Clubs rise unexpectedly, and clubs fall equally unexpectedly. With hindsight it is easy, but for the futurologist it is tougher.
Take Wimbledon – who foresaw their rise to the 1st division all those years back?
Take Leeds – we might have raised collective eyebrows over their insane spending – but they weren’t the only ones doing it. Only their accountant really knew where they were going, sinking from the top of Division 1 to 3 and quite obviously he wasn’t telling.
Some clubs rise up for a long time – Liverpool were a solid Division 2 club and then with one manager got themselves together and stayed up. Sheffield Wednesday were a very solid first division club who decided the lower levels were more their style.
Some stays are short: Manchester Utd and Tottenham both trotted off to Division 2 for a season, just to have a look see.
Anyway, four years on should not be that tough to predict should it?
According to most commentators much will be the same as now. It’s like the weather – if you want to predict tomorrow, the safest bet is “same as today”. But I think not. I think this is the turning point. In four years time, life will look very different…
Manchester Bankrupt will be in the EPL but slipping away from the top. Sir Alex F Word will have gone, and the owners who are clearly petrified of him, will use that change over moment as the opportunity to reign in the wild spending that has been part of his overlordship. The issue will be – can they make Europe? They will survive because the owners want to sell the club – and to do that they have to keep it afloat – somehow. Their youth team will give them some support, but they will be selling. Ultimately the banks will say, you have to pay the interest, you can’t just add it to the debt. And then the game will be up.
Liverpool Insolvency will be insolvent. The fact that the banks only gave them another six months on the loans this week shows how dodgy their position is. The owners want to sell, but their resources are less than those behind Manchester Bankrupt. They will either be in administration and sitting mid-table, or else in administration in all but name and going down fast. That means no buying, but lots of selling.
KGB Fulham will be on the edge, and about to go over it. I suspect that within the next 3 years Mr Abramovich will give notice that he is leaving, and wants his money back. The deal is that it must be repaid in 18 months from the date of notice. The club will be up for sale (the only way to get the money in fact) and will be sold, but at under the £600 million that has to be paid to Mr A, and so will survive with a mega debt, and a bank that desparately wants to get out. Division 2 within four/five years.
Aston “hold your head if you get kicked” Villa are harder to call, but I suspect the owner will be ordering the sale of top players. They might make it to the top four at the expense of the KGB, but could equally be back to mid-table. If the owner calls it a day, they’ll go down.
The Tiny Totts, will, extraordinarily, survive. The owner, tucked away in Barbados of where ever he hangs out manages to make a profit out of the idiots in charge, but no one knows how. Chaos will continue – a new manager every year or so, no policy, no future planning – largely because of the chairman. Could be back up to 5th, maybe higher if Manchester and Liverpool fall faster than I predict. If the chairman stays, ultimately they will go down.
Sheik Yermoney’s Manchester City will be mucking around bouncing up and down, winning, losing, drawing… The Ooze (that’s the manager) will have long since gone, replaced by all sorts of other people who try it for a year and bugger off.
Newcastle United will be lurking around the wrong end of the table, fighting it off with the clubs recently promoted – which will include QPR, with all the money they have. QPR in fact could rise to mid-table respectability.
West Iceland Utd will be gone – blown away, bankrupt and relegated to the Conference. They have everything against them. Their owners are bankrupt, no one wants to buy the club, the club is losing money, Sheffield Utd are suing them for £50m and the FA and EPL have finally started the long awaited enquiry into the fact that while the club had told the FA that it had “torn up the contract” of Tevez, they were telling the solicitor of the agent of the player that everything was going ahead as before – and indeed they kept playing him.
The conduct of West Iceland is probably the most flagrant bit of cheating since Manchester Utd and Liverpool were fixing matches wholesale before the first world war, and this is clearly the end of the club.
Football money from Sky will be about 70% of what it is now and heading lower, largely because of the 0-0 and 1-0 games, which are the result of rotational fouling, rotational timewasting and similar tactics. Crowds will be way down and no one will want to watch the run-of-the-mill games in which 11 men sit behind the ball and fall over a lot.
Clubs in the Championship that stay within their means will be having fun, playing exciting football with high-scoring games to growing crowds. When faced with promotion to the EPL they will suddenly lose four in a row in an attempt to stay where they are – because although Sky money is only 30% down, the next deal is due, and that will take the money down to 10% of its current level. Top division is not worth it.
As for Arsenal – that’s the hardest one to call. If the rampant negativity that is everywhere at the moment continues, the Lord Wenger might call it a day, and we would have problems. But let us consider that he stays. If so we will have a team with the likes of Van Persie at his utter prime, worshipped as one of the greatest players we have ever had. Next to him Carlos Vela and Eduardo, the great goalscoring pair, alternating between matches. Coming up fast behind him is Wilshere, alongside Cesc and Theo running the most creative midfield the world has ever seen. I suspect Denilson may be there too, but I worry about the horrible negative coverage he is getting.
Clichy and Sagna will be there, although the central defence will be different, with Djourou and Nordtvedt controlling everything.
We will be, at last, getting our EPL trophies year by year. Europe will be harder, because we will have slipped as a league so far behind a revitalised Spanish, German and Italian league.
We’ll do this because
a) our debt is controlled, being in relation to stadium
b) our support is huge and even if the waiting list for season tickets falls away there are always supporters more coming along to the waiting list.
c) our youth policy is utterly sustainable. Top players know they can come, get the very best treatment and coaching, and play.
d) Thierry Henry will be a member of the youth coaching staff.
So that’s the future. As for the present, did you know that one blog is now calling people who support Arsene Wenger in all things, “Arsenal extremists”? If you find yourself frustrated and annoyed by such a phrase, and you like me believe in Wenger, then this saturday there’s a new HIGHBURY HIGH on sale, containing such a cornucopia that you won’t know your corn has been coped. I heartily recommend it to every supporter, not least because there’s something by me in it.
Highbury High will be on sale outside the ground on Saturday for only two pounds. (Listen for the jolly cries of “Brand New Highbury High”).
Subscriptions cost £12 for 6 issues (£15 in Europe, £18 for Rest of the World). Send a cheque for £12 to Highbury High, 11 Tannington Terrace, Gillespie Road London N5 1LE. If you don’t I shall be very upset.
(c) Tony Attwood 2009
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