Sep 23, 1997 Down where they are hard... (Steve Jones) Apr 28, 1998 Dreams are shattered (Steve Jones) ===================================== Subject: Down where they are hard... Date: 23 Sep 1997 13:06:05 +0200 From: Steve Jones (email@example.com) To borrow from Terry Pratchett "It may be tough at the top, it may be harder at the bottom, but half way up you could use them for horseshoes". The First Division is one of the harder second divisions around with some large teams struggling to get out, and those that do make it normally suriving for a while in the top flight or doing more than just surviving (Blackburn, Newcastle, Leicester). This season sees a host of once great teams struggling to get out of the division against other teams who are on the up and out to prove a point. Nottingham Forest have started off looking the strongest and baring injuries can probably be seen as the favourites for the title, but with only 8 games gone alot could happen in a very short time. As always the division is very close while 7 points seperate the top 6 in the Premiership after 7 games the top 15 of the First Division are covered by only 6 points! The problems facing a First division team are different to their top flight rivals, no matter what the budgets, Lombardo would never have gone to Palace last season but this they got him with only a minimal amount of fuss. Juninho and Ravanelli don't want to play in the First, and neither for the most part do any international contenders. Several pre-season favourites are looking shaky, Man City are beset by internal rifts while Ipswich just don't seem to have got going, while several teams have made the suprise early running the Baggies amoung them. Injuries always play a large part in any campaign but in the first doubly so. If a team loses one of its Premiership quality stars then it will not be able to get an equivalent replacement. Its is often therefore in the first that non-league and young players make their mark. Scowcroft of Ipswich last season attracted much attention from the likes of Liverpool, and Mike Sheron of Stoke was the subject of many a transfer rumour. While the Premiership is the glory and the aspiration the lower divisions are the blood and guts of English football, without the likes of Crewe Alexander many current premiership players would never have got a chance, from AFC Bournemouth to an England shirt , a long journey ? Not for Jamie Redknapp. And while Sky rant on about the ever growing gap between the first and the Prem the teams that come down still struggle and the teams that go up still win. And come the Cups there are "upsets" of the high and the mighty by lowly York or Chesterfield. There is no glory hunting in the First, no crys that someone has shifted allegiance from Charlton to Reading or from Wolves to West Brom, we get on TV less, only so often do we see a player and think "he could play for _anyone_" but still we turn up. We don't care if Man U beat Everton, but if Barnsley beat Sunderland. We all want to be there in the Premiership, the hallowed halls of top flight footy, to be able to sign the big names and not make do with the likes of Iwan Roberts at inflated prices. My own team Wolves have been out of the top flight since 1984, we've fallen from the very heights to the very depths in consecutive seasons, and now we wait we in the First for our chance to return to the top. The problem is that so do all of those around us, Forest, Man City, West Brom, Portsmouth, Ipswich everyone of whom has lifted a major trophy, with the current money team of the first division Boro (Wolves having relinquished that title as Derby did before them) also vying for those 3 charmed places. Then come the "suprise" teams, a surpise only in that the don't seem as big as the clubs around them, it was Barnsley last season and Wimbledon an age ago and many teams who didn't look big enough to make it but proved everyone wrong. In the Prem you can count Coventry out of winning the title, but in the First you can't put it past Charlton to finish second. There is no _one_ team to beat as that team was promoted the season before and a new set come down not knowing what the other teams are really like and with them unsure of what the new arrivals can do now they have lost some players. This is life in the Nationwide Division One, welcome to Hell. ------------------------------------- Subject: Re: Down where they are hard... Date: 24 Sep 1997 09:42:36 GMT From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Huw Morris) Steve Jones wrote: > > Now don't get me wrong if Div 1 is hell, what is Div3? > Oblivion :-) Personally, I wouldn't know. West Brom have never played in that division. ;-) Steve made a very good point about the strength of this year's first division. I can not remember a time where there were so many good (or at least 'big') teams outside the top division. The money sloshing about in the Premiership has made a few teams (mine included) wake up and make a bit more of an effort in getting back there. This year, I predict that the average attendance will be in the range of 14,000-15,000. That's as high as the French first division and MLS. There are three teams that have won European trophies: Man City, Nottm Forest and Ipswich Town. Wolves, WBA, Huddersfield and Sunderland have all won domestic titles. Several others have won the League Cup or FA Cup. Just as a thought, how many leagues are there in the world that average over 15,000? Could the English first division be in the top 10 of world leagues, attendance-wise? ======================================== Subject: Re: Down where they are hard... Date: 24 Sep 1997 12:42:37 +0200 From: Steve Jones (email@example.com) mark blackman (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes: > If Div 3 is oblivion, how would you describe where Hereford is now after > been relegated by a bunch of deckchair attendants from the south coast? In the Midlands we'd call it "Smethwick" :-) Having seen Wolves from top to bottom of League footy I'd say that the football is hardest and meanest in the first division, in the 2nd and 3rd there are teams that just want to survive, who have to sell players to bigger clubs and whose ambition is a good cup run. There are some teams with ambition and they tend to race into the first where they stagnate. In the first everyone is looking at the prize of promotion, some would be happy with mid-table obscurity but they know that one lucky season, a fit team with a good manager could see them into the hallowed halls. Also in the First the crowds and the matches often have as much, if not more, pressure generated by the fans than Premiership teams (the last Wolves and West Brom managers both departed after loosing the "double" to local rivals). There is a problem with a lack of publicity outside of the Premiership and this increases as you move down the divisions, Brighton via their BBC connections got a lot of coverage for their plight, the same isn't happening for Plymouth who are (IMO) a bigger club in terms of support but without the media connections. There was certainly less pressure on Graham Turner after he failed in the playoffs than there has been on McGhee when he failed last season. I guess this is because the board/fans think 3rd division or 4th division, no real difference, but 1st Division/ Premiership means the difference between SkyTV Prime time and MotD with Alan Hansen commenting on just how good your defence is. I don't think its any suprise that in recent times only Swindon were a whipping boy for those in the top flight, most of the teams that go up have a hardened attitude to the game and a drive and commitment that suprises their opponents. And maybe the fans attitude helps as well, at the moment alot of Wolves fans are on the teams back, despite the injuries and despite being in an Okay position for this time in the season. Once the teams reach the goal of the Premiership the fans attitude becomes more supportive and more aggressive towards the opposition (at least thats what happened at Filbert St.). I've said it before and I still belive its true, there isn't a team in the Premiership outside those who will finish in the top six, who could easily get out of the First division. And that the teams that go up will not finish in the bottom three places any time soon. ============================= Subject: Dreams are shattered. Date: 28 Apr 1998 16:26:12 +0200 From: Steve Jones (email@example.com) And thus the season draws to a close, we're out of it now, not a chance of the playoffs and we start looking towards next season. How to describe the feeling of resigned acceptance that once again next season it will be the West Broms and the Watfords that you face not the ManUs and the Arsenals. Okay so we face Arsenal this season and gave a better account of ourselves than many of the Premiership, we beat Leeds and Wimbledon and all in all managed to get 7 points from 12 out of top flight opposition, but then thats our problem, good v the good and shite v the shite (literally this season). There have been high points, the cup of course but also the emergence of players like Naylor and Robinson, and of course the most exciting gem from the emerald isle Robbie Keane. But there have been two many downs, defeat twice at the hands of the Baggies, too many games we should have won, too few goals from too many strikers.So once again next season we will be consigned to hell, to rot in this division where teams come to die, send us your Spurs, your Citys, your Wolves and we will destroy them all. So as Forest eye their return to the top flight and Sunderland look to cling to their heals we await the descent of Palace with relish. Some will comment that this team has better players than those who were promoted, yes indeed and you think they'll stay ? Even if they do will Lombardo or Padavano really know how to handle a wet weekend in some of the hell holes around the first ? You complain of refs in the top flight, but remember those in the first are the ones who _weren't_ good enough for the Prem. In a division where the opposition try to argue the ref out of sending the star of the opposition off then you know there are problems. But at the same time its not that bad, sure Sky claim the gap is huge, while at the same time acclaiming Merson as an England player, so which is he ? A player who fails to create against Wolves and lots of other clubs this season or an international ? Or is it that Wolves and the rest of the teams in this division aren't actually that bad ? Do Spurs have a prospect the class of Keane ? Do Chelsea have a keeper as good as Ipswich's Richard Wright ? Do ManU have a striker as good as Van Hoojdonk ? This is just the tip of the iceberg, sure Bergkamp is better than anything in the first, but then he is better than anything in the Prem as well. But would Nicky Butt really excel in the First anymore than Carl Robinson (for reference the player who supplied the ball to Goodman to knock Leeds out) ? This is the stage on which many of the countries better players will find their feet it is at this level and lower where the likes of Beckham first got their taste of first team football. There are no glory hunters, no part-time allegience shifter, people who support Wolves one season and Ipswich the next just don't exist. And yet still the people come, 40,000 at Sunderland, 30,000 at City and 20,000+ in lots of places this isn't a small deal, this isn't football on the cheap. So as you wonder who will win Juve or Inter, ManU or Arsenal, remember this me, Huw and thousands like us couldn't give a shit, we'd just like to see Spurs relegated as we reckon they'd do a City. Welcome to Hell.