The Football League is better than the Premiership. There, I said it. Now before all you Chelsea and Man United fans start foaming at the mouth I am not suggesting the quality of football is better, clearly Didier Drogba has a bit more talent than say Julian Alsop of Cheltenham Town fame. However, if I was to tell you how my love affair began with the Football League then maybe you’d understand.
It was a clear Thursday night in April 1999, Cheltenham Town were playing Yeovil in the Conference with the former needing three points to guarantee promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history. I was 10 years old at the time and as me and my dad walked towards the ground, the atmosphere was electric. The previous year I’d already seen Cheltenham win the FA Umbro Trophy at Wembley but even at such a tender age I realised the importance of winning the league. Then this happened…
As the final whistle went the Cheltenham fans rushed onto the pitch, some kissed the turf others lifted the players aloft, my dad, being the clever guy that he is, led me to the tunnel despite me protesting that I wanted to go and see the players. I soon realised each and everyone one of those heroic players would have to walk past us as they went down the tunnel, Neil Grayson, Chris Banks, Mickey Duff all got a pat on the back from a wide-eyed 10-year-old who would grow up from that point with a love for lower league football.
Now clearly this is a self-indulgent post, a Cheltenham Town fan reminiscing about a day which changed his life forever but was probably just another Thursday night sat in front of Corrie for premier league fans. Anyway, this is a blog about the Football League and not just Cheltenham Town so what does make the Football League better than the Premiership? For a start, ask any Carlisle fan…
Now this is all very emotive stuff, things that wouldn’t be out of place in Roy of the Rovers but I know what you’re saying – “You still haven’t told us why the Football Leagues is better!”. Well, firstly, the fans. When a Football League team concedes, the fans get behind them, they will them to get an equaliser whereas it doesn’t take much for Premier League fans to get on their players’ backs and start booing. Secondly, the atmosphere. Now I’m not the best person to talk about this as I am a Cheltenham Town fan so when I watch my team I am accompanied by about 3,000 other fans but when we get going, we really get going and it’s the same for lots of other clubs in the Football League. Football League grounds are real arenas where many a Goliath has been slayed and it’s all down to the atmosphere, every game’s a cup final for Football League clubs.
The terraces make a big difference too. As a 21-year-old I am in a rare position of standing to watch football from an early age. I realise the subject of standing at football matches is delicate after Hillsborough but the point is seats are no safer than terraces, it’s when you start letting too many people in one section of the stadium when it gets dangerous. Terraces make a football ground, there’s something about standing next to fellow comrades roaring your team on to victory.
What about the players? Admittedly many people would rather see world class footballers week in week out for over £50 a time and thats their choice but me, I’d rather not see an over paid prima donna prance around a pitch rolling over like he’s been shot every time the opposition comes within 3 feet of him (I know not all world class players are like this but bare with me). Give me a lion heart playing for the shirt on his back over a mercenary who will change teams depending on the highest bidder any day.
Maybe my opinion about the Football League is confirmed by the continual distance the Premier League seems to put between itself and the fans. I fear we are losing everything that makes football the greatest game in the world and the only place I can see a slither of hope is in the lower leagues at places like Burton, Accrington, Brentford, and of course Cheltenham.
Maybe this is a post full of bias, passion and blind loyalty but I won’t apologise for that, and anyway, isn’t that what football’s all about?
Keep checking this blog for more articles on the Football League where I will be discussing the big stories from the Championship, League One and League Two.