By Matt Scott
Daniel Sturridge claimed this week that he had joined the “biggest club” in the Premier League, after sealing a switch from Chelsea to Liverpool.
The winger-cum-striker-cum-greedy-so-and-so’s comments made for thought-provoking reading: Just exactly who is actually the biggest and the best club in all of England?
Where better to start than with the Reds themselves?
Liverpool Football Club, established 1892. One of the English game’s greatest institutions. Oh the history! The memories!
Five, count them FIVE, European Cups – more than any other side from these shores has managed. Dalglish! Keegan! Barnes! Grobbelaar! Paisley! Shankly! Names forever etched into the psyche of a football fan who pays for things with pounds and loves a good queue.
But that’s exactly it isn’t it? Look at how wonderful it was, and then think how comparatively dismal it is now.
Carroll. Adam. Downing. Cole. Comolli. Failures forever used by opposing fans used to humiliate the crippled, withering old wreck of a once mighty force – like a football version of Arnold Schwarzenegger, now he’s gone all flabby and jelly-falling-off-a-plate-like.
Surely they can’t be the biggest club in England, they’re not even the biggest club on Merseyside at the moment!
That honour goes to David Moyes’ rag-tag bunch of Belgian thugs and indie bass guitarists at Everton – but the biggest club in the Premier League does NOT play a game with Tony Hibbert in their side, regardless of how committed and useful he may be. It’s just not allowed. So it isn’t the Toffees either.
So with the Merseyside Reds ruled out, was Sturridge wrong to move? Should he have stayed at Chelsea, where the millions have bankrolled almost 10 years of non-stop success?
The Blues are the champions of Europe! Surely that transcends the Premier League rankings, right?
Well… no. Liverpool required a Football Association law change in order to defend their barely-deserved 2005 crown so chuck that argument on the scrapheap, along with your ‘they’ve established themselves in Asia’ (who actually cares?) and ‘they hold the British transfer record’ (they spent it on Fernando Torres).
Frankly, before Roman Abramovich rocked up at the Premier League all-decade creche for bored billionaires, Chelsea were… what’s the word… rubbish.
They had three FA Cups, two League Cups and one half-century old top-flight title to their name, leaving them four, three and six behind Aston Villa – who are really, really, really rubbish.
With no tradition, no roots and no direction – Blues fans have demanded that their Chelsea be returned to them instantly.
And be fair to Abramovich. He hired a manager who isn’t great at winning leagues, but is pretty good at winning cups, job done.
The Blues clearly haven’t done enough to deserve the honour of the biggest club in England, but Sturridge’s other former employers, Manchester City, might want to throw their hats into the ring.
It would be easy to repeat many of the arguments for Chelsea, when discussing the current Premier League holders, but is there more to City’s story?
It turns out there is. They used to be even more rubbish than Chelsea – City paid Jon Macken to play ‘football’ in the Premier League for goodness sake, it can’t be them.
Hang on, though. The above is all surely moot? We were close with Manchester City, it’s got to be Manchester United, hasn’t it?
More top-flight crowns than anyone else, a bucket-load of FA Cups, three times the champions of Europe, the biggest stadium of any club in the country as many supporters as any club on the planet, the legends of Sir Alex Ferguson, George Best, Bobby Charlton, Eric Cantona, Ryan Giggs and the creation of Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Red Devils are the one true constant through top-flight successes – we have a winner, do we not?
Hang on, hang on. Hold your horses. Back it on up there. Not quite. Because, while United have always been winning stuff, they’ve spent the entire time playing catch-up.
For years those at Old Trafford were chasing and striving to match the achievements and accolades that those at Anfield were racking up, desperately clawing at the imaginary “perch”, wanting to knock those atop it off it.
Even in United’s domination of the Premier League era, Sir Alex has found himself taking two steps forward and one step back.
Blackburn came along, Sir Alex had no answer and eventually bullied them out the way. Arsenal came along, Sir Alex had no answer and eventually bullied them out the way. Chelsea came along, Sir Alex had no answer and bullied them slightly to the side, although they’re still managing to hang around.
Manchester City came along last season, Sir Alex had no answer and has been trying to bully them out the way this term. It may well work, but surely the biggest and best club would have no time for jumped-up little pip-squeaks like these?
United are one of the best, but they’re not the best.
Maybe we’ve lost sight of what it truly means to be the biggest club in England. Maybe it’s not all about how many trophies you’ve won, maybe it’s more cerebral than that.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s Arsenal.
The Gunners were at the forefront of the revolution of the Premier League thanks to Arsene Wenger, changing the way footballers behaved and played.
The class of 1998 were a warning, the class of 2002 were a confirmation of greatness, but the class of 2004 – those ‘Invincibles’ were surely the greatest side to have ever graced the division.
The most aesthetically-pleasing stadium in the land, a fierce commitment to financial security and Jack Wilshere – does it get much better than this?
Of course it does. Arsenal fans are generally a miserable lot, and they’ve good reason to be.
Recent transactions with their ‘biggest club in England’ rivals have been soul-destroying for Gooners everywhere.
Departing north London for other top clubs have been Ashley Cole, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor, Samir Nasri, Gael Clichy and Robin van Persie – basically the perfect six-a-side team, with everyone taking a turn in nets after every two goals scored, of course.
In return, the Gunners have received the ageing and mistake-prone Gallas and the even more ancient and completely-useless-after-losing-every-yard-of-pace-in-his-legs Mikael Silvestre.
Also, the biggest club in the Premier League does NOT play a game with Carl Jenkinson in their side, regardless of how committed and useful he may be. It’s just not allowed.
They’re not even the biggest side in north London, but Tottenham signed Gallas from Arsenal, so we’ll just leave that one there.
It turns out that, in actual fact, nobody is the biggest club in England.
Teams will come and go. The petro-dollars of Manchester City and Chelsea ensure they’ll be around for long enough to keep Manchester United honest, while Liverpool can always look back on a time when they really were the undisputed top-dogs and Arsenal can always hope that Financial Fair Play actually happens.
After all, it doesn’t matter who the definitive biggest and best club is – we can always just laugh at Newcastle anyway.
Well have YOU ever seen a Geordie win a cup?
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