As Liverpool kicked off last night’s match against visitors Manchester United, ‘Gardens in Time’ was starting on BBC4. With hindsight, maybe we should have saved ourselves a lot of time, effort and money and watched that instead.
It was described as a ‘Documentary exploring Nymans in West Sussex, a garden that was created by the Messel family, whose members were Germans of Jewish descent and came to the UK in 1870. The garden became renowned as one of the most fashionable and romantic of the Edwardian period, but faced disaster in later years after a fire destroyed much of the family’s house, and the Great Storm of 1987 left the area devastated.’
Exciting stuff huh? However, having sat through last night’s over-hyped ‘battle’ between the ‘two giants of English football’, maybe Chris Margrave, Head Gardener at Clumber Park, National Trust was right when he once said: “There’s nothing better than digging and breathing in the smell of the soil as you turn it over, knowing that your efforts will be rewarded with some great tasting veg or fabulous flowers.”
I think I’d rather smell the autumn soil than the smell of bullshit that was fed to us over the last week by Sky Sports. The build-up to last night’s match was embarrassing. It was a league game, two clubs playing for 3 points. Well, 1 club playing for the 3 points, the other opting to put 9 men behind the ball at one point. This masterclass of promotion and marketing is why hundreds of millions of people end up tuning in to watch this over-hyped and over-rated league.
Sky Sports’ hyping-up of this match was the click bait of televised football.
You won’t believe what happened next! Nothing! That’s what happened next! Absolutely f***ing nothing!
Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool and Manchester United, home and away, are the two most important games of the season as far as I’m concerned. They’re the enemy. We respectfully hate them and they respectfully hate us. Everton’s up there of course but a defeat to them is easier to overcome (although I’m not from Liverpool and I don’t live in the city). Who are Everton anyway? What have they ever done?
Liverpool’s games against Manchester United and Everton are the only ones that I look forward to during the Premier League calendar. Arsenal bore me to death, Chelsea is a non-stop reminder that Liverpool fans live in the past and Manchester City just remind me that we’re owned by American chancers. Spurs? Nothing. Pointless.
The Premier League is massive. We all know that. It’s well marketed. It’s global. But generally speaking, it’s pretty dull. Now unless you consistently watch other leagues, you won’t know any different and you probably think there’s nothing better. I watch almost every televised Premier League game but few leave me feeling entertained. I also watch La Liga and Serie A and like a pint of Woodpecker cider, it’s a refreshing change.
Growing up I was led to believe that the Spanish league was nothing more than players falling over, rolling around like Jürgen Klinsmann, with referees forever stopping play while Italian games were boring and defensive. Today I don’t see that. I really enjoy watching Serie A. La Liga too. I don’t watch the Bundesliga very often because it’s impossible to watch any more games than I already do. When the televised English games conclude on a weekend, I’ll have a nosey to see what’s being televised from Italy and then I’ll fall back on to La Liga, especially if Valencia are playing as they’re just up the road from me. I’ll have a small flutter on each fixture to have an interest and I’m usually left satisfied.
Following last night’s dull Anfield encounter, let’s look at these recent quotes about the Premier League, from two former Liverpool and Manchester United players.
“English people believe the hype of the Premier League. Richard Scudamore and the Premier League company have sold a Skoda for a Lamborghini for the last 15 years. The Premier League is average. If you look at Spain and Germany and the standard of football and look at the quality of football, it’s in a different league to England,” – Didi Hamann
“In the Premier League in the last two years, have I really seen a game of high quality? A game that I’ve thought: “Wow!” It’s difficult to think of any. Then I think of games abroad that I’ve watched: Real Madrid–Barcelona, Bayern Munich–Borussia Dortmund, proper games of football. I can’t imagine Real Madrid players, Barcelona players, watching our games and being as excited as we are to watch a Real Madrid–Barcelona game or a Bayern–Dortmund game or Juventus–Roma, something like that,” – Paul Scholes
Scholes goes further by saying that he’s probably more interested in watching non-league side Salford FC than the so called top flight English clubs. I can understand that. Last week I bought a share in a non-league English club (I also have a small number of shares in Juventus and Roma) and having attended a youth cup competition in Spain earlier this year, I realised that football at grass roots level can be as meaningful as the top flight game.
Don’t get me wrong. Non-league football, youth football and overseas leagues will never replace the English Premier League for me because I support Liverpool and by default, I have to follow the league. The Premier League is good. I enjoy it. But that doesn’t mean that the Premier League is the most exciting.
It comes as no surprise to me that Sky Sports have suffered a 19 per cent ratings drop for live Premier League games so far this season. People are switching off, although surely the illegal streaming of games must be hitting their figures? Shame that.
Subscription costs are just too high and they continue to increase on a frequent basis. It has to stop. I really hope the EPL bubble bursts soon. I am one of those people who watch dodgy streams. I think I pay around a tenner a month that gives me access to every major game (including Saturday 3pms) in high definition that I can watch on my projector in my lounge. But you’re going to think I’m a mug when I tell you that I also still pay Sky and BT for their packages even though I can access their content via the streaming service I pay for. Why? Because I don’t want to steal from them. I know that will sound stupid to many of you but I can afford it and it’s the games that are not broadcast on UK / Spanish TV (I’m in Spain) that I want to see, games that I would be willing to pay for if it were possible. However, many, many fans are being priced out of watching football legitimately. It’s too much. I begrudge paying these prices but they are a priority expense in my house but I won’t pay much more on principle. There has to be a cut off point one day.
I’ll always watch Liverpool. I’ll always watch the Premier League. But I’m not ignorant enough to shun other leagues just because they’re not hyped-up.
After Liverpool’s game against West Brom on Saturday, why not stick with BT Sports and take a look at AC Milan v Juventus. You might be pleasantly surprised. Although now I’ve said that, it will obviously bore you to death and end 0-0! One thing I will add about Italian football is that the ‘smaller’ clubs in Serie A put up a fight when taking on the more superior teams. Two giants like Milan and Juve may cancel each other out like Liverpool and United did last night, but the less attractive teams in Serie A can be very entertaining when compared to their English counterparts.
As for last night’s match, Jose Mourinho ruined it. Let’s be honest, he bottled it. Since when did Manchester United come to Anfield to play so hard for a point? Smaller clubs yes, but Manchester United? Any Manchester United fan that thinks that was a good result for them shows much their expectations have fallen. They expected to get turned over so what does that say about the current United mindset?
I used to have time for Jose. I like characters in the game. But when it was put to him last week by a journo that Jürgen Klopp had done well with Liverpool since coming in, he wouldn’t even acknowledge the suggestion. He merely replied that he had nothing much to say. I thought he let himself down. He’s turned into a big baby. I’m sure he will improve United over time but if I was a United fan I wouldn’t be celebrating a 0-0 draw at Anfield. All that says is you expected to get hammered.
Liverpool were held by United’s gameplan and whether we think they showed themselves up or not, it doesn’t really matter because they got what they wanted from the game. We didn’t. I’m just surprised United didn’t target Loris Karius more. Don’t worry about him though. David de Gea was a nervous wreck when he first arrived in the Premier League. He just needs time. He’ll be alright, I’m sure.
I feel sorry for the fans of both clubs who spent their hard earned cash to attend that match. Five minutes after it finished I was in bed. I’m glad I didn’t have a long journey home following that.
Today, other than reflecting about how negative United were and how boring the Premier League can be at times, I’m left wondering as to when we’ll see Danny Ings again. When fit, that lad would get my nod ahead of a couple of others just now. I just think he offers more than Origi and to be honest, I’d even give him a run out over Sturridge, at the present time. ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’. I hear you, and yes I’m sure his chance will come. I’m just really looking forward to seeing him back on the pitch again following his impressive start to his Anfield career.
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