English Football the Beautiful Game

Many see this season as perhaps the year English football loosens the stranglehold it has had over World and European football for the past ten years or so.

With not one British side qualifying for the quarter-final Europe’s most decorated club competition for the first time since 1996 is English football no longer the spectacle it was?

As the destination of the Premier League title seemingly all sown the English game has had to rely on other title races, play-off fights and relegation battles to keep fans gripped these coming from the Football League of course.

The most exciting of these perhaps has been the League 1 title and play-off tussles. The gap between top of the league Doncaster and seventh placed Tranmere being only six points you wouldn’t be surprised if Ronnie Moore’s men were able to reclaim and finish in first place; especially with the season it has been in League 1.

For starts Tranmere Rovers were seven points clear back in October after beating Yeovil 3-2 at Prenton Park but after defeat to MK Dons on Saturday are have slipped out of the top six for the first time this season, 39 games later.

The league has been so unpredictable with no real leader, who has looked capable of laying down the gauntlet that after Bournemouth took top spot in February they then lost five on the bounce, but are still only five points of the summit.

Current leaders Doncaster aren’t having the best of times either having only won three games in the last ten, not exactly the form of champions.

It isn’t just the title race that is wide open but also the play-off spaces are too, with any club down to ten considered a possibility with Leyton Orient only three points off Yeovil in sixth on 63 points.

Coventry, Walsall and Leyton Orient make up the cluster of sides looking to sneak under the radar and into the play-off places, all being three points off sixth with just goal difference separating them.

Goals from star man Will Grigg have been what have taken Walsall into the play-off contention, who like Tranmere were expected to be fighting at the other end of the table.

Grigg’s eight goals in his last five outings have seen Dean Smith’s youthful side show they are real contenders, as is Grigg to claim the League 1 golden boot currently third with 18 goals, after fighting back from 2-0 down at home to Crawley to claim a valuable point.

Coventry’s goals have also put them in contention with the league’s most goals, scoring 69 in total and with Leon Clarke leading the line they are likely to keep coming with the hitman on 19 for the season.

Swindon, who currently lie in 5th place have been the tightest in defence only conceding 29 goals, whereas Yeovil in 6th have relied on Paddy Madden, originally a loan acquisition from Carlisle, who leads the goalscoring charts with 20.

There will still be a lot of drama and excitement ahead in League 1 with the ten top sides separated by nine points, and this is without the likes of Leeds, Charlton, Norwich and Southampton who in recent years have added Premier League stature to the division, with only Sheffield United providing that these days.

As exciting as the League1 promotion hunt has been the League 2 relegation scrap has been equally gripping with five sides tied on 40 points and 19th placed York one point above – it really could not be closer.

All of the sides down there hold record that neither of them wants. York have been the divisions draw specialists with 17 and the fewest wins, eight. There problem – goals they have also got the divisions record for the highest amount of games without scoring having failed to find the back of the net on 16 occasions.

Goals have also been a problem for Aldershot having only scored 35 goals, the fewest in the division.

Something that could be crucial when all is said and done could be the goal difference and with Accrington Stanley currently on -21 they find themselves bottom of the table and will hope former England strikers Francis Jeffers and player/coach James Beattie can provide the fire power to haul them to safety.

Barnet who in recent years have been the divisions miracle workers preventing relegation from almost certain failure have lost the divisions most amount of games having lost 18 times, the most recent away at Accrington Stanley with former Netherlands star Edgar Davids being sent off.

Plymouth Argyle a side who were playing Championship football in 2010 have fallen without trace and only avoided the drop by two points last term after suffering back to back relegations in 2010 and 2011.

This time out they have produced the fewest clean sheets with just six.

Torquay have perhaps been the biggest shock of the League 2 campaign. Having reached the play-offs last season and only being three points of automatic promotion they are now in real trouble and with seven defeats in their last ten they definitely are a contender to go down.

Relegation is something both Blackburn Rovers and Wolves thought they would not have to be dealing with this season, but the reality of it is they are both ingrained in a fight to the end of the season again.

Blackburn are only four points off and with just three goals in their last six resulting in four defeats and two draws they are showing signs of relegation form.

However with Jordan Rhodes they have the league’s joint second top goalscorer on 22 goals and will be hoping he can fire them to safety.

Blackpool are another side who recently played Premier League football and are also four points of the drop but they themselves have a man in Tom Ince who can provide goals that will keep them safe contributing to 29 league goals scoring 18 and assisting 11.

The problem for Wolves was the joint record the hold with Huddersfield of gong 12 games without a win but with two wins in their last three are they beginning to show signs of recovery.

All of these sides that have recently featured in the Premier League all share another unwanted record along with Bristol City of having won the fewest amount of games – 11.

With Peterborough showing a lot of improvement strangely having lost their talisman George Boyd with only two defeats in their last ten these ex-Premier League clubs really do know they are in a battle to that final whistle.

So the English game may not be the ‘spectacle’ as seen in Spanish and German football with the trickery and skill seen, neither may the Football League have the same levels of speed and quality as the Premier League but there is an argument to be had for it flying the flag for English football, with a lot to be decided amongst all three divisions.

This season the Football League has been the most exciting.

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