Up until just a few years ago, it was common knowledge in the world of football that the top flight of most countries, but possibly England most of all, was a reserved status, and at most a reward for a good season. Rarely did we see the case where a team could hold their own against the pounds upon pounds of wealth that sponsored the establishment. There has been a change in recent years, however, that has to do with more than just emptied wallets and expensive players. For once in this sick and twisted business that poses as a sport, things have started boiling down to quality.
Manchester United's season was marked with injuries above all, and the team still finished in a respectable second place. Eyes are fixed on the one team that beat them out of the title, and with good reason when we look at what team that is, but the factoid that should be spoken about more often is the amount of points to the amount of pounds that separated these two clubs. I won't presume on my knowledge of the books kept by the Manchester sides, because they're only part of a larger points anyway.
That point is that things are different now. United's second place finish with a squad infused with youthful prospects and some high-end purchases, that narrowly lost out to a team that was assembled by the largest spending spree in professional football, isn't because they simply are Manchester United. It has to do with policy and their view of the game.
This change is happening across the board, as well. The bottom three last season were not the recently promoted, as you'll remember. Norwich, QPR and especially Swansea appear to have set their teeth in the BPL and still have no intention to let go. Whereas those teams had earned their places at the top of the Championship the years before their promotions by playing attractive, offensive football that actually wins games, the bottom end of the BPL had only grown more weary of relegation, and the spiral that followed proved to be their undoing.
Saints gaffer Nigel Adkins
recently said he sees no reason why Southampton can't run a beautiful season and stay up at the start of next summer, the key being to simply enjoy the game and be confident, and I applaud his guff to put it bluntly; ''If you aim high, you can say you've done your best, but if you aim for 17th place and fall short, you need to accept the consequences.''
Those words ring true no matter which side you are, but it has been rare to hear them from a club tipped for relegation. Perhaps the problem all these years has merely been the attitude, the fear of going down again, and the consequences it brings. But clubs will go down, so why just try to prevent relegation, when you can try to achieve something that is thought to be above your standard? The proof is there that it can be done, all you need to do is try.