OUT OF THEIR DEPTH

Min­nows to suf­fer se­ri­ous ham­mer­ings in the Cham­pi­ons League

Bray People - - Sport -

HERE WE go again. The Cham­pi­ons League band­wagon is get­ting geared up and about to roll into town once more.

And let’s face it, the draw for the fre­quently for­get­table group stage hardly whets the ap­petite. Few would get ex­cited about the dross we’re go­ing to have to en­dure in Europe’s premier com­pe­ti­tion un­til the real busi­ness starts in the new year.

Of course, the lesser lights in the tour­na­ment will ar­gue that they have earned the right to pit their wits against the big boys, but it’s never go­ing to catch the imagination of the view­ing pub­lic.

Min­nows lin­ing out for knock­out games, whether it be over one or two legs, is never a prob­lem and adds a bit of ro­mance to any cup com­pe­ti­tion ( just ask Wex­ford Youths).

How­ever, we do have an is­sue with no-hop­ers be­ing thrown way out of their depth into a league where their fate is a fore­gone con­clu­sion be­fore a ball is even kicked.

The likes of CFR Cluj, Anortho­sis Fa­m­a­gusta, Aal­borg and Bate Borisov won’t set the pulses racing - in fact, the ma­jor­ity of footy fans wouldn’t be un­able to tell you where th­ese sides hail from.

For the record it’s Ro­ma­nia, Cyprus, Den­mark and Be­larus - hot­beds of top-class soc­cer.

Would it not be bet­ter for all in­volved if the lower graded teams played their own mini leagues with a cou­ple of places on of­fer in the glam­orous knock­out stages for those who come through.

It would give the sides in­volved a chance to play com­pet­i­tive matches in Europe with a won­der­ful re­ward for the suc­cess­ful out­fits.

Ob­vi­ously it’s all about money and who can blame th­ese clubs for want­ing to wel­come the likes of Man United, Chelsea, Barcelona of Ju­ven­tus to their home grounds.

The fi­nan­cial re­wards in­volved could cover the over­heads of th­ese clubs for the sea­son, but un­for­tu­nately foot­ball fans will not get the com­pet­i­tive action they want.

To be to­tally hon­est, ‘In­side Right’ pre­ferred the old Euro­pean Cup when the cham­pi­ons of each coun­try lined out in mouth-wa­ter­ing ties and you could have two giants of the con­ti­nent play­ing each other in the early stages of the com­pe­ti­tion in­stead of some point­less one-sided drivel, but it’s all about progress and un­for­tu­nately progress equals money. We’re go­ing to see some real drub­bings over the next few months, with the tiny clubs mere can­non fod­der for the Go­liaths of the game, and ex­pect to see some school­boys soc­cer score­lines again this sea­son like Arse­nal’s 7-0 win over Slavia Prague and Liver­pool’s 8-0 win over Be­sik­tas last term (and those two are not even as bad as the teams men­tioned above).

We’re all for giv­ing the un­der­dog the chance to shine, but not at the ex­pense of some sem­blance of com­pet­i­tive­ness.

Hav­ing said that, Anortho­sis Fa­m­a­gusta will prob­a­bly sur­prise every­one and lift the tro­phy in May, and ‘In­side Right’ will need a power hose to wipe the egg off the face.

The likes of Wayne Rooney and Deco will have the de­fend­ers of Aalberg and CFR Cluj quak­ing in their boots.

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