Season reviews

Roger Titford reports on a year in the Championship in which may not have been vintage, but was notable for Blackpool providing the headlines

The Championship alternates between “strong” and “weak” years depending on which clubs have just been relegated from the Premier League. Next season we can look forward to a weak, and therefore more open, contest with two financial basket cases (Hull and Portsmouth) and Burnley coming down.

Tom Lines looks back on the season in League One, and the considers the divide between many clubs in the division and their well-to-do guests who have fallen from the Premier League

The FA’s decision to hold England matches around the country during the rebuilding of Wembley is generally agreed to have been a great success. Football’s heartlands got to see the national team in their own backyards while the players benefited from performing in front of passionate, knowledgeable crowds. Fans in League One are now enjoying a similar scheme involving former Premier League clubs. This season the division contained no fewer than four sides that have graced the top flight in the last six years. Charlton, Southampton and Norwich were making their first visits, while Leeds Utd had married a local girl and were trying to make a go of things.

James Bentley reviews a League Two season in which Notts County grabbed the attention, but an open division produced some astonishing results

It’s hard to think about the 2009-10 season in the basement without the beginning, middle and end of the story being taken up by the oldest club in the Football League. Notts County and their frivolous, occasionally murky, ways grabbed attention from every regional TV news team in every small market town that Sven and his illustriously paid company rolled into.

Huw Richards sums up the Championship season whilst asking of whether being at the top of the division correlates with playing better football

Do you want your team to play in the Premier League? Well, yes, me too. But this year’s Championship season shows that achieving what we’re told is the Holy Grail – or at least the answer to a £60 million question – can have unwanted side-effects. When your team is newly risen from the lower orders you have certain expectations. Better grounds, bigger crowds and classier football. No doubt about the first two, but hope of number three went largely ungratified.

Tom Davis looks back at the League One season and reflects on how the division is becoming more and more seperated with each passing year

Ostensibly, there’s almost a case to be made that League One is taking on as lopsided and unequal appearance as the Premier League: increasingly a repository for badly run big clubs and smaller members who see a place in the top half as the peak of their ambitions. No other division boasts such a proportional gap between the crowds of its best and worst supported clubs, or such contrasting historical narratives. A decade previously, Hereford, Cheltenham, Leeds and Leicester were four divisions apart – this term they competed as equals.

Dave Jennings reviews a League Two season which proved difficult for a number of teams who started with point deductions whilst the teams at the top struggled to find consistency

Right from the beginning of the season, the League Two table served as a reminder of the ever-present economic perils at the humblest levels of English professional football. The three teams that would finish at the bottom appeared to have been effectively chosen by the authorities before the opening day. Luton’s cause looked hopeless from the moment their 30-point deduction for various monetary transgressions was confirmed, and it seemed a reasonably safe bet that they’d head for the Blue Square Premier in the company of either Rotherham or Bournemouth, who would surely struggle to overcome the 17-point handicaps loaded on to them for their financial failings. However, all three clubs managed to retain relatively strong squads, and the latter two both reached safety, Rotherham recording results that would have put them in the play-offs but for their points penalty.

This season's Championship has been a strange affair, says Tim Springett

The Championship, we are told, is the fifth richest football league in the world. That doesn’t alter the fact that it will always be the poor relation of the Premier League. The financial gulf between the two continues to grow and one could be forgiven for thinking that Derby’s abject experience this season served as a deterrent to many teams in the Championship to strive for promotion. It was a division that, in 2007-08, nobody seemed to want to win.

Points deductions have set the agenda in League One, writes Huw Richards

This was the Year of the Asterisk, with three teams – Leeds, Luton and Bournemouth – suffering points deductions. It also saw our Premier League-fixated national media, not for the first time, missing the point lower down. Hypnotised by the spectacle of Leeds and Nottingham Forest, regarded as Premier League members-in-exile, so far down the tree, they ignored the fact that much of the season was dominated, and the best-quality football played, by teams with a radically different provenance. Doncaster and Carlisle have both spent time in the Conference, while Swansea nearly went there only five years ago. If nobody quite reached the sublime heights attained by Blackpool in the later stages of 2006-07, there was some genuine quality.

The title race was over by Christmas, but in the end it wasn't that bad a season in League Two, writes Ron Hamilton

Over recent seasons it has become an increasingly popular pastime for League Two aficionados to point and sneer at the lopsided and avaricious Premier League, scoffing at the hype and hoopla in comparison to the somewhat earthier charms of football’s basement division. Yet while much of this scorn is predicated on the assumption that the lower leagues represent the last vestiges of football’s soul, the 2007-08 season has seen the fourth division’s occupation of the moral high ground somewhat ­undermined.

Does money talk loudest in the Championship? Csaba Abrahall
reviews the 2006-07 season in what should surely be called Division Two

Derby’s play-off victory averted the worst-case scenario, but the season was none the less a worrying one for the majority, as only West Brom’s failure to prevail at Wembley prevented all three of the sides relegated from the Premiership in 2006 securing an immediate return. With parachute payments set to rocket, Championship clubs without a recent top-flight history could be forgiven for questioning whether striving for success against such financially advantaged competitors is worth all the bother.

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