“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it's much more serious than that.”
Legendary Liverpool football manager Bill Shankly may have had his tongue in his cheek when he made that quip. But he had an important point too.
Club football is about far more than individual players and managers. They come and go. Rather, it is about the culture and traditions of our country, and in particular how they are drawn from local communities. British clubs are rooted in the neighbourhoods and regions that bear their name. Even if players are increasingly recruited from far and wide, it is local fans who provide the bedrock of their most loyal support.
That is why I was pleased to see a plan for a European Super League shot down in flames. The scheme would have seen a ringfenced competition for a handful of wealthy English, Spanish and Italian superclubs, from which relegation was impossible.
It was a cynical proposal from people who knew the price of everything and the value of nothing.
The prospect of promotion and relegation is the lifeblood of club football. Who can forget the joy of the last open-top bus tour through Cheltenham to celebrate the Robins’ promotion? Relegation, on the other hand, can generate feelings of despair, and then the hunger to come back stronger next season.
We want to dream of watching local clubs play at Old Trafford or Anfield, the San Siro or the Nou Camp.
As one supporter reminded me, in League One Cheltenham played teams like former Premier League champions Leicester City. Leicester are currently third in the Premier League. Why couldn’t that be the Robins one day? After all, the club was leading against Manchester City in the 70th minute recently.
Let’s remember the values of football, and keep the dreams of fans across our country alive.