LIFE CAN BE A JOY EVEN AT A LOWER LEVEL...
ASSAILED by dawn-till-dusk propaganda, we have all been coerced into dumbly accepting that the Premier League is the zenith of our game.
For the players pocketing the cash, that is undoubtedly true. But for the folk on the terraces? I’m not so sure.
Yes, you get to see some of the world’s best players strut their stuff. But, if seeing Sergio Aguero also entails watching your own team getting pulped, there’s only so much fun to be had.
Sunderland and Crystal Palace may have clung to the top flight last season, but are their fans really enjoying life more than Newcastle’s? Are West Brom’s?
Those clubs know – for an absolute fact – that the next eight months will be a grim fight for survival, every eked-out point mitigated by a month of misery or even outright humiliation. For all the Premier League riches, their existence is football’s version of subsistence farming.
Such was life for Newcastle until this year.
Now, they are the ones doing the pummeling, with this week’s 6-0 mauling of QPR marking their biggest away win since 1927.
Fans, once downbeat and dispirited, have been galvanised. Friends who greeted each fixture with weary trepidation now tell me they can’t wait for the next game.
They feel entertained. They feel proud of their team. Isn’t that, ultimately, what football is about? The division is irrelevant.
Much the same is true of Bolton. Sure, life at the top of League One doesn’t beat watching Jay Jay Okocha and Youri Djorkaeff. But it’s a hell of a lot better than scrapping gracelessly at the foot of the Championship.
Relegation hurts. Financially, it can be catastrophic. But for fans, it is often the best thing that could have happened.