The Football League in 2011 - A review of the 72: Part 1 of 2
2011 is The Seventy Two’s first full year of existence, having been started in late June last year. To tell you it’s been a busy twelve months in the Football League would be meaningless nonsense, but suffice to say: some stuff has happened. Here’s part one of a digest reminiscing about how 2011 went for The Seventy Two.
The year began in slightly odd fashion with an official calendar charting Neil Warnock’s gradual descent into apoplexy. Whatever your opinion of Warnock, the Football League is a vastly different landscape without him. He began the year top of the Football League and ended it in the top flight, so I’m sure he’ll be looking back fondly on the past twelve months if he allows himself a short period of reflection during the festive period. Now we just need a calendar for 2012…
Joining QPR in the Premier League were Swansea City. Back in January, I talked about my admiration for their approach to football. They are certainly one of my favourite clubs outside of the team I support and I’m glad they’re giving a good account of themselves this season.
The first month of 2011 also saw the emotional exit of Eddie Howe from Bournemouth. That night at Colchester is one that really sticks out in my mind from all the nights in front of the television out of a sense of duty to cover the most meaningful matches in League One and League Two. Howe seems to be getting to grips with the Championship slowly but surely at Burnley but he didn’t really look like he wanted to leave at all that evening.
And there was the Wacky Races thing. God knows what that was all about.
One of the most popular articles on the site was Pat Riddell’s brilliant look at the bewildering boardroom at Nottingham Forest. So began a bit of a theme for 2011 as the occasional ups and mainly downs at the City Ground made recurring appearances. Given the mess in which they currently find themselves, reading Pat’s article from February again now seems rather pertinent.
It was also the winter of discontent just down the A52 at Derby, as told by Joel Clyne. Derby seem to be stuck in a state of suspended animation if truth be told, bobbing along three-quarters of the way down the Championship table ever since their relegation from the Premier League. Even a good start to the current season couldn’t last. They now seem to be back in a similar position to the one Joel wrote about ten months ago and not just in terms of their league position – the question remains: is Nigel Clough the right man for the job and are Derby’s owners investing enough money in the playing squad?
By March, we were already pretty certain that QPR would be promoted from the second tier, but the identity of their fellow automatic promotion winners was yet to be determined. John from Tangerine Dreaming guested at the perfect time, illustrating the reasons for the Canaries’ 3-1 win over Bristol City from a tactical perspective. I don’t do much tactical stuff myself but I fully recognise the importance of it and John is one of the best around at explaining why football matches take the course of events that they do.
Meanwhile, down in League Two, Chesterfield were threatening to run away with things. I watched them take on Rotherham to see why they appeared to be champions-elect at such an early stage and was mightily impressed.
March was a good month for contributions. There were also fantastic pieces of writing from Iain Macintosh on his love of Southend United and Rob MacDonald from Magic Spongers with an insightful look at Coventry City’s crisis.
April began as only April can – with April Fool’s Day. I decided, as you do, to ask Jay Bothroyd whether he would be up for a laugh by agreeing to let me write something ludicrous about him. Although he quickly dismissed the idea of an exclusive article on his imagined retirement from international football, he did let me say that he’d teamed up with Michael Chopra to release a hip-hop album. Sometimes you do kind of wonder what you’re doing with your life.
Elsewhere on April Fool’s Day, Jamie Cutteridge wrote about his undying admiration for Keith Hill – another pertinent bit of reading as Rochdale look already for a replacement for Hill’s successor Steve Eyre and Barnsley impress in the Championship.
And another fan content with their manager, also subsequently to move on in the summer, was Watford supporter Mike Parkin who was happy with Malky Mackay.
The month was rounded off with an alternative Championship team of the year in response to the PFA effort and a tongue-in-cheek, to say the least, ramble about how the Football League could increase its television coverage.
The first fortnight in May was dominated by the inquiry into Alejandro Faurlin’s arrival (and continued presence) at Queen’s Park Rangers – The Seventy Two went big on this with a slightly psychedelic approach to the situation, imagining decision day in a parallel universe. Back in the real world, Jon Keen wrote something fantastic about the great unknown as the promotion race remained up in the air off the field and I vented my frustration at the fact there was still sweet FA on the outcome at a time when a decision was expected.
There was also a vast amount of play-off coverage with plenty of previews and reports. The highlight came when Swansea City and Nottingham Forest served up a stone-cold classic at the Liberty Stadium.
There was also time for Jack Midson’s brilliant Not So Secret Footballer column to begin and Paolo di Canio to sweep into Swindon to liven up League Two.
June was a quiet month, but there was the Football League team of the season which caused a few ripples of discontent. I particularly enjoyed the comment from a Stevenage fan that his side deserved “at least one or two” players to be selected in a team that covered 72 clubs.
Part Two will be on the site tomorrow.