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10 Things That We Have Learnt From The Football League Season

Thursday 29th May 2014
Another season drew to a close earlier in the week as Fleetwood Town secured their place in League One. The summer breaks allows us chance to reconvene and collect our thoughts before we kick off again on August 9th. Here are some of the conclusions we drew from the previous 9 months.

1) You CAN go back

By his own admission, Keith Hill didn't have the best time of it in South Yorkshire, although he kept them in the Championship, he was always swimming against the tide. However nobody can argue that Rochdale is his spiritual home. The chino clad Lancastrian has added a second promotion to his CV with exactly the same club from exactly the same division. They say that you should never go back, Hill turned a blind eye to 'them' and he is having the last laugh. Rochdale had played 36 consecutive seasons at League Two level and Hill was the man to guide them to only their second ever promotion in 2010. Consolidating them into 9th place in League One, he left for pastures new and his return proved fruitful. Keith Hill is the exception to the 'Never going back' mantra. However, the less said about Billy Davies' second spell at Forest the better...

2) Managers should be given time to turn it around

Owners want instant returns on their investments, that is understandable. But the propensity to sack managers following a barren spell is a curious one. Upheaval is often the last things a club needs or in some cases, afford. Giving a coach chance to develop his players, form relationships  and subsequently achieve desirable results is a must. But very few do this. Kudos to York City, who got off to a disappointing start to the season and were slumped in 21st place as we approached 2014. Nigel Worthington tightened up the backline, signed a couple of experienced League Two heads and took advantage of the loan system, all resulting in an upturn in fortunes. Fans could have been excused for being happy with mid-table obscurity, but they went one better and qualified for the play offs. They were narrowly beaten by eventual victors Fleetwood, however 17 clean sheets since New Years Day is no mean feat and praise should be heaped on not only Worthington, but the lack of panic and irrational action from the York City powers that be.

3) Sometimes all it takes are a few tweaks

Derby County were treading water in the Championship under Nigel Clough. The former Burton boss had completed an unenviable task of balancing the books whilst maintaining results and entertaining the fans. Many people were baffled when he was dismissed and former England boss and part time Dutchman Steve McLaren was drafted in from QPRs coaching staff to take over. The astute McLaren was about to inherit a wonderful nucleus of a squad which needed only minor amendments to succeed. Adding Andre Wisdom and George Thorne on loan from Liverpool and West Brom respectively and working on cutting edge in the final third proved pivotal and Derby shot up the Championship eventually finishing 3rd. Sweeping aside Brighton, they were the better side in the final, but were undone by a well-organised and most would argue lucky QPR side.

4) Write Accrington and James Beatti e off at your peril

10 years ago, very few people would have envisaged potent striker James Beattie being the saviour of Accrington Stanley. The Lancashire club were written off as relegation fodder and bookies were predicting them to return to non-league with a whimper. Beattie, in his first managerial appointment looked up against it and just 2 points from the opening 10 games corroborated the pre-season predictions. They were without a win in the opening 12 games, but illustrating point 2 (see above) Beattie turned it around and they survived with a game to spare. It is a fine achievement for a club with a significantly lower budget than eventually relegated Bristol Rovers and Beattie himself went door to door in order to attract support for their game against Mansfield. Next year, they will probably be widely tipped to fall through the trapdoor, but they may defy the odds once again...

5) Who needs a permanent manager to stay up?

Blackpool sacked Paul Ince in late January, they were on a poor run, following the best start to a season in 67 years, they hadn't won or scored more than 1 goal per game since November 30th. A successor wasn't forthcoming and midfielder Barry Ferguson was put in 'temporary' charge of the seaside club. Eventually, it was confirmed he would take charge until the end of the season when he was thanked for his services with a P45. The Tangerines eventually crept over the line thanks to a 2-0 victory against a jaded Wigan Athletic. At the time of writing (May 29th) they still don't have a manager and despite numerous links, they haven't appointed anybody yet. The club have only 6 players contracted for the forthcoming campaign and whoever takes on the role has a lot on their plate...

6)  Kenny Jackett was the perfect appointment

Wolves suffered the humiliation of a double relegation and needed to stop the slide. Kenny Jackett was brought in after several years of managing Millwall in the Championship. He was always considered a decent football league manager, but at Wolves he completely changed the mentality of the club. He cast aside the high earners and sulkers, out went Kevin Doyle, Roger Johnson and Stephen Ward on loan and he isolated Jamie O'Hara, instead opting for a mixture of youth and League One experience. Sam Ricketts was brought in and made captain, whilst Scott Golbourne, Nouah Dicko and Kevin McDonald can all be considered very successful signings. Youngsters Danny Batth, Jack Price and Lee Evans were used throughout the season with Richard Stearman and Dave Edwards the only survivors from the Premier League era. Cynics could argue that he has had money to play with, but turning around a club on a downward spiral is no mean feat and a number of lesser managers would have probably tried and failed to stop the rot.

7) Not a good year for the South West

There will be two fewer South West representatives in the football league next season as Torquay and Bristol Rovers fell into non-league football. There has been a constant issue surrounding attracting players to the area with many opting to stay close to major towns and cities. Devon in particular struggles to entice players with Exeter relying on blooding a lot of youth players (partly down to finance as well) and Torquay failing to attract a decent calibre of player. Plymouth were the only success story from the region, but even they eventually missed out on the play offs. John Sheridan has previously admitted having to drive players to the club himself as it is such a distance from some of its peers and having a unenviable distance to travel to away matches must zap energy levels ahead of kick off. Yeovil and Bristol City will be both vying for returns to the Championship next season and hoping to bring a little cheer to one of Britain's most picturesque region.

8) You don't always need previous football managerial experience to succeed

Mark Warburton has been many things throughout his career although he has always been in and around football. After his playing career stalled, he become a city banker. He juggled this with coaching and eventually got a role coaching at Watford. As well as co-founding the NextGen series, he was appointed as Sporting Director at Brentford and was the unlikely choice to success the outgoing Uwe Rosler when he set off to manage Wigan. He won all of his opening 6 games and could have been forgiven for thinking 'This managing lark is easy isn't it?" but when an inconsistent spell arrived, he managed to get the club back on track, eventually guiding them to automatic promotion with a couple of games spare. So if your message boards light up with doubt about a managers credentials. why not appoint from Canary Wharf?

9) Clubs are better off without interfering owners

Blackburn were a mess, they were the laughing stock of the football world and the Venkys had made a name for themselves as interfering owners who didn't have the first clue about running a football club. But they got something correct - appointing Gary Bowyer and letting him get on with it. Whilst often dour in appearance, Bowyer has turned around the ailing fortunes of the Lancashire club and if they season had been a few weeks longer, they might have grabbed a play off place. Since Shebby Singh stepped down from the role of 'Rent-a-Gob', they have been attracting media attention for all the right reasons and let their performances do the talking. There has been little to no poultry on the Ewood turf and if Rudy Gestede and Jordan Rhodes can form a formidable front two next season, they could be outside bets to follow their East Lancashire neighbours into the Premier League.

10) And Finally - The Football League is far more exciting than the Premier League...

The final day of the Premier League was a rather tepid affair. However, the Championship had excitement in both the play offs and relegation scrap. Birmingham looked down for 75 minutes of their game against Bolton, but their 2 goal comeback and Lee Clark's shuttle run into the crowd meant that Doncaster were relegated in the 90th minutes. Brighton scraped into the Play offs, also thanks to a 90th minute winner whilst further down the pyramid, Bristol Rovers couldn't find the one goal they needed to keep them in the division. Tranmere Rovers also bit the dust in League One, meaning there was plenty to play for right across the board.

Here to another season of highs, lows and some mid-table finishes.





Jack Critchley
Blackpool fan who enjoys a spot of the football league. I follow Championship through to League Two.

Total articles: 18

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