Miles behind

Last updated : 16 March 2004 By Martyn Elliott

He also claims that the spending power of Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal means that this is likely to continue, although he does hold out some hope that either Liverpool or ourselves can emerge as a major player in the future.

"We are doing very well," said Sir Bobby.

"From where we were when I took over to where we are now, this is a different club in all aspects, with a different squad of players. We were third last year and fourth the year before and at the moment we are fifth with ten matches to go.

"We have made good strides in four years and the potential of the club is high, but everyone else is looking for the same position.

"At the moment Arsenal, Manchester United and Chelsea, because of their quality, power and spending budgets will dominate - after that it's 'where are you' and we're looking to be fourth along with several other teams.

"In the transfer window those three clubs each brought in a player who cost a minimum of £10million. United signed Louis Saha, Chelsea bought Scott Parker and Arsenal brought in Jose Reyes - so they have made it even more difficult for the rest of us.

"I would say there is more than a likelihood that those three will continue to dominate.

"United in the north and Arsenal in the south have always been the two big pillars and Chelsea's spending power has changed the scenario.

"It needs the likes of us, Liverpool and the others to challenge United and Arsenal otherwise they will dominate every year. What has happened to Chelsea is a good thing for our league.

"We would like to be where United or Arsenal are, that is where we are trying to be but we are not there yet."

Sir Bobby’s appraisal is a realistic one, but it makes the failure to beat Partizan Belgrade even more annoying.

The only realistic way for United to move forward is to qualify for the Champions League on a regular basis and continually reinvest the rewards in the team. The problems experienced by Leeds United mean that no sane chairman would ever spend big just to try and reach the tournament.

If anyone knows any free-spending billionaires, please point them in the direction of Freddy Shepherd’s office.