Friday, 24 April 2009

Minnows should qualify for UEFA Cup for the good of English football

It's all too easy to adopt an attitude of arrogance and snobbery when thinking about the prospect of a team such as West Ham or Fulham qualifying for next season's UEFA Cup competition. Traditionally unpredictable sides, both of which have extensive experience of flirting with relegation and the upper echelons of the mini-league that forms under the top four of English football, West Ham and Fulham are entering the final stages of the Premier League campaign optimistic of European qualification.

Perhaps the prospect of Fulham entertaining some of Europe's top football talent is one which embarasses some football pundits. The idea of Andy Johnson taking on some of the top defences in the world is one which many may laugh at. However, is it not more embarassing having to sit through the performances displayed by Aston Villa in the UEFA Cup this season, after manager, Martin O'Neill, decided that the competition was an unwanted distraction for his players who were desperate to qualify for the Champions League next year (a plan which has obviously backfired in hideous fashion for the talented manager and his current crop of youngsters).

There are several teams currently competing for a UEFA Cup spot, including Fulham, West Ham, Tottenham and, to a lesser extent, Manchester City. Wigan are also in with an outside chance but horrendous form would have to be shown by the sides sitting above them for Steve Bruce's men to qualify.

Tottenham fans will be desperate for their side to qualify, particularly since they started the Premier League campaign in such dire form. However, why is this? They surely know that the UEFA Cup won't be high on Harry Redknapp's priority list, something the manager himself was quick to point out earlier this week when he described the competition as a mere "distraction". Redknapp pointed out that "pride wants you to get there" but this admission has done little to detract from the feeling that the sides which are conventionally seen as UEFA Cup contenders don't actually care about the competition.

Compare this attitude to that of Roy Hodgson or Gianfranco Zola. Both managers know what their teams can achieve and recognise that their sides have the ambition to take on even the top sides in Europe. Zola has been a revelation since arriving at Upton Park and European qualification would be nothing short of what the football legend deserves.

Whilst the first team players currently at West Ham and Fulham may not have the wealth of experience that the players lining up week in, week out for Villa and Spurs do, this issue is beside the point, given that the managers of the latter two would probably have no intention of playing these individuals in the competition.

Fulham and West Ham may find competing in Europe a tough task and they may not progress very far. However, this is nothing for English football fans to be embarassed about. Watching an English team show ambition, hunger, and determination, rather than taking what should be regarded as an important European competition for granted, should fill us all with significantly more national pride.

So, this weekend, don't be surprised if West Ham show the grit and determination needed to overcome a tough Chelsea side revitalised under Guus Hiddink, and don't waste your next football bet backing Harry Redknapp's men to get something from Old Trafford. After all, there's really nothing for Spurs to play for, is there?

No comments:

Post a Comment