stand out.

Football in 2020 in the Premier League is better than what went before, as in technically better.

However, no doubt for me that football in past decade was ‘better’ in terms of entertainment and better on the eye.

I especially enjoyed the 1980s games that the BBC were showing this weekend, the terraces, the strips, what the fans were wearing, the whole culture bringing back great memories.

What about the actual football though?

If these 1980s matches were given the full ‘expert’ analysis by pundits today, all the talk would be about how naive a lot of the tactics and play was. Possession in these retro matches constantly passed between one team and the other, some of it through the opposition doing well to win the ball but mostly it was a case of ambitious/risky passes and players taking each other on.

This in stark contrast to the possession based football that has now become the norm. We are so used to countless passes without getting anywhere much of the time, sometimes 20+ passes without even getting into the opposition half. Fans in the 1980s would be bemused at such play, why no attempt to run with the ball or simply get it forward if all else failed, after all, you are never going to score when the ball is still in your own half!

I’m guessing that back in the 1980s compared to the present day, the ball must have been in the attacking thirds far more often during your average game. Nowadays it is all about that possession and even when attacking, far more passing usually in the opposition half before trying to plan an incisive pass or commit the opponent.

I think that the last 10 or 15 years have been the biggest game changer with more and more clubs, especially the top Premier League ones, bringing in overseas managers and often the very best ones – the likes of Mourinho, Guardiola, Klopp and many others.

The technical side of the play and the tactics as good as anything in any country but much of the time it relies on grinding the opposition down. Passing them to death.

Personally, I think the happy medium was the 1990s and first half of the next decade. The technical side of the game definitely improved after the formation of the Premier League BUT the game in England still retained a lot of the free attacking spirit to go forward as well, not the crippling fear of losing possession as you see now.

I am biased of course, or should I say influenced…as this period of time saw the brilliant Kevin Keegan and Sir Bobby Robson years at St James Park. Very high quality football but the emphasis always on getting forward. It was anything but an NUFC only thing though, as whilst I didn’t like Alex Ferguson, you can’t deny that his teams played great forward as they dominated the Premier League for so many years.

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