Alan Biggs: Mammoth tasks ahead for the Massive and the Mighty

editorial image
Have your say

Enjoying the “Massive” versus “Mighty” banter around this city. Just so long as you don’t want this column to judge which adjective is the stronger. Consult your own dictionaries on that one!

But I will say this. I often wish the truly big – let’s call them Mammoth – clubs in this fair land would take their ball home and kick it around somewhere else. Except “home” is probably the wrong word. Thinking more of them clearing off to some long-threatened European super league and giving us back our proper football of fair competition.

For anyone who doesn’t know (?!), Sheffield Wednesday are “Massive” and Sheffield United - by way of reply from rival fans - are now “Mighty.”

New Blade Jay McEveley certainly knows the difference having unwittingly used “massive” in his first interview. This, of course, is a game where hype and exaggeration rules okay. Many of the users do so with a knowing inward smile.

I’ve even heard Chesterfield referred to as “massive” and even this Spireite can’t quite be convinced of that!

If you really are massive or mighty you don’t need to say so, just as stars of the world stage “need no introduction.” And world stage is perhaps precisely where the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal are heading.

An accountancy report from ex Sheffield United (and Chelsea among others) Trevor Birch, now an administration specialist, says “polarisation” is a “serious” threat to the health of “the game as a whole”, many club owners want to bale out and the Premier League continues to “concentrate wealth in the hands of the few at the expense of the many.”

Do those monster clubs really belong to us anymore? Outside of their genuine followers and those pseudo types who adopt a top club as a fashion accessory, can anyone actually relate to them?

Are we proud of them as once we were (however secretly, grudgingly) of the Old Trafford of Busby, Best, Law and Charlton?

Our great teams of the past were harvested from a comparatively level playing field. They belonged to England and the home nations, not to international entrepreneurs who can buy the best and prefer to shop overseas.

With the aid of fantastic television money they have left everyone else behind. But the domestic game as a whole is much the poorer for it. And would be the better without them in my opinion. Just jealous? No. It’s more about the systems the all-powerful Premier League have put in place to perpetuate their elite.

It would be lovely to think a Stoke or a Southampton or an Ipswich (as they once did) could win the title. Or even a Tottenham or an Aston Villa. For most, it simply can’t happen. And for many that means pretending, jokily or otherwise, being bigger than they are.

Which brings us to Sheffield where, incredibly as it now seems, the two clubs were in the Premier League simultaneously for a spell in the 1990s. Yes, I truly believe either or both could get there again. But then what?

In the meantime, keep those chests puffed out. No merger for me. Pride is one thing money can never take. As for the money taking something else, why not?

n Is it about finding the right team to pick? Or about the right players picking themselves?

Somewhere in between lies the answer to the dilemma testing a Sheffield United manager with a stronger squad in general from last season but minus key players in particular. So far it’s looking like Maguire is more easily replaced than Brayford or Coady.

The latter two gave United drive from the back and through midfield, a quality lacking as Nigel Clough bemoaned a shortfall – as yet – from the more fragile talents of Murphy, Flynn and Scougall.

I think he’s right to angle towards 4-4-2, as he admitted after the welcome win (and first points) at Peterborough. Certainly, if the runners aren’t joining the main striker quickly enough, as per last season, it’s another way forward.

And it might also resolve the quandary over where to play Jose Baxter, who seems best suited to operating alongside a target man or just behind. There is a lingering question mark over goal power if the midfield isn’t contributing strongly again. But Clough has a strong pack to shuffle, as he’s doing, and I’d be surprised if the pieces aren’t together before very long.