The end of season is fast approaching and so the English clubs out of the Champions League race are now playing the annual game of trying to avoid the Europa League, none of them enthralled by the idea of making it into the Thursday night benefits.
By Dave Bowler
It’s a fascinating anomaly of English football, which seems to set so much store by doing well in European competition, that it treats the Europa League with such contempt. Clubs regularly play weakened teams, the need to play on a Thursday then a Sunday is looked upon as a major inconvenience – though why that is worse than playing Wednesday and Saturday if you’re in the Champions League, I’m not sure – and there is regular complaining about the stresses and strains it puts on club resources.
And yet if we hop over the Channel, there seems to be no such whining about the Europa League. Indeed, for clubs from pretty well every other nation, the Europa League is seen as just as big a prize as the UEFA Cup was, a competition in which English clubs enjoyed real success over the years.
As we reach the last four stage, Italy’s two representatives, Napoli and Fiorentina both look desperate to carry off the trophy while Sevilla and Dnipro look no less committed to carving out a piece of history for themselves.
Days In Europa
Yes, we can look askance at the bloated nature of the Europa League – worse yet than its big brother – but it is the same for all clubs. English clubs play the same 38 league games as their Italian brethren for example, they have exemption early on in the League Cup, they don’t play the FA Cup semi-final over two legs the way the Coppa Italia is structured, so essentially, there is next to no difference between the demands placed upon them. And yet English clubs look upon the Europa League as an unpleasant smell that is currently blocking up the nostrils.
Of course, it might simply be that English clubs aren’t good enough any longer and that the protests about the Europa League being nothing more than a distraction are just protestations designed to cover their failing tracks.
Because in the case of Liverpool or Spurs for example, both clubs with designs on returning to the Champions League as soon as possible, surely a spirited campaign at Europa League level next term would be something of an education for them? After all, we are forever hearing that foreign outfits play a different form of the game to the 100% miles an hour English version, so the more exposure you can get to it, the more you are going to learn aren’t you?
On the other hand, it might be that the incentive to learn has been dulled by the immense riches on offer in the Premier League. After all, if you are getting all the money you could ever dream of at home by simply turning up, where’s the motivation to get up off your backside to try to conquer Europe?