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Future Football?

By Jason Aigburth :  07/09/2008 :  Comments (22) :
I have been considering sending this letter for some time, but following Manchester City?s takeover, now seemed a suitable occasion for considering what the future holds for football, not just in this country, but across continents.

Consider this. In this league, we have had in recent times four teams capable of winning the league, and four teams (with the exception of us, once) who always finish in the top four. As Manchester City are now a fifth club that can seemingly be added to this list, what happens when the unthinkable happens and one of those teams does not finish where their owners consider they are supposed to?

I have been thinking, probably too much, about the effects of foreign ownership on clubs in this country in particular, and one thing stands out. Everything revolves around money, and rather than the football that is played on the pitch, it occupies the mind of all fans currently. This fascination with all things financial has (probably) been apparent for a number of years; eyebrows were raised when Trevor Francis was the first million pound player, but fans seemingly have a morbid obsession with the profit and loss of their football club. I think you can attribute this to one cause, and that would be Sky and the investment that they have poured in to the league in this country.

Up to a point, what they have done for the game is incredible, but it has taken clubs away from us, the little people who have followed them since the day we were born. What do they care really if we don't like something? I am sure Mike Ashley at Newcastle is really bothered about a load of Geordies chanting outside the window, because he knows they will still watch, especially if they win their next game. I don't agree (or disagree necessarily) with goings on there, but if ever there was a way of illustrating how little clubs really think of fans, that's it.

What gets me thinking most, is what happens if another two or three clubs gets taken over by corporations all expecting a return on their investment. There are so many slots where the ?big? money lies and finishing outside this slot means a loss of revenue on an investment. Do owners then leave clubs in the lurch? Are we about to witness in a few years time, several clubs going bust for finishing 6th with an owner cutting his losses and getting out while he can? Will there be an increased pressure for ?elite? clubs to form ?elite? leagues branching across Europe? You could be away at Real Madrid one week and at home to Inter the week after.

The logistics are not massively complicated I would think, and there is, I am quite sure, enough money to pay for plane tickets and accommodation. There may even be a League 1 European League where Everton are away at Fiorentina one week and home to Rennes so we can boo M'Bia the week after until we eventually get promoted (or relegated). Possibly there will still be domestic leagues underneath these, with relegation and promotion, play off games and finals to get access to the increased revenue stream European Leagues. Is this all nonsense or can anyone see it happening in, say, 20 years? We had talk of a 39th game which seemed ludicrous and taking our club away on a money spinning mission?is that possibly too restrictive financially now in the current football climate?

The scary thing, is what happens when an owner gets a bit tired of where their club is based if the above comes in to being? Franchises in the NFL in the USA move clubs around to suit their needs and whilst that is very different to Europe, what if the owner of Manchester City knows he has access to fans in other parts of the world (not necessarily Asia even), the cost of building a stadium there is cheaper and decides to move the whole business operation there? If they are in a European League, does it affect their ability to travel to games? Does it mean they won?t be able to fill their stadium with ?loyal? fans? Does it make them less competitive or more competitive?

Again, is this a load of tripe, or simply an economic decision that may actually be made one day? Its funny how the Premier League have talked about introducing a quota of home grown talent to curb the emphasis of foreign players, yet is it right to restrict someone the right to work in this country if they can do a better job than somebody else born here? I don?t even know where I stand on that one. Similarly, there is still an emphasis on the importance of Eng-er-land and European Championships and World cups, yet in terms of monetary gain and actual significance to us, there is very little ever achieved by participating in these events. I am fairly sure that we would all want Joleon Lescott concentrating fully on playing for us, rather than playing Andorra in a game we should be winning comfortably to qualify for an event we are unlikely to win. Indeed, the whole process could, perhaps, in some years be superseded by club games with far more riding upon them (it already is to an extent). I am fairly confident that an England world cup win would come a distant second to an Everton League or Champions League win. It would with me anyway.

Finally, and this is the point that hurts me most. Does anyone else feel, despite hopes for success, that we are in a League that realistically we have no chance of ever winning? I am as optimistic as anyone. I have my season ticket and want us to win every game, but that doesn?t mean we actually do (far from it this season so far!) Football (historically at least) is cyclical by nature, and after a spell of not winning anything, eventually things turn around and again a club can bask in the glory of a cup or championship success. Is football still so cyclical?

I just can?t see it, and given how the game is going with the sole emphasis being financial gain rather than true emotional attachment to the club players play for, it seems that fans will grow to be increasingly more alienated from their club. If we get taken over by someone who has access to £10 billion, but everyone else does too, does that put us in a better position or worse? What if that isn?t even enough money to do anything in the League? The Manchester City takeover affects us, but can you imagine Liverpool or Arsenal not finishing in the top four season after season. What happens to them? (not that I give a hoot about Liverpool, ha!)

I will always support Everton, but what the future holds for us, who can say? Money drives everything, it?s the way of the world nowadays and unfortunately in my opinion, us fans will lose out in the end. If I am watching a team that is assembled costing £300 million playing another team that cost a similar amount and we end up finishing 10th in the League, I will know then that I need to watch or do something else. Bird watching maybe. As long as binoculars aren?t too dear.

Reader Comments

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Andy Chappell
1   Posted 08/09/2008 at 14:59:48

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Dear Jason, I?m worried that football has been irrepairably ruined by the rich... (I'm a Lifelong Evertonian, by the way)... The working man's game has been taken over by the rich & I?m getting more & more disillusioned. Watched some Blue Square North action - AFC Telford at the weekend & really enjoyed it. These are really the people's clubs now, because at grass roots the clubs are more or less run by the likes of you & me. So you have some identity. Now the big clubs don?t have to listen to the true support. Just a rich man's plaything... till he drops out of the cot!!!
Gary Creaney
2   Posted 08/09/2008 at 15:06:07

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I personally feel everyone is getting carried away with this.
I understand the point you are making but it really is very extreme, especially the whole bit of the Man City owners possibly moving the club to an area where there is a bigger fanbase. I think that point is just ridiculous.

The one thing I like about the Man City situation is that hopefully its going to upset the established Sky 4, it would be fantastic to see the RS not finishing in the top 4 (though the luck of Satan will probably ensure that they actually win the CL in that same season.... again!!)

You’re last point though is valid in that if this continues, there’ll eventually be 20 premier league teams with billionaire owners all with £300m worth of playing talent and only 4 of those teams can still qualify for the CL. At least we may see different league winners every year, which would be welcome on my part, just not the way it is achieved.
Andy Crooks
3   Posted 08/09/2008 at 15:21:59

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I can understand how you feel ,Jason, but To state that we will never win the league again is terribly negative. I really believe that the Premier/Sky bubble is going to burst and the billionaires will walk away. Our time will come again... and when it does, it will be sweeter than ever.
David Johnson
4   Posted 08/09/2008 at 15:20:41

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CL money has ruined the game along with Sky money. The problem I see is rich maverick clubs breaking away to form a super league. This would be fine providing there is promotion and relegation to this league and as long as the spoils are shared more equally. It says everything about football and indeed society in general when we see many small clubs struggle whilst there is so much money in the game.We are seeing fewer english players making a living in this country and perhaps its time the players organised themselves. I believe only the players themselves can make a difference. The only trouble is are they all too selfish.
Matthew Lavery
5   Posted 08/09/2008 at 17:38:06

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I can’t understand anyone who thinks that the Man City takeover is, by any stretch of the imagination, a GOOD thing! I realise that other teams in the country have money also, but who are Manchester City? Who were Chelsea before the Russians? I think its depressing that football has turned this way.

I do not want to see a Billionaire taking over Everton. I’d like to see money invested, i’d like to see us spend a decent amount of money, but to spend money on players that we should not be attracting in my opinion is tantamount to cheating. I hated it when Abramovich took over Chelsea, but at least they had been reasonably successful before he came in. Don’t get me wrong, they were not that successful that they deserved to get the chance to win the league and cups as they have done. But Man City have been blatantly poor over the past few years, and they certainly don’t deserve anything along the lines of signing one of the best players in the world or even a crack at the whip of getting towards winning the league. Kaka’s agent has just said he would consider City... WTF?! I realise money makes players worlds go around, but it has become ridiculous.

I’d hate to be a City fan, I said i would have hated to have been a Chelsea fan when the Russian came in. Hand on heart I mean that as well. It’s almost like winning on Champ Manager by selling all your crap players to the richest club in the world and buying all theirs on free transfers and winning everything... what a rubbish feeling at the end of the game!
Kevin Tully
6   Posted 08/09/2008 at 18:29:41

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Jason, you make some very valid points, regarding the massive amounts of money needed to win anything in modern football.

I can certainly envisage a European league, with 4 teams from England , Italy, Spain, Russia, and 4 others, dependant on meeting financial criteria. Then you would have a second tier, with the American model of Regional mini-leagues. As soon as the old guard G14 clubs start to lose out because of upstarts like Man City, their influence will force Uefa to come up with an alternative to the CL.

The CL format was a actually being spoken about over 25 years ago as a European league for the elite, which at the time, included EFC.

Ste Kenny
7   Posted 08/09/2008 at 20:09:33

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Man City will not get close to the top 4 this season IMO. The only reason they signed Robinho was because he burnt his bridges at Madrid and Chelsea wouldn't cough up what City would. The majority of top players will still choose top clubs who are challenging for honours. IMO they won't be able to do what Chelsea have done because Chelsea were already an established glamour club, in London and had been winning lots of cups as well. City are none of these and will struggle to attract top names as a result. I fully expect us to finish above them this season.
Paul Niklas
8   Posted 08/09/2008 at 20:07:37

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Cant agree, the difference between Everton getting into the top 2 last season was 5 extra wins, if you consider we struggled with injuries in the main following the Fiorentina game, you could argue squad depth, which in my opinion we have improved this season after all the problems, we are not that far off.

City will not get there I am convinced, Chelsea did but they were improving before the Russian came along.

I believe we are currently in the hunt with 6 teams for position 3,4,5,6,7 namely Liverpool, Arsenal, Tottenham, Villa, Man City and Portsmouth, on our day we can beat all of them.

To me and I may be alone on this, we should look at it this way, we have been doing it for 4 years now and all of the above have spent far more than our selves and only one of them has (Arsenal) not been overtaken by us.

I remain positive as ever as we all have for many years, we have in my opinion again never had it as good as it is now for 20 years actually and 15 years before that.

We quickly forget,

The wilderness from 1970 to 1985 and again from 1987 to really today with the exception of a cup win in 1995. which by my reckoning from a trophy perspective is 4 good years in nearly 40.

I am waffling now but you should get the point.

And dont please anyone give me the tradition rubbish as history means fuck all. If tradition did count then we would be the first on the list to but unfortunatley the proof is it does not count at all or why in fuck's name would any one buy City or Portsmouth or Spurs for that matter.

It's because of location and potential revenue streams that we cannot generate to the same extent.


Trevor Lynes
9   Posted 08/09/2008 at 20:28:35

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I wrote an article describing the two historys of football in england.Ist was when we had the first division when many teams had reasonable chances of title wins...even Ipswich and Leeds Uts and EFC a few times. This period encouraged fans to have a punt on their team winning the league title with realistic chances.Come the 2nd history when it became the premier and all that is ever mentioned now is Man Utd and Chelsea even Arsenal and Liverpool have dropped back....according to the media. No one ever talks about the donkeys years that Chelsea won nout and Man Utd were mere contenders...we are now the pre-historic age of football when competition was much more equal...If todays situation is a forward step in the evolution of football, then Im wrong in wanting the league the way it used to be with equal playing field competition and not monopolies based on cash. This country created the game and now we are helping to create a total lack of fair competition in our league. I really wish some very bright guy came up with a solution to alter this situation and give every fan a chance to see his team have a genuine chance to win something.
Ste McKenny
10   Posted 08/09/2008 at 21:26:20

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Good comments and points made Jason, but without putting to finer point on it.... CLUB +MONEY = competing on an even keel with the big 3 ? shite but true.

We all know what managers can do with not a pot to piss in, we can all live off scraps from the big 3?s dinner table, anyone made up with a Inter toto invite? or a Uefa Cup spot (if we?re lucky)? And not a cat in hell's chance of winning the League? And that's probably in my lifetime (I?m 35 by the way) cause I?m fuckin not.

It's the way the game's gone, not going; clubs need money and lots of it. It's like everything in life, things move on, get over it. No one goes the match in a cloth cap, rattle and rosette anymore (unless you support the shite)

So my question is this: We all know it's quite a risk getting one of these johnny foreigners in with his billions, trillions whatever, but why the fuck are Everton any different, why shouldn?t we have our very own billionaire? All this "don?t sell out, we?ll loose are soul" bollocks... well, I tell you what: we?ll loose more than our soul if we don't pull our bleeding finger out and get someone in with the dough.

How long do you think we can hang on to that glorious forth spot? How long do you think Moyes will stick around with peanuts (not Stephen!) to throw at new signings? Look how pissed off he has been this summer. I can honestly say I would don a tea towel on me head and trot up County Road on a camel if it meant some sheikh coming to us. But I might be being a little naive.

Jason Lam
11   Posted 09/09/2008 at 03:53:00

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Whether we like it or not has no bearing on the outcome whatsoever, the wheels have started to turn and there’s no way back.

Our friends across the pond would have more information on this; the notion of franchaises would never happen in the Premier League because of two main reasons. Relegation and the Draft System. The draft system being a means to introduce a fairer playing field. In what world (other than the US) can you go for a all-time losing season so that you can obtain ’first pick’ from a closed pool of players the coming season? San Antonion Spurs may have ruled basketball a few years back but great thinking by the boardroom for coming last so they could pick out Tim Duncan.

Over ’ere we happen to have players growing from all trees over the world in abundance. FIFA nor UEFA can control the ’fair’ distribution of talent across the clubs. Ajax and Arsenal setup their farms in Africa etc. They’re not going to just hand them over to FIFA and UEFA.

And them teams never get relegated! Otherwise how would the franchaises hold on to their sponsors? Their rich owners? They would need to change their ball parks whenever they got relegated, or after another hostile takeover bank.

There is no similar universal governing body with full autonomy over ALL clubs and players, in that we will ever model the closed US system.

Let’s brace ourselves for the worse!
Steve Carter
12   Posted 09/09/2008 at 09:07:10

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Irrelevant to the general thrust and substance of this article and posts, Jason, but to answer the question in the fourth sentence of the second paragraph of your post, it also happens in the Australian (Rules) Football League.
Jason Lam
13   Posted 09/09/2008 at 09:16:11

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Cheers Steve thanks for the clarification.

Just thinking out the box here (i.e. waffling), the target for discussion is how to create a fairer playing field. It is either a pseudo draft system where players are ’presented’ to clubs based on their recent performance co-efficient (i.e. being crap). Or salary caps.

Neither will work in football (the real football played with feet only except goalkeeper and Carragher) as players grow like spuds all over the world and it would be like tens of thousands of players open for selection at dedicated transfer ’windows’ that are globally fixed. Thousands of clubs camped in a hall waiting for their pick. The crap teams will select the best youth globally (probably all from Brazil) and sign him for 5 years (whatever is the minimum) - who will never agree anyway. FIFA and UEFA can’t force players to join teams as they are not the universal governing body for football (and it’s against employment rules anyway). Which is the same with salary caps, it’s against employment rules and free trade. Anyway that’s banana face Jimmy Hill’s fault.

Thanks for reading though. COYB
David Alexander
14   Posted 09/09/2008 at 12:44:49

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I see it like this: next year we wont be able to catch City, United Chelsea or Arsenal; breaking the top four (which you need to do to get your hands on the CL cash) will become imposible.

This year, however, it can still be done ? we are a better side than City, Villa, Portsmouth etc and with Arteta and Peanut we have more ballance in midfield than the RS. So I think this year we can break the top four and if we do then the CL cash might just be enough to give us a fighting chance of staying there next year too. But if we miss out again this year I don't think we?ll get another chance...

Perry Umbown
15   Posted 09/09/2008 at 13:28:25

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Heres one for ya...
Every TEAM (of 11) is to consist of -
-No less than 7 players from the country of the league
-No less than 3 academy or former academy players (i.e. no transfers before 18)

This would help -
develop youth
devlop local talent
level the playing field

I would also go further and say that there should be a limit on squads to 22 players each at anyone time, it's becoming ridiculous how many pages the redshite need for their team photo,
Finally scrap this ridiculous transfer window thingemejiggy.
Marco Bonfiglio
16   Posted 09/09/2008 at 14:28:40

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The state of football is inevitable because of its unique circumstances. While it arouses local passions, it arouses them around the world.

American football, baseball and basketball have salary caps and draft systems which work, because with the exception of a few blow-ins from Canada, Japan, the Caribbean and American Samoa, recruitment comes from US colleges.

A salary cap would level the playing field in European football leagues (and if it contravenes employment law, how does rugby league get away with it?) but would the Peter Kenyons and other denizens of the underworld vote for it?

The stark choice for English football fans is now "what kind of club do I want to support?" because there will soon be only three kinds:

1: the monolithic corporations that have a football team attached, and a revenue-generating fanbase attached to that team. These will hoover up most of the domestic trophies, but will mainly compete for those all-important CL places.

2: the rest. These will be clubs that - through principle or incompetance - failed to attract a corporation/human rights abuser/war criminal to finance their bid for world domination. The top end of this band will pick up a UEFA Cup place/Carling Cup (or whatever it’s called in years to come) and some of their fanbase will incur massive dental bills due to nocturnal teethgrinding.

3: the casualties. These will be the middle bunch who chose unwisely and got their choice of protector catastrpohically wrong, going for - to pluck a random example out of the air - the Texan equivalent of Abbott & Costello, then found that they couldn’t afford a new stadium because the price of steel, while they were bickering, had gone into the ionosphere. Or fell for a local billionaire, who bought the entire city a round of drinks and then started selling the squad from under the manager.

Everton could take any of these routes. I was going to say "you pay your money and you take your choice", but that’s not the case, is it? All we can do is pay our money and see which choice is made for us.

William Turner
17   Posted 10/09/2008 at 04:07:36

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I remember a long time ago when the Brooklyn Dodgers were bought by a punter who then moved the team 2,000 miles, lock, stock, barrel and naming rights, to Los Angeles, so don?t think it can?t happen in the good ole EU. Will it come down to ?our owner?s got more money than yours, ner!? ? Will we still feel the same about Everton when the team comprises exclusively Frenchmen? Or Russians? Or even all Uzbekistanis or North Koreans? Without an Englishman on the bench?

It could happen, and one way it can be stopped under EU law is for the Players Union to take a stand and use its strength to support FIFA?s plan. Does anyone else remember a player, I think it was John White, who many years ago took the League to court against the maximum wage (20 quid a week, then) imposed by the clubs. He won the battle for the players. It can be done, and all our playing fields would be much leveller.

David Walsh
18   Posted 10/09/2008 at 09:37:49

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Hi,Jason,interestering article. If we can find our own Blue Billionare,while there is still one left...


http://es.youtube.com/watch?v=yLIGqbsGbuI
Craig Tomasinski
19   Posted 11/09/2008 at 04:16:53

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I see there are some references to the American Drafts and salary cap for their sports (Same here in Australia with the AFL). I just could not work for Football because it is the one true sport played throughout the world. Plus sports clubs in America do not have youth academies as such. They are just senior teams and every player comes from across the country.

In Australia, the AFL teams are just senior teams with attachments to smaller clubs so their "reserve" players get a game each week. No Junior teams are attached to the AFL teams. In Victoria there is an under-18 competition where most of the players are drafted from each season. AFL teams have no attachment to these at all.

As mentioned before to, there are the EU employment laws to contend with and if their were any restrictions on players I am sure there would be another Bosman case around the corner.

Perry, I don't think none of what you say would work due to employment laws although they might work. Plus I am surprised that a transfer window exists as I would have thought that would be restraint of trade; if say you wanted to leave your club in February and couldn't. Maybe a player needs to challenge that.

Mark Lowery
20   Posted 11/09/2008 at 15:34:36

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There are some very good points here and I agree that some big changes are ahead. Only one team per season can actually win the league and only three others can get into the CL. If one team invests and wins a load of trophies, and others try to emulate them, this situation still remains as it was before. Only now you have 10 or even 20 teams chasing those magical 4 places whilst spending a tonne of money ( and racking up a huge debt). Too many people have taken the sport away from football - be they agents, greedy players, TV execs, ad men - and replaced it with a very shaky "get rich quick or bust the bank trying" mentality. Everytime I hear the words "product", brand" or "matchday experience" being banded around, it makes me one step closer to finding something else to spend my Saturdays doing. I agree with anyone who thinks the next step is some kind of elite European League and just worry what bland "product" will be left behind for the rest of the teams. Anyone who fails to get into it would instantly be financially crippled as money was sucked out of the domestic game, leaving traditional "brands" to die out, and the supporters to endure a second rate "matchday experience. AAAAArrrgghh.I’m doing it myself now!.
Kevin Gillen
21   Posted 12/09/2008 at 10:36:16

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Sadly football is eating itself. I welcome the takeover of Man City as I would love to see Liverpool or Arsenal contesting the Eufa Cup and the managerial and boardroom crisis that would generate. Sadly I don’t believe it will happen. I truly believe a place will be found to accommodate a fifth club. I think the sobering Summer we have just witnessed in the transfer market and the dissonance generated between Evertonians over the Kirkby issue will be a severe test of the credibility of current arrangements for the Premier League. I do believe that if it becomes impossible for teams like Everton, Villa, Newcastle, Spurs (goodness knows how they manage to keep throwing money at the problem!) to access the Champions League then the fans will begin to walk away. Bigger stadiums are only the answer if you can fill them. I do believe we will see action on either the transfer system or on salary caps. The free market in the case of football as in many other forms of life, is grossly inefficient. It produces winners and losers and the winners, if unregulated, will use their position of power and advantage to remorselessly crush the opposition. This has gone on for too long already. The people at the head of the game realise this but are powerless or too scared to do anything about it. Sky Sports present Platini or Blatter as oddball Eurocrats every time they state the blindingly obvious - that change is neccessary and desirable. Sadly the choices for true and loyal fans everywhere are stark. Vote with your feet and hasten your club’s demise or endure the torture of another fifth place is the best we can hope for season or hope for a tinpot dictator to buy you up for a few years while they try and fight off the International Criminal court. Nick Hornby was right when he said that the natural state of any football fan is to be moderately depressed. In the meantime I live in hope more than faith the mighty Everton can succeed aginst the tide of oppression and sincerely pray the manager signs a new contract.
Roberto Birquet
22   Posted 12/09/2008 at 17:48:57

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Chelsea, fairly successful before Abramovich? Yes, they had won some cups and finshed in the top three or four. But they had done it on money they didn’t have and very nearly went the way of Leeds.

I forget the man’s name, but the anticipated knight on a white charger, who lasted just six weeks at Everton, and who demanded the sale of Wayne Rooney brought R Abramovich to Chelsea.

Reports say he gave a Churchilian speech to Chelsea players in 2003 or 4 before the last game of the season vs Liverpool. The winner would go into the CL. Had Chelsea not won, they would have been done for.

One year later and Abramovich wiped out over £80 bn of debt, with the stroke of a pen.


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