Now, I’m not one for all this talk about clubs with big fan bases and rich history deserving a place in the Premier League over sides without such privileges. Players determine league position, not supporters or former glories. But it is good to see teams such as Leeds United and Nottingham Forest challenging to get back up the football ladder. And while Newcastle United haven’t been away for long, it is still pleasing to see them putting their off-field problems to one side and doing their talking on the pitch.
One of the reasons that football is so exciting is because the largest can be humbled and these three clubs, along with others such as Sheffield Wednesday, have certainly proven it. Management and fans of such teams should never assume their position in the top reaches of English football is safe and the stories of Wigan Athletic and Hull City also prove that no side in the lower levels should rule out the possibility of making a surge for the big time. But it is a great sight to see an away end packed to the rafters with thousands of noisy fans, and there are certain teams who I just wish would get their act together for their faithful followers.
Newcastle seem to have stopped the rot sooner than the others. They, by the looks of it, are going to bounce back to the elite after an absence of just one season – in contrast to the woes Leeds, Forest and Wednesday went through when dropping to the third echelon of English football. Chris Hughton has stabilised the Toon and they should have more than enough experience in their ranks to see out the job. And then the legions of Newcastle fans will again grace the Premier League, which will be a good thing surely? But first of all, they should continue to relish the next few months, if it brings the silverware they look like earning. Then, what looked like an absolute travesty last May could actually turn out to be the best thing to happen to the North-East club in quite a while, bringing its fans on board and uniting club again.
There was a bumper crowd at the City Ground last weekend when Forest hosted Wednesday. This was an impressive turnout by the home fans, who have seen their underachieving club revitalised by the energetic Billy Davies. They are looking for their first return to the big time since 1999 but for now their expectant fan base should be revelling in watching the best side from the red half of Nottingham in a number of years. The good numbers in the East Midlands though was swelled by the superb following of 4,000 from Sheffield. This really was notable as this loyal set of fans has hardly had much to cheer about this season, or the last few years in fact. Brian Laws made a number of signings last summer but it didn’t work out and now Alan Irvine is the man responsible for getting the Owls back onto their feet. I hope he does as support like that deserves better.
Leeds meanwhile, who are on a slight wobble since their cup exploits, are still in League One but their hardcore support has again travelled in numbers up and down the country these past few months and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them, along with the other big clubs mentioned, back in the Premier League within the next couple of seasons.