The last two summers may have may have offered a whirlwind of success for the British sports fan – but football’s Premier League is what keeps the nation ticking, writes Jordan Jarrett-Bryan.
England, and indeed Great Britain, had been starved of sporting success since the 80s when our female tennis stars, F1 drivers and track and field athletes were world contenders.
But the last 18 months have been a whirlwind of painful joy as far as our sporting contribution – or domination, some might say – to the world is concerned. Rory McIlroy, then Bradley Wiggins, kicked it off and the England cricket team finished it. Our water bottle truly runneth over with championships and gold medals.
We’ve been given some great moments, from Mo Farah to Andy Murray, and we’ve been beside ourselves not knowing what to do. Even our taunting of the Aussies, who are enduring their worst period in sport in modern times, has been weak – but only because we’re not used to being in this position of superiority.
But let’s have it right. For all of its flaws, the return of the Premier League is what really keeps us ticking as a nation when it comes to sport. This may sound really weird, as football has been the only blotch on a near perfect record for domestic sport. The English U20s were shocking at the European Champions, and as for the U21s they failed to score a goal from open play and progress from their group. The women at least got out of their group…
The Football League has already begun but it’s the Premier League that captures the imagination. The exciting games, world-class players and amazing goals are what keeps us obsessed and on the edge of the seats (at home and in the stadiums). Throw in some scandal and the odd inappropriate comment from someone, and you have nine months of drama.
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And that drama won’t be confined to the pitch. There’s just as much going on on the sidelines, with several new, interesting and returning managers. Jose Mourinho – the “happy one”, as he now calls himself – has returned “home” and has the team to win the league. Manchester City new boss Manuel Pellegrini is the unknown quantity, under extreme pressure to win the title.
And let’s not forget that this is the first Premier League without Sir Alex Ferguson, with many suggesting it’s a more level playing field now as the master is no more. Chuck Sunderland’s and Crystal Palace’s fiery managers, Paolo Di Canio and Ian Holloway, into the mix and you have some firecrackers good to go.
This is also the first season that goal-line technology will be used – a move that most, but not all, were in favour of. How many goals have not been given when the ball has crossed the line – in some cases quite blatantly?
But isn’t human error part of sport, life even? And where does the introduction of technology end? And how funny will it be if it actually goes wrong. Years of lobbying for this from supporters, clubs, managers and league federations and it seems the answer comes in the form of an electronic eye. But it’s still a significant moment, just as it was when the back-pass rule came in.
One thing is for sure. As monumental as Andy Murray’s Wimbledon win was, as gripping as the Lions tour was, and as impressive as Chris Froome’s Tour de France victory was, we all know that by the time we get into the cut and thrust of the Premier League season (say, November), they’ll all be a distant memory.