Early Doors

Which league do you support?

'That's why we love the Premier League so much!'

Early Doors has heard Martin Tyler yelp that sentence more than once this season.

It is an increasingly irritating verbal tic from an otherwise excellent commentator, perhaps the result of institutionalisation; too long behind a Sky microphone.

ED often finds its enjoyment of a highly entertaining football match - Manchester City's 3-2 win over Southampton springs to mind - torpedoed by a tedious refrain about great adverts for English football.

Of course, it chimes nicely with the satellite broadcaster's modus operandi - to hammer away at us until 'Best League In The World' ceases to be a vainglorious boast and becomes accepted as a synonym for 'Premier League'.

This heavy-handed approach encourages a pointless debate about what actually is the best league in the world?

There are those who agree with Sky and assert that the entertainment on these shores cannot be matched; others react against what they see as narrow-minded claptrap, and take great delight when English teams slip up in Europe.

Accordingly, the absolute shoeing Borussia Dortmund delivered to the backside of City last night provoked a crowing among internet football types loud enough to raise Brian Moore from his grave.

As the type who finds Freude in English clubs' Schaden, ED enjoyed City's suffering immensely (though Mario Balotelli's conversion of City's inevitable late penalty also raised a smile).

However, it also struggles to understand the furore over deciding which league is best.

Sky is encouraging us to 'support' the Premier League. And many do - witness the increasingly vitriolic characterisation of La Liga as 'SPL south' (a comparison on hold until Real Madrid get demoted to the fourth division), or the pooh-poohing of Serie A.

But why is it necessary to decide which league is best? And if we do decide, why should that mean deriding other competitions?

There is a suggestion that liking the Premier League and liking La Liga are somehow incompatible - that you can only be a fan of one or the other.

This is very obviously nonsense. If you enjoy English football, there is a very high chance that you will enjoy Spanish, German or Italian football.

After all, they share one important thing in common - they're all football.

Since the Premier League is Sky's signature event, it cannot carry the event-based cheerleading into Europe.

Last night's thrilling City-Dortmund game might have seemed like the perfect excuse to squeal 'That's Why We Love The Champions League!' for two straight hours.

However, so deep is Sky's Premier League imprint that it became an evening of soul-searching quite at odds with the joyous fare on the pitch.

Why, oh why have City struggled in Europe?

Roberto Mancini's tactics - specifically his odd dabbling with a back three - came under the spotlight. Early Doors has nothing against back threes per se, but switching systems mid-match seems like a recipe for bad things.

Then came the strangely popular theory that City have not yet learned how to win in the Champions League. As though beating foreigners it is a special discipline completely alien to Mancini's cosmopolitan squad of international superstars.

If you improve with experience in Europe, kindly explain Manchester United's pitiful decline from swashbuckling adventurers to the pedestrian cloggers who came last in the Group of Life last season.

No. City have struggled because they have played a succession of extremely good football teams.

There's only so much soul-searching you can do when the teams that beat you are Bayern Munich, Napoli and Real Madrid.

And when the champions of Germany visit, you shouldn't be surprised when you have a game on your hands.

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Graeme Souness earned himself a Twitter scolding last night when he described Dortmund as "ones to watch" - as though they were cheeky upstarts rather than winners of the last two Bundesliga titles and former European champions.

ED actually has some sympathy for Souness, who fell foul of the macho geekery that consumes football obsessives.

The vast majority of people watching Sky last night do not follow German football - most likely the last time they saw Dortmund was when they played Arsenal last season.

And there's nothing wrong with that. You don't need to watch 20 matches a week to be a valid human being.

The trick is to convey to the audience that, while they might not know much about Dortmund, they are actually bloody good.

Souness was merely trying to do that, even his choice of words made him sound a little patronising.

In any case, worse was unfolding on Irish TV, where Eamon Dunphy expressed his admiration of Arsene Wenger for uncovering hidden gems like Santi Cazorla - he of the 48 caps for Spain and two European Championship medals.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: Steven Gerrard: "I'm not really one who looks back, I look forward, and I am never going to give up fighting for the title. But I'm realistic about where the team is at the moment and how much hard work and improvement needs to be done if we are to compete for it. Have I got the time on my side? No. Is it impossible? No. Let's just see how the next two or three years go. I know I am good enough to play in a side to win the league and I know I am a good enough player to win the league but sometimes stuff is out of your control."

FOREIGN VIEW: You can catch up with all last night's Champions League action here.
And in other news, Argentina's friendly against Brazil was abandoned before kick-off due to a floodlight failure at the Centenario Stadium in Resistencia.

The teams, picked only from domestic leagues, were due to meet for the second time in two weeks after Brazil won 2-1 in the first match of the "Superclasico of the Americas" doubleheader in Goiania on September 19.

The players took the field and lined up for the anthems but Chilean referee Enrique Osses delayed kickoff until full lighting could be resorted after a generator failed.

The teams spent more than half an hour on the pitch warming up and chatting among themselves until they were led off again.

With no back-up generator available in the vicinity, Osses abandoned the match an hour after the scheduled kick-off, embarrassing the Argentine Football Association, who had organised the match in Resistencia.

AFA sources said no new date was immediately available for the match since the international calendar was packed until the end of the year.

Brazil were fielding several first-choice players including Neymar, who scored the winner in Goiania with a last-minute penalty, while the best-known player in the Argentina team was World Cup winger Maxi Rodriguez.

COMING UP: AVB says we should all pay more attention to the Europa League - so what better way for ED to spend the evening than at the leaving do of Tony Mabert. Raconteur, gadabout and Early Doors stalwart, Tony's departure may be noticed by some of us.