The Magic of the Football League

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

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.

9 comments on “The Magic of the Football League

  1. Marti says:

    Good blog greg, heartwarming videos there! 🙂
    Admittedly I’m a Man U fan however you always gain a greater sense of pride following your home side and I too remember the childhood days standing in the C & G stand behind the mighty steve book..

  2. Andy says:

    Keep wearing the Robins shirt with pride Greg, at least you no longer have to stand on a box to see your heroes.

  3. gary says:

    Great blog mate but i can remember a little boy crying watching Man U losing in the champions league final right up until Olly scored and then Sheringham finished them off, glad to see you now have a bit of class in your life now you can drive a tractor!!!!

  4. Mike says:

    A very insightful look at the world of lower league football and it’s fans, when so much of today’s football media is centred largely around top flight football

  5. Jonny Turvey says:

    Great post mate. And no matter how biased it is I think you’re essentially right about all this. As you know, I’m an Arsenal fan and therefore the premier league is what I look at the most. But the premier league is so far removed from any kind of reality that people who are our age and think like us will lose interest in the next 10 years say. And the generations above us must have some kind of anger and perplexity about the current state of top class football because they were lucky enough to live through the glory days. Money ruins everything. Lower league football has soul. And unfortunately premier league football lost its soul a while ago. Football’s origins are working class. Whilst the premier league has done well to reduce racism and sexism, it has simultaneously excluded the working class completely.

  6. kim peters says:

    great blog Greg. I agree with all you say, just like real ale is better than larger. !!!!! support your local team , no matter what leauge they play in, the highs and lows are more personal and emotional. But as a fellow Robins fan, a couple of pints before the game always helps !

  7. George Wright says:

    Great post Greg, you’ve really encapsulated why the Football League is so great and it’s something I’ve lost touch with, which I feel rather ashamed of.
    There is a certain romanticism about going to watch lower league football which is harder to identify when visiting places like Stamford Bridge for instance, the home of my beloved Chelsea. As much as I love going to watch the Blues, I can’t help but think there is something slightly lacking now. When a goal gets scored there is often little more than a standing ovation, similar to that of a reception you would expect at a theatre. If by 60mins there is no goal the crowd seems to go into a mood similar to that of a spoilt child who’s Mum’s bought them the ‘fake’ Adidas predator’s instead of the ‘real’ ones, with moans and sigh’s with every misplaced pass.
    I am one of these fans and my Dad gets irritated when I sulk over a 1-1 draw with Birmingham because I’ve been brought up in this Abramovic, mental multi-million mentality that is taking a lot of the beauty out of the game.
    I’ll never forget how delighted I was (and I bet some of them were!) when I was about 8 and I sent a letter to Steve Cotterill asking for all the Cheltenham players autographs and got a reply. They were semi-pro and a lot of them were plummers and builders but it might as well have been Pele’s to me because they were my club.

  8. Drew says:

    In agreement with virtually all that you say Greg, apart from your Dad being ‘a clever guy’…..cmon don’t loose too much credibility!
    Spot on with the ‘personal’ aspect of supporting your local club though, I agree and would also prefer to watch ‘lesser’ players give an honest and comitted display than the ballerinas of today’s Premier League.

  9. charlottelily89 says:

    Football is well overrated. Good blog though.

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