The Greatest Form Of Flattery

By Dan Buxton
Last updated : 04 July 2010

Well that's what they say imitation is, but how do we feel about our supposedly superior Premier League now being surpassed by the previously inferior Bundesliga?  

Many would argue that our elite division is still fantastic and after our beloved club endured 23 years in the wilderness, who are we to argue? However closer inspection may lead us into questioning just how good the English Premier League is, especially in light of our humiliating defeat to the Germans last weekend.  

Given the amount of money that is ploughed into our league we have no excuses as to why it isn't the best both in terms of management of the product and in the development of our national team. Looking at how easily England and Argentina have been brushed aside, the Bundesliga is certainly doing something right that we aren't.  

Firstly there is the spirit of competition that is so apparent in Germany but so conspicuous by its absence over here. The Bundesliga only has 3 Champions League spots but over the last five years alone, seven different clubs have filled them. As we all know, only Spurs this year have broken the "big four" cartel that had dominated English football since 2005.  There have also been five different German league winners in the past ten seasons and this excitement is reflected in attendances.  

On average in the 2009-10 season, nearly 42,000 fans were present at each Bundesliga fixture. German fans were also fortunate enough to only normally pay around £18 to get in and follow their clubs. Having watched Stoke play at every ground since our return to the “big league” I can confirm that following a top-flight football club away from home is a very costly devotion to have! Let’s get it right; the fact that clubs such as Chelsea charge nearly £50 to get in is nothing short of a scandal. In general, we as fans are treated like dirt in England and it is about time that the Premier League did something about it. If only all clubs operated ticket pricing policies similar to Stoke, Bolton and Blackburn, for example.   So if fans aren't being pillaged then presumably the Bundesliga must be so successful due to other streams of revenue? Well, according to a report in The Guardian, the total turnover in the German top league is actually less than the income received from TV rights alone in England. The old cliché about Germans being very organised and thorough could then be true in this instance. Clubs are run on the basis that members retain 51% ownership so a Chelsea or Man City scenario is not permitted unless there has been a 20-year relationship between the benefactor and the club in question.  

Amazingly there is still room in Germany for a real emphasis on developing the national team as we witnessed in its full glory. Each club must run an education centre to develop young players if they wish to compete in the Bundesliga. That philosophy seems to now be reaping its own rewards as Germany’s strong junior international teams are now seamlessly making the transition onto the world’s greatest football stage in South Africa. The terminology used to describe their academies perhaps illustrates another faculty that our players could be sadly missing. When I listen to our superstars, I do have to wonder how some of them could ever make an “intelligent” pass. Many will argue that football is instinctive but after watching the German players waltz around some of our big names, it did make me wonder.  

Rome (or at least Wembley for sure) wasn’t built in a day and I’m fairly certain that even the out of touch old fogies at the F.A. can see that the seeds of change need to be planted now and the old wilting players need a severe pruning. Like it or not we will have some continuity by keeping Fabio Capello in the hot seat. Hopefully he will have been suitably annoyed with the efforts of a group of players who have for years had their egos massaged. Having someone like Steve McClaren at the helm meant any criticism in the past has usually been deflected.  

With any luck Mr. Capello will see the error of his ways and make changes to his own ideas and selections, which we will see bear fruit in our next friendly in August. Despite this game coming just 3 days before our opening fixture against Wolves, I really hope the wind of change blowing through England HQ will see our own Ryan Shawcross lining up against Hungary. He and the other young lions like him are the future of our national team and if we are to take anything at all from our German adversaries then giving a chance to the raw talent our country is producing is the least we should be doing.  

After years of leading the way, let us hope the Premier League is humble enough to see the errors it has been making and perhaps begin to imitate the Bundesliga and allow our national team to challenge for major honours once again.

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