A third promotion slot from the Blue Square Bet Premier League to League Two is richly deserved, argues Out of the League’s Alex Ewing
Every time that the Npower Championship gets live coverage, without fail someone will say, “the Championship is the hardest league to get out of”. Sadly it shows how many of our top journalists fail to look slightly lower down the football pyramid.
Dennis Strudwick, general manager of Blue Square Bet Premier, has come out this week saying that the league is unlikely to get a third promotion place, something that it badly needs. In a rather bizarre arrangement, the teams in League Two will vote on whether three teams from the Conference should be promoted instead of the current two. Naturally teams at risk of relegation will, of course, vote against the proposal.
This matter comes to light as Justin Edinburgh, Newport County Manager and twentyfour7 Football’s non-league writer, last week called for another conference team to be promoted. However, while the logic behind the decision of getting the proposal passed may be peculiar, it is a step in the right direction. It was only in 1987 that a non-league team was able to win promotion to what is now League Two, and that was Scarborough. A whole 16 years later, a second team was able to get promoted through the play offs, and that saw Doncaster Rovers and Yeovil win promotion, both teams you would not associate with non-league football.
So, while this motion may be declined this time, the ball is rolling to push on for that third promotion spot, which in the long term will help get rid of the stigma attached to non-league football. As Steve Burr brilliantly put it on the Non League show, “one or two clubs higher up tend to think we play a different game in non league”. The fact of the matter is that several of those clubs who have been promoted to League Two have been successful and have established themselves as strong League Two sides, such as Oxford United, or have gone on to greater success and been promoted to League One, with some sides, such as Doncaster Rovers, even making it to the Championship.
Originally when sides were promoted to league football they were often unable to adapt to turning full time and there was a great difference in quality. Sides were often relegated after only one season in league football, in a similar vein to what we see in the Premiership, where ex-Championship teams are nearly always the favourites to go down. However, over time, the non-league game has developed. It is often the case that young managers who want to play football “the right way” experiment, some with more success than others, but from experience the game itself is usually better to watch than that of a game in League Two. Of course there is a bit of the stereotypical long ball football, but you see that work successfully in the Premiership, so is it really a bad way to play? If Stoke can have success with it, why can’t anyone else?
Times are changing in lower league football. As more teams go professional and continue to increase their quality, the difference in quality between the Blue Square Bet Premier and League Two will continue to dwindle until maybe one day we will refer to it as League Three.