Liverpool sank to a 3-0 defeat at the hands of Watford this weekend, further reducing my desire to publicly declare myself as a supporter of the club. All season I’ve drifted further and further away from my Premier League darling (Juventus will always be my footballing idols) as uninspired performances and lack of cohesion between the players have begged me to ask the question, do they give a shit at all about the club and its fans? Anyone living within a 10 mile radius of my father would be able to recite his well-worn sermon of how the days of passion in professional football are long dead word for word, but has Paul Collins finally been proven wrong on this matter by his own beloved Foxes, Leicester City FC?
It was a dull afternoon when I brought myself to watch Liverpool be demolished by an equally depressing Manchester United side 3-1, a game which will be remembered for Benteke’s bicycle as well as Martial’s dazzling United debut. Both sides looked incredibly not-bothered to put in any sort of credible performance in the first half, and United came out mildly more inspired to win and indeed they did, but minus the way in which the goals were scored, it really was not a memorable affair, especially compared to the days Stevie G was kissing the camera as Liverpool ran out 4-1 winners and Torres was making Nemanja Vidic look silly. The players barely cared that they had just made a mockery out of themselves and the club, and really why should they? The fact is, football like all other sports is becoming much more analytical and this affects how clubs plan tactically and how they act transfer-wise, but football is a unique sport where, although statistics are incredibly useful, passion and dedication are two traits required much more so than other sports where production is almost mechanical, such as Baseball or to a certain extent, Basketball. If footballers are then assembled to make a team and play in a certain system, with no consideration given to their temperaments, the fans of the club or any other human aspect regarding the sport, soon enough passion and professional football will be two words alien to each other.
Fast forward to the evening where Jamie Vardy scored his 11th consecutive Premier League goal against the ever mind-numbingly boring United. The game finished 1-1 and again was not memorable for the football played but for Vardy’s achievement.
I remember being blown away by Leicester’s enthusiasm and appreciation for what they were doing, they looked like they were enjoying playing football. This is of course down to the fact that they’re sailing at the top of the table, where they shouldn’t be when you compare the money invested in the likes of Man. City, Liverpool, Man. United, Chelsea and even Spurs, but also the fact that they know what it means to the fans. Even though they do earn a substantially higher wage than their faithful, they’ve been through the highs and lows with them. Contrast this with Chelsea, Liverpool and United the players don’t give two damns about what the fans actually think and it’s reflected in disgraceful performances. Its not only Leicester surprising near the top of the table, however. West Ham, Watford and Crystal Palace all feature in the top 8 while Liverpool dwells 9th and Chelsea an impressive 15th.
The Foxes’ ascension from the Championship two years ago to the top of the Premier League is as unlikely as Jamie Vardy’s own rise from non-league football to BPL superstar and it’s these aspects of football that are waning more and more. Professional footballers are being elevated to God statuses more and more as their athleticism and statistical improvements increase season by season and even though it’s still unlikely that Leicester will manage to hold onto their place in the table or their star players, it’s great for all fans of the sport to see a group of players that are respected and respect their fans, doing what Leicester are doing right now.
Leicester and other unexpectedly successful teams are the best things that could happen to the Premier League at the moment because at the rate it’s going it will be nothing but a league full of robotic and emotionless players playing in systems built to reflect efficient statistics. Even though Liverpool, Chelsea and United’s recent woes are tough to swallow for their fans, they’re beneficial for the survival of the PL and football as a whole, in terms of appeal and competitiveness as football is not a million miles away from the same route as pro boxing.
Of course, Jurgen Klopp brings a unique charisma and passion from the technical area to the reds but this has yet to be consistently reflected on the pitch (Ex: Watford 3-0 Liverpool), Chelsea could turn things around due to Mourinho’s departure and we may not see Van Gaal in the Old Trafford dug out in 2016, but it’ll take something really substantial, like Chelsea being relegated (Please) or Leicester sealing the title for influential teams to rethink their current methods of operating. Of course, Real Madrid and Manchester City (and Chelsea) have shown that big-spending and assembling star-laden squads equals trophies, none have maintained consistent dominance due to ego clashes and eventual and predictable lack of interest, as exhibited in CFC’s recent implosion. On the other hand we have Barcelona, Borussia Dortmund and right now Leicester, all of whom show and have shown that simple team work and passion for football still exist in the money saturated football world we live in. Even though Klopp’s Dortmund were somewhat dissembled by Bayern’s bank account, FCB have shown us that grass roots development and devotion to a strong fanbase produces the best football and the most success (Even though they do admittedly have substantial financial backing). By no means are Leicester comparable with Barcelona and Jamie Vardy is certainly not Lionel Messi or Neymar, but they do give us a relieving sign that among the oligarchs and corruption scandals, a team of former non-league players, players that fell out of other PL squads and other players that were unwanted at clubs, can really work together and claim the top spot in arguably the sport’s top league.