Southampton: Being punished for progress 23

Southampton v Stoke City - Premier League

No situation better exemplifies the issue within English football than the one transpiring at Southampton at the moment.  In this age of big broadcasting contracts, top-fours, and Champions League qualification above everything else, it would be easy to ignore the glass-ceiling which now exists between the Premier League’s aristocracy and its general population.

Teams with big existing fan bases and extravagant financial resources prosper, and those who attempt a more organic style of progress are really just swimming against the tide.

This Summer, Southampton have already lost their manager, will complete the sale of Rickie Lambert today, and will more than likely be without Adam Lallana, Luke Shaw and Jay Rodriguez by the time 2014/15 begins.

Why?

Because they dared to be progressive.  Southampton are paying the price for moving away from the pack and their punishment for improving is to be stripped of their biggest assets and returned to where they came from.  It’s like a game of Snakes & Ladders, only with the twist that beyond a certain point there are no more ladders.

There are no solutions to this and there’s no legislation which can correct this problem, but it doesn’t stop it being one of the permanent frustrations associated with our domestic league.  The most successful sides have the largest following, and so the plight of Southampton-sized teams generally get ignored - but how can you not have some sympathy for them?  The moment they started to show significant upward mobility, they were picked apart by the vulture clubs.

Yes, Southampton will make a very healthy revenue this Summer if the expected sales to take place, but they exist in a world of repeated cycles.  They may reinvest that money smartly, they may again start to move up the league, but - as sure as the sun rising tomorrow morning - the moment that happens the aggressive bidding will start again and players will beging muttering about ‘needing’ Champions League football.

Southampton, Everton, Newcastle, Tottenham…all these teams are in the same situation.  They can all attempt to establish themselves at the top of the game, but they’ll never actually do it: without making a quantum leap in status or without becoming the apple of a billionaire’s eye, there’s just no way of holding onto players and maintaining a tight enough grip on the highest rungs of the ladder.

Not to pick on Adam Lallana, but isn’t his attitude symptomatic of the problem?  He’s come up through the divisions with Southampton, he’s become a Premier League player, and the club have also given him the platform to win his first England caps and to go to a World Cup.  But he still wants more.  How sad that a higher wage and a couple of games in Europe can turn his head away from a project that he’s been such an integral part of for so long.

It’s all just starting to feel so futile.

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