A different league
January 1, 2000
In my second Web Watch column I talked of the most fancied teams in League One, and referred particularly to the Football League website and its take on the eventual outcomes regarding promotion to The Championship at the end of the current campaign.
You may recall that The League’s official website saw, not surprisingly, Southampton and Sheffield Wednesday among the leading contenders.
We won’t see Wednesday at the Memorial Stadium until the very last game of the season and it could all be over bar the shouting by them, but it was interesting to see that they were making the early running at the top of the League One table before even the end of August. Players that had been loaned to Bristol Rovers last season and were linked with a permanent move here, chose instead to opt for the South Yorkshire club and as far as I understand it are struggling to make the starting lineup, finding themselves on the bench for most games.
Southampton, on the other hand, have featured as visitors to BS7 at a very early stage and went away having demonstrated why they are most observers favourites not just for promotion, but for the League One title no less.
One of my close friends told me, after the game, that he thought The Saints were in a different league to the rest especially when you consider the players that they continue to add to their already extensive group and the level of wages that they are reported to be paying them. Big money backing should make a difference to the playing fortunes of any club, you have to say.
Talking about a different league, I was searching the web for reactions to the subsequent events at the South Coast club in the days following their visit here, when I came across a site coincidently titled ‘A Different League.’ I must confess that I had not visited the site previously but reading the ‘about us’ section I learned that the site was launched in April 2009, with the aim of providing intelligent insight, commentary and information on the Premier League, English National Team and European competition. The site has been extended it seems, to cover The Football League, the Bundesliga and La Liga.
How refreshingly ‘intelligent’; anyway the site is the sister site of the established and self proclaimed increasingly popular ‘Football Italiano’. Webmaster and Editor, Tim Doel, is based in Milan. The Football League correspondent is Tom Oxtoby. You may wish to check the site out for yourself, if of course you have not already done so, for that intelligent view that you may have been seeking for some time and never found. I write that a bit tongue in cheek, but I have to say that I have found the site to be very sensible and appealingly readable. I digress a little, so back to the Southampton saga. Tom Oxtoby suggests that the Pardew dismissal raises worrying questions at Southampton; tell us more Tom. Well the site reiterated the statement released to the media by the club that its hierarchy “recognise that frequent changes to the football management are unlikely to assist in the winning of trophies and promotions. However, we are taking these steps to achieve our aims, which we share with all supporters, to get promoted this season, and to secure long term stability and progress for our football operations.”
I was interested in ‘A Different League’s’ view that a poor pre season and a sluggish start to the new campaign can be considered minor factors in the Pardew dismissal, but the evident cause for fractures appearing at the club is the sudden passing of Markus Liebherr.
I find the Southampton statement to be a contradiction to be honest. I have read the statement over and over and I confess I am confused. I understand what ‘A Different League’ is saying about the cause of fractures. I have often thought about the consequences of club takeover, and what amounts to single ownership, and likely events that would brought be about by a withdrawal of funds; what would happen at Chelsea for example. A club in that position could be sold, of course, but look at the situation just along the coast from Southampton at neighbours Portsmouth. The Southampton statement also talks of long term stability, but I do not clearly understand any reference to management stability. There is no clear evidence that sudden change necessarily brings about instant success, although you could point to Spurs, to be fair. There is evidence of long term management and coaching stability sustaining continual success on the playing side; you need look no further than Arsenal or Manchester United, and particularly the way that they penetrate down to youth level and bring young players through. I reckon I vote that for clubs who are serious about repeated and sustainable success.