(Rangers’ pricey signing from Tottenham, Adel Taarabt, tricked into thinking he’s got something to play for)
Competition in England’s Football League kicked off earlier today, and while I might take some pleasure in a rare Queens Park Rangers rout (a 4-0 home defeat of Barnsley), it’s probably a matter of time before meddlesome ownership conspires to have the club flirting with relegation. To buy into the logic of The Guardian’s Simon Burton, these highs and lows are equally annoying, as the N-Power Championship “makes it more or less impossible to find anything to aim for.”
Relegation is to be avoided at all costs, of course. The only thing that is even nearly as dismal as relegation is promotion. Wonderful as it may seem at the time, statistically it also brings the virtual certainty of a full season of painful tonkings followed within a year or two by crippling financial crisis. That leaves inertia, and any team that’s happy to aim for that ends up getting relegated soon enough. It’s the devil of divisions, and that’s the truth.
I came to the conclusion some time ago that the best position in the entire football league pyramid is third in the Championship. Whichever team comes third will have enjoyed a successful season, winning many more games than they lose in a fiercely competitive division where the quality of football is quite good. This guarantees their fans a lot of pleasure. Then, unlike the two sides above them, they will not be forced to play in the Premier League. This saves their fans a lot of pain. After that, all they need to do is make sure they don’t accidentally and disastrously win the play-offs.
My club has, in the last few years, gone into the big kick-off among the favourites for promotion, virtual certainties for uneventful midtabledom and, this year, nailed on for the drop. None of those three prospects excited me very much. No, there’s no fun to be had from looking forward to a new season. But now we can can put all this dismal hypothesising behind us, all this painful ante-football, and I can get carried away once again by the simple, horrifying-implication-free joy of blokes kicking footballs.