I've sat/stood in many a ground, and more times than I can remember have sung "______ is by far the greatest team, the world has ever seen!" The problem is, so ahs just about every other football fan, and we can't all be right.
So because I'm bored and have far too much time on my hands, I have been inspired by another internet articlle to make a completely unbiased and evidence based attempt at finding the greatest team in the world. For the sake of this discussion, I am going to assume that by greatest team, it actually means greatest club. Greatest "team" can easily be worked out just by looking at current results, but I want to come to a conclusion that can't be then discarded when that team has a run of poor form.
That's not to say that results won't play any part, even the hardiest Kidderminster Harrier's or Stafford Ranger's fan would have a hard time saying, with hand on heart, that their club is the greatest of all time.
In my opinion, the "greatest" clubs need to have a great history. The very first league of its kind was founded in England, so therefore I am controversially going to say that it must be an English club that stakes its claim for the greatest club in the world. My other reason for this is that my knowledge of football clubs outside of England is poor bordering on non-existant, so it saves me a lot of hassle if I can ignore them
Only six clubs have ever won the top flight in English football 5 times or more: Man U, Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, Aston Villa, and Sunderland. Out of those clubs, only 4 of them have won the FA cup more than 5 times: Aston Villa, Liverpool, Man Utd and Arsenal. Out of these, only 2 have won the league cup 5 times or more: Liverpool and Aston Villa, but Man Utd will also soon reach this number.
However, domestic achievements can only be one part of a clubs claim to being the greatest. European achievements pits themselves against the best clubs from other countries. Following English club's controversial 5 year ban from European competitions, there have been many winners of European competitions, which include the likes of Everton and Ipswich. However, the highest profile of these competitions are the old European cup (which only allowed winners of the domestic league to enter) and later the Champions league, which while allowing teams that did not win their leagues to enter, is an elite competition none the less. Only 4 English clubs have ever won either of these competitions: Nottingham Forest, Liverpool, Man U, and Aston Villa.
A great history is definately neccesary to cliam to be a "great" club. The 12 founder clubs of the football league all have big claims in this department, with the league being set up by Aston Villa director William McGregor, the 1st of its kind in the world.
Of these founder clubs, 11 have stuck around, but not all at the top level. Everton have the most top flight appearances, boasting an impressive 108 years at the top flight, while Aston Villa can also lay claim to 100 years at the top level. So while team like Notts County helped found the league, the longevity of other clubs in the top flight I feel means we can discount them now.
There is of course other history, a more subjective, anecdotal kind. Every club has their "moment." For example, in could be considered a proud moment for a club where, instead of giving the nazi salute on a tour of Germany in 1938 as the England national team had done the prevoius day, they refused, with some members sticking their fingers up instead. Defying Hitler would come quite high for me in a list of proud moments in the history of a club.
Passion of fans must also be taken into account but this too is hard to define. Newcastle often lay claim to this, a claim I've not doubt Sunderland will argue against. A club getting crowds of around 30'000 even when in the lowest teir of English league football, while having to compete with 2 other clubs whose grounds are all within a few miles from each other, shows passion and loyalty through thick and thin I would suggest.
The sheen of the celeberity fan could also be taken into account. In some cases the celeberity fan can be embarrasing. However, should a club attract the loyalties of the Prime minister, the heir to the throne, and the governor of the Bank of England, then this suggest they are a "great club"
An iconic stadium, with an iconic stand (for example the largest behind the goal single stand in England) and players and managers which have contributed to the international squad should also be criteria. For example, one Birmingham based club has contributed more players to the England team than any other.
Can any one team really claim success against all this criteria? Which team is the greatest? Which team was a founder club, won its domestic top flight title more than 5 times, along with the 2 most high profile domestic trophies, and the european cup, aswell as having the above mentioned high profile supporters, and drawn crowds in their thousands even when in the lowest tier of the league? And on top of that stuck 2 fingers up at Hitler?
There is only one club which fulfills this and more...Aston Villa
What? Biased? Cherry-picking? Me? Let's see anyone else make a better claim for a club to be the greatest.