Every year, I look forward to the joyous day on which England’s premier soccer league kicks off. For me, it’s the closest I get to the feeling I had on baseball’s opening day as a kid. But this year, I dread tomorrow’s opening day. The reason comes down to one word, relegation. As I explained here in European soccer, the bottom teams each year are booted out of their league into a lower division. This practice stands in strange contrast to sports in the ruggedly individualistic U.S., where the only consequence terrible teams face is having to beg harder for taxpayers to build them a new stadium.
My soccer team, Everton, has been in England’s top flight for 50 consecutive years, longer than storied Manchester United. But this year that streak is likely to end. The reasons are: (1) the only three teams that finished below us last were relegated, (2) it almost never happens that all three newly promoted teams go straight back down, (3) nearly all of the teams that we finished close to last year have brought in quality players, (4) we haven’t brought in any established players because (5) we are about $60 million in debt and (6) no one is really in charge of the team — there’s an ongoing struggle for control of the board room, and (7) our superstar, Wayne Rooney is hurt and may well leave Everton soon because of factors 1-6.
We may survive anyway. Everton’s history during the last ten years proves that you don’t have to be very good to avoid the drop. If we stay healthy and the players and coaches can stay united, we may squeeze out another year in the top flight. But, for the first time that I can remember, I think it’s more likely that we will go down.
For those interested in less cosmically significant teams like Man U, Arsenal, Chelsea, and the Red Scum of Liverpool, here’s a preview of the season.
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