3 August ~ Norwich and Watford kick-off the Npower Football League on Friday evening. In preparation we're looking back at pre-season predictions in last summer's WSC preview, beginning with League Two. While the story of this division in 2009-10 was the upheaval at Notts County, the prediction table (left – with each contributor voting for four teams to go up and two to be relegated) was collated before it was clear what effect the chaos wreaked by the Munto consortium would have on the pitch.
Rotherham won most votes for promotion but our Millers correspondent Phil Kyte, whose side lost in the play-off final, erred on the side of caution: "Being made favourites is worrying – we never live up to such expectations." Steve Westby, WSC's Notts County fan, also refused to get carried away by the "bizarre arrival of Sven": "We should hope for automatic promotion. But being Notts County, a significant investment will probably just get us safely into mid-table." This investment, of course, won the title.
Each supporter was also asked to nominate a smell for the club. Westby summed up the discomfort with events at Meadow Lane by suggesting: "A pint of beer – it may smell inviting but can sometimes leave you with a nasty taste in the throat."
From a number of comments – "Freudian chuntering", "sore losers", "sour grapes" – Bradford City seem an unpopular club in this division. But they are remaining there for another year after finishing 14th in 2009-10. The Bradford representative, Dave Jennings, seemed aware of his team's limitations, however: "It's hard to be optimistic. We'll probably struggle into the top half." He nominated "Balti pies, past their best-before date" as the smell of his club.
At the bottom, the overwhelming favourites for the drop, Accrington Stanley, defied expectations by reaching comfortable mid-table. Darlington fan Ron Hamilton, however, is unlikely to have been surprised at his club dropping out of the Football League having predicted "a struggle", "given that our current attack of Dean Windass (40) and Curtis Main (17) resemble a Werthers Original advert". Following Grimsby's narrow survival in previous seasons, their relegation was worse than the worst case envisioned by Pete Green: "The feelgood factor of last year’s escape from relegation is strong, and with several convincing new signings the streets of Grimsby are surging with optimism. Whenever this happens we tend to finish about 18th."
Lincoln's disappointing season echoed Rob Winckworth's quotation from The Merry Wives of Windsor as a smell proposal: "The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril."
But surely the final word must go to our Cheltenham Town correspondent in the light of his club's dismal season, culminating in 22nd place. While Nick Mitchell was over-optimistic in his finish prediction – "We’ll bounce around the top half before finally settling on fifth" – he was much more accurate in suggesting a smell for his club: "The whiff of bullshit that seems to hang around our soundbite-prone manager Martin Allen." In October 2009, Cheltenham placed their manager on "gardening leave" following allegations that he racially abused a nightclub bouncer.