The Europa League generally gets a bad press in England. Whilst teams on the continent tend to take a far more serious approach towards it, it is always viewed through mocking eyes over here. The ‘Thursday night, Channel Five’ songs are used an insult on a regular basis and ultimately it is seen as being a little ‘beneath us’.
I suppose it is part of the insular British mindset but it is an opinion that has always troubled me. I still fondly remember the excitement and glory of the Cup Winners Cup and Uefa Cup and, whilst the Champions League in its modern format has swallowed up everything around it, the Europa League still represents a tilt at European glory.
One of the most common arguments against taking the competition seriously is the strain it puts on your weekend preparations, due to the scheduling of games on a Thursday night. But with the following league games always pushed back to the Sunday, the rest is often no different to those teams competing in the Champions League.
And then there is what I have always seen as the underlying benefit of participating in the Europa League, it is a chance to learn. If Spurs truly have ambitions of becoming a regular Champions League team, which is well within our reach, then it is vital that nights such as the game against Lyon are learnt from.
It is no good simply qualifying for the Champions League if you are unequipped to compete in it. Lyon are one of several teams in this season’s tournament with years of involvement in the elite European competition and the game against them yesterday gave Spurs a real challenge and it is one we learnt lessons from.
It is true that our previous foray into the Champions League was a relative success, halted eventually by the footballing behemoth dressed in white that is Real Madrid. But it was also a rather crazy, helter-skelter experience and one that is probably not repeatable. Instead the club need to learn to play European opposition in a more sustainable manner.
Andre Villas-Boas is a blessing in this regard, since not only does he know the competition well but he indeed won it during his time with Porto. All the noises coming out of the camp seem to indicate this test will be taken on with the utmost respect and I hope that is the case. This could be vital preparation for the big thing next year.
This post courtesy of Pick Our Team is by Marc Braterman. PickOurTeam is a new type of football community giving fans an opportunity to have a meaningful say on the formation and selection of their team. PickOurTeam is the voice of the fans – collecting views on who should play where and ratings on how the players, manager, and referee perform each week. Every match the findings are compiled and presented back to the fans. The article was originally posted here.