Craig Salmon's Soapbox: What would await Preston North End in the Premier League?
The dream of Preston North End supporters is to one day see their team back at the top table of English football.
By that I mean winning promotion from the Championship and rubbing shoulders on a weekly basis with the elite of English football in the Premier League.
Should PNE ever achieve their Holy Grail – and dare I say it is looking unlikely to happen any time soon judging by the team’s current precarious position above the relegation zone of the second tier – I am sure the fans will cherish the experience of heading to such places as Old Trafford, Anfield and Stamford Bridge.
And seeing Deepdale packed to the rafters every other week to welcome some of the world’s best players would have everybody connected with the club salivating at the prospect.
There is no doubt being in the top flight of English football is the place to be and would set North End up financially for a good few years. However, as bizarre as this may sound, I hazard a guess that the novelty of being in the top flight will begin to wear off.
And some fans will soon start yearning for the ‘competitive nature’ of the Championship, especially as they witness their team getting outclassed on a regular basis.
Don’t get me wrong, we have seen some clubs upset the applecart in recent years – Leicester City’s remarkable title victory of 2016 for one.
Burnley’s relative success of finishing seventh and qualifying for Europe last season shows what can be possible for a club of similar ilk and stature to North End.
But I think the first few months of this season tells us that the gap between the Premier League’s ‘Big Six’ and the rest is widening – and at an alarming rate.
Anyone who witnessed champions Manchester City’s 6-1 demolition of Southampton on Sunday will have seen Pep Guardiola’s men enjoy a game of ‘keep-ball’ in the opposition’s penalty area!
City are one of three teams – along with Chelsea and Liverpool – who remain unbeaten after 11 games of this season.
Indeed the stats show that of the 48 matches so far between the Big Six – which also includes Manchester United, Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur – and the rest, the other 14 teams have won just three between them while the big clubs have 41 victories. It makes a mockery of claims by those that promote the Premier League as the ‘greatest competition in the world’.
I think the biggest problem is the stockpiling of the best players by the biggest clubs. A look at some of the substitute benches named by these clubs this season illustrates an embarrassment of riches.
Indeed some of the players deemed not good enough to get in the first XI of a Big Six team on any given Saturday would probably be the first name down on the opposition’s teamsheet.
But the eye-watering sums these clubs can pay in wages means players are happy to be a replacement rather than the star attraction of a ‘lesser’ club.