Early Doors anticipates much hand-wringing about the decline of English football this morning.
For the first time in 17 years, there are no Premier League sides in the Champions League quarter-finals.
So it’s natural that some people might question whether our club sides are as good as Jens, Gianni and Juanito Foreigner’s.
Natural, but wrong. And not just wrong. Unpatriotic. Treasonous, even.
The problem is not that we English are too weak to compete in the Champions League. We’re too strong.
There comes a point in every fish’s development when it grows too big for the pond its owner has carelessly plonked it in.
We have reached that point and must soar, Free Willy-style, from petty European skirmishes into an ocean of global tours, hysterical rope lines and ceaseless self- promotion.
It’s kind of like when Oasis got so popular they realised they didn’t have to make good music any more.
NOTE: If you were born after 1985, substitute Kanye West for Oasis. Before 1975, go with Michael Jackson. After 1995 and it’s... Justin Bieber? (Early Doors just got high-fived by Yahoo’s SEO team for shoehorning in that Bieber reference)
Some would call it complacency. But those people have obviously never been as big as Oasis. Or as drunk.
If Manchester United's 1999 victory was English football's 'Definitely Maybe' and Liverpool’s 2005 triumph its 'What’s The Story (Morning Glory?)', Chelsea’s 2012 success was 'Be Here Now'.
Be Here Now was an album of ludicrous self-importance, created by a band well past their best, gorged on excess, riven by in-fighting. And yet it went to number one in 13 countries, sold eight million copies worldwide.
(In this tortured metaphor Manchester United’s 2008 title has been relegated, like many fine Oasis works, to B-side status.)
When a team as laughable as Chelsea can win the Champions League, you know this is no longer a game worth playing.
Champions League? Our sixth best team won that. Beat Barcelona with 10 men. Swapped managers halfway through. Didn't even try and score in the final. Won anyway.
Too easy. No point carrying on. Arsenal’s haughty disdain last night said it all. Here, have Lukasz Fabianski. We’ll still win 2-0 at your place, and bow out on away goals because we simply can’t be bothered to compete any more.
English football has moved on. It has evolved.
We are like Fred Trueman after beating the outside edge. “Good ball,” chirps Europe. “Too good for thee,” we retort dismissively.
Sure, we haven’t taken a wicket, but we know we are superior in a way that mere results could never convey.
There’s much talk about which is the best league in Europe. There shouldn’t be, because it’s clearly the Premier League. But there is anyway.
We have already conquered the Champions League, yet still the critics carp. The big stars gravitate to Spain. Germany somehow balances a sustainable, fan-friendly spectacle with ace youth development.
Yeah? Well how many Bundesliga teams have an official responsible drinking partner, an official office equipment partner AND an official noodles partner for Asia, Oceania and Middle East?
Kenny Dalglish said kit deals were as important as points. On that basis, Manchester United’s capture of an official paint partner should give them an automatic 10-point bump in their quest for a 20th domestic title, plus a star above the club badge.
United don’t need the Champions League. They just need their loyal and forensically-calculated 650-million-strong army of global fans, plus their 14 separate official telecommunications partners.
Why not withdraw from the competition altogether and use the time to tour the Far East or - Oliver Kay, look away now - even join the Qatari Dream League?
Because when you are as ubiquitous, as on-brand and as slickly marketed as the Premier League, it’s hard to care about anything as mundane as looking across the channel and realising you are out of touch.
MAGIC OF THE CUP: An actual sentence from this website: “Danny Shittu headed the only goal as the Millwall beat Blackburn to book an FA Cup semi-final date with Wigan."
And if you think it can’t get any more depressing, you obviously haven’t heard about the 8,635 attendance, the lowest in FA Cup sixth round history.
FOREIGN VIEW: Has a Times journalist - or one of his sources - really lifted a made-up story from a satirical website and reported it as fact?
The furore over Cahiers du Football/Oliver Kay’s Dream League story kept Early Doors amused for all of Wednesday, and the story continues to develop, with the Qatari FA saying they have no plans for the aforementioned competition.
Occam’s razor says one thing, while the well-respected Kay’s many backers say something else.
Early Doors doesn’t know what to think apart from: “There, but for the grace of god...”
COMING UP: The Europa League! Not so ‘poor relation’ any more, is it?
We’ve got three whacking great tranches of live action starting at 18:00 with Inter Milan v Tottenham. Then at 20:05 you’ve a choice between Chelsea v Steaua Bucharest and Newcastle v Anzhi Makhachkala.
This new Pope, yeah? He’s from Argentina, right?
You know who else is from Argentina?