David James: Declare Liverpool champions

Updated: Apr 22, 2020, 12:27 IST | Ronald Chettiar | Mumbai

Former Reds goalkeeper David James says Jurgen Klopp's men have done enough to be crowned EPL winners if the pandemic ends season abruptly.

Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah (second from right) celebrates with teammates Jordan Henderson (left), Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino (right) after scoring against Southampton in an English Premier League match at Anfield on February 1. Pic/Getty Images
Liverpool striker Mohamed Salah (second from right) celebrates with teammates Jordan Henderson (left), Georginio Wijnaldum and Roberto Firmino (right) after scoring against Southampton in an English Premier League match at Anfield on February 1. Pic/Getty Images

Former England and Liverpool goalkeeper David James is convinced that the Reds should be crowned English Premier League (EPL) champions if the 2019-20 season is called off due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It will be Liverpool's first title in 30 years, after narrowly missing out to
Manchester City by one point last season.

The Premier League was suspended in March after Arsenal manager Mikel Arteta and Chelsea forward Callum Hudson-Odoi tested positive for COVID-19.

Liverpool (82 points from 29 games) lead second-placed Manchester City (57 points from 28 games) by 25 points at the top of the points table and are almost certain to clinch the title. Some experts feel that the season should be declared null and void but James, 49, felt that would be unfair on Liverpool. "If they [Premier League] can get games played behind closed doors and finish the remaining fixtures (92 games), the league cannot be cancelled or declared null and void. If, unfortunately, the season does not finish, then Liverpool deserve to be crowned EPL champions as they have earned enough points to claim the crown," James, a football expert panellist on Sony Pictures Sports Network, told mid-day on Tuesday.

Statistical solution

James, who made 53 appearances for England (1997 to 2010), called for the use of algorithms to decide the EPL winner, but said not all clubs may agree here. "The league's organisers should be on the lines of what they do in a cricket match to check the probability of who will be the winner. I believe OPTA (British sports analytics company), who collect statistics in England, have made a statistical prediction of the final EPL table, declaring Liverpool the winner," explained James, who played for the Kerala Blasters (2014) in the franchise-based Indian Super League before graduating to their manager-cum-player in 2018. "Teams which can't secure their Champions League position or fear relegation, would rather see this season declared null and void," he added.

David James
David James

With football across UK suspended indefinitely, the handsomely-paid EPL players have come under pressure to take pay cuts. "The idea of pay cuts is to help the EPL clubs survive. From a business point of view, they need to generate revenue for survival," James explained.

Survival of clubs

"Despite the huge amount of money earned by the clubs from TV rights, right now the money is not being paid due to the lack of televised games. The huge amount wage bill and lack of revenue can break the backs of some clubs. So, pay cuts are vital from the business operations level and to sustain the clubs," said James, who also played for Manchester City from 2004 to 2006. European football too has come to a standstill with the Euro 2020 postponed to next year while the Champions League fixtures are suspended too. European football's governing body UEFA are planning to hold matches in August, but James felt they could do so in the pre-season period next year to avoid a pile-up of fixtures.

"Euro 2020 won't have much effect on the footballing calendar as it is held in summer. But for the Champions League, UEFA should consider a possibility of creating a mini tournament during the domestic pre-season next year to ascertain a winner, rather than hastily conducting the tournament now, leading to a pile-up of matches," said James, who held the EPL record for most clean sheets (169) until Petr Cech (202) surpassed it in 2015.

Fans can visit the official Facebook page of Sony Pictures Sports Network, @SonySportsIndia and watch ‘Sony Ten Pit Stop’ to catch David James from 5.00 PM on April 22, 2020

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