MARTIN SAMUEL: Rodgers knows Spurs are not better than Leicester

MARTIN SAMUEL: Brendan Rodgers knows Tottenham are a bigger club than Leicester but bigger does not always mean better… why do you think the wealthy and entitled hate it?

  • Brendan Rodgers says that he would prefer to work at Leicester than Tottenham
  • The Foxes have been better this season and have better prospects at present
  • Meanwhile, Daniel Ek’s Arsenal interest shows signs of already-failed takeovers
  • Tammy Abraham may do a job in the Premier League but he’s not going cheap
  • And there’s just no way the T20 World Cup can go ahead in India as planned

Brendan Rodgers says that, for now, he would prefer to work at Leicester than Tottenham. And that’s meritocracy. That’s why leagues without true competition are bunk.

There are perhaps two points in history when Tottenham would be considered for entry into a closed-shop competition of European aristocracy.

At the moment, when the primacy of our Premier League places our biggest clubs in exalted positions, and in the early 1960s, which was Tottenham’s last title-winning era.

Brendan Rodgers has admitted that he would prefer to work at Leicester than Tottenham

Indeed, when the esteemed writer Brian Glanville argued the inevitability of a European Super League, in 1964, after the success of the fledgling European Cup, he put Tottenham in it, alongside giants such as Real Madrid, Barcelona, both Milan clubs and Manchester United.

Yet with them he had — and quite legitimately — others that have fared less well, such as Stade Reims, Eintracht Frankfurt and Dukla Prague. And that is why meritocracy matters.

For the same season that Glanville made his prediction, and having won the title and finished second in previous campaigns, as well as reaching European finals in 1956 and 1959, Stade Reims were relegated. 

They have bounced between the top three divisions ever since, and were liquidated in 1991, returning as Stade de Reims Champagne.

The 1961-62 Ligue 1 trophy was their last of note and their entry in this season’s Europa League — eliminated by Fehervar of Hungary in the third qualifying round — was their first in UEFA competition since the 1962-63 European Cup. 

Yet at that precise moment, with Glanville at his typewriter, Reims were France’s super club. This is why any attempt to press pause, to freeze in time the success of a small group, is an anathema.

Leicester have been better this season and have better prospects in this moment in history

Fortunes change — even if an elite cabal has done everything in its power to make this not so.

The modern equivalent of Stade Reims is Paris Saint-Germain and, let’s face it, they are not finishing 17th next season or any time soon. Maybe never.

The way the modern game works it will be hard for one of the clubs that threatened to form the Super League to suffer relegation. They can be usurped, though. 

Usurped, by a well-run, well-funded, well-supported club such as Leicester. Tottenham’s dance with Rodgers may not be over. Leicester could sell another of his best players, derail the project and change his view.

He may merely have delayed negotiations until it is known whether Leicester have secured Champions League football.

Then, there is the small matter of the FA Cup final on May 15. How disloyal would it be for Rodgers to openly flirt with a rival, given the season Leicester could have? 

Tottenham are a bigger club than Leicester but bigger does not always mean better in football

And Leicester’s compensation demand might be too rich for Spurs in straitened times, rendering the question moot.

Yet are these not also reasons for rejecting Daniel Levy’s overtures? A club that may lose Harry Kane, that may not have European football of any kind in 2021-22, that could be operating with budgetary restrictions in coming years, that have a 60,000 capacity stadium to fill and an unpopular board? 

Tottenham are, right now, more of a fragile proposition than Leicester. The bigger club, for sure. Yet bigger is not always better.

Leicester are better this season; they have better prospects in this moment in history. That’s meritocracy and Rodgers’ hesitance confirms it. Why do you think the wealthy and entitled hate it so?

DON’T LET PROMOTION FOOL YOU

There is no little revisionism in the Championship, where the promotions of Norwich and Watford at the first attempt are being advanced as evidence their owners got it ‘right’.

Listen, if the owner gets it right, a team from the Premier League does not end up in the Championship.

Norwich underinvested and Watford had four managers in one season. No one got it right. Do that again, either of them, and they will be straight back down. 

EK PLAYING FAMILIAR TUNE DESTINED TO FINISH ON A BUM NOTE 

The publicity machine around Daniel Ek’s proposed takeover of Arsenal is in overdrive. Ek, we are told, is such an Arsenal fan that he even watches their matches on his laptop during business meetings. Really? He doesn’t go? He’s a billionaire, living in Stockholm.

It’s not as if many Swedish fans of English football do not make at least one trip a year. And if there was a photograph of Ek at the Emirates, or even Highbury, you can be sure it would have been in the public domain by now.

Ek maintains he is serious. Yet his offer — such as it is, Arsenal claim to have heard nothing yet — contains all the hallmarks of the takeovers that have failed in the past.

The media hype preceding the bid, the redundant populist add-ons like Thierry Henry and Patrick Vieira, the appeals to fans to act as pressure group advocates and, of course, the promises. 

Ek is open to the idea of a golden share which would give fans the power to vote on, and block, any constitutional proposals or legacy decisions.

Sounds great — but which fans?

Daniel Ek’s interest in Arsenal contains all the hallmarks of takeovers that have failed before

A representative on the board? Fans that go to games, like the season-ticket holders, who number roughly 46,000? The 3,500 members of the Arsenal Supporters Trust, who might even hold a minority view, given their number?

What about worldwide membership, those parts of the globe that have a different take on elitist leagues? Arsenal’s Twitter account has 17.3million followers. 

If the global membership got a say it could greatly skew any Super League poll. Could a smart man, for instance, the billionaire owner of a media giant, not steer fan involvement to suit his purpose?

In 2014, when Hull City owner Assem Allam balloted season-ticket holders on changing the name to Hull Tigers, he gave three options. 

They were: ‘Yes to Hull Tigers, with the Allam family continuing to lead the club’, ‘No to Hull Tigers’ and ‘I am not too concerned and will continue to support the club either way’. 

There was no option that allowed supporters to keep Hull City and the owners — the implication being they would walk if it was rejected, which could have left Hull ruined.

As a result, of 15,033 season-ticket holders, only 5,874 voted, with 2,565 supporting change, 2,517 against, and 792 unconcerned. Democracy is pliable. Let Ek buy the club then see what is on offer. At the moment, that development still looks far away.

FLAST TRACK BULLY TAMMY NOT EXACTLY A SNIP AT £40M

Tammy Abraham is Chelsea’s top goalscorer with 12 this season. He is up for sale in the summer for £40million. It sounds reasonable.

Yet five of Abraham’s 12 have come in cup matches against Luton and Barnsley, two more have come against Sheffield United and West Bromwich Albion, who are on their way to the Championship. And Chelsea make a lot of chances.

Abraham may do a job in the Premier League — but no one should be fooled that he is going cheap.

Tammy Abraham may do a job in the Premier League but, at £40million, he is not going cheap

WILL BOYCOTT PROVE SOCIAL MEDIA’S JUST TOO MUCH TROUBLE?  

Social media and sport have never been happily compatible. Even below the racist abuse, sexist abuse and straight-up abuse abuse, there is a level of the puerile and nasty that is entirely unappealing. When footballers boycott these forums this Bank Holiday weekend, they may be surprisingly taken with the sound of silence.

On the day the Super League was revealed, Tim Shipman, political editor of the Sunday Times, tweeted his approval. He declared himself a Liverpool supporter, who grew up in Lincolnshire and lives in London.

Trying to make a wider point about the impermanence of modern life creating a generation who enjoy elite sport without declaring fanatical allegiance to one aspect or team, he also declared favouritism for Surrey, Nottinghamshire and Royal Challengers Bangalore, Ajax, Boston Red Sox and Washington Football Team (formerly the Redskins), England, Team GB and Europe in the Ryder Cup. ‘I’m looking forward to #SuperLeague,’ Shipman concluded.

You can imagine what happened next, and there’s the funny thing: maybe he could not. 

Within an hour, he posted a wide-eyed follow-up. ‘After five years of Brexit Twitter and occasional visits to Royal Twitter, invigorating to discover Football Twitter today. Haven’t been abused as effectively since I was at school.’

This is an admired political journalist who is operating with 1.93 per cent of the followers of Paul Pogba. Can you imagine how much vileness spills into Pogba’s world? 

When a subject is more emotive than the divides of Brexit, it rather illustrates the problem sport faces. The boycott may serve its purpose but there could come a point when interaction simply isn’t worth the trouble. If it hasn’t already arrived.

FORGET ISTANBUL, HAND BOTH FINALS TO GDANSK 

If the pandemic has demonstrated anything it is that events without large numbers of fans have one advantage: flexibility.

UEFA contrived to stage the 2019-20 Champions League from the quarter-finals onwards in one city, Lisbon. Domestic fixtures such as Tottenham v Fulham were switched and rearranged at just three days’ notice. 

So why can’t the venue for the Champions League final be decided at a meeting next Thursday, once the identities of the two clubs are known?

Istanbul is a problem now. Turkey has just been plunged into a full lockdown lasting until May 17, with the level of infection among the highest in Europe. 

With UEFA previously guiding that 9,000 fans would be allowed inside the 76,000-capacity Ataturk Stadium, it makes no sense to expect supporters to fly 4,000 miles across the continent to a Covid hotspot.

The Gdansk Stadium in Poland should host the Europa League and Champions League finals

Turkey’s current policy on foreign visitors — welcome without quarantine despite only 16 per cent of the country being vaccinated — smacks of desperation, not safety.

If Chelsea and Manchester City get there –—and there’s a decent chance — we all know the most sensible location would be a major ground in England. Wembley, obviously, but with only 9,000 inside, options are numerous. Even Villa Park, halfway between the two cities, would do.

Equally, one of the major movements would be of officials, broadcasters and media, so why not play the Champions League final at the same venue as the Europa League final four nights earlier: Gdansk in Poland. 

The Stadion Miejski is already proposing to hold 10,000 on May 26, so 9,000 on May 29 should not be a problem.

There are too many organisers taking a cavalier attitude to significant problems that could be simply resolved. Istanbul can revert to top of the list as the next Champions League final venue — the first available slot is 2025, unless Wembley wants to swap in 2024 — but it is wrong to host it there next month.

LACK OF REFEREE DEMOTION SHOWS WHY BAD DECISIONS REPEAT  

Chris Kavanagh was mistaken and Peter Bankes wrong to lead him on. That is the irresistible conclusion following the decision to erase Fabian Balbuena’s red card for West Ham against Chelsea on Saturday.

Everyone could see there was no intent, malice, not even foul play when his follow-through connected with Ben Chilwell’s leg while clearing the ball.

Bankes, the VAR, showed no common sense flagging up the challenge, Kavanagh even less by sending off Balbuena on review.

Justice is done. Except Kavanagh will referee Brighton v Leeds on Saturday, while Bankes is trusted to be VAR when Tottenham host Sheffield United — despite neither man demonstrating any real understanding of the game and how it is played. 

And we wonder why bad decisions repeat.

Chris Kavanagh’s decision to send off Fabian Balbuena against Chelsea has been overturned

OBSTACLE FOR INDIA TO HOST T20 WORLD CUP IS JUST TOO GREAT

Leaving aside the complete falsehood that, according to the organisers, the IPL stars are ‘playing for humanity’, there is absolutely no way the T20 World Cup can go ahead in India as planned.

The tournament may not be scheduled until October, but logistical analysis is taking place now, amid the greatest coronavirus emergency on the planet.

Final plans are being made regarding hotels, travel, training grounds and staff, and working parties should be making important reconnaissance trips. The ICC has a delegation in India doing just that.

There is absolutely no way the T20 World Cup can go ahead in India as planned later this year

Yet it is impossible to know what the situation will be six months from now; what will be closed, where will be open. It could be disastrous to delay and delay in the hope the country moves out of crisis.

The decision of the IPL to continue looks more insensitive by the day, not least with tales of vaccine priorities to healthy athletes. To then saddle a stricken nation with a second demanding event would be morally reprehensible.

India must be allowed to deal with its health emergency undistracted. The UAE has been put forward as an alternate host and should be promoted as a matter of priority. India’s power in cricket is great and the ICC love to appease them, but some obstacles are just too great.




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