August 13, 2011


Welcome back to the glitzy cast of the Premier League, flawed but still the greatest show on earth: After all that summer stuff, the greatest show on earth returns on Saturday and the sigh of relief can be heard from Anfield to St James' Park. (Henry Winter, 8/13/11, The Telegraph)

The Premier League's great persuader, its chief executive Richard Scudamore, argues that his division does not squirm in La Liga's shadow. "If you look at Barcelona, Spain has the individual sale of TV rights, which gives Barcelona and Real Madrid a huge economic advantage,'' said Scudamore. "One club can have 20 times the income of another smaller club.

"Spain don't have anything like our football development rules. They opt out of that, so they have the pick of their country's talent, whereas we try to bring a developed 92-club-wide youth development system. I wouldn't swap our league in total for what Spain have. We have much more strength in depth and a stronger competition."

Yet a galaxy stretches from Castille to Catalonia. "It depends how much room there is in the sky for how many stars,'' countered Scudamore.

"You can't leave these shores without seeing that we are the league that people want to watch around the world. Of course Barcelona and Real Madrid are recognised around the world. But if you go to the Americas and to Asia, as much as the individual stars, it's the clubs that people are drawn towards.

"The shock to me this year was Chelsea on their pre-season trip to Asia. The interest in Chelsea was unbelievable, even compared to the Liverpool experience of four years ago.'' That was pure Bootlemania. Chelsea's visit echoed such scenes. "There were queues outside their hotel,'' continued Scudamore. "You can talk about stars in Spain, but the reality is that we still manage to combine huge, huge interest around the world and we are still the league that people want to watch all around the world."

Why? The mistakes, the pell-mell football, the essential honesty despite the occasional dives, and the sheer relentless commitment to victory makes the Premier League the best footballing entity for top-to-toe, 90-minute entertainment.

...which team he should follow, now that the EPL is becoming omnipresent on US tv.

Here are a few suggestion:

(1) If you like the Yankees (of the 30s, 40s & 50s in particular), your team is Manchester United. They have completely dominated the League under their manager Alex Ferguson, whose main skills are monetary and metaphysical: he spends so much money that the team has unusual depth but, more important, he instills an arrogance that intimidates other teams into playing defensively and then pours on the pressure late in games to snatch results in the final minutes.

(2) If you prefer the Sox (pre-'04) and the Cubs, your team is Liverpool, which is even owned by the Red Sox at this point. With a major EPL contract coming to NESN, this is the market that will really drive the mainstreaming of the game and with the once great but now very much also ran Liverpool they've got a team that summons all the psychodrama that the long suffering Sox Nation used to be known for. And like many of those old Sox teams, they have the best offense in the game but are so fragile in central defense that you can already see how they'll blow games.

(3) If you root for a perennial cellar dweller, one good feature of European soccer is that if you really do finish in the cellar you actually get booted from the league, so there tends to be more interest at the end of the season in whop avoids that fate than in who won the title. Two teams that have been fighting the drop every year recently but have great managers and play a style that will appeal to us Yanks are Wolverhampton and Wigan.

(4) And perhaps the most American team in the League, one whose coach (Tony Pulis) we should have hired for the US Men's Team, is Stoke. They play a very rugged and physical style in front of both goals, which obscures just how good they are in possession. They're kind of like the old Islanders, even though Potvin, Gillies, Nystrom, Trottier, etc. were the toughest guys in the NHL, the team was also gifted offensively. As good as they were last year they wasted too much time and energy on pursuing the FA Cup and this year they face a similar distraction in the form of the Europe League (don't ask). If they have sense enough to get eliminated from both early on they could be a surprise challenger for a top spot in the League.

Posted by at August 13, 2011 7:55 AM

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