After two years in the Championship punching well above their weight and budget, it still took a late flurry of goals to relegate plucky Burton Albion.
Like Yeovil before them, they came from the non-league scene to gate crash on of Europe’s most competitive divisions, but reality bites and they’re now facing a season in which consolidation will be a huge achievement.
“We’re back down to League One and that’s all it is,” said Nigel Clough on dropping out of the second tier. “We’ll do everything in our power to get an honest side on the pitch and compete. We’ll do it all in budget and come back determined to return to the Championship.”
Was there a thinly veiled message there regarding budgets? There’s no doubt they were a small fish in a big pond last season, but has that altered significantly with relegation? Portsmouth, Charlton, Luton, Sunderland and Bradford, to name just a few, will surely have more resources than Nigel Clough’s Brewers.
There’s a compelling argument for consolidating, not overspending or pushing beyond their means for a return to the Championship. Yeovil and Coventry both serve as a warning to those falling into League One that it is a dangerous playground in its own right and survival must come first.
The severity of the task in hand must have been highlighted by a mini-exodus from the Pirelli Stadium, player leaving not for sides in a higher division, but League One rivals. Today, Hope Akpan opted not to sign new terms and join Bradford City, but he isn’t the first to turn his back on the Brewers and he might not be the last.
Versatile Tom Naylor has also left, he’s swapped Derbyshire for the south coast and joined Kenny Jackett’s Portsmouth. Tom Flanagan is another to switch to a League One rival, he’s gone to Sunderland who will be hoping to secure promotion, a luxury Burton can ill-afford. Flanagan left on a free transfer to ‘free up funds’, an ominous message for the Burton Albion supporters.
What you will get with Burton, always, is a team spirit and desire to succeed in the face of adversity. League One is looking stronger every year, the sides dropping out of the Championship have almost immediately bounced back in previous years, but there’s always one or two that get bogged down in the level, with some even dropping one division further. They’ll need every single ounce of spirit they can muster up to challenge the top six once again.
The plight of Yeovil serves as a stark warning to Nigel Clough and his ever-decreasing squad, with a mid table finish something that should be considered an achievement, not outright failure.
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