November 02, 2012

Ten Mostly Good Years


POOLIE IN NOTTINGHAM looks back


If a day is a long time in football, then I don’t know what 10 years equates to. It’s hard to believe that it was in the 2002/3 season that Pools got automatic promotion out of the basement for only the third time in their history. Since then, barring just a single season, we have been stalwarts of the third tier.

What is interesting about the last decade is the fortunes of other clubs in what was Division Three that year. Not long ago I had a quick glance at the final table, expecting to see the familiar teams in there – Rochdale being the prime example – but there were a couple of surprises.

Swansea City, currently holding their own in the Premiership, finished an impressive fourth from bottom, just a point from relegation to the Conference. It wasn’t until 2005 that they managed to haul themselves up a level, and they haven’t really looked back since. Another team to have enjoyed a bit of limelight in the top flight recently are Hull City, who ended the 2002/3 season in the bottom half.

There are plenty of football’s forgotten teams in there as well, now plying their trade in the Conference or lower. The list is like a roll-call of the darker days of Poolie past – Rushden and Diamonds, Wrexham (who finished third), Lincoln, Kidderminster, Cambridge, Darlo, Boston, Macclesfield – they all have the displeasure of not appearing on the Football League Show. Still, I suppose someone has got to make way for the likes of Crawley, Stevenage, Fleetwood and the rest.
"Swansea City, currently holding their own in the Premiership, finished an impressive fourth from bottom, just a point from relegation to the Conference."
Many of them dropped out but clawed their way back again – Oxford, Torquay, York, Carlisle, Exeter, and Shrewsbury have all proved that losing league status is not a one-way street to oblivion. With the promotion/relegation of two teams, the Conference has become more like Division 5, and should Pools ever find themselves down there I would be seriously advocating a three up/three down system be introduced.

Let’s face it, for Pools to get promoted out of the Conference as the rules stand at the moment, we would need to either win the league outright, or win the play-offs. Finishing runners-up after leading for the majority of the season and running out of steam at the last hurdle seems more like our style.

Looking at how the other tables ended up in 2002/3 is also a bit of an eye-opener. The third tier features another three teams who are ‘no longer with us’ in Stockport, Luton and Mansfield. Also a couple of teams now dining at the top table in Wigan and QPR.

The second tier contained the original incarnation of Wimbledon, before they mutated into the despicable MK Dons and a new club was founded in their place. Also there was yet another team now aiming to get back in the league, Grimsby Town.

The Premiership of 2002/3 featured a predictable finish with Manchester United at the top, trailed by Arsenal and the rest of the usual suspects, but also included some teams who have had the pleasure of playing at the Vic in recent times – Southampton, Charlton and Leeds.

I suppose one conclusion we can draw from this is that apart from the one blip, the last ten years (and the few before that) have been incredibly stable for Pools, both financially and on the pitch. We have got an uphill task in aiming to avoid the drop this season, but should we take our turn in the basement again, hopefully IOR will still be around to finance a promotion push. Who knows, we may stay up this season and get the added bonus of wresting the ground back from the ownership of the council. Who knows where we may end up in another 10 years?