What do I mean by the title of this article? Football, and particularly the Premiership, in the '80s and before had a culture of playing the game with home-grown players and trying to win.
Each club had a culture of patriotism and each player wanted to win for his club. The players wore their club shirts with pride and enjoyed playing the game. They believed in the club, and in those days no club or player prostituted themselves in trying to win the cups at any price. This sadly what is happening today.
I remember appreciating football for what it was in the '80s and the early '90s—the art of the game. I am an Arsenal fan and always will be. In the '80s when Liverpool dominated the league, they were wonderful to watch. Even though they were not the team I’d supported, I had admiration for the club and its players.
They played with a winning mentality, with flare, skill and excitement. Most of all, they treated the game as a football game, and they wore the Liverpool shirt with huge pride. The fans would always be behind their team no matter the results.
Today, the game is being prostituted so much by clubs and players alike for the sake of money and not the trophies. Football is a secondary issue.
Clubs are being sold to wealthy Americans, Arabs or Asian tycoons who have no idea about the sport, the culture of the club or the Premier league. They have poured in their millions into their respective clubs and expecting miracles in return.
Players with serious talent are now following where the money is, which begs the questions, are they playing for the money or for the club they supposedly represent? Are they proud to wear the shirt? Do they understand the culture of the club?
Chelsea poured millions into buying top players, and, yes, they did go on to take the trophies. But did they really win the trophies or did they buy them? Are these players really Chelsea players or are they here to do their time, make their money and then leave when they are filthy rich? Where is that Chelsea culture? Where is that Manchester City culture?
When a new owner does not understand a club culture, things can go sour, like it did for the Hicks and Gillett at Liverpool. Blackburn have also joined the “We have been bought by a rich tycoon” category recently.
It will be interesting to see how they fare out next season. There is nothing wrong with being bought so long as you understand the club culture, understand football and always put football and business ethics first.
When a small streak of games are lost, we all know that managers are getting ready to pack their things. Managers, in my view, are sacked before they are given a chance. Mark Hughes is a great example when Manchester City was taken over by the Sheikh.
I do not see Mark Hughes doing anything different to what Mancini has already done. The longevity of a manager defines the steadiness of a club and its future success. Look at Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger.
Sure Ferguson has won more titles than Wenger, but Wenger has kept a team at the top since he arrived with mostly young kids. Alex Ferguson began his Manchester United career with many losses. In today’s climate he would have been sacked.
From a biased point of view I am particularly proud of the way Arsenal Football Club is run. Many may not agree with Arsene Wenger’s method of buying young players on the cheap (or developing home-grown players) with a blend of experienced players and moulding them into the Arsenal way of playing.
This, in turn, creates a culture at the club and develops the pride in wearing the shirt and playing for the club. It is well known that in the last five years, Arsenal have not won a trophy and maybe that is partly to say Arsene does not spend.
I am glad he does not go out there spending millions trying to buy the cups. That is not to say that one or two players cannot be bought to cover certain positions. Arsenal is not in any debt that is un-payable, and they do have the money to buy if necessary—the club is living by its means.
But overall, the club is being run well in the business sense while maintaining as much of its culture given the way the football climate is today. If Arsenal win the Premier League this season, the Gunners can be proud because we can always say “We never prostituted ourselves.”