E-I-E-I-O up the Football League we go


The world is currently consumed with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and many of the top leagues in Europe are rescheduling or postponing games on health and safety grounds. I am going to take this time to give appreciation to the most exhilarating football on show - the English Football League. My passion for the Football League is briefly summarised in the sections below.

The English Football League Logo
Picture: pngfuel.com

Competition 

A quick glance at any of the Championship, League One or League Two tables will showcase the competitive nature of the Football League. The battle to reach the play offs in this season's Championship is one that will go to the wire, if this season is not declared null and void. Birmingham, the League Cup finalists in 2001, sit in 16th but will still consider themselves outsiders in the race for the top six with just nine points separating them from Preston in the final play-off spot. Preston has been beaten in four of their last six if any Birmingham fans are reading this. The four teams below Birmingham are strapped in ready for an intense relegation battle. This includes teams like Stoke and Middlesbrough who in recent times were established Premier League sides. The battle for automatic promotion in League One involves seven teams separated by just three points including some big national sides like 2008 FA Cup winners Portsmouth and Sunderland. League Two boasts a potentially enthralling title race to finish the season with up to five teams fighting for the right to be champions.

Big clubs like Stoke and Middlebrough are facing relegation to the third tier.
Picture: thenorthernecho.co.uk

Classic Matches 

I could go back in time forever here but let's keep it recent. Leeds United are well on course for promotion this season, but they were stunned at home by Wigan when fighting for promotion last season. Wigan eventually stayed up while Leeds of course fell short in the play-offs. Another example would be Tranmere Rovers securing back to back promotions last season with a play off final victory over Newport County. It was an incredible achievement and one that will be remembered by the fans for many seasons to come - regardless of the outcome of this season's relegation fight. Top of this list has to be the incredible play-off semi final second leg between Watford and Leicester, two sides currently in the Premier League. The final two minutes of this game is still mentioned today as one of the greatest moments the Football League has ever seen - unless you are a Leicester City fan of course. 

Top Managers 

Marcelo Bielsa has often been praised by the likes of Pep Guardiola as a major influence on his coaching career and he is currently leading the Leeds United charge towards the Premier League. Danny Cowley is making a name for himself first with Lincoln and now Huddersfield. Joey Barton is a controversial figure at the best of times but away from the headlines he tends to generate, Joey is doing a good job at Fleetwood and they sit in the play off positions at present in League One. Ian Holloway is a character who tends to develop entertaining sides to watch and he has taken over Grimsby in League Two so prepare for fireworks.

Ian Holloway is in the Grimsby Town hotseat
Picture: newsbreak.com

Player Development

The Football League can be known as a place where players end up after having their career cut short at the top level but there are some standout examples of players gaining experience and pushing on with their career in the Premier League and beyond. Jack Grealish kicked on last season with Aston Villa and is making his mark in this season's Premier League despite the real threat of relegation. He was highly tipped for a place in Garteh Southgate's England squad for the European Championships before its cancellation. Pablo Hernandez has played at the top level and is one of the finest players outside of a top division in Europe while Jarrod Bowen has made the step up to the Premier League with West Ham after shining in the second tier. Josh Maja made his name at Sunderland, has moved on to Ligue 1 and has six goals for Bordeaux this season. Dean Henderson is a standout candidate to be England's number one keeper - despite the cancellation of the European Championships this summer. Dean was playing football in the second tier just last season. 

Feel-Good Stories + Communities coming together

From the youth academy flourishing at Exeter to the Lincoln City FA Cup run in recent times the Football League is full of terrific heart-warming stories. Wembley trips are on offer for fans and players of play off finalists and finalists of the ever changing Football League trophy. These memories can be a once in a lifetime experience for fans of smaller clubs. Communities also come together for stories that are a little darker. The plight of Bury was one which brought a community together despite the outcome while Coventry lost their Ricoh Arena home but bounced back and are sitting top of League One in their temporary home at St. Andrews. 

Are you a fan of the English Football League? I do not think any league outside the major leagues in Europe can rival the EFL for entertainment or competitivness. I am also of the opinion that not having VAR in use is of benefit because it keeps alive what football used to be before the circus began. 

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