9 January, 2013 - 14:31

The first one now will later be last: four English clubs awash in nostalgia for their good old days

 The first one now will later be last: four English clubs awash in nostalgia for their good old days

Arguably every team, even minnow from the Conference National has the memorable periods in its history – be it the dramatic win against the bitter rival, the ‘great escape’ from the relegation in the last second of the game or the record achievement. The history of some of the English sides appears to be especially dramatic: at one point of their history they have climbed to the heights of success, while at the other they found themselves in the lower divisions with their hopes for a high-flight football turning to dust and ashes. The rapid decay could have occurred for various reasons: either the talented was sacked by the team’s management, or the leaders of the team were bought by the other clubs, or just as simple as that - the money has gone. Further we will enlist five English sides which have no choice but recall their glory days without almost any chance of repeating their successes.

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Nottingham Forrest: the one-manager team

Nowadays English Premier League is dominated by the money. Today one can simply buy the Premier League place by spending hundreds of millions on new world-class players and investing the millions in the team infrastructure. At the same time it is much tougher to progress from the Championship to the Premier League as there are many really good sides, playing various styles. And it is virtually impossible to win the Premier League title the next year after progressing to the top-flight. Conversely much depended on the managers’ talents and abilities in 1970-1980.

The history of Nottingham Forrest is diverse and rich in events dating back to 1865. The most successful period in the club’s history is associated with its legendary manager Brian Clough who took charge of the then Second Division side in 1975. Clough’s appointment can be considered the best thing that ever happened to Nottingham Forrest. The team has won English First Division Championship title (1978), European Super Cup title (1979) and four League Cup titles (1978, 1979, 1989, 1990), two successive European Cup titles (1979, 1980). Even marvelous Barcelona with arguably the best ever football player aboard, which has been dominating international football for the latest several years did not manage to repeat Clough side’s achievement.

The only Clough’s fault is that Nottingham Forest have been relegated to the Second Division at the most inappropriate moment. In the beginning of 1990’s the contemporary Premier League has been formed. One of the negative consequences of this FA reform has been the widening of the gulf between the top-clubs and the mediocre sides. In 1995 Nottingham Forest finished in the top third but the next year they were relegated. Today the Foresters got bogged down in the Championship mud and amid the managerial merry-go-round seem to be destined for the Championship mid-table mediocrity.

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Leeds United: living beyond the means

In the beginning of 2000 Leeds have been considered one of the most promising Premier League sides with their coach David O’Leary extracting the best from his talented players. Unfortunately Leeds did not manage to effectively spend the money received from the Champions League participation and the sale of the players. They splashed around £100 million on new signings however neither of newcomers could make a decisive impact. The club soon glided hopelessly into debt and was relegated from Premier League. After going into administration under Ken Bates Leeds were docked 10 points and were relegated into League 1 for the first time in their history. Several seasons later Leeds returned into Championship and currently are battling for the Premier League progression.

Up to now the fans cherish the memory of marvelous team featuring Ferdinand, Smith, Viduka and Woodgate. Also they undoubtedly are nostalgic about the Champions League games against the top European sides including Milan, Barcelona and Valencia.

Currently despite the heavy investment of Arab money Leeds remain the goldmine of talent exploited by the Premier League sides. Forward Max Gradel has completed a move to Saint-Étienne, while Robert Snodgrass is satisfied with backup role at Norwich. Although Leeds have not completely lost the chances to Premier League progression, it is still prematurely to speak about its possible resurrection.

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Wimbledon: risen from the ashes

The fans always fall in love with the teams which have their distinctive recognizable style of play. That is why it not surprising that almost everyone remembers the tough and cruel style of Wimbledon also known as “The Crazy Gang”. The Crazy Gang was well-known for the eccentric behavior of its players, fans and chairman. The infamous skipper and main Wimbledon butcher Vinnie Jones filled the Premier league players with consternation.

Founded in 1889 the club has spent most of its history playing in amateur and semi-professional non-league football before progressing to the Football League in 1977 and qualifying to the First Division in 1986. Wimbledon stayed in the top-flight for 14 seasons until 2000 when it was relegated into Championship. The highest achievement of the Crazy Gang is the 1-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup final in 1988.

However after the publication of the Taylor Report in 1990, which has recommended to the Premier League clubs to play in the all-seater stadiums, the club has moved from Plough Lane to share the stadium with Crystal Palace. In May, 2002 Wimbledon has moved to Milton Keynes. After completing the move the club has been renamed Milton Keynes Dons which marked the end of the ‘old’ Wimbledon.

The decision of Wimbledon board to move away from its native South London proved unpopular among the fans to such an extent that they have founded the new club AFC Wimbledon. Having started in the ninth-tier (the Premier Division of the Combined Counties League), the club has progressed to the fourth-tier (League Two) which is a unique achievement. Although the further progress of the club is not likely AFC Wimbledon’s achievements will always attract attention from the Wimbledon fans and the football enthusiasts in general.

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Luton Town: the yo-yo club

It is virtually impossible to progress from the amateur non-league division to the Premier League; however it is much easier to complete the movement the other way round. Luton Town is considered one of the most well-known and best-supported teams of the Conference National which is the fifth-tier in English football. It was founded in 1885 and enjoyed the mixed success in its early years.

In 1995 Luton have reached the First Division for the first time in its history and finished in the second spot on goal difference behind Birmingham City. They were relegated in 1960 and as early as in 1964-1965 they found themselves in the fourth-tier. In 1974 they returned to the First Division only to be relegated the next year. In 1982 in yo-yo club fashion Luton have again made it through to the top-flight (the notable fact about that side is that it consisted mostly from black players, while the majority of English teams were almost entirely white). The biggest club’s success is the 3-2 win over Arsenal in the Football League Cup final in 1988. In 1992 the club again was relegated and sank to the third-tier four years later.

Currently Luton are considered to be the favorites to win the fourth-tier. They have also progressed to the FA Cup fourth round after beating Wolverhampton 1-0, which is the great achievement for the Conference National club.

Photo: goal.com, bbc.co.uk, skysports.com, mirrorfootball.co.uk, facebook.com

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Author: Basil Naumov

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15 January 2013, 13:57

Great article, hope Leeds and Notts get back to where they belong one day...

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