After Harry Redknapp led Tottenham to a 4th-placed finish last season, he guaranteed that London would be the only city in Europe that may be represented by three teams (Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal) in the Champions League next season. In ousting Liverpool from their berth within the top four, Spurs ensured that for the first time since the 2000/01 season, the makeup of the top four was no longer an equal split between teams from the northwest and London, with Manchester United now the sole northwest representative within the top four. The north-south divide has always fuelled rivalry within English football, and it appears as though the south can now boast bragging rights over the usually-successful north. Has Spurs’ 4th-placed finish ensured that the Premier League worm is starting to turn?
Indeed the last Premier League season not to feature an equal north-south split within the top four, 2000/01, saw the split in favour of the north, with Manchester United, Liverpool and Leeds United ensuring that Arsenal were the south’s sole representative within the top four that year. This was a pattern that occurred throughout the majority of the 1990s, with the south failing to provide two representatives within the top four for eight consecutive seasons between 1990/91 and 1996/97. Liverpool’s dominance throughout the late 1970s and 1980s meant that the top flight had long been dominated by the north, and Manchester United’s success under Sir Alex Ferguson helped to continue this trend.
Having looked at each Premier League and old first division table dating backing to the 1960/61 season, I was surprised to see that the 2009/10 was the first season during this 50-year period to feature three southern teams within the top four. Whilst many previous seasons saw the top four dominated by north-south, north-Midlands, Midlands-south or entirely north permutations, the south, the part of the country generally known to be the most affluent, failed to assert its dominance upon the top flight.
From a historical standpoint, the significance of Spurs’ achievement cannot be understated. Whilst it would be premature to state that this has marked the start of a paradigm shift within English football, it may suggest that the north may be losing its stranglehold over the top flight’s upper echelons.
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