10 May 2011

The long road back could be coming to a close

Having spent much of the weekend mulling the increasing predictability of what passes for top flight football in the modern era, it's taken me somewhat too long to pay tribute to AFC Wimbledon and an unexpected two goal victory in deepest Lancashire against Fleetwood Town in the semi final of the Conference playoffs. One of the problems with the playoff system since its inception is that the side that finishes third (or second in this case) almost invariably does not get promoted. Having lost out to arguably the least popular team I have ever heard of in Non-League football, the Dons have nevertheless surprised me in most welcom fashiontaken a huge step toward possibly making their way into the League, less than a decade after having to reform due to their team being stolen from them. As the saying goes, 'Many a slip twixt' cup and lip and neither Fleetwood nor likely final opponents Luton Town will be pushovers, but the prospect of the 'Real Wimbledon' returning to the League is nevertheless a refreshing one, and one that many fans of other clubs who have been unstinting in their support for the Dons will also relish.

12 comments:

Hal Berstram said...

"One of the problems with the playoff system since its inception is that the side that finishes third (or second in this case) almost invariably does not get promoted."

Well yeah, but if they invariably DID get promoted it would rather negate the point of having a play-off system, wouldn't it?

Hal Berstram said...

And on Zimbabwe - what you appear to be saying is that it's OK to be a white supremacist as long as you deliver high living standards? That's pretty much the Nazi position. Do you REALLY think that?

Hal Berstram said...

Sorry - Zimbabwe comment should have been on the previous post! Obviously has little to do with football...

Van Patten said...

Regarding the playoff system true enough but as the third place team you might expect them logically to have the most chance of going up, but all too often that doesn't happen which is why there was significant annoyance with them, especially in their early years.

You don't have to be a white supremacist or Nazi to recognise that Ian Smith delivered higher living standards, and the comparison between Nazi Germany and post Zimbabwe Rhodesia is arguably far less appropriate than comparing New Labour Britain to either Zimbabwe or North Korea. If you ask the average Zimbabwean of any colour who is not a senior member of ZANU PF whether they would prefer things to be the way they were, most would not especially want the late Ian Smith (widely considered a complete prat by many Tories as well)back, but all (and I worked with quite a few in my previous job) recognise that they were better off under that regime economically. Having political freedom is of limited support when the majority tribe uses it to impose a one party state and expropriates the minority owned agrarian sector, causing mass food shortages and mismanages the economy to the extent that to all intents and purposes inflation is unmeasurable.

Robert Mugabe is a black supremacist anyway(I'm assuming based on your politics and various statements here that kind of supremacist thinking is quite acceptable?), or are you saying those that are still in the Labour Party who supported him back in the early 1980's and prior need to be forgiven for not seeing what he was earlier than they did, and not showing some sort of contrition now?

Hal Berstram said...

Obviously I'm not going to defend Mugabe and I don't think anyone in the Labour party would either. He was heavily supported (across all 3 major UK parties including the Tories) in the early days of his regime but obviously they didn't realise the guy would turn out to be a bloodthirsty maniac and a despot.

What I'm failing to find here is any real reason for saying that New Labour is "like Zanu PF" or "like North Korea". Did Blair/Brown abolish parliamentary democracy? No. Did they abolish private enterprise? No. In other words it's a totally ludicrous comparison. I can't see why you persist in making these absurd comparisons.

By the same token, I don't like Dave Cameron but I'm not going to start comparing him to Hitler or Mussolini as there really is no comparison whatsoever.

Van Patten said...

Ok, so besides packing the Lords with placemen, introducing unelected RDAs and other quangoes to run areas. Blair severely curtailed the ability of Parliament to hold the executive to account, and whilst you'd be able to argue that this was a process intensified under Thatcher, in the wake of his ludicrous 1997 majority he did little to reverse it. In terms of the abolition of private enterprise, unlike previous Labour administrations there was no renationalisation but the private sector was hemmed in by so much red tape that the effect was similar.

As for not referring to Cameron as Hitler or Mussolin, the best known historical use of the word 'collaborators' refers to parties like the Ustasi in Croatia or France's Vichy regime. I assume therefore you'll stop using the temrinology to describe the Liberal Democrats forthwith?

Hal Berstram said...

If you think RDAs "ran areas" I can introduce you to some people who worked for them before they were abolished and they would certainly be highly amused at that...

On the "collaborators" thing - I agree it's close to the bone but at the end of the day, although the Cameron administration is not fascist, it is at best deeply misguided and at worst evil. The Liberal Democrats (well, Clegg - he WAS the campaign for all intents and purposes) explicitly campaigned on a "new kind of politics" and emphasised their centre-left credentials in the campaign. What do we find after the election? They are propping up a minority Tory administration, have acceded to savage public expenditure cuts, and a mass privatisation programme. I think it's therefore accurate to describe them as collaborators with a Conservative government as the tone of govt policy is very much Conservative rather than what most Lib Dem voters thought they were voting for. If I'd described the Lib Dems as "Nazi collaborators" you would be right. But I haven't. Equally, if they do show some backbone and the tone of the govt changes, I will be happy to stop using the description. But for now it is appropriate.

Hal Berstram said...

On Lords reform - Blair replaced a mixture of heriditary and appointees with a mainly appointed HoL. From the perspective of democracy I'd call that a sideways move. On elected HoL I'm not sure where I stand - it strikes me a lot of the debate in the Lords is actually high quality and would we still get that if it was elected? On the other hand, a PR elected upper house would provide useful representation to people like the Greens and indeed UKIP who are underrepresented in HoC.

Hal Berstram said...

Getting back to the original point of the post... obviously I'd be incredibly excited if Wimbledon did make it back to the League.

And what of the Milton Keynes based impostors? The "Fib Dons"?

Van Patten said...

Agreed, the purpose of the post was to offer something non-political. I think 'Red Two' posted me a link to the Facebook group 'MK Dons are a disgrace to football'. Whilst I think the club captain was a former player for the Wimbledon and ultimately the players are simply trying to do a job, the precedent it set is ultimately disastrous, especially if the financial plight of some teams elsewhere in the League continues. They have tightened up the regulations in response to it, so hopefully no other club will fall victim to it.

Response to the 'fib Dons' (I quite like that) varies between two camps. One who would ignore their existence and the others who hope they cease to exist. I tend to the latter viewpoint, but pretty much all were grateful that my 'local' team, Stevenage prevented an AFC/ Franchise (the original name) fixture in the FA Cup. It's still too soon, and indeed I have to agree with Matt's erstwhile co-author Ian Grant, that we'll shut up when MK Dons shut up, forever.

red two said...

You know I agree with your central point here VP, and will be rooting for the Dons should they make the final for reasons that have nothing to do with other local rivalries.

However I would take issue with your assertion that the team finishing third not often going up is a "problem". You're right that there has been a PERCEPTION that this is a problem, largely fuelled by Portsmouth's Whittingham-fuelled season when they finished very third but missed out early in the play-off era, inflamed by Ipswich whingeing quite a lot soon afterwards.

The "unfair" argument is fundamentally flawed. Had someone changed the rules mid-season, shifted the goalposts such that third place should have sealed promotion but suddenly just bought you a lottery ticket, that would be unfair. That's not the case though. The play-offs have been around for more than 20 years now, you know the score at the start of the season. If you want automatic promotion, finish in the top two.

Is the third place team hard done by? Arguably, in cases as dramatic as Portsmouth's, but only arguably. Swansea this season are a good case in point. They finished third, fine. But would Cardiff have let things slip if they knew that third place guaranteed promotion? It would have been funny, but I doubt it.

The team that finishes third, by definition, was the third best in the division over the season. That outcome can conceal a whole gamut of possibilities - but a team that is really strong enough to compete at a higher level, that has the quality and the strength of will to up it's game, should be able to navigate the play-offs. A team that finishes third after a good late run (Swansea?) might do so. A team that has slipped down to third having lost form might, it could be argued, be less well equipped than a team that is on form, finished fifth and rising anyway.

And as I'm sure you'll agree, the plusses of the play-off system drown the minuses. Heaven knows it's hard enough for lower division sides to attract supporters in the face of relentless assault from the Premiership even now, when the top flight is as predictable and exciting as a McDonalds burger. Try attracting supporters when your season effectively finishes in January. Without the play-offs, that would be the case for much of the lower leagues.

I'll stop now. Come on you Dons.

Van Patten said...

Red Two - absolutely. Obviously when your side is the one finishing third, it can be an annoyance. The Conference is also slightly different in that only one team goes up automatically and Crawley's wealth made it likely to be them and the obnoxious Mr.Evans, much to the disgust of pretty much every other team in the Division and many neutrals within the Non-League scene. I cannot recall another game involving Manchester United and a team from any other division where I had anything less than unbridled zeal for United's opponents. However, Crawley I couldn't muster much enthusiasm for, largely due to their Man City like qualities and also because their manager shouldn't be in the game after his antics at Boston.

Otherwise I agree completely. The playoffs do add a welcome excitement to what would otherwise be a pretty dull couple of months towards the season's tailend in many cases. Let's hope the game today goes as well as Friday's encounter!