And so we begin the second golden age of the Premier League. Only this time, resistance may be futile.
There have always been pockets of resistance.
The League of Ireland crowd, fuming about ‘barstoolers’.
The guardians of culture, who bemoaned falling observance of the sabbath whenever the wireless would tell you the score of Everton versus Southampton on Super Sunday first, instead of the Allianz League results.
The virtuous, who can’t see past what these great men earn, and that they don’t always earn the right to go down in the box.
The contingent who can’t help wonder how these lads would fare with a couple of hurleys being broken across them, same way Tiger Woods wouldn’t be so smart if he had a lad marking him.
And of course, there are now parts of Rugby Country where you can go into a boozer on Super Sunday and find no talk of the Premier League, and no talk at all while the kickers are lining up.
Even among the diehard disciples, there was a certain revulsion for the Premier League. A knowing mockery of the Best League in the World and its delusions of grandeur. An acceptance they had been handed a life sentence but a growing tendency to consider the hyperbole and controvassy of the Premier League as a kind of addiction they might one day be able to beat.
And sure enough, in recent years more and more people had kicked the habit, begun to turn away from the Premier League as a way of life.
Accordingly, some of its place in the national ‘conversation’ has been handed over to discussion of learnings and takeaways and work-ons after various PRO14 reversals. As a people we took off our replica shirts and put on boardroom suits.
It is straightforward to trace the timeline in this loosening of the Premier League’s grip on us, since it mainly coincided with Manchester United no longer winning the Premier League.
Gradually, you began to hear about people who had become ‘disconnected’ from ‘the Premiership’. People ‘who used to follow United’ but had lost interest. And that kind of thing is contagious, so others felt entitled to be disconnected. And a certain disconnection took place.
But that’s all over now, and the Premier League, albeit through the intercession of the Champions League, is back, baby.
There’s no disputing now which is the Best League in the World and there’s something for everyone. Well nearly everyone, but we will come back to Manchester United and their place in all of this.
We should first reflect how fitting it was that the Premier League’s greatest ever week should have begun in the Premier League.
The magnificent Vincent Kompany, along with David Silva and Sergio Aguero, is evidence than even the most ambitious castle of ideas and finance and a little chicanery must be supported by a few strong human pillars.
Kompany’s thunderbolt against Leicester City set the tone for an extraordinary week. It was a first blow in the great modern culture war between warring forces led by football’s Graeme Souness and intellectualism’s Ken Early.
When he ignored all those pleading with him not to shoot, Kompany proved, to football men, that not everything can be choreographed through the muscle memory of a million rondos and the rote observance of pressing triggers.
Vinnie showed them, that sometimes you may just have to pour everything you have into making it happen. Even if City’s likely coronation tomorrow with 98 points will suggest you can plan quite a lot, all the same. Something for both sides of that argument.
Then when Vinnie had a quiet cry on the pitch afterwards, he set off the week’s great rollercoaster ride through a valley of tears.
A ridiculous blur of a week, when it seemed you could score any amount of goals you wanted as long as you wanted it enough, was awash with tears. James Milner’s, Mauricio Pochettino’s, Lucas Moura’s, the shellshocked victims of Barca and Ajax; it seems now that the heady cocktail of high finance and precious away goals in a Champions League week has cranked football men to an emotional pitch they can barely handle.
And with the emotion spilling from the stadiums, the fans of Liverpool and Tottenham poured out their own tales of suffering, the things they have seen, and they realised all over again just what the Premier League means. Glenn Hoddle summed it up beautifully by giving thanks to be still around.
Even the League of Ireland crowd were represented by Brian Kerr, wearing his Lilywhite hat and shouting ‘go on, ya little Dixie’ as Moura knocked in the winner. Ambassador for a people more comfortable in their own skin these days. Something for everyone.
Even on the lesser stage Thursday night, they were still intoxicated by it all. In the punditry and analysis beforehand, nobody wanted to talk about tactics or defensive structures; all Martin Keown wanted to know is whether Arsenal would have the “desire and passion and emotion” it would need.
And somehow, two laconic men like Aubameyang and Lacazette bought into all that, for at least one night, and Arsenal fans could put their post-Wenger ‘what’s it all about’ existential crisis to one side. By the end, Ian Darke, in commentary, was talking about Rocky Rocastle looking down proudly on them and seemed close to tears himself.
Even the toughest hurling men were fully on board, the likes of Anthony Daly and Daithi Regan plotting their trips to Madrid for the big one.
Because in this new Golden Age of the Premier League, with Klopp and Poch pumping the emotion to the max; what hurling men see is very recognisable to them; it is The Savage Hunger. Would a flake from Daithi really deter little Lucas, in chase of a precious away goal?
In Klopp, the GAA lads even have their Bubbles O’Dwyer, ready to throw in a few f...s in a moment of great triumph.
Something for everyone. Even Chelsea, mired in their toxic ennui, will surely be able to muster some enthusiasm at the prospect of denying Arsenal a place at next year’s carnival.
Even the virtuous can come on board now. VAR will soon have wiped out diving altogether. There was Christian Eriksen’s dignity on show, beautiful redemption stories like Divock Origi’s, who might, if Eamon Dunphy was still on the box, have won a competition in Tesco to play in the Champions League.
There were no bad guys this week, except maybe Luis Suárez, who has caused the scales to fall from Scouse eyes.
Even those who would prefer the Sabbath observed had Lucas put it all down to the man upstairs. His turbo phonebox slamom for the second must have been steered by some higher power.
And even amid the normal petty rivalries that enliven life in thrall to the Premier League, it is not easy to find anyone who genuinely dislikes the central figures, Klopp and Poch. While it may be small consolation to the Manchester United fans, who first made the Premier League great, at least they have a likeable man at the wheel too.
So that’s something.