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 (

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: (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 (

mark blackman ( 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 (

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.