Modern Football Needs More Leicesters, But Not in the Premier League

04/05/2016 15:16

Yes yes well done and so forth, but what about the rest of football?

Is it not just as incredible that a team of semi-professionals and former top-level pros like Danny Webber have been promoted to the National League North with Salford City? They may be owned by the bloke who owns Valencia and be bankrolled by the likes of Scholes, Butt and Gary Neville, but it is still a great achievement for them to play FC United of Manchester next year as both teams attempt to make it into the 92.

What about Darlington 1883? They'll host both clubs next year too, having come up just ahead of Salford City as champtions of the Northern Premier League. You may remember Darlington, who went bust in 2012 and had to reform at the bottom of the pyramid, having been as high up as Division Three.

Well they've just been promoted and they will be contesting the FA Vase on May 22 at Wembley. They won the FA Trophy in 2011, which will be the second game on the day. A great day it will be for every Darlo fan who used to see them in the football league. Tickets are still available at a very good price for the two games.

In the professional tiers, all clubs will start next season trying to 'do a Leicester'. That would mean the team before, plus Kante, plus pizza, which is impossible as there is only one N'Golo Kante. There are many players in the amateur levels of French football, so will scouts be paid to fly out to the South of France to watch some football to find the next Kante?

Far more likely is the prospect of them prospecting for the next golden boys down in non-league English football. Having seen Ethan Pinnock and Matt Drage at the back for Dulwich Hamlet, I know they could play at professional level, rather than the Ryman Premier League, the southern equivalent of the league from which Darlo and Salford have been promoted.

Other talent is recorded by fanatics of non-league football, of which there are many thousands who would be better served by the big broadsheet and tabloid papers. Erhun Oztumer, the former Dulwich number ten, is starring for Peterborough United in League One. The club often plucks players from the semi-pro level to sell on for profit, sort of a micro level of what Chelsea do by signing Kevin de Bruyne and then watching him play for a rival team after a brief period showing the world what he could do. In Germany.

The best thing for a football fan enraptured by the Leicester City so-called fairytale (if the fairytale had a godmother that was a rich Thai family and a really experienced and proven manager who used to manage Chelsea) is to look below the top level. Sky sponsor the football league through SkyBet, the FL72 as great a brand as the Premier League, which aside from this season has always been split into two: Prem A and Prem B.

As a Watford fan who has spent four years writing a book - Saturday 3pm: A Modern Guide to Modern Football, out digitally on May 19 2016 - I realise that my club strive for the top (we reached it in 1982/3 and had the league's top scorer, after all) but seldom get there because our owners are not rich from oil or gas or widgets or somesuch. The Pozzo family know that they need to keep the community of Watford close, even as they try to keep Watford above seventeenth in the division.

It will be tough next year - both Udinese in Italy and Granada in Spain, the other Pozzo-owned clubs, have had relegation struggles of their own this 2015/6 season - but with the momentum of a cup final and survival well before the last day, Watford are well positioned to reach the top half of the table next year.

Will Leicester be able to cope with more games, a bigger squad, global attention and vodka-and-bacardi parties all summer long? Will Salford City adjust to the National League North?

One thing is certain. There will be more Leicesters, but maybe not another Premier League season that Leicester had in 2015/6. The beauty, of course, is that the only certainty is uncertainty. Such is the brilliance, for all its troubles, of modern football.