The state of the Premier League today

Champions Leicester City
www.eurosport.com

What a year it has been, what a time to be into British soccer! The Premier League a scant few years ago was often bemoaned as being less-interesting than ever in its recent history and lacking in the sheer competitiveness that makes first-rate clubs entrancing in any nation. I saw friends turn their attentions to la Liga and elsewhere in 2013 and 2014, complaining that the Premier League just wasn’t what it once was, that there were not enough British players, that there was a lack of cohesive playing style, that the best of managers had retired or lost their touch, that once-great teams were faltering and lackluster.

Perhaps it was a dry spell, as we now have Leicester City’s unforeseen, nearly fully unexpected climb to the top and winning of the league title on 2 May 2016, inarguably providing one of the most-exciting upsets in the entirety of sports history. It was truly a fairy-tale situation, a Cinderella story that was nearly too good to be true, but also an upset that sent shockwaves through the entire League and probably into the lower divisions of British soccer as well. It meant that no longer would we see a static Premier League with the surety of the same old teams time and again vying for the top honors; instead, we saw the function of team promotion actually working and bringing a team in from Football League Championship which went on to win the Premiership itself.

Yet when we look at the action and games of the 2012 through 2015 seasons of the Premier League, it actually is not lacking for excitement. Perhaps those who yearn for another time are actually forgetting some key Premier League history: when we examine the period of the League in the early 1990s, we see the rise of dominance between Manchester United and Liverpool and the rise of stars such as Ryan Giggs and Jamie Redknapp. Perhaps this was the best of times and the worst of times all in the same: Yes, it provided us with the first British stars to draw enormous salaries and transfer fees and to provide a commercial basis that matched the popularity of top-level soccer for the UK.

While soccer always had been the nation’s foremost sport in popularity, the high salaries were not always included and even at the 1966 World Cup many professional players were driving themselves to games in borrowed cars from family or friends and even in the 1980s professional soccer in the UK still had quite home-grown feel to it. In the 1990s, this all changed—the era of Ferraris and Prada and laddism sprung forth from the inaugural 1992-93 season of the new Premier League and that was in part by the League’s design: the concept was to provide England with first-rate soccer on par with Italy’s Serie-A or Spain’s la Liga.

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Mike Walker

Mike Walker is a journalist with work published in Porter Briggs, In Serbia, CroatiaWeek, Slate, San Francisco Chronicle, The Bold Italic, The Coal Hill Review, SEE: A Fortnight in Review and elsewhere. He is also accredited to coach soccer, basketball, and track and field at the high school level in the United States and has coached and administrated youth soccer at the club level. He lives in Florida.