Capitalising on a lacklustre London

Rare are the times when ancient, bitter, angry rivals share any sort of collective feeling of accordance. But then Sunday was a rare old day in the English Premier League.

Rare are the times when ancient, bitter, angry rivals share any sort of collective feeling of accordance. But then Sunday was a rare old day in the English Premier League.

After an extraordinary avalanche of goals, Manchester rules, while London - specifically its northern neighbourhoods - is drowning in a shared anguish. Manchester 13, London 3.

Tottenham Hotspur fans would usually have taken the utmost consolation in Arsenal's meltdown in Manchester, but on Sunday, they could not. They were doubled up in just as much pain themselves at the time.

Their side were similarly woeful, having been destroyed by United's rivals, City, and on their home patch, too.

Which is worse - shipping eight against a relatively fledgling Manchester United side at Old Trafford, or conceding five at home? You may be able to decide, but it is not a fun debate to have.

It was a day when Manchester ended up being hailed as the epicentre of English football, but has it not always been?

United have had to carry the city's fight themselves almost for ever, but they have done a pretty good job of it so far.

Now they are joined at the top of the pyramid by a City side who are as rich on ambition as they are in funds.

After those two there is currently a broad expanse of daylight between them and the pack.

Even before the rise of City, it was ever thus. Expand that catchment area a few miles to Liverpool, and call it the north-west, and you undoubtedly have English football's historical centre.

Give or take the odd league title here and there, London, by contrast, is nowhere.

It is not alone in that regard. Looked at through the prism of European competition, capital cities have always struggled.

Despite the best efforts of Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, and Roman Abramovich, Chelsea's Russian owner, in the recent past, London has never won a European Cup.

Meanwhile, five provincial towns across the UK have won the continent's top competition.

It is not an uncommon trait. During Italian football's boom years, sides from Turin and Milan dominated Europe, yet neither of Rome's two leading sides, Roma and Lazio, ever won the main prize.

Real Madrid have meant Spain is an anomaly, but in France and Germany, the same applies.

Maybe it is because capital cities do not have to try as hard to prove their worth as the provinces, at least not in sport. As Sunday proved, capital benefits do not apply to football.

pradley@thenational.ae

Follow The National Sport on @SprtNationalUAE & Paul Radley on @PaulRadley


Published: August 30, 2011 04:00 AM

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