Date: 27th April 2018 at 3:53pm
Written by:

I saw the news earlier that Wembley might be sold to American billionaire, Shahid Khan, the owner of Fulham FC and the Jacksonville Jaguars NFL team. The figure mentioned in the Standard article is £500million.

I thought about this news for a moment this morning then simply shrugged.

Selling Wembley? Yeah, why not, £ootball sold its soul many moons ago.

Bit dramatic maybe, but that’s how I feel about football. It was always a business, but it was also about the football, the pride and the passion. It is, after-all, our national sport. I used to be so passionate about seeing England play. Now? It doesn’t seem to matter to the players like it used to, and that has filtered down to many of us fans. The players earn more in the Premier League and Champions League and so have more interest in their club football because it seems it is all about the money these days. Gone are the psycho heart on the sleeve days I think!

Back to Wembley. Now, selling it isn’t that major a situation I guess.  It has been private before and it is highly unlikely the new owner would want to stop the FA Cup and international games being played there, the games are a money spinner and money is all these people are interested in. It has already been confirmed that the League Cup and the play-off finals will remain at there. They aren’t going to take those and then say no to The FA Cup (remember when that used to be THE Cup… before… oh actually, that’s is another article I think!) and international games are they?

It will then, apparently, also host that ridiculous game the Americans call football. Yup, a game played mostly with the hands is ‘football’ and we play ‘soccer’ apparently. I, again, digress.

My point?

The game, for myself and many I know of my generation has died.

I love Aston Villa but I really do hate modern £ootball.

The dichotomy for me at the moment, bringing this article around to Aston Villa, is that I have loved the last two seasons in what I consider a real footballing league. I’ve not missed the land of milk and honey ™ and £ky obsession with the big four or five. The Championship, for me, is like the old division one was before Sky and money really poured into the game. Anything was possible. Pretty much any of the top half of the league could win it in any given season. You could argue actually even more teams, at the start of a season, were in with a shout.

In the Premiership? Two or three can win it. A few can pull off the odd shock result. Most are also-rans and even the excellently run Tottenham Hotspur can only really get to 2nd or 3rd. Yes, I know we’d swap places. We were above them for years in the all time League and all time Premiership rankings. But that’s not the point, the point is modern £ootball takes ridiculous money these days to just stand still, let alone push on. (I will admit Spurs, if anyone, are in with a shout of breaking the mould and yes, I do realise Leicester City gave us all a boost winning the league against the odds. My point still holds I think). Oh and remember, Spurs haven’t done all of this improving over night, it’s taken them 17 or so years to really build to the point of a fantastic new stadium and possibly a whole new era.

As said, I have loved these two seasons, we are actually playing for something, many are – rightly I think – moaning because we haven’t already gained automatic promotion, there is a slim chance and anything can happen but, well, it is slim. Then we have the ridiculous lottery of the play-offs. That is another invention of £ootball. You win the final, so are the 3rd team to gain promotion, and get awarded winners medals and a cup. Why? And the football cliché is that it is the richest match in football because promotion brings the lucky club £140million or so.

So … my issue (Ok, I have many issues, but lets stick to this article for now!) … I prefer the Championship. Real football, great away fans, less bull, the PL only Villa fans stay away and it is still a well watched and loved division BUT I realise a club our size simply has to be promoted. The wage structure, the infrastructure, the history and heritage (we were ever-presents in the Premiership and if not for mismanagement, still would be) and everything that surrounds this club screams top division.

We get up?

We will be also-rans. Sorry to break it to you. But we will be. The talk I hear, which could be proved wrong, is that Tony Xia isn’t going to be pumping millions of his own money in. The talk of being a top team in Europe in five years seems to have been replaced with 2-3 years of consolidation before trying to push on. A club that always turned up at any ground expecting a chance of winning, could well be one of ‘those’ clubs that turn up and are expected to be beaten.

Excellent. Sounds great fun. But we all know, from our 6, 6, 6 placings (which for being the top spenders in Europe one season, wasn’t good enough for me and that’s before we get to throwing away the UEFA Cup chance) and then demise, it really wasn’t.

If Xia has got millions to pump in, we still have to fit the ludicrous Financial Fair Play rules, designed from what I can see, to keep the top teams at the top and the rest of us struggling. It wasn’t set up, as it should have been, to prevent clubs going bust on debt. Nope, debt didn’t matter for the rule writers because debt could have penalised some of the top clubs in Europe. Instead, it stops many of us from being able to pump in money. I know the much maligned Randy Lerner couldn’t get his head around the restrictions to him spending HIS money as HE chose.

We go up. We get £140million. £40million of that goes to players and manager bonuses so we’d have around £100m left and we all know that a good few new players would be needed to hold our own in the Premiership. What would £100m do? Then Bruce would have to sell some of the key stars perhaps? And even then, he’d have to look at the one thing I don’t think clubs should be able to do. Loan players. Even with all this in mind, if we dared lose a few games, the manager will get slated because we aren’t doing what we think we should be doing. Winning. No, the old ‘big club’ Aston Villa used to win. This one? We have to consolidate, hope to stay up, start to slowly build and try to get to what? Well, if we look at Spurs again. 2nd or 3rd.

I remember a previous Aston Villa CEO, Mark Ansell, once saying at an AGM that “even if we finished second, you lot (us fans moaning at the AGM) wouldn’t be happy.” We all agreed with him, he was right, we wouldn’t have been.

Football used to be about winning. It used to be a far more level playing field. It now is a broken product and yes, product, sadly, is the right word for it.

I hope and pray we get up, for all the staff whose jobs might be on the line if we don’t. For all the right reasons, I want promotion.

But by Paul McGrath, I’ll miss the Championship and actually being able to try win things.  And yes, I know, we are in the Championship and still haven’t won anything.  Give me a break and let me have a little moan please!

And that ladies and gentlemen, I thought, was going to be a quick article!

We have a forum thread if you wish to read the discussion about the sale of Wembley

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