Measuring the Greater Championship
A few months ago, we introduced the notion of a Greater Championship: an argument that there exists a group of clubs whose natural habitat is the second tier, which are never seriously going to challenge for a Champions League spot but are also unlikely to spend too much time in Leagues One or Two.
In all honesty, the concept arose from a conversation in Didcot’s Prince of Wales pub and was fuelled largely by a desire to goad friends who support other clubs: Birmingham City would provoke particular contempt in this regard if we knew anyone who did “keep right on to the end of the road”. If you were very kind, you would state that our analysis had some evidence-basis due to observation and experience, but typically, and quite wonderfully, Bill Turianski of the incomparable Bill’s Sports Maps decided to inject some proper credibility into the debate by conducting a statistical analysis
…and here is the link to Bill’s project. Aside from the non-surprise that Leicester City Football Club is a dyed in the wool second level unit with 59 seasons behind them, there are some eyebrow lifting names among them. There is a lot to take in, and I urge you to pore over it for hours, but immediately one is drawn to those poor souls that are currently woefully underachieving. Of those, I’d single out these three (with respect to Grimsby who are currently taking a break entirely) whom we certainly did not take into account in our original theory:
Lincoln CityPersonally, I cannot remember the Imps ever troubling the top 44 in England and a quick skim through the evidence confirms as much. Their 34 seasons were half a century ago now and, in the past couple of decades, the turmoil has heightened with a spell outside the league altogether supplemented by the malign influence of messrs Beck, Sutton and others and alleviated only by the achievements of Keith Alexander. As a proud regional centre and county town, Lincoln is without doubt isolated from the modern world, but it’s all the better for it and who wouldn’t love to see them return to the glory days?
BurySuffering from classic small fish syndrome, Bury’s 39 years at Level Two show how smaller clubs from metropolitan areas can sometimes tag along remora-like to a city’s football boom. Hence, elsewhere in Greater Manchester, we are currently witnessing the prolonged salad days of Bolton Wanderers and Wigan Athletic, with Fulham, Charlton and QPR all enjoying similar benefits in regard to the capital. As for those Shakers, I remember visiting Gigg Lane for a season opener back in 1997-8; a dreadful 1-1 draw with Reading in a season that saw both plummet downwards nine months later.
Bury were the first to clock in a thousand goals in each of the top 4 divisions of English football but the collapse of ITV Digital hurt them more than anyone and even the Championship looks a long way away now. Still, they won the FA Cup by the biggest margin ever with that 6-0 over Derby 107 years ago, as well as a play-off victory over Liverpool that saw them achieve the top flight in the days of Oscar Wilde and Aubrey Beardsley.
Another set of proto-Mancunians, Latics’ 36 years of significance occurred practically en bloc in the modern age. Indeed, Oldham’s spell grazing in the second division was interrupted only by the emergence of Joe Royle’s brilliant side of the late eighties and early nineties. But, Wembley appearances and that Frankie Bunn night seem ever distant and if the “Premiership Years” were memorable for the buzzing of Andy Ritchie, poise of Earl Barrett and wing play of Rick Holden, as well as Wembley appearances, their years spent a notch down have been almost uncannily inconsequential.
Hence, Oldham slipped down to level three almost unnoticed and it was perhaps inevitable that the sparky (don’t mention that word to them) spell upstairs would be followed by a deep recession taking them down the leagues.
Thanks again to Bill for a terrific post.