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12/11/2015 05:36 GMT | Updated 11/11/2016 05:12 GMT

Football - Is There a North-South Divide?

My favourite match from the 2002 football World Cup was South Africa vs Paraguay. It was a compelling group game that ended in a 2-2 draw, but it was also a chance for me to watch two of my favourite international players, Benni McCarthy of South Africa and Roque Santa Cruz of Paraguay.

I could not have imagined that in just a few years both would play for my beloved Blackburn Rovers. But with hindsight it made sense. Blackburn was at that time, but sadly no longer, a Premier League team with a track record of signing top goal scorers, notwithstanding Egil Østenstad.

Former Manchester United and England defender Gary Neville recently wrote that a North-South divide is developing in football that "reflects the drift of economic power to London". So much for Chancellor George Osborne's Northern Powerhouse.

Is Neville right though? Does the success of football teams mirror the location they find themselves in?

Neville cites the fall from grace of a number of northern clubs: Newcastle, Sunderland and yes, even Blackburn Rovers. The most striking argument put forward by Neville is that northern Premier League clubs are struggling to compete with teams from the South East in attracting the best players, the football equivalent of the 'brain drain'. Neville concludes by asking whether the current trend is cyclical, or here to stay.

The North-South debate has gained much needed attention in politics in the last year, with George Osborne embarking on a mission to create a Northern Powerhouse, devolving powers to northern cities in an attempt to create a more competitive economic landscape.

The Northern Powerhouse is an admission that the current North-South gap is not desirable nor sustainable for the country.

Back to Neville though. He's half right in his assessment. There is clearly an economic divide between the North and South. But to wrap the current plight of northern football clubs up in this argument is too simplistic.

Take Leeds for example. In his article Neville reflects on the days when Leeds was a football force to be reckoned with. The Leeds economy, though, as it stands today, is actually a bright spot in the North and boasts one of the biggest financial services sector outside of London. The current performance of Leeds United seems detached from the local economy.

And then there is Blackburn Rovers. The current situation the club finds itself in is largely down to incompetent management from the club's owners, Venky's. It had nothing to do with the North-South economic divide. A similar argument could be made about Leeds United too.

Moreover, London and the South East is not overrun with teams challenging for the Premier League title, it is the same familiar names each year: Chelsea and Arsenal. This is not to mention the fact that since the Premier League launched in 1992, the majority of titles have gone to teams based in the North West.

Given Neville's comment about the North-South economic divide, what strikes me is that northern clubs have punched above their weight in recent times, rather than the opposite.

If the current Government is committed to developing a genuine Northern Powerhouse, in the future we might be longing for the days when clubs from the South East challenged to be the best in the country.