This week Darrell Clarke spoke about his ambitions to build a promotion pushing team for next season, I like the ambition, but is it a realistic aim after the inconsistencies of this season? We will find out. By saying that he wants a promotion pushing team, he gives us something solid to judge him too, and we no doubt will.
I have taken a look at how tough it is to actually get out of this league at the first time of asking, to try and put some perspective into what will no doubt be a mid-table season for us.
This season was a bit of an unknown, the club had to change from the previous regime, but not only in personnel, but in attitude and structure, something that has taken more time that we would have liked, but no doubt the time that was needed. It is also a League we have not been in for a long time, and one that we needed to adapt too. Yes a club of our size should be looking up rather than down, but the stats for this league don’t lie.
After looking through the leagues since the 2010/11 season, only 9 of the 36 relegated teams from League 1 have bounced back at the first time of asking, and that includes Bury with their overspending year, Doncaster Rovers, who are a much bigger club than us, and a couple of clubs who had to go via the play-offs. There have also been 3 back to back relegations, with teams falling into non-league. Throw in the likes of Leyton Orient, Yeovil, and Tranmere, who all slipped into Non-League within a couple of years of relegation, and you begin to see that teams coming down into league 2 have a real fight on their hands.
There were fears of a back to back relegation, and it is something I was concerned about, but we haven’t struggled in this league, were simply just bang average, we have had some great games, and some dire performances, but nothing that has made us fear for our Football League status. To further show how a mid-table finish is important, is to look at how teams that have been relegated out of League 2 have faired. Out of the 18 teams to be relegated, 9 still play in Non-League. This does include Yeovil and Notts County, but with both in the playoffs and quite a way off the automatic spot, there is still a lot to do for either to come back up.
The day we got relegated, I would have taken a season of comfortable mid-table mediocrity, to avoid a slip to non-league like many clubs we have seen fall out of the football league. So in a way, this season has lived up to the expectation. However, my expectations changed when Darrell Clark took over, and when Leigh Pomlett became chairman., and I felt we could give the play-offs a really good go. Top ten was my hope. Was this naivety on my part? In hindsight, yes.
Next year must show progress, as Darrell has promised, or else we could slowly slip into another run of seasons in the same league, like we did in League 1, and we know how that ended.