The Michael Wood Column

Saturday 01 December, 2001

Premiership Two: Because the dream should never die

There is much talk about the dream.

Premiership Two will kill the dream, or so they say. No longer will a small club look up the league and think "That could be us". City circa 1983 would never be able to be the same club that marched into the Premiership in 1999.

Premiership Two will, they say, be a closed shop.

One must not underestimate the dream in football. It is the very essence of why we love the sport. Not for how good it is, but for how good it could be. This is true throughout all levels of this beautiful game. Worksop fans dreamed of the first round proper. Gillingham's followers dreamed of getting into the First divisons.

At City we dreamed of the Premiership, we got there too and the dream of going back drags many of us back to Valley Parade week in week out.

Newcastle dream of a trophy. Manchester United dream of recognition for what they have done, Liverpool dream to get back what they did so often before. Even nations dream of football. On Saturday morning when the names come out of the World Cup hat we will all share a dream that as good as beating the Germans 5-1 was, it could get even better.

Football is the dream, it is up to those who run it to keep the dream alive. Keep it achievable.

So to Premiership Two, or Premiership One to be more accurate. Since City were relegated from the Premiership (Indeed before) we have haemorrhaged money and players. Quality leaves not because they want to play their trade elsewhere, Matt Clarke and David Hopkin side stepped to Crystal Palace, but because City can not afford to keep Premiership set up in the First Division.

At the other end of the league we have the Wallsalls and Gillinghams. They struggle to get to grips with playing at a higher level. Two years ago Gillingham probable never thought they would see Benito Carbone let alone be torn apart by him. They have teams manned with spirit but little else. They struggle in this league.

Premiership Two stops that.

The nub of Premiership Two is the idea that TV companies want the First Division and not the rest of the leagues. Wolves, Manchester City, the Bantams et al are more desired than the likes of Scunthorpe and Darlington. The effect of Premiership Two would be to increase the gap between what is now the First Division and the lower leagues and decrease the gap between Premiership One and Two.

Gradual steps. Manageable.

That is what the dream is about. The dream was never supposed to be about the Bradford City Premiership experience. Pitched way out of our depth because we rose too quickly. Movement through the lower leagues was gradual, was smooth, but the Premiership was too great a gap. Is we had come up from a more stable base, from more money in Premiership Two, then the step would have been manageable, likewise when we came down.

A third division club may dream of the Premiership and they could get in touching distance of it but if in four years Hartlepool were knocking on the door of the big time the real problem they would find would be post promotion. If we really want to keep the dream of mobility in football alive then the steps up the league should be gradual.

It should be as hard for a Third division club to get to grips with the Second as it is a First division one to live in the Premiership. The structure now, basically flat up to the top ten of the First division, serves no one well. Teams from the lower reaches can not make the jump to Premiership because they do not get increased moneys to prepare when they ascend the leagues. Likewise when a team goes down the drop is too steep.

Premiership Two is not an attempt to kick the ladder away, it is about changing the angle of the ladder to something more like a steady incline that does not mean that those who misstep are doomed.

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