By Brian Rolfe
I was looking through the BBC stats earlier and one stood out. On Saturday against Bournemouth, Newcastle made Premier League history by fielding a squad that featured 14 players representing 14 different different nationalities.
Martin Dubravka (Slovakia), DeAndre Yedlin (USA), Fabian Schar (Switzerland), Federico Fernandez (Argentina), Paul Dummett (Wales), Matt Ritchie (Scotland), Mohamed Diame (Senegal), Ki Sung-yueng (South Korea), Kenedy (Brazil), Ayoze Perez (Spain), Salomon Rondon (Venezuela), Isaac Hayden (England), Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland), Christian Atsu (Ghana).
This immediately raises at least 2 question – Is it common? and how does this impact on club identity?
The first question is fairly simple. No. It’s not unique, it has happened 5 times before, all in 2011. Arsenal v Stoke, Norwich, Fulham and Wolves in the 2011-12 season. No, they were not the same 14 for each game. Different starting 11’s in each game. The first match, however, was in the 2010-11 Season and it was West Brom in their match against Blackburn. So in that sense this is interesting, but not really relevant.
That I suppose is the second Question. The days when Glasgow Celtic could win the European cup with 11 locals has long gone and we are used to the multi-national nature of the EPL. But do we like it? Every club wants local heroes, especially Newcastle. We had one Englishman, he was born in Chelmsford, and some would argue that he should not have been on the pitch, but that’s another story.
How does this diversity help with club identity? Some would argue that it also weakens the selection pool for the England National team. How does it feel to be stood in a crowd cheering on your team when every single one of them is an imported mercenary? Does it weaken your loyalty to your club? Can in fact we argue that it is even a Newcastle United team? or is that merely the branding of an entertainment industry product that just happens to based in Newcastle for historical reasons? That’s a bit more relevant than it seems.
I was born and raised in Wimbledon going to local amateur teams, Wimbledon, Sutton Utd and, Tooting and Mitcham. As I’m sure you all know after winning both FA cups, amateur and professional we had an owner who tried to move the club to develop income and meet the all seater stadium regs. Dublin was ruled out by UEFA and Milton Keynes was deemed a good idea and accepted by the FA against all their rules.
The fact that MK Dons are playing in a lower league and making less money than they were in Wimbledon seems to be overlooked. The point being made is that location is now irrelevant in football.
As far as I can see the only thing local about Newcastle is the stadium, and history. It used to be that you supported your local team. It would appear that the current trend to support the most successful team is justified as there is very little local about your local club to support.
What is your motivation? What maintains your loyalty?