Remember the halcyon days when a club could genuinely expect to be able to climb through the divisions and reach the top flight using a combination of luck, hard work, guile, no little skill and maybe the odd fresh face at a critical time. Wimbledon. They did it. But they’ll probably be the last unless Bill Gates buys Torquay United.
I know that even back then, the bigger clubs had better options through greater finance. But in those dim and distant days, I could reasonably believe that Ipswich Town had a chance of winning the old first division.
Now, if you aren’t in the premiership, that looks a forlorn hope at best. Like David beating Goliath only his sling is broken and there aren’t any stones on the ground anyway. The new Ã‚Â£625m overseas TV rights deal puts the tin lid on it. All will be divided between the top 20 clubs without even a nod at those below who still provide a good percentage of the players who grace it. And the gap between Prem and Championship, already wide, is about to become a chasm with a flimsy footbridge Indiana Jones would look at twice before crossing.
That’s because now, you can earn Ã‚Â£30m for coming last. What? Surely even the most cataclysmically badly run club can’t fritter that much away. Not with parachute payments for a season or so too. Charlton, Watford, West Ham et al… sit back and relax. If you happen to be relegated, you will be so with so much cash you needn’t be concerned about re-promotion. You can retain players, buy the best of the rest, do whatever and know the rest of the championship hasn’t a hope of competing unless a sugar daddy comes a calling. If you fail to get back up at the first attempt, you should probably take up a different sport. Yes all right it doesn’t come into play til next season but you see what I’m getting at.
Small wonder premiership clubs, players and managers have delusions of grandeur and importance. I’m not even sure they’re delusions any more. This is a depressing time for those outside the top flight right now. It doesn’t work that richer clubs pay bigger transfer fees. Not to cash strapped league clubs they don’t. Only to other rich clubs.
It isn’t a pyramid anymore. It’s more a gentle sided plateau upon which sits a scorpion-encrusted, snake-encircled, slick-walled rock spire. Go on Indiana, climb that.