Top 4 vs Rest of England: Is the Gap Widening?

After financial deals in the summer meant that Premier League teams would earn more than they ever did before, most feared that the gap between the top flight and the rest would only get bigger.

The £2.7bn television package means that even the team which finishes rock bottom of the Premiership will earn a cool £26 million, more than enough to finance a squad that could return at the first time of asking. Yesterday’s major shock in the Carling Cup, coupled with a few massive surprises in years gone by should stifle the claim that the underdog cannot have its day.

Before Manchester United lined up against Coventry City yesterday, it appeared that there could only be one conclusion. Despite playing mainly reserve and youth team players, it seemed unimaginable that a United side backed by around 65,000 of their own fans at Old Trafford could lose, or even draw to a team currently placed eighth in the Championship.

Manchester United rested the likes of Paul Scholes, Nemanja Vidic and Rio Ferdinand, but still should have had enough quality on the pitch to win. New summer signings Nani and Anderson must have cost more than the whole Coventry City team, and with Michael Carrick and Wes Brown on the bench this side still have some semblance of quality about it (as most Manchester United sides do).

Coventry City went on to pull off one of the shocks of the decade, winning 2-0 due to a double for Malta’s Michael Mifsud. The former Lillestrom forward poached a goal in the 26th minute after slotting away Michael Doyle’s accurate cross and then rifled in a shot in the 70th minute to seal the victory. Manchester United’s front pairing of Dong Fangzhou and Anderson worked hard and tried everything possible to unlock the Coventry defense; but they proved unsuccessful to send the away fans into raptures.

This shock means it is the second time in two years Manchester United have gone out of the Carling Cup after being beaten by a lowly team; last year saw them surprised by Freddy Eastwood’s strike as Southend secured a 1-0 victory. Ferguson admitted after yesterday’s game that he was “flabbergasted” by the result- although this defeat will not affect them too much in the long run, he damn well should be.

Added to Millwall’s run to the FA Cup final two years ago, there is still hope for ‘smaller’ clubs looking to make an impact in the football world. While it is unlikely a team from the Championship will win one of the cup competitions, every extra round they play brings in more money for the club and means they will be closer to competing with the best. As more and more billionaires come into the league, this will only mean money spent and thus better players brought in- both Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur brought in good young talent from around Europe to strengthen their sides.

This wealth will be distributed in some way to lower teams- although they will lose their best players to the top clubs every season, fees like the possible £10 million for Gareth Bale and the £16.5 million received for Darren Bent will help nullify the losses, and hopefully help those teams bring in a few players that can make the lower tiers of England stronger as well.

So, what are your thoughts? Do you see a shock result like yesterday’s becoming common in England, or was that just a one-off for a poor United side on the day?

Will we see more and more teams surprising the top flight like Reading of last year, or West Ham the season before that, or will there simply be sides like the Sunderland teams of old and this year’s Derby County. Comment using the form below 😉

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  1. squaretan 28 September, 2007
  2. Matt 28 September, 2007