Shooting for the moon

Image by Thomas Gadd (

Image by Thomas Gadd (

By Paul Hodgson

It’s a fact in football, just the same as in any other aspect of our everyday lives, that nothing stays the same.

The Football League is no different. In each division there is no such thing as a standard season. Some seasons are more competitive than others; tougher due to the level of competition that term and the quality of the clubs/teams. In such a season it is much more difficult to gain promotion.

As the 1997/98 season ended, Geoffrey Richmond looked back at the campaign and the teams involved and compared them with the teams City would be competing against in 98/99. He came to the conclusion that the upcoming season would be weaker than the last. Based on this assessment the board sanctioned what was, for City, unprecedented levels of spending on players that close season. In came Lee Mills, Gareth Whalley and the rest. We all know what followed in 98/99.

With time on my hands, I have looked at the 2015/16 League One: the other clubs, managers and teams involved this term, and the games already played. My conclusion? This is one of those “weaker” seasons. There are no teams of the calibre of MK Dons or Preston North End, much less of the standard of Bristol City last term.

No disrespect to Burton, Walsall and Gillingham, the early pacesetters, but they aren’t quite the same class and should hold no fears for City. Sheffield United can arguably claim to be the biggest club in the division and had more close season spending power than City, but they have hardly impressed so far (including last Sunday when City bossed the game for over an hour and they by contrast looked distinctly ordinary).

My inescapable conclusion is that City will have a much better chance of promotion (and therefore automatic promotion) this time than they did last term. We have put together a very good squad. They may have stuttered early on, but this was primarily due to some players’ late arrival – they had to use the early season games to gel as a team when this would normally have happened in pre season friendlies.

Our only concern since the signing of Devante Cole is regarding what will happen when Reece Burke returns to his parent club. He has filled the void left by the departure of Andrew Davies and, while not wishing to be deliberately unkind to Nathan Clarke, we have no other centre back of that calibre on the books.

So, in conclusion I think that all talk of “aiming for the play offs” should end, and we should already be aiming for automatic promotion this term. This is not just bravado. Football clubs are no different to people in everyday life. We all have aims and sometimes we fall just short in those aims.

If City fall just short when aiming for automatic promotion, then they will at least have the consolation of a play off place. Although some fans tend to forget the lottery this entails, it is, at best, a 3/1 chance f leading to promotion. On the other hand, if we aim for the play offs and fall just short, we have the disappointment and the depressing prospect of yet another season at this level.

Everyone has their own opinion and I know there will be many fans with a different view to mine. My challenge to them is simple: have a serious look at the League One and name two clubs who you think are stronger than us, with a better squad, and likely to finish ahead of City come the end of the season. I think you will struggle.

Categories: Opinion

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6 replies

  1. Sheffield United, Wigan, Millwall have all spent and have arguable better squads than us. Then scunthorpe. barnsley, swindon and coventry will push and so will peteborough if the manager gets the best out of a good group of players. I think we have a good team but to suggest it should bring automatic promotion is a stretch. We have an outside chance however i think last play-off spot its what we will be going for…and thats if cole continues his form, burke doesnt leave, jones steps up as a number 1, billy clarke hits form when hes back and we learn how to hold onto leads.

  2. I think the players and staff are secretly aiming for the automatic places. It would be foolish to come out to the general public and declare themselves promotion favourites as many other clubs do and inevitably fail. But they will be thinking they have one of the strongest squads in the division – on paper. But as the cliché goes, football is played on grass. And we can only beat what’s in front of us. Our division is wide open this year, the beauty that bottom can beat top on any given day makes it an exciting league to be in but I think we have nothing to fear. I hope we reach the automatic places come May but I think the playoffs wouldn’t be a disaster either.

  3. Difficult to argue with your assessment Paul. What is a bit disconcerting is the current Championship table – it’s surprised me that Bristol City are struggling as well as PNE. Could we really do much better on a restricted budget if we did get promotion?

    • Totally agree John. surprised to see them struggling. in recent seasons there have been a few sides promoted to the championship who have stayed there for more than a season without really being a championship club. rotherham and, before them bansley come to mind – several seasons all consisting of an end of season fight and huge effort just to stay in the division.
      that said, on this subject of getting to the championship and possibly not staying there, my motto would be “Better to have tried and failed than not tried at all”.

  4. Huddersfield are also a benchmark, both of where we want to be, but also what is needed not only to get there but to stay there,. Their wealthy chairman seems unwilling to throw more money (His money) at what seems to be a glass ceiling. hence recent player sales. They seem to have tried everything including several
    managers and seem unable to make a dint in the top half of the table.
    We like PNE, and Bristol City have the potential to get there, as they have, but to stay there?

  5. Anything is possible with or without money of established clubs at that level.Burnemouth an example.The risk is there.But Valley Parade hoodoos are hitting them again.Need to sort thart out quick.However good a squad is assembled

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