It might be early in the season, but the obituary notices are already being written in England: the Big Four is dead. Remember the Big Five from the 1980s (Liverpool, Man Utd, Arsenal, Tottenham, Everton)? Perhaps not. Might the same be true for the Big Four within a couple of decades, just as Chelsea’s riches reconfigured the elite in the first place?
Oliver Kay, writing in the Times, sets the stage: “In the offices of certain financial houses across London, there are bulky files containing the business plans of the Barclays Premier League’s most indebted clubs. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool — all of them have worked out almost to the pound how they will repay their debts and all of those plans revolve around the “virtuous circle” in which continuing success on the pitch perpetuates success off it.”
The surge of the “middle class elite” this season, with Man City, Tottenham Hotspur and Aston Villa all off to strong starts and Liverpool looking distinctly mediocre, threatens this “virtuous circle” — Anfield’s finances are dependent on a strong Champions League run each year, with the club in enough trouble already (the latest is that Hicks still cannot sell his share). The next Leeds? Perhaps all it will take is a couple more beach balls.
- The World Cup playoff draw took place, and one can only wonder what Ireland boss Giovanni Trapottoni is thinking now, after his team drew France. The rest of the draw sees a tasty match-up of Portugal vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina, with Greece taking on the Ukraine and Russia facing Slovenia.
- Dean Windass, everyone’s favourite overweight but hugely gifted 40 year old footballer, has retired. A sad day for all of us hoping our own growing guts won’t stop us playing football.
- Where next for Sven? Sweden? That sounds far too sensible.
- Sam Wallace looks at redemption for Steve McClaren in Holland. Good on him.
- The debate over racism in English football continues, with Patrick Barclay weighing in on the low numbers of black football managers — by saying “I find the subject an especially irksome waste of time and energy because it does not matter if we have 92 white managers or none.” A complex subject is, for Barclay, one that “fills me with indifference.” That’s fairly easy for a white male journalist who has been a classic part of the football establishment for decades to say, isn’t it?
- Finally, the ever-excellent Tim Vickery looks at what World Cup failure for Colombia and Ecuador means for football in those countries.
The Sweeper appears daily. For more rambling and links throughout the day every day, follow your editor Tom Dunmore @pitchinvasion on Twitter.