Often you hear of players saying they want to play for a “big club”. What does a big club mean? Is it the nouveau riche of the Manchester City or Chelsea or does it mean the steeped-in-tradition past glories of a Liverpool, AC Milan or Newcastle?
Being a big club is contirbuted to by four factors – the rabidity of their fans (Big edge: Old-school big clubs – as support for teams is passed down from generation to generation the Big Clubs of yore tend to have larger or more territorially-bounded fanbase); money (Big edge: Nouveau riche); results (nearly a 50/50 split here but in England given the recent success of Manchester United you'd probably give it to The Old Guard, this though Chelsea and perhaps this season Man City ensure this is changing rapidly) and arrogance (draw). Given that old clubs will always have money, if not the resource-driven superpockets of Abramovich or Sheik Mohammed, as they built their stadia before the Premier League, it really makes this issue a bit of a wash. Now to the footballer, a desirable club is a club who can pay them more money – as Sol Campbell and Notts County so elegantly proved last year - but usually that involves the UEFA Champions League.
Liverpool have always been a big club but beside their Champions League success in 2004 they haven't had the results to back this up since Stevie G was in nappies. Their money situation is quite scary for the fans as their creditors make veiled threats of a takeover. That fan base, however, remains one of the most supportive and crazy bunches the world has known.
Due to the money situation, recruitment this offseason came down to free transfers – quality ones, it must be said – but let's not beat about the bush, Joe Cole was attracted to the wages on offer rather than the Spirit of Shankly. Had Tottenham forked out the 90,000 a week he requested then you'd think our Joe would have chosen London and Champions League matches in Milan over Liverpool and Europa League matches in Rabotnicki. Liverpool for the last 20 years has only hoped to win titles – falling into the same conundrum as Newcastle United, assuming a Top Four spot is their by divine right. The football world doesn't work like this any more and the English top flight is only now working that out. The game has changed and how well a club adapts to this is reflected in their final league position – and their status as big or smaller clubs.