Saturday, November 2, 2013

England – may be not the strongest league anymore, but still the most unpredictable. Still entertaining too. Something happened down at the very bottom of professional football, which was not noticed at first – after all, 4th division football is not trend-setting. Also, momentary success hardly tells anything about future developments. In retrospect, it was the beginning of meteoric rise of not one, but two clubs . Four teams were promoted to the Third Division, the honours contested by 8 clubs. None was impressive club – may be Barnsley was the only one of some sort of faded glory, but they finished 7th. The 4th, clinching the last promotional spot was Brentford.

Old boys, founded in 1889, and nothing more.

Second finished Southend United.

Cute logo, many swords, just like Brentford's, but no cutting edge really. The lobster is nice...

Third finished Swansea City, one of the few Welsh clubs in the English leagues. Which was good for novelty and amusement, for Welsh Cup winners played in the European Cup Winners Cup and thus were constant representatives of low divisions. Often lower than Second Division.

The Swans knew better days, but they were long gone. Climbing to Third Division was quite a success.

First finished Watford.

Another club which had nothing to brag about and may be happy to move a tiny bit up. As a London-based club, they had no chance of catching the eye, but they did in 1973 – Elton John, a life-long fan, became the President of the club. Thanks to his fame, the club was mentioned now and then – Elton John went not only to Watford's matches.

Two rock-stars crazy about football – Elton John and Rod Stewart training with Watford. Look in better shape then the players at the left... Such novelties were the biggest news about Watford for awhile. In 1876 Elton John became more ambitious and was elected Chairman of the club. Now with real power in his hands, he immediately made a big signing – not a famous and inevitably aging player, but a coach.

Graham Taylor and Elton John, all smiles and promising victory. Wise move – the new manager was good and quickly turned around the small club. It was hard to tell what the idea was at first: on one hand Elton John did not invest money in players – which probably angered some fans. A manager without a team did no mean much, may be just a cheap move for a year or two. On the other hand getting a good coach may bring some positive results in a long term. Which was Elton John's idea, it seems – Taylor changed the team immediately: Watford had strong season and finished first, 11 points ahead of Southend United. They lost only 5 matches – there was no other club in the 24-team division with less than 10 losses. Watford distinguished themselves in winning too – they won 30 out of their 46 championship games. Southend United trailed behind with 25 wins. Strong season by all means – and Watford was going to play 3rd Division football next year.

Nice – Elton John leading Watford to the pitch. Leading by example, so to say. Nice, but... take away the rockstar and there was nothing else. Or so it appeared back in 1977-78. It was different a few years after, when Watford was playing not only in the First Division, but in the European Cups too. They climbed up very quickly – but not as quickly as Swansea City did. Both clubs went together at first, but the meteoric rise of the Swans was faster. And all started in 1977-78, when both clubs won promotions. The beginning of fantastic climbs up, and up, and up. As for Elton John... usually running a football club is difficult job, causing the loss of hair. He went the other way – growing hair. Anyway, 4th division smiles so far.