There’s no such thing as a sleeping giant


The ‘big’ teams submerged in their golden era, and can’t relinquish their past in the lower tiers.


Many older generations will remember the marquee blue and white stripes of Sheffield Wednesday, the fearsome red of Nottingham Forest and the pristine white jerseys of Leeds United and Derby County marching onto the field for what ITV called, The Big Match. 

These past giants of football, steeped in illustrious history and honours, boasted the managerial greats of Clough, Revie – and dare I say Atkinson for Wednesday. They won trophies, respect and admiration for the efforts. Now, their accomplishments are consigned to the record books, dust-ridden videos and ghostly pasts as these clubs lay in the abyss of lower tier football – according to many: ‘sleeping giants’.

‘Sleeping giant’ should be scoffed at and laid to rest. The notion that clubs, like Wednesday, Leeds, Derby and Forest, belong in the sovereign of the Premier League purely insults the clubs that aspire to create their own ‘good old days’. Suffice to say that these ‘giants’ are fully deserving of their acknowledgements. Absolutely! The integrity of their antiquity should not be called into question; however, the lunacy that these clubs should still be affiliated with the Premier League simply because of their past is very much open for debate.

In the grand scheme of things, this is a pedantic argument to some, possibly an irritation to the sides that brush shoulders with them every week and a habit for those who associate themselves with the ‘big clubs’. It may also seem that I am picking on the four I have mentioned, but there are many others who that because they had a whiff of success in times gone by and boast a stadium of over 30,000, believe their future is reserved for the big time.

Furthermore, it could be conceivable to think that I am pointing the finger at every fan of these clubs. Not at all. Firstly, it is not just the fans, there are managers and players that have also spouted this creation to suggest a positive impression and usually a false illusion. We know that there are realists associated with all football clubs, personnel who know the past won’t change their league position; nevertheless, there are grandfather clocks who utter the words: “We’re too big for this league”. I have heard it on numerous occasions at the Walkers Stadium – or King Power Stadium as it’s now called.

Leicester City are actually a good example of a team who have experienced the good, the bad and the threat of liquidation over the last two decades, but now might see themselves as a ‘sleeping giant’. When Martin O’Neill took over from Mark McGhee in 1994 he transformed the mantra from a yoyo club to top ten Premier League outfit. He registered the Foxes’ first piece of silverware in 26 years with victory in the Coca-Cola Cup in 1997, as well as the Worthington Cup three years later – now the Carling Cup. European football was delivered to the old 21,000-seater Filbert Street as a subsequence of domestic cup successes, squaring up to Atlético Madrid and Red Star Belgrade.

Tom Henman

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  • Owlsofderision

    Hold on a moment though. These 'sleeping giants' are thus given the name because, even though they languish in the lower echelons of the football league, they still draw larger crowds than some of the 'premier' league clubs such as your Wigans and Blackburns etc. That is why, given the luck, money, opportunity if these teams manage to scale those once heady heights again they will be guaranteed a good 30K gate at home and prove that the giant has indeed awoken from its slumber. Those teams you mention are of the calibre that, should the good times return will prove that they are 'premier' standard and given back the name badge of 'giant'. Just look at the recent 'derby' between Sheffield Wednesday and the others at the sty. Over 25k for a 3rd division game (and it is the 3rd division no matter how you dress it up) and on top of that there were 11k Wednesday fans back at Hillsborough who paid a tenner a piece to watch the game relayed live on giant screens because the 5k allocation for the away supporters was sold out. Tell me of any other teams who got the second highest gate in the 3rd division at their home ground when their team was actually playing away!! I think 'sleeping giants quite fits the bill don't you?!!

  • Neil

    I find it difficult to agree with this. No fan of one the big clubs you mention think they should automatically be in the premiership. They fully understand why they are where they are and that they deserve to be there, based on results, signings, managerial appointments and the like. However, like every football fan, they understandably want to see their club in the premier league, and why shouldn't they? I think the misunderstanding comes when fans of “big clubs” say that if they were in the premier league, they would have the fanbase and money to then compete, whereas a lot of clubs who aren't as well supported, simply couldn't. I see what the article is saying, but think it's a bit harsh and a touch over the top.

  • R1ck.b4ker

    What a ridiculous article. The term “Sleeping giant” refers to the history, fan base and infrastructure associated with a particular club and any one who has the slightest relation to football knows this.

    In fact I just asked my football hating partner what she though the term sleeping giant meant in regards to a football club and she answered immediately: “a club with lots of fans that's not doing as well as it should or previously has”.

    I can only assume that Tom Henman either supports

    a) a club with no soul like Wigan (that's sole purpose of being in the premier league is so the idiotic chairman can be famous) or another club that's only where it is because someone has thrown a ton of money at it,


    b) Supports a small neighboring team of one of the aforementioned “sleeping giants” and has turned bitter at the constant reminder of past glories and future potential,

    Either way he has let some pent up bitterness prompt him to write an embarrassing article that makes non real difference to the fact these clubs and others like will always be quite rightly refereed to as “sleeping giants” until the giant is woken!

  • NHOwl

    This guy has a chip on his shoulder. The fans of the clubs he mentioned typically believe their clubs deserved relegation, and like fans of any club, always hope their team can do better. But none of them believe in a divine right to the Premier league for their clubs.

    It is pillocks like this that spend more time worrying about this sort of stuff. My instinct tells me he supports a smaller club surrounded by larger neighbors who don't give a damn about his club and that is the real problem.

  • zico02

    Sorry I agree with all above comments, and not the article.
    For a team like Sheffield Wednesday who spent awhile in the Premiership, and came within 10 days of going out of business, we know the highs, and very lows, we know we are not a Premiership team, but we are starting to show a little potential, and with the fanbase ( mentioned above for the derby game ( and not forgetting taking 45,000 to cardiff for the playoff final in 2005 ) ) we are a “bigger” club than some of the minnows around us. However we do at the same time realise the situation we are in. What ever your grudge is Tom, envy perhaps of bigger clubs, or perhaps trying to provoke a reaction ( in which case you have of the wrong kind judging from the above comments, ) I do not see the point of your article.

  • MattI

    I don't know a single Wednesdayite that thinks we have a devine right to be in the 'Premiershit'. This article is such a boring, predicitable, nothing story, thrown around by journalists/fans trying to cause a stir. You're confusing so many factors its ridiculous. Concentrate on the shortcomings of your own club rather than throwing nothing claims at fans you know nothing about. UTO

  • eDDie

    This isn't a blog. It's about eight sentences long, and not one of those is any good.