5 Things We WILL Miss From The National League
Whilst leaving non-League football is a positive step, we will miss these elements of National League life
Here we are, just five days from the start of the 2018-19 League Two season. So far, we've addressed historical managers, Andy Cook's departure, the new signings, pitfalls of an EFL return and things we won't miss from the National League. Links to previous pieces are at the bottom for those who may wish to catch up.
As we alluded to yesterday, today we will address five things we WILL miss from the National League. Whilst it would have been preferable to have remained an EFL team in 2015, it would be extremely unfair to the National League to pretend there were no redeeming features. In that vein, here are five things we will miss about the National League:
1. Bigger fish, smaller pond
The first thing we will miss about the National League is the 'bigger fish, smaller pond' element of Tranmere's tenure. At a time when the Club had just fallen into what felt like an uninviting graveyard of former Football League outfits, there were very few reasons to be proud of the Club.
The experiences of the SWA over the preceding decade, particularly the previous five years, had eaten away at the perception of the Club in both general terms and from the fans. It had become almost embarrassing to support Tranmere. For sale on Ebay, a physio as manager, betting scandals, a double relegation — things were not pretty.
Yet, whilst some in the SWA could have been forgiven for being less than thrilled about the National League, there were teams for whom playing against Tranmere was a massive deal. They looked forward to it. Teams such as South Park FC treated that trip to Prenton Park as if they were going to Anfield or Old Trafford.
And it felt good. It could be argued that seeing the reactions from clubs such as this, to once again be a 'something' as opposed to Football League laughing stocks, helped some Tranmere fans realise that, for all the heartache and embarrassment they had endured, the Club was still special. With the biggest stadium, largest average crowds and plenty of support from various non-League outlets, the praises of Tranmere were once again being sung.
It was nice being someone's first priority as opposed to their last obligation.
2. Derby Days
Another excellent benefit of the National League was the reintroduction of derby matches to the yearly calendar. In 2015-16, Rovers fell into a fifth tier that contained clubs such as Wrexham, Chester and Southport. Having spent the previous season in a league dominated by fixtures against southern clubs such as Plymouth Argyle, Exeter City and Luton Town, it was a welcome relief to renew rivalries with old foes.
Indeed, some of the most iconic moments of Tranmere's National League tenure came against their local rivals. Who will ever forget the image of Andy Cook sliding, arms outstretched, in the dying minutes at Chester's Deva Stadium? Or the incredible atmospheres concocted in the away end at Wrexham during the run-in to both play-off final appearances?
Even Southport, a club Tranmere had not played in the league since their Football League exit in 1978, provided some excellent away followings from the SWA.
In 2018-19, when the local derby is a trip to Bury, Oldham Athletic, Macclesfield Town or Crewe Alexandra, it will be very hard to see Wrexham stuck in the fifth tier, with Chester and Southport languishing in the sixth. Hopefully they can all be promoted to the EFL soon.
3. Excellent coverage
Ten years ago, one suspects this would not have been the case, but falling out of the Football League actually improved the Club's television coverage. BT Sport did a fantastic job of not only discussing the games, but of showing matches on a national scale.
With guests such as Jimmy Harvey, Ronnie Moore and others connected with the Club, Rovers' return journey to the Football League was documented for the nation to see. From the bizarre sight of a Welling United game with a wall at one end of the stadium and a bus stop behind the other, to the shocking defeat at Sutton United that brought the curtain down on Gary Brabin's reign. The aforementioned comeback at rivals Chester to the Wembley Warriors of 2018, some of the Club's most important non-League milestones were broadcast to a brilliant standard.
One suspects it will be a different story in the EFL.
Likewise, the radio coverage. When the BBC stopped sending reporters to Tranmere matches, both the Club and Wirral Radio put out two excellent, informative, supporter-orientated, FREE alternatives. Over time, those two ventures would amalgamate into one voice, relaying every step of the journey to those SWA who couldn't attend the games. Quite simply, the experience would not have been the same without them.
With a return to the EFL, Tranmere will be covered via the iFollow brand service. They have a lot to live up to.
4. Departed heroes
After years of teams full of short-term loans and lower league mercenaries, having a team that the SWA could be proud of was fantastic. Instead of turning up at the game and seeing yet another unknown name and face, fans could instead invest their time, effort and support into understanding and appreciating a group of players who gave their all for the cause.
Naturally, due to their excellent performances, some players caught the attention of other clubs. Sadly, some players with whom the fans had formed a relationship left the Club following the promotion to the EFL.
Players such as Jeff Hughes, Eddie Clarke and Andy Cook all played crucial roles in securing promotion after a three-year absence. Whilst the circumstances surrounding each transfer are somewhat different, the sense of understanding surrounding their moves is similar. All moved on to circumstances they felt benefitted them personally. As the Club does the same, it will nonetheless be sad to see them representing other supporters.
Regardless, we here at Deadly Submarine wish them all the best.
The final element of the National League we will miss is the sense of camaraderie that seems to envelop the upper echelons of the non-League scene. Teams in the National League are there because they deserve to be. Whether they are ex-League teams who have fallen on hard times, plucky minnows who are pitting their wits against entities with vastly greater reputations, or a financially backed contender storming through on a journey to the EFL, every fan of those teams knows their club is in an unfashionable position.
And it makes the game better. Most fans could have easily chosen to support larger, more successful clubs within their vicinity, yet they help keep their local football team going through countless acts of selflessness, thoughtfulness and kindness the big money Premier League clubs simply couldn't understand.
Fans often stand in unsegregated areas of the stadium, swapping ends and chatting with the opposition. At Guiseley, there was a dog who was dressed as a lion. How many times did the SWA converge on stadiums that represented little more than local sports fields or, in Gateshead’s case, an international athletics stadium that just so happened to have a field big enough to play football in the middle?
Experiences such as these may seem like a nightmare at first, but when everyone must deal with a Braintree fixture backlog, it becomes a shared inconvenience, irrespective of Club.
It remains to be seen if this continues in the EFL.
So that's what we'll miss from the National League. Do you agree? Did we miss anything? Follow us on social media and let us hear your thoughts.
Thanks again for supporting this countdown, every person who reads or shares (ideally both!) this piece is helping our site grow.
Remember: Check back tomorrow for day seven of our ten-day countdown to the 2018-19 season.« 06 Days 04 Days »