I’m just hearing of the news to stage the 2011 Leagues One and Two Playoff Finals at Old Trafford rather than Wembley. So once again the lower reaches of the league are being treated as if we’re an afterthought, something to make way should a bigger fish, in this case a bigger game, come along.
In this case it’s the Champions League Final, being held on the same day as the League Two final, that’s causing the change of venue. The FA have acted to move the Leagues One and Two finals to Old Trafford but I don’t see this as too much of an appease. Of course I would love to visit the home of Manchester United, not many of us league fans wouldn’t but for the finals to be switched from Wembley, the home of the playoffs and the home of many a memory for smaller teams stinks of the FA grabbing the money for the Champions League and fobbing off what they consider lesser games to Manchester.
Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with the Champions League final being held at our national stadium. What I don’t understand is why they couldn’t have thought things through in the instant that they knew the game would be played there. What it feels like now is that they’ve suddenly remembered that they have these end of season games to think about as well. These games aren’t just showpieces to us though. They’re the culmination of 46 games of hard graft, travelling around the country on cold Tuesdays in Yeovil and Hereford and trying so damn hard to stay in business by elevating yourselves to the next level.
I’m trying not to sound like the kid who got picked last in P.E. but another sticking point to me is that the Championship does get their final at Wembley simply because the date doesn’t clash. But is it as simple as that or does the FA believe this to be unmoveable because of the importance of this fixture. Those higher in the game won’t get this but the finals in Leagues One and Two are funnily enough just as important as the Championship showpiece, if not more important. My happiest memory watching football was of course John Frain’s last second effort in 1997 for the Cobblers but so many fans, players and managers have their own images etched into their minds of moments under the lights at Wembley that they would never have been half as magical had they not come in the same venue.
These people are not good enough to play for England, will never reach the spotlight there in that respect. It’s their chance to be immortalised, a dream come true. When the games were moved to Cardiff we could accept it, knowing that there was no other option and thankful to have another fine showpiece stadium to play at. Old Trafford is a club ground, a club atmosphere and some of the Football League fans will be sitting in seats painted with “United” in white lettering. This isn’t right to me.
So what other option do they have? Simple. When you know that you’re staging a huge European final, then is the time to change your other games. Change the fixture list, add a couple of extra midweek games, start the season earlier and bring the games forward a week. Don’t wait until January to announce that all that hard work won’t, in fact, get you to Wembley after all.
I’m sorry for sounding so bitter and ungrateful for a decision like this but it feels like League One and League Two are becoming more and more like the easiest things to mess around with in comparison.
I hope I’m not the only one who feels this hard done by with this…we appear to be the forgotten leagues once again.