LIFE CAN BE A JOY EVEN AT A LOWER LEVEL...

The Football League Paper - - NEWS -

AS­SAILED by dawn-till-dusk pro­pa­ganda, we have all been co­erced into dumbly ac­cept­ing that the Premier League is the zenith of our game.

For the play­ers pock­et­ing the cash, that is un­doubt­edly true. But for the folk on the ter­races? I’m not so sure.

Yes, you get to see some of the world’s best play­ers strut their stuff. But, if see­ing Ser­gio Aguero also en­tails watch­ing your own team get­ting pulped, there’s only so much fun to be had.

Sun­der­land and Crys­tal Palace may have clung to the top flight last sea­son, but are their fans re­ally en­joy­ing life more than New­cas­tle’s? Are West Brom’s?

Those clubs know – for an ab­so­lute fact – that the next eight months will be a grim fight for sur­vival, ev­ery eked-out point mit­i­gated by a month of mis­ery or even out­right hu­mil­i­a­tion. For all the Premier League riches, their ex­is­tence is foot­ball’s ver­sion of sub­sis­tence farm­ing.

Such was life for New­cas­tle un­til this year.

Now, they are the ones do­ing the pum­mel­ing, with this week’s 6-0 maul­ing of QPR mark­ing their big­gest away win since 1927.

Fans, once down­beat and dispir­ited, have been gal­vanised. Friends who greeted each fix­ture with weary trep­i­da­tion now tell me they can’t wait for the next game.

They feel en­ter­tained. They feel proud of their team. Isn’t that, ul­ti­mately, what foot­ball is about? The di­vi­sion is ir­rel­e­vant.

Much the same is true of Bolton. Sure, life at the top of League One doesn’t beat watch­ing Jay Jay Okocha and Youri Djorka­eff. But it’s a hell of a lot bet­ter than scrap­ping grace­lessly at the foot of the Cham­pi­onship.

Rel­e­ga­tion hurts. Fi­nan­cially, it can be cat­a­strophic. But for fans, it is of­ten the best thing that could have hap­pened.

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