Updated: May 10
So Spurs are out of the Europa League. There’s been some pretty strange reaction to that, if you consider where the logic of some of those who seem to regard this as a good thing leads.
Let’s get one thing clear first, though. This is not an anti-Harry piece. I think he chose teams that could beat the opposition at hand while looking to use his total resources in the most effective way possible. That is good management when you have a squad as good as ours.
Let’s also get real about why we went out. It was because too many of the first team level players brought in for the home game against PAOK didn’t perform. If Spurs had won that game, we’d have gone through.
I’ve never had an objection to clubs fielding so-called weakened teams in cup competitions. It gives younger players a chance to exeperience a proper competitive game, and it gives the opposition a better chance of winning if they can field a strong team. This year, I’ve enjoyed watching some of the younger players gain experience in the Europa League – and better they do so alongside their teammates rather than out on loan at a lower level alongside other players.
What I didn’t get was the joy and celebration in some quarters about getting knocked out. Simon Jones on Rumbles and Grumbles has articulated very well my thoughts on that, so I won’t go into that further here. But let’s look at the logic of the argument.
If you are a manager of a Premier LEague team, you want to finish in the top four. But you don’t want to finish 5th, 6th or 7th. Because the Europa League is a pain and a distraction. So, when it gets to the stage in the season where you can’t finish in the top 4, but you might finish in the next three places, you need to make sure you don’t. So unless you are a silly romantic that believes you should try to win whenever you play, you need to ensure you lose until you can’t finish higher than 7th. Oh, and kick a few people too in case there’s a fair play position on offer.
That’s the logical extension of the current attitude. And that’s the end of football as a sport. So what’s the answer?
The Europa League must be scrapped. It should be replaced with a proper competition which clubs want to win, and which has a proper prize on offer. And the gap between it and the Champions League needs to be reduced. There are a lot of politics, a lot of egos and, let’s not forget, a lot of money at stake here, so change won’t be easy. But something needs to change.
Personally, I’d like to see a return to a knockout Cup-Winner’s Cup, plus something akin to the old UEFA Cup which works on a knockout basis. That worked better than what we have now.