Three London clubs show Europe how it’s done

And Liverpool completes the all-English line-up

If two out of three ain’t bad (as Meatloaf once sang) then three out of four is a positive delight if you are a fan of football in the capital.

Yes, Spurs, Arsenal and Chelsea have made it through to the big ones, the Champions League final (Spurs) and the Uefa Cup final (the other two). Only Liverpool stand in the way of a potential London clean sweep.

This is a cause for considerable celebration and delight.

After Spurs triumphed in Amsterdam I posted a personal Facebook entry which said: “Big congratulations to Spurs and Liverpool. Best to Arsenal and Chelsea. Don’t support any of them, but it’s good to see English football in the ascendancy (at a time) when pundits write about players finding it difficult to resist when Real, Barca or PSG come calling. Bored with hearing that joining these teams represents a step up. It doesn’t, as results over past two days show.”

Of course, this statement was backed up all the more by both Arsenal and Chelsea getting to the Europa League final the next day.

Hopefully, the success of this trio of London clubs will finally put paid to the concept that if continental Europe’s big clubs come calling, London-based players will go.

Eden Hazard is likely to feature prominently when Chelsea face Arsenal in the Europa final. Will it be the last time he appears in a Blues’ shirt?

In recent memory we have seen the likes of Gareth Bale and Luka Modric swap the white shirt of Spurs for that of Real Madrid. Indeed, if the pundits are reading the tea leaves correctly Chelsea’s penalty hero from the other night, Eden Hazard, looks as if he, too, is off to the Spanish capital.

Real Madrid is a club side with an unmatched pedigree and I’m not about to make an arse of myself by trying to contend otherwise. But, on current form and I stress that, do they really represent a step-up compared with Chelsea? If players want to win trophies – and, understandably, they do – is Real a “who can resist” team at the moment?

I would contend they are not. But with Hazard? Who knows.

I don’t have a problem with footballers seeking to better themselves in light of the short careers they have. But, given all four finalists in the big European competitions are from the Premier League, surely that is the place to be playing in the 2019-20 season?

Spurs have reached the final of the Champions League for the first time. Liverpool are old hands, having won it and its predecessor, the European Cup, on no less than five occasions. Only AC Milan (seven) and Real Madrid (13) have won more often.

As was to be expected, the “all-four-from-England” line-up prompted some pro-Brexiteers to start spouting about why this is yet another reason why we don’t need close ties with Europe.

London Inspire is about having fun, not pontificating about the politics of the day, but my personal response is: What tosh!

The finalists may be based in England but they can thank players from across the globe (and that includes Europe) for their current good run of form.

Spurs, for example, can thank a Brazilian – Lucas Moura – for his hat-trick against Ajax. Their starting line-up that night also included two Frenchmen, a Japanese, a Kenyan, two Belgians and a Dane. Three Englishmen completed the 11.

When Liverpool won the European Cup for the first time in 1976-7 their team comprised nine Englishmen, a Welshman and an Irishman.

Villa (left) and Ardiles pose with the then Spurs manager Keith Burkinshaw after signing for the club.

The all-from-the-British-Isles boat has long since sailed and, it should be noted, Spurs were among the first to board the bring-in-the-foreigners one when they signed the Argentinian pair Osvaldo Ardiles and Ricardo Villa after the 1978 World Cup.

Few would dispute that those two brought great things to the game in the capital. I won’t attempt to list the others who have had a similar impact, but there are many of them.

I’m not even sure the argument that the influx of foreigners is damaging the chances of the England national side continues to hold water given how the side fared in the last World Cup.

So, now we can look forward to the two finals.

Arsenal and Chelsea will contest the Europa final in the Baku Olympic Stadium, Azerbaijan, on Wednesday May 29, kick-off 8pm. The ground holds close to 70,000 but the word on the street is that the London clubs are getting a ticket allocation of just 6,000 each.

How ridiculous is that?

Spurs fans will fare a little better, ticket-wise, for the final of the Champions League. They will be battling over 16,613 seats. Better, but not a whole lot so. The final is in Atletico Madrid’s ground (capacity 68,000) on Saturday June 1 with the same kick-off time.

London Inspire wishes Spurs all the best and, of course, is neutral about who wins the other final.

London is guaranteed one winner, but two out of two ain’t bad!

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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