Life Outside the Premiership

Rejoice in the things that are present
Share |

Say you’re a supporter of Mansfield Town. Your team plays in the Conference National, a ‘non-league’division five rungs below the Premiership. The best thing to have happened in recent years is that, in the third round of the FA Cup, your team almost beat Liverpool, a club so many leagues higher that it might as well play its home games in Heaven. And what really sticks in the craw, aside from the half-time pie, is not that you didn’t win, but that you lost the chance of a replay at Anfield.

Or, like me, you’re a supporter of ‘sleeping giant’ Sheffield Wednesday. Experiencing an Icarus/Nic Cage-like fall, Wednesday have slipped from the top table to rest in the more modest (or, if you prefer, frankly crap) surroundings of the Championship/National Treasure series of films. The Championship is England’s second division, a league named ‘the Football League Second Division’ in those more innocent days before the advent of the Premiership. It’s full of ‘big teams’ on the skids and ‘small teams’ trying not to be like Jimmy Stewart at the start of Vertigo.

For Sheffield Wednesday, the best thing to have happened in recent years is winning both games against arch-rivals Sheffield United in season 2008/2009, for the first time in 95 years. That was in League One (old name: Football League Third Division – keep up) and now we’ve been promoted to the Championship, the fourth-best attended division IN THE WHOLE OF EUROPE, ahead of the top divisions in Italy and France, a fact I’m sure to impress upon any Italians or French that I happen to meet in any situation whatsoever, regardless of their interest in football or the appropriateness of the interjection.

Sheffield Wednesday: the ninth most successful English side ever with their four top-division titles, sandwiched between no. 10 Leeds and no. 8 Newcastle. Sheffield Wednesday: the third best team in the whole country as recently as 1991-1992. A team that reached both the League Cup final and FA Cup final in 1993, and lost both to Arsenal. The FA Cup was lost in the last minute of extra time of the replay. I tried not to cry in front of my father and he murmured something about there always being next season.

But there wasn’t. There isn’t. (I believed him because I was small and didn’t realise the transience of such glory. Nothing ever lasts forever, as Echo and the Bunnymen would have it; even Sir Alex Ferguson will retire one day.) In these grey days, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, founded in 1867, are a team that will satisfy me and the average crowd of 23,430 by not getting relegated. From the Championship. This is (relative) success through avoiding (abject) failure.

Fans of our ilk make certain assumptions when friends/colleagues/girlfriends admit their allegiance to Premiership big boys. And growing up in Somerset—at the time an English county without a club in the four league divisions—school friends happily wore the red of United/Liverpool/Arsenal during after-school kick-arounds. I didn’t resent them, much as I didn’t those kids with bigger houses or better exam results. Their existence was just … different. Like that of French teenagers, or jellyfish. And now with my gut pulling tight at the blue and white stripes of the Wednesday replica shirt, I watch Premiership matches and, yes, I enjoy the games guilt-free. Premiership football is show business. Show business being a term never used to describe Scunthorpe, an industrial town in Lincolnshire defined by steel mills and rain, not necessarily in that order.

Why mention Scunthorpe? Not to crack jokes circa 1999 about the inadequacy of internet filters, but to consider my father-in-law Colin, a season ticket holder at Scunthorpe United. Scunthorpe: brief overachievers in the Championship, and known predominantly as the first club of Liverpool/England icon Kevin “I will love it.” Keegan, an ex-England manager who became ‘ex’ in the toilet of our national stadium, teaching a whole country to plan resignations carefully. Here’s a complete list of what Scunthorpe has won in its 114-year history:

  • Third Division North: Champions (as Scunthorpe & Lindsey United) (1957–58)
  • Division Three (Fourth Tier): Play-Off Winner (Promoted) (1998–99)
  • League One (Third Tier): Champions (2006–07)
  • League One (Third Tier): Play-Off Winner (Promoted) (2008–09)

That there are no major trophies is understandable, but 58 years is a whopper of a gap from creation until first (minor) trophy. That’s almost a lifetime, especially considering the lifestyle of Northerners. And then another 41 years until the play-off place. (For the uninitiated: play-offs are contested between teams that finish below the top, generally places third through sixth, using a cup system to award the final ‘promotion’ place. It makes the end of the season ‘exciting’.)

Scunthorpe currently play in League One. And struggle. Inspired by the last line of The Great Gatsby, they’ve re-appointed Brian Laws, the hero of their Championship days and a manager later sacked by Sheffield Wednesday. Lower league life is incestuous like that.

(Best Brian Laws story: when at Grimsby, breaking his star striker Ivano Bonetti’s cheekbone with a plate of chicken wings during a post-match argument.)

Why follow Scunthorpe, Colin? Why follow Grimsby? Why follow Wednesday? They’ve no chance of winning anything major. Where’s the joy in that? Does it make your support of football more ‘real,’ in the same way some hipster tryhard enjoys Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti?

Maybe. But in suggesting that life is better spent in the moment, Michel de Montaigne, the French philosopher and no fan of football because it didn’t exist in the sixteenth century and France didn’t even get good until the late nineties, or should I say the late nineteen-nineties—in your face, Montaigne!—might offer an answer to such lower-league existential tossing. There may be no overarching season-long narrative for fans of Rochdale (zero national honors in their 106-year history), Walsall (four in 125 years) or Derby (10 in 129 years). And our dénouement is, most likely, a reassertion of the initial exposition: taken as a whole, this season was the same as last, and will be the same as the next. You might find yourself promoted or relegated or managed by Paulo Di Canio come the end times but the futility of hope, the monotony of the mediocre, is positive and reassuring because it forces you to fully occupy the ninety minutes of each individual game. Honestly. A 3-1 away win at Hull is your Champions League triumph, your 3-2 home win over ex-Premiership Birmingham can be your FA Cup final.

Montaigne could never have been a United fan.

Supporters of those teams outside of the big four can fantasise of Middle East buy-outs, but they need only look at two-time European Cup winners Nottingham Forest to see that all that glitters is not gold. For anyone over the age of 30, they’re a team forever linked with Brian Clough—not only the best manager the England national team never appointed, but also, perhaps, the best football manager to have ever worked in the UK. I mean, they haven’t made a feature film about Jose Mourinho or Alex Ferguson, have they? As Clough’s resistance to alcohol declined, so did the performance of his team. As he resigned from his position as manager at the end of the 1992-1993, so Forest slipped from the Premiership. They’ve been a yo-yo team ever since. Even with Kuwaiti millions—I’d love to hear what Clough would have made of this—they’re currently struggling mid-table in the Championship and managed by a man who sets up his teams not to lose, rather than to win; a tactic that saw him oversee Birmingham City’s recent relegation from the Premiership. This coach is Alex McCleish, the anti-Clough. I think, like Huddersfield, I’d rather have my team owned by a man whose fortune comes from that most English of businesses—the selling of greeting cards.

That said, all it would take are a few judicious signings in the January transfer window and Sheffield Wednesday might take a tilt at the Championship play-off places. From there, as pundits say, it’s a lottery. Get to the Premiership and with the new TV deal that awards even the bottom team more than the £60.6m that champions Manchester City were given in prize money last season, and who knows what might happen.

Well, we know. Not Champions League, perhaps, but maybe mid-table mediocrity. But that’s the thing about sleeping giants—they dream big. And if lucky enough to support a team even further down the leagues than the mighty Wednesday, consider this: if you know nothing of victory, you are at least spared the knowledge of defeat. It’s not the big time, but it’s something.


Share |

Comments

I am really enjoying reading your well written articles. It looks like you spend a lot of effort and time on your blog. I have bookmarked it and I am looking forward to reading new articles. Keep up the good work.
Australia assignment

wow, great, I was wondering how to cure acne naturally. and found your site by google, learned a lot, now i’m a bit clear. I’ve bookmark your site and also add rss. keep us updated. Free Walking Tour Stockholm

The Great Gatsby, they’ve re-appointed Brian Laws, the hero of their Championship days and a manager later sacked by Sheffield Wednesday. Lower league life is incestuous like that.
minecraft gratuit |
free psn codes

The initial that you can try your hand at repairing it yourself at home using the on line guide guide and the iPhone repair kits.Ink cartridges nottingham

I am from every angle forward to more tried and true articles and I think we all wish to thank such an extensive number of good articles, site to confer to us. beauty tips and secrets

This substance is formed to a great degree well. Your usage of orchestrating while specifying your centers makes your target certainties clear and direct. Whatsapp status

Thanks to share these details it’s truly nice.quantum success coaching academy videos

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog, I will keep visiting this blog very often.
Ortodoncia Bogota

I should say only that its awesome! The blog is informational and always produce amazing things. zonaescort.cl

So it is interesting and very good written and see what they think about other people. sexonorte

These you will then see the most important thing, the application provides you a website a powerful important internet page: sexosur

This is very significant, and yet necessary towards just click this unique backlink: sexosur

Hi I was searching for the blogs for many times, now I have reached at the right place.http://www.personalcashadvance.com

I'd like to take the power of thanking you for that specialized guidance I've constantly enjoyed viewing your blog.Inbox Blueprint reviews

English side ever with their four top-division titles, sandwiched between no. 10 Leeds and no. 8 Newcastle. Sheffield Wednesday: the third best team in the whole country as recently as 1991-1992. clash of clans cheats android

I am really getting a charge out of examining your richly made articles. No ifs ands or buts you spend a monster measure of effort and time on your online diary. https://twitter.com/bluesushiomaha/status/716809355916500992

An total need read article. I have found this article incredibly empowering. instagram followers | free instagram likes

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.
pawn shop hollywood fl

I was reading your article and wondered if you had considered creating an eBook on this subject. Your writing would sell it fast. You have a lot of writing talent.. buy instagram followers
| instagram likes

Stephen Hawking is one of my role model, even with his "disability" he can shows us the world inside his disability body. panel solar

increase soundcloud plays I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job! get new followers

soundcloud followers buy A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work. buy real soundcloud plays

This is also a very good post which I really enjoyed reading. It is not everyday that I have the possibility to see something like this..
digital branding firm

I really enjoy simply reading all of your weblogs. Simply wanted to inform you that you have people like me who appreciate your work. Definitely a great post. Hats off to you! The information that you have provided is very helpful.
brand advocate marketing

pay for followers I found your this post while searching for some related information on blog search...Its a good post..keep posting and update the information. soundcloud views

soundcloud marketing A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work. how to get plays on soundcloud

I'm impressed, I must say. Very rarely do I come across a blog that's both informative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you hit the nail on the head
abu dhabi city tour

We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work read this
hot escorts Vienna

Each one of the footballs require to be of approximately a similar size. Customarily, a suitable baseball that can effectively in the users hand of the palm is right. http://www.piaokks.org

Each one of the footballs require to be of approximately a similar size. Customarily, a suitable baseball that can effectively in the users hand of the palm is right. http://www.piaokks.org

Great tips and very easy to understand. This will definitely be very useful for me when I get a chance to start my blog.
arch pain

I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post.
pure forskolin extract

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
click here

Malta Passport | micro tape hair extensions Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. virgin hair wholesale suppliers | Passport Comoros

socket adapters I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job! منتديات

vibration machine benefits I am very happy to read this article .. thanks for giving us go through info.Fantastic nice. I appreciate this post. Personal Injury Lawyers in South Bend Indiana

audio cables We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find Download Lagu terbaru 2016 a lot of approaches after visiting your post. Great work. audio cables

Cavi Audio Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! câble audio He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing! Audiokabel

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
seo santa barbara

How to play piano | 30ml e liquid bottles I am always searching online for articles that can help me. There is obviously a lot to know about this. I think you made some good points in Features also. Keep working, great job! e bottles | wholesale juice bottles

ejuice bottles | e liquid bottle labels Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here. ejuice bottles | e liquids for sale

ejuice bottles Hello! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! floor stripping He always kept chatting about this. I will forward this page to him. Fairly certain he will have a good read. Thank you for sharing! best e juice brands

Truly, this article is really one of the very best in the history of articles. I am a antique ’Article’ collector and I sometimes read some new articles if I find them interesting. And I found this one pretty fascinating and it should go into my collection. Very good work!
布拉格浪漫婚礼

I just got to this amazing site not long ago. I was actually captured with the piece of resources you have got here. Big thumbs up for making such wonderful blog page!
travel blogs

A very awesome blog post. We are really grateful for your blog post. You will find a lot of approaches after visiting your post. I was exactly searching for. Thanks for such post and please keep it up. Great work.
real_estate

Thank you so much for the post you do. I like your post and all you share with us is up to date and quite informative, i would like to bookmark the page so i can come here again to read you, as you have done a wonderful job.
Football Germany Bundeslgia

Excellent Blog! I would like to thank for the efforts you have made in writing this post. I am hoping the same best work from you in the future as well. I wanted to thank you for this websites! Thanks for sharing. Great websites!
Shopping

Nice information, valuable and excellent design, as share good stuff with good ideas and concepts, lots of great information and inspiration, both of which I need, thanks to offer such a helpful information here.
ETP

I want you to thank for your time of this wonderful read!!! I definately enjoy every little bit of it and I have you bookmarked to check out new stuff of your blog a must read blog!!!!
phuket pattaya villa to sell