Daniel Bateman – @SaintsDanSFC
Dan discusses 3 promotion places from the NL
3 Promotion spots for the NL
Reports have been coming out that the National League are currently in talks with the English Football League over a change that would be considered long overdue, and that change would be instead of two National League clubs being promoted there will be three promoted and therefore three relegated down from League 2.
Yes definitely, from a Torquay United perspective this could and possibly should have been made sooner. The National League is one of the most difficult leagues to get out of and this doesn’t help when you have some very big and well-known backed football clubs already in the NL fighting for promotion to the EFL We’re talking about clubs like Wrexham and Notts County, but there are more that could fall into this bracket.
I think if you were to ask anybody who supports a football club in the National League they would tell you it’s long overdue, and the fact that there is 24 teams in the Vanarama National League and only 2 go up has been long debated. This has been discussed regularly due to the difficulty of getting out of the league, and let’s be honest 3 spots would be ample reward for the league’s competitive nature and growth, plus allow teams with lower budgets to have a better opportunity of realising their EFL dreams.
Reasons for opposition? Well the obvious opposition is from EFL teams not wanting to drop down to a league that they’ll struggle to get back out of! It’s been 2 teams going up for a long time and it has never been an issue, until now. Don’t fix what isn’t broken comes to mind, but I’d to think even the most ardent and biased League 2 supporter of a struggling team would accept the National League has evolved enough to earn 3 spots.
Previous Promotion Teams
Let’s take a look at previous promotion teams from the last 5 seasons and how these clubs are getting on now:
Grimsby Town are very well known for their support home and away, they are returning back to League 2 after just one season due to having a strong and experienced squad at this level of football. Nobody really anticipated that they would go straight back up due to the teams also fighting at the top end of the table such as Wrexham, who they then went on to beat in the play-offs. Grimsby Town find themselves 14th in league 2, winning 7 games so far this season. They have a total of 27 points and are looking to power onto safety come the end of the season.
Stockport County are a well-known club due to their size and fanbase, and prior to last season they were considered one of the favourites. They brought in players who could play at a higher level of football, this provided them with one of the strongest squads in the National League, and with Dave Challinor sparking them into life they got the job done, finishing on 94 points, winning 30 out of 44 games. Currently County find themselves 13th in league two, winning eight games and totalling 28 points.
Sutton United have had a fantastic rise through the leagues and nobody really expected them to win the National League. They had a very small budget and were considered to be punching above their weight. Sutton went on to be crowned champions in 2021 finishing on 84 points, winning a total of 25 games out of 42 played, whilst also making a statement that money isn’t everything! Sutton United now find themselves 16th in league two, winning a total of seven games, leaving them on 26 points after 21 games played.
Hartlepool United well umm, this one hurts. Hartlepool United finished the 2020-2021 season 4th in the National League, they then went on to play us at Ashton Gate stadium in the play-off final. They went into this game as the underdogs but ultimately came out on top on the day winning the penalty shoot-out. This game is partly remembered for the last-minute goal scored by Lucas Covolan and some refereeing decisions that will haunt us for a long while. Hartlepool United now find themselves struggling at the bottom end of league 2, winning just 3 out of 21 games played, only Gillingham have won less with 2. They are now 22nd in league two, sitting on a meagre 15 points.
Barrow are a team that probably surprised a few when they won the National League for the very first time. They finished first with 70 points, winning 21 games out of 37 games played, this season was unfortunately cut slightly short due to the corona virus pandemic. Barrow currently occupy a place in the play-offs, sitting fourth in league two, winning 11 out of 20 games played so far this season. Surprising form considering they were many peoples favourites to get relegated to the National League before the season kicked off.
Harrogate Town are definitely a team that are punching well above their weight, and credit to them for how far they have come in such a small period of time, with their promotion coming in 2020 by beating Notts County in the play-off final. They have the lowest average gate attendance in league two this season but this doesn’t stop them playing some really good football under their long-term manager. Harrogate find themselves 20th in league two, winning five of 20 games played, leaving them with 19 points so far.
Salford City were a team that everybody expected to do well due to the financial backing they have, with very famous owners who have really high ambitions of getting Salford City as high up the leagues as they possibly can. In 2019 promotion was achieved via a play-off win over AFC Fylde. Into the present day and Salford City find themselves sitting fairly comfortably in ninth place in league two, winning 9 out of 20 games played and totalling 31 points so far.
Leyton Orient did very well in the 2018/2019 season finishing deserved champions in the National League. They won nearly half of the games played (25 out of 46) and finished the season on 89 points, pipping Solihull Moors to the title by just 3 points. Back to the present day and Orient find themselves sitting top of league 2 playing some very attractive football in the process. They have won 15 out of 20 games played and have only lost two games as things stand, looking nailed on for league one football next season.
Macclesfield Town are the only team that I have discussed in this blog who are not in EFL. The Silkmen won an unlikely NL title in 2018, but after all sorts of financial issues the club were relegated back down in 2020 and then sadly wound up months later. Thankfully Phoenix club Macclesfield FC have re-emerged from the ashes, and currently play in the Northern Premier League West Division, sitting 1st with 43 points from 19 games.
Tranmere Rovers bounced straight back to the EFL in 2018, with a play-off win over Boreham Wood at Wembley Stadium. The Merseyside team then made it glorious back to back promotions in 2019, but as Covid hit they were relegated back to League 2 in 2020. Rovers now stand 15th in league 2, with 27 points from 21 games.
From both a Torquay United and National League perspective the change should be made to reflect the strength of the league. A league that has grown over the years into one of the most competitive around, featuring a host of sizeable ex-League clubs who are hungry to return to the EFL. Of course on the other side of the fence League Two teams will not feel the same enthusiasm, but let’s hope that common sense prevails….and at some point in the near future Torquay United are challenging for one of those spots…