Saturday, 16 April 2011
The article that caught my attention was written by Walter Pilkington in the ''Behind The Facts'' section. He analyses attendances in the four divisions of the Football League, comparing August 1969 to October 1969 with the same period three years earlier, reporting significant rises in first quarter of the season crowds for both the First and Second Divisions, but with the Third and Fourth Divisions dropping. Whilst the improvement in numbers was partly put down to fine weather would you believe (and perhaps that was an indication as to just how bad conditions in football grounds used to be in poor weather), Walter does make special reference to Division Two :
'The surprise packet is the jump in the Second Division, the so called jungle where points for promotion or safety are battled for with an intensity perhaps unequalled in other divisions. A million and a half rise within three seasons need more than fair weather to explain it'.
He goes on to say that of the clubs playing in Division Two in 1969-70, only Norwich, Huddersfield and Charlton Athletic had spent the entire decade at that level and that fans were getting competitiveness at both ends of the table due to the constant ups and downs enjoyed and endured by the other teams. 'After three months it is any two from sixteen for promotion and any two from ten for relegation. Fourteen of the clubs have had First Division football since the war. The driving force for most of them is the regaining of that lost and fondly remembered 'rightful place''.
Clearly the second level of English football was every bit as close and keen at the end of the sixties as it is today with the Championship. The depth of our Football League structure is something we take for granted here in England. We rarely consider that other great footballing nations have domestic competitions that are, quite frankly, short on competition ! For many fans, the draw of the top flight remains a huge part of what keeps them supporting their teams, even if, as in 1969, there is a degree of inevitability that what goes up, often comes straight down. For some the dream never gets fulfilled. Never in a lifetime. But for those that do make it, the rough and tumble of the second level all becomes worthwhile........