BARCELONA are more than a club.
Exeter City, Sheffield United’s opponents at St James’ Park tomorrow, view themselves in exactly the same light.
Not because Paul Tisdale’s side, who potentially stand between United and automatic promotion to the Championship, have millions of Euros and a seemingly never-ending supply of world-class talent at their disposal.
But as Steve Perryman, City’s director of football told The Star last night, this West Country institution cherish the same ideals as their counterparts from Catalonia.
“We’re owned by a trust of 4,000 supporters and we’ve got a manager whose work ethic and ethics in general are superb,” he said.
“The young players we bring through are taught how to play football rather than roll around and dive and won’t spent money we haven’t got.
“In fact we’ve got a saying that for every £1 we spend we try and get £1.50 back.
“There isn’t anyone who can give us an extra £100,000 if we need it. It’s just not there.
“Whether or not it’s a model that can get a club up to the highest level only time will tell.
“But it certainly makes things very interesting.”
“We had Leeds down here a while ago and, just like Sheffield United, we could have sold 4,000-odd seats to away fans and put every single ticket in the ground up.
“But we didn’t and although it cost us around £400,000 – which was worth another player - I can understand.
“We’re owned by the fans and so why are they going to fleece themselves?”
Perryman, the former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder, has spent the past nine years working in Devon following spells with Shimizu Pulse and Kashiwa Reysol in Japan. Indeed, one anecdote from his time in the Far East, best sums up his approach to the game.
“I can remember playing against a team that was effectively Brazilian,” Perryman said. “Brazilian coach and Brazilian players.
“They were on the verge of the title and when they went in front against us after an hour or so they spent the next 30 minutes just wasting time and taking the ball into the corner. They were diving and basically breaking everything up that way.
“There was an English guy out there at the time who covered football for one of the papers and he wrote how professional they were at killing the game so I rang him up.
“I asked ‘tell me exactly what you mean by ‘killing’ and then he understood.
“Why would anyone want to do that? Why would anyone want to kill the game?”
“I’ve talked myself out of plenty of jobs in the past because I’ve told directors I won’t go in for that type of thing,” Perryman added. “We all want to win but win at all costs is something different.
“Diving, cheating and back-chatting to the referee? I can’t abide it.”
Tomorrow’s final match of the 2011/12 campaign illustrates perfectly the challenges relegated City face.
Having spent the past three seasons “punching” - to borrow Perryman’s own words - “above our weight”, they host a team whose resources dwarf those Tisdale and his staff can draw upon.
“The team we put out against Sheffield United will probably be very different to the one that starts next season,” Perryman acknowledged. “We know we can’t afford to compete financially so what we have to do is find players who we feel are good enough but who, for some reason, others in the division might not trust.
“Jamie Cureton is a good example of that. Lots of people thought he was too old but we gave him a chance and he scored 20 goals which took us to within a point of the play-offs last year.”