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October 6, 2010

League Two, 2010-11 season – Attendance map (2009-10 figures).

Note: to see my most recent post on the English 4th division, click on the following: category: Eng-4th Level/League 2.
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League Two, 2010-11 season


Port Vale FC toil under the radar and in obscurity in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire. The Valiants are the rather surprising leaders of League Two after 10 matches. Port Vale have won 4 of their last 5 matches and sit atop League Two with 22 points, 3 points ahead of Chesterfield. [Chesterfield are riding a club resurgence and a swell-in-attendances following the opening of their new ground, B2net Stadium{photos, here; en.wikipedia.org page, here}.

In September, 2009, Port Vale manager Mickey Adams placed the entire squad on the transfer list, after he judged the team to be basically not trying hard enough {here is an article from the Guardian.co.ik, by Louise Taylor, from 29 September, 2009, 'Micky Adams is playing a dangerous game at Port Vale'}. This move had followed a poor 2008-09 season, when Vale finished 18th, and that had followed relegation in 2007-08. So Adams in one stroke called the entire squad out on their professionalism and lit a fire under them. Port Vale then finished eight places higher and with 20 more points than the season before. So it can be judged that Adams' move worked, seeing as how there actually was little in the way of an injection of talent in the squad throughout last season, because Vale are one of the many clubs these days that is operating on a shoestring budget (even if their gates are higher than many of their fellow fourth division clubs...Port Vale averaged 5,080 per game last season, this in a league where the median average attendance in 09/10 was around 3,600).

I hope Port Vale keep up the good form, and decent crowds continue to show at Vale Park, like the 8,443 who attended the 28th September match versus high-flying nearby rivals from 50 km. to the west, Shrewsbury Town (which Vale won 1-0, with a 74th minute goal by the veteran MF Gary Roberts). Because what Port Vale need, apart from consistency, is for more people from the Six Towns that make up the Potteries to start showing up at Vale Park, a ground that holds 18,947 {Vale Park page at port-vale.co.uk, here}`; FootballGroundsGuide.com page, here} and is frankly too large for a club the size of Port Vale. Port Vale are just like Notts County in that they are also the second biggest club in a mid sized English Midlands city, and just like Notts County, Port Vale had a taste of success around 15-20 years back. But of course Vale only made it to the 2nd Level before their recent, decade-long slide, and are in fact the club which has played the longest number of seasons in the second tier without ever having made it to the top flight...Port Vale have played 41 seasons in the second division, yet have never won promotion to the first division. And also just like Notts County, when Port Vale in the past decided it was time to expand their ground, it was an over-expansion. Both significantly enlarged the capacities of their grounds to keep up with the town rivals (Port Vale's being Stoke City...{see this: 'The Potteries Derby', from en.wikipedia.org}; Notts County's being Nottingham Forest). These big expansions were undertaken in spite of the fact that attendance averages were decidedly far smaller than the planned expansion. Unlike Notts County, this occurred with Port Vale in 1949-1950 (while Notts County over-expanded following their last, single season in the top tier in 1991-92). Vale Park opened in 1950 with a 40,000 capacity (!). 40,000 capacity was, back then, and is, now, a ridiculous size for a mid-table, 3rd division football club, even in 1950 , which was during the Post-War era that saw dramatic attendance increases throughout the country [many clubs had their all-time average attendance high in the Post-War years around 1946-47 to 1949-50 or so, including Stoke City, who drew 31,500 per game in 1947-48]. This specter of a club that over-expanded and then languished is still apparent in Burslem, because Port Vale currently play in a ground with one stand uncompleted – the Lorne Street Stand, which was demolished in 1998, and only partially rebuilt, due to lack of funds. The rub is that the club built the posh bits of the Lorne Street Stand, namely, the Executive and Corporate boxes, but left a gaping blank concrete space below, with steps, but no seats.
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At the time, Port Vale were riding high, coming off a plus-60-year best league finish, at 8th place in 1996-97 in the old Second Division, and a pre-popstar-fame Robbie Williams was probably having the time of his life supporting the Valiants. But Port Vale were drawing only around 8,000-9,000 per game back then (with a modern-day turnstile peak of 9,214 per game in 1994-95), in what turned out to be a last, 6-season spell in the second division. One can’t help but think this partially unfinished, yet still half-empty ground sets the tone for new arrivals to Vale Park, be they players or first-time-spectators. Because what does it say about the viability of a club that has left a gaping empty space in their ground for a dozen years? And that for decades has played to crowds that are less than 50% capacity ?
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Thanks to Tims 92 site [English football stadium photos, League and Non-League]…Saturday, 17th January, 2009, Vale Park, Port Vale 1-1 Shrewsbury Town.
Thanks to The Groundhog.WordPress.com/visit to Port Vale (May 26,2007), here.
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at en.wikipedia.org, 2010-11 Football League 2
Thanks to www.mikeavery.co.uk , for attendance figures, 2009-10 Attendance all teams high to low.

May 17, 2010

League Two, 2009-10 season. The 3 promoted clubs and the 4 play-off clubs.

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League Two Play-Off fixtures and results, England – League Two (Soccerway.com).

Notts County FC, empowered by the support shown by their re-awakened fan base, took the title. Lee Hughes scored 33 goals for the Magpies, and the club overcame a mid-season lull to finish strong and on top. Notts County had their highest average attendance in 16 years. The club drew 7,353 per game this season, a 65 percent increase from 08/09, when they drew 4,446 per game and finished in 19th place. This is a club that had finished in 21st place twice, 19th place twice and in 13th place in the last 5 seasons. Their new, mysterious foreign ownership had promised to invest heavily at the start of this season, and several top calibre players (for the fouth division, anyway), including goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, joined the squad (with celebrity executive Sven-Göran Erikson on board as well). But the Qatar-based owners pulled out in February, and Notts County were almost wound up. Sven is gone now too, and the club’s financial worries are still not over, but the bottom line is this…all the early season hype and media glare got the fans back into Meadow Lane, and now that the club has won promotion, the crowds should continue to swell. But the thing is, Notts County has never come close to filling their 19,500-seat ground on a regular basis.

The last, single, season Notts County were in the the top flight was in the last season of the old First Division (in 1991-92, under manager Neil Warnock). That season the Magpies drew 11,133 per game and were relegated. It was during that season, in January 1992, that the club made plans to rebuild three sides of Meadow Lane to make it the near-20,000 seat stadium it is today. But relegation and poor play in the following seasons saw average gates diminish as re-building and expansion continued. The average gate had dwindled to the 8,000-range for the next two seasons in the second tier, and by 1994-95, in the same season that the final re-building phase was completed, Notts County were relegated to the third tier (into the old Division Two). With their big new ground the Magpies then went through a 14 season period where they drew above 6,000 just once, drawing 6,154 per game in 2002-03.

Notts County’s second-most-recent top flight spell had been three seasons in the First Division in the 1980s, with the club drawing 11,613; 10,265; and 9,463 per game from 1981 to 1984. So why did a club, which had never pulled in more than 11,000 per game in the modern era, build a stadium that has an almost 20,000 capacity? My guess is jealousy of their (very) nearby rivals, Nottingham Forest. The two clubs have grounds the closest together of any clubs in England, separated by only 275 meters (300 yards) [you can see that in the photo on the far right in the Notts County section on the map]. When Nottingham Forest were in their heyday, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and winning trophies as recently as the 1989 and 1990 League Cup (and making a 1991 FA Cup finals appearance), it must have irritated the board at Notts County to see Nottingham Forest so big and (relatively) successful.
So when Notts County got that taste of the promised land (ie, first division football), in 1991-92, they re-built Meadow Lane too big for their fan base, believing they could increase their support as they consolidated their position in the top flight. The exact opposite happened. They were relegated that season and have never had an average attendance of higher than 10,000 per game since. I’m not saying Notts County are akin to a club like Darlington FC, in building an empty white elephant of a stadium that will never be filled on a regular basis, but over a decade of playing to 25% capacity or less cannot have been good for Notts County or their supporters.
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Second place and automatic promotion goes to AFC Bournemouth. The Cherries also saw an increase at the turnstiles, though more modest…Bournemouth drew 5,720 per game (up 16% from 08.09). Brett Pitman scored 28 goals for Bournemouth this season. Two years on from their finanancial meltown and administration, Bournemouth are a club on the rise. It could be argued that this is a club that definitely belongs in the third tier and perhaps ever the second tier, if one were to go by city population, because Bournemouth is in the top 30 largest cities in England, List of towns and cities in England by population [en.wikipedia.org].
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Third place and automatic promotion goes to the longest-running non-promoted club in the League, Rochdale AFC. 36 seasons in the fourth division, and finally a promotion. Well done to irrepressible manager Keith Hill, their goal-scoring tandem of Chris O’Grady (22 goals) and Chris Dagnall (20 goals), and the league’s stand-out defender, the young and promising Rochdale-born Craig Dawson, who has eschewed signing with a bigger club for next season, opting instead to continue contributing to the success of his hometown club.
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The League Two 2009-120 Play-Off features one down-on-their-luck-but-finding-revitalization club, Rotherham United; and three small clubs that five years ago were not even in the League…Morecambe, Aldershot Town, and Dagenham & Redbridge.
In the first legs… Rotherham snatched a late goal at Aldershot, when former Rochdale striker Adam LeFondre stole a back pass and netted. Second leg is Wednesday, 19th May in at The don Valley Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, in East London, Dagenham demolished Morecambe 6-0, with a double-brace from Joshua Scott and a brace from Paul Benson (who had scored 18 goals this season). Second leg is up in Lancashire at Morecambe’s Christie Patk on Thursday, 20th May.
League Two fixtures, here, (news.bbc.co.uk).
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Morecambe will say goodbye to Christie Road, as they are set to move into their new stadium in August. From FC Business.co.uk, “Morecambe’s new 12 million-pound stadium to be called ‘Globe Arena’ [16 Feb., 2010]. www.morecambestadium.co.uk, Globe Arena, Morecambe FC. There is a new Morecambe logo as well, New Morecambe crest- what do you think? (www.thevisitor.co.uk)
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Thanks to BBC/Nottingham, Aerial photographs of Nottingham. Thanks to Bing.com/maps, Meadow Lane [Birds-Eye view]. Thanks to Jazza5 and Berndt Jatzwauk at en.wikipedia.org, Meadow Lane.

Thanks to SoccerVoice.com, Soccer Voice.com/Ground Guide, League 2. Thanks to AFC Bournemouth-Mad.co.uk, Dean Court.

Thanks to Shanandphil at Flickr.com, shanandphil’s photostream @ flickr.com; Rochdale FC [exterior]. Thanks to mikeserieys at Flickr.com, Rochdale Promotion 17/4/2010 (Set)/ My favorite picture of the day [part of mikeserieys' photostream @ flickr.com].

Thanks to campdavemorecambe at Flickr.com, Christie Park, Morecambe FC; campdavemorecambe’s photostream @ flickr.com. Thanks to The Groundhog.co.uk, Rotherham (DVS) [Don Valley Stadium]. Thanks to TeamTalk.com, Rotherham United.

Thanks to Aldershot FA.com, Alderhot Divisional Football Association. Thanks to FourFoutTwo.com/blogs, [scroll 2/3 down page] ‘The Recreation Ground: They don’t make ‘em like this anymore’ [part of 03/09/08 entry on Andy Mitten's blog].

Thanks to Gouldy99 at Flickr.com, Gouldy99′s photostream @ flickr.com. Thanks to Stadiums.Football.co.uk, League 2 Stadiums. Thanks to Away Grounds.com, Away ground- UK Football Ground Guide.
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Thanks to E-F-S site, for attendance figures, Attendance Figures, European Football Statisrics.co.uk.
Thanks to Aerofilms Football Grounds- Then and Now, from Ian Allen Publishing, Aerofilms Football Grounds from the Air: Then and Now (Paperback) [BookDepository.com].

September 25, 2009

England: Attendance map of all football clubs that drew over 4,000 per game in 08/09 (77 clubs).

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Please note: I recently made a map & post similar in theme to this one (click on the following),
England & Wales: the highest-drawing football clubs within the English football leagues system (all clubs [74 clubs] that drew above 4 K per game in the 2013-14 season) / Plus a short illustrated article comparing English and German attendances last season, by division.

    England: Attendance map of all football clubs that drew over 4,000 per game in 08/09 (77 clubs)…

The gate figures are from the 2008-09 season. The cut-off for this map was 4,000 per game. Each club’s crest is sized to reflect the club’s average home attendance from their 2008-09 domestic league matches. 

At the top of the map, the banner lists the breakdown of clubs which made this map, by league level.   Here it is… All 20 Premier League clubs.   All 24 League Championship clubs.   21 of the 24 League One clubs (the 3 clubs not making the map being Cheltenham Town,  Hartlepool Utd,  and Hereford Utd,  who all all drew in the 3,000s).   11 of the 24 League Two clubs  {to see the 13 League Two clubs that drew lower than 4,000 last season,  click on the following title- 2008-09_league_two_attendance.gif }.  The sole Non-League club that drew over 4,000 last season was Oxford Utd. 

After all the promotions and relegations that occurred in May, 2009, here is the current [2009-10] breakdown of the clubs on the map…All 20 Premier League clubs.    All 24 League Championship clubs.    23 of the 24 League One clubs (the exception being plucky little Hartlepool United, who drew only 3,835, and managed to avoid relegation by 1 point).    8 League Two clubs:  Bradford City,  Shrewsbury Town,  Port Vale,  Northampton Town,  AFC Bournemouth,  Crewe Alexandra,  Grimsby Town, and Notts County.   2 Non-League clubs:  the Blue Square Premier League’s Oxford Utd, and the beleaguered Luton Town.     

Thanks to the E-F-S site for the attendance figures {click here}.   Thanks to http://www.thelinnets.co.uk (the official site of King’s Lynn FC), for Non-League gate figures {click here}.

August 5, 2009

England: 2009-2010 League Two, with attendance figures from 08/09.

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Note: to see my most recent post on the English 4th division, click on the following: category: Eng-4th Level/League 2.

(Football League Two is the 4th Level of football in England,  and the lowest rung of League football.)

Promotion favorites: {click here (Statto.com)}.  The oddsmakers have made these clubs the favorites for promotion [Note: unlike the higher levels,  4 clubs,  not 3 clubs,  get promoted to League One each season]… Notts County  (on the strength of their new,  deep-pocketed owners and the appointment of Sven Göran-Eriksson as Director of Football)  Rotherham UnitedBradford CityShrewsbury Town  (who lost in May at Wembley to Gillingham,  in the Playoffs Final);  Northampton Town;  and Bury  (who lost in the 1st Round of the Playoffs in May).   Also rated for promotion are BournemouthChesterfield,  and Rochdale (who lost in the Playoffs 1st Round in May).

Here is an article on the recent events at Nottingham’s less prominent club,  Notts County,  called  ‘Sven on the Trent?  Don’t laugh, this could well be the future’   {click here (Guardian.co.uk article from 22nd July, by Barney Ronay)}.

Here are the 09/10 kits,  from the Historical Football Kits site {click here}.

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Thanks to the FootyMad.net sites,  for their League History sections on each club  {click here (FootyMad / League Two)}.   Thanks to Tony’s English Football Site,  for attendance figures {click here}.   Thanks to the contributors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (set at 2009-10 Football League Two)}.

May 7, 2009

England: League Two, 2008-’09 season. The 3 Promoted Clubs, and the 4 Playoff Clubs.

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Football League play-off predictions, from the Guardian.co.uk {click here}.

The top 7 clubs in the 2008-2009 English Football League Two season are shown on the map.  The three promoted clubs,  Brentford FCExeter City FC,  and Wycombe Wanderers FC,  are shown on the right.  The four playoff clubs competing for the fourth promotion spot are shown on the left.  

On the upper right,  there is a list of the 7 clubs’ average attendance this season.

League Two champions Brentford had the third highest average attendance in the league,  at 5,707 [for the full list of League Two attendances, {click here}].   This club,  from the London Borough of Hounslow,  had it’s heyday in the 1930′s,  when the Bees reached the First Division (in 1933) and two years later finished in 5th place (in 1935-’36).  Brentford ended up having a 5-season run in the English top flight,  and had a peak average attendance of 25,768 in 1946-’47  (this was the first English Football League season following World War II,  and there were dramatic attendance increases throughout the country).  But by 1962,  Brentford had dropped to the old Fourth Division.  Since then,  the club has largely stayed in the 3rd and 4th Levels.  In the last 20 seasons,  the Bees have spent 3 seasons in the 4th Level,  16 seasons in the 3rd Level,  and 1 season in the 2nd Level.  That was in 1992-’93,  when Brentford drew 8,456 per game.  Griffin Park is Brentford’s home.  It is a compact ground with a pub on each corner.

Exeter City has won promotion two straight seasons now.  The club,  from the League football-deficient West Country,  have never risen higher than the 3rd Level,  so the Grecians return to this level next season makes for some heady times in this corner of Devon.  I can’t be certain,  due to the lack of lower league attendance figures prior to 1990,  but the club seems to have had their best season ever at the turnstiles,  with a 4,939 average gate.  Exeter’s best gate figures from 1989-’90 to 2007-’08 was when they won the Fourth Division in 1989-’90,  drawing 4,859 per game. 

Wycombe‘s form dipped in the last third of the season,  and the Wanderers backed into their promotion,  but that didn’t stop 9,625 from attending their final home match last Saturday (a 1-2 loss to basement-dwelling Notts County).

Gillingham‘s drop in gate figures (to 5,307 per game) can be attributed to their relegation from League One in 07/08,  but it must be noted that the club drew 9,600 last Saturday.  Shrewsbury Town had only a small increase at the turnstiles (to 5,664 per game) despite their good season,  because their gate figures from 07/08 had shot up,  as the club had just moved in to New Meadow.

Bury and Rochdale are two clubs from neighboring towns in the northern part of Greater Manchester  {see this map of Greater Manchester, here}.  Rochdale has spent 35 straight seasons in the 4th Level.  The Dale made it to the League two playoff final last season,  losing to Stockport County.  Bury,  known as the Shakers,  were in the 2nd Level as recently as 1999 (when it was called the Nationwide League Division One).  The club drew 6,179 in 1997-’98.  But for years,  both these clubs’ fan bases have dwindled,  overshadowed as they are by the hugely successful and well-supported Manchester United,  and the hapless yet still decently supported Manchester City.  Two interesting things about Bury are that their Gigg Lane ground is also home to the 6th Level Non-League club FC United of Manchester;  and the fact that Phil and Gary Neville’s father Neville Neville was a fomer chairman of Bury FC,  and still works for the club as a non-paid jack-of-all trades,  at Gigg Lane.

Here are the match-ups for the playoff semi-finals…

Rochdale v. Gillingham, Thursday 7 May;  Gillingham v. Rochdale, Sunday 10th May.   Both these matches are on Setanta. (!).

Shrewsbury Town v. Bury, Thursday 7 May;  Bury v. Shrewsbury Town, Sunday 10 May.

Thanks to  Colours of Football site {click here}.

Thanks to Tony’s English Football Site for the gate figures{click here}.   Thanks to EFS site, for older gate figues {click here}.   Thanks to the Footy-Mad sites,  for their invaluable league history sections on each club {click here (set at Bury FC League history)}.

Thanks to the Colours of Football site,  for the kits {click here}.

Thanks to the Brentford FC site {click here}.   Thanks to Sky Sports {click here}.   Thanks to www.TeamTalk.com .   Thanks to www.Stadiums.Football.co.uk .   Thanks to www.VisitBuckinghamshire.org .   Thanks to www.ExeterCity.co.uk .   Thanks to MattyGTFC @ Panoramio.com {click here}. .   Thanks to www.BuryFCyouth.co.uk .  

Thanks to Mike Serieys @ Flickr.com {click here}. .   Thanks to shanandphil @ Flickr {click here}.   Thanks to http://www.football-league.co.uk/ .   Thanks to Rutger Kuipers @ Panoramio.com {click here}.   Thanks to http://www.thegroundhog.wordpress.com .    Thanks to Chris Brookes @ Flicker.com {click here}. 

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at Wikipedia {click here (set at Brentford FC page)}.

July 27, 2008

2008-09 English Football: League Two- Zoom Map.

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Note: to see my most recent post on the English 4th division, click on the following: category: Eng-4th Level/League 2.

The map shows all 24 clubs in this season’s League Two, which is the fourth Level of the English Football pyramid.

As a whole, League Two averaged 4,337 spectators per game last season, up 4.8 % from 2006-’07 {See this, from the European Football Statistics site}.  But much of that increase can be attributed to Bradford City, who, when faced with relegation to League Two last year, slashed ticket prices across the board (they ended up increasing their average gate by 5,000 per game: from 8,694 to 13,694).

Last season was an extremely competitive one, for the clubs outside the dominant top two of MK Dons and Peterborough United.  In 2007-08, there were an amazing 208 away wins, compared to only 220 home wins.  {See this, from the English Football [Dot] Info site.}

This season sees both promoted clubs from the Conference (ie, the Blue Square Premier League, the 5th Level) from the southern part of England.

Exeter City has had a long history in the Football League, over 75 seasons worth, and have recovered from their recent near financial collapse and dissolution.  They won the Conference playoff last May, over Cambridge City.  Exeter City has maintained a solid fan base for a club that had been banished to non-League status.  The Grecians drew 3,705 per game last season; second highest in the Conference (behind only Oxford United), and drew better than 10 clubs in the Football League.  

Aldershot Town is a relatively new entity, which has risen from the ashes of the defunct Aldershot FC (as depicted by their phoenix-bird logo), and 16 years later, have made it into the Football League.  They won the Conference handily, and boast a small, but rabid fan base  {See this, from last November, on the Pitch Invasion site}.  The club may have some tough times ahead this season, but the stands will be jumping.

{Click here, for the odds-makers’ favorites for promotion in League Two this (Statto.com site).}     As of 27th July, the bookies are picking  Bradford CityDarlington,  Gillingham,  and Shrewsbury Town to be promoted.  Chesterfield, Wycombe, and Rochdale are the next favorites.

Both clubs promoted from the Conference last year were newcomers to the Football League:  North Lancashire’s Morecambe, and East London club Dagenham & Redbridge.  Both survived.  Morecambe did exremely well, with 16 wins, and an 11th place finish.  The Shrimps’ average gate went up from 1,598 in the Conference, in ’06-’07,  to 2,855 last season.  Dagenham looked to be in a relegation battle, before finding safety through two consecutive wins to end the season.  The Daggers finished in 20th place, and saw their average gate go from 1,756 to just 2,021 (second lowest in all the 92-club League, higher only than Accrington Stanley).

All four of the clubs relegated from the 3rd Level, League One, in May 2008,  have spent most of their seasons above the 4th Level.  Luton Town have notched 16 seasons in the top flight, and even won the 1988 League Cup.  They have spent their most seasons (34) in the 2nd Level, and before their financial problems, the Hatters, under Mike Newell, in 2005-’06, were actually in the running for a shot at the Premier League.  Every thing went pear-shaped fast, and the former board is in disgrace, for their financial improprieties.  A new management team has come aboard, but not until after a fatal points deduction which sealed their relegation.  And what’s worse is that more points will be deducted for the up-coming season.  The same goes for Bournemouth, who put up a valiant eleventh-hour attempt at avoiding off the drop, but to no avail.  Port Vale will be in the 4th Level for the first time in 23 seasons.  Finally, there is Gillingham, who have spent 55 seasons in the 3rd Level, and as recently as 2005, were in the 2nd Level.  But the club from Kent have their own set of money problems, and were unable to afford the caliber of player that would have kept them in League One.  The club has a decent size fan base, though (6,077 avg. gate last season).

Here is a very recent article from the Soccer Lens site, by Gary Andrews, about the points-deduction holes that Luton Town, Bournemouth, and Rotherham United find themselves in…{Click Here.}

Thanks to the Historical Football Kits site {click here}, for the kits on the map, which are copyright Historical Football Kits, and reproduced by permission [note: I have indicated on the map which kits are new for this season].

May 11, 2008

England, League Two 2007-’08: the 3 Promoted Clubs, and the 4 Playoff Contenders.

Filed under: Eng-4th Level/League Two,Engl. Promotion Candidates — admin @ 8:01 am

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In League Two (which is the 4th Level of English Football) MK Dons, Peterborough, and Hereford have clinched promotion to League One, by finishing in first, second, and third places.

MK Dons, with their giant new stadium, clearly have ambitions beyond the third tier.  There is still a great deal of antipathy towards the club, from many in the English footballing world, for the way they abandoned the fans of South London, when Wimbledon FC moved up to Buckinghamshire, in 2005.  That being said, their new fan base is growing in the Milton Keynes area: attendance has risen from 4,896 (in 2004-’05, the club’s first year in Milton Keynes) to 9,456 (this season).

Peterborough United also has the reputation of a club with ambitions.  The ”Posh” are managed by Darren Ferguson, the son of Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.  There is new ownership at the club {see this}, and continued investment in new players is expected.   There also is an initiative for a new stadium.  The club’s attendance was up by around 1,300 this season, to an average of 5,995.

Hereford United stands in direct contrast to the other two automatically promoted clubs, as they are not a small club with big ambitions, but a small club that has found a way to survive, and even thrive, in spite of little fan support, miniscule cash-flow, and a stadium that really deserves the wrecking ball.  Their ground, Edgar Street is one of the most bare-bones and outdated stadiums in the League {see this};   {see this, from The Ground Guide 1, a Lincoln City travelling fans’ site}.  The club had a heavy reliance on loan players during this campaign.  And the inhabitants of Herefordshire seem uninterested in the club’s recent success…there was an average of only 3,421 this season.   But the bottom line is that the Hereford United Bulls will be in the third tier next season, after their second promotion in three years.

In the League Two Playoffs, it’s #6 Darlington  vs.  #5 Rochdale;   and #4 Stockport County  vs.  #7 Wycombe Wanderers

The in-form club was Rochdale, who had won 5 of their last 8 league games; conversely, it was Darlington who went into the playoffs on a down, losing 4 of their last 8.  But on Saturday, Darlington resisted a second half Rochdale onslaught, which included a deflected goal by the Dale’s 2007 leading scorer Chris Dagnall {see this profile, from the Rochdale site} (now fully rcovered from a cruciate injury).  Darlington then scored a late goal against the run of play, via an Ian Miller injury-time header, to win the first leg 2-1.  {Click here, for a report on the match, from the Sky Sports site.}

**{Click here for video highlights (youtube, via 101 Goals site)}. 

Darlington’s first goal came as a result of on-loan Middlesbrough winger Jason Kennedy, who curled a sublime shot from the left corner of the penalty area in the 28th minute. The second leg, at Rochdale’s Spotland {see this, from Ground Guide 1} will be on 17 May (next Saturday).   Rochdale has remained in the 4th Level for 34 straight seasons, the longest of any club currently in League Two.  [Note: on the map, Rochdale's usual blue home jersey is replaced by one that looks like Newcastle's, because the club is celebrating their Centenary, and black-and-white vertical stripes was their original uniform.  Next season, the club has come up with the inspired idea of combining both jerseys...they will look like Inter Milan, with black and blue vertical stripes.]

In the other League Two playoff match-up, Stockport County hosts Wycombe on Sunday; the second leg is also on 17 May.

Here is the winning goal in the League Championship Playoff game (first leg)- Crystal Palace 1-2 Bristol City.  The fantastic shot was scored by Bristol’s David Noble, in injury time…{Click here (from the 101 Goals site)}.    {Click here, for a report on the match, from the Sky Sports site.}

Thanks to (http://www.colours-of-football.com) for the kits. 

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