Bristol Rovers and Burton Albion achieved back to back promotions at the weekend. Tom Simmonds looks at those whose footsteps they are following in, and at what might be in store for them.
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The two clubs clinched their prizes in opposing fashions. The Gas snatched the third automatic promotion place to League One a year after being promoted back into the league, sneaking up on Accrington at the last. The Brewers fell over the finish line by scratching out a 0-0 draw at relegated Doncaster on Sunday, after making the running for most of the season.
However a team puts the finishing touch to a campaign, the rewards are the same, and gaffers Darrell Clarke and Nigel Clough won’t be too concerned about how they got over the line. What they might take some more pride in is the successive promotions, and that Rovers and Burton are teams the 10th and 11th teams in England (from the National League and above) to achieve this since 2000.
The company they are in is sometimes illustrious, Norwich (League One in 2009/10 to playing in the Premier League in 2011/12) and Southampton (League One in 2010/11 to playing in the Premier League in 2012/13) are the biggest names to complete this double. The Saints have never looked back since, and Norwich’s return to yo-yoing between the top two divisions at least represents upward progress from where they were seven years ago.
It is doubtful the boards of either club will see Norwich and Southampton’s rebirths as something to emulate. It is also unlikely they’ll see Rotherham United’s barely credible 21st century as an example to faithfully follow. The Millers have achieved back-to-backs twice in the last 16 years.
Ronnie Moore worked miracles in the early part of the century to get them into what is now the Championship in two years, and keep them there for four seasons, after starting the 1999/2000 season in Division Three (now League Two).
The Millers relegation from the second tier prompted a tailspin which saw financial crisis culminating in an 18 point deduction in 2008-09 and a forced relocation to Sheffield’s Don Valley Stadium after being evicted from Millmoor.
Having seen out this turbulent period, owner Tony Stewart set about investing, both in the team and in the New York Stadium. He entrusted the divisive but effective Steve Evans to deliver a second place finish in League Two in 2012/13, followed by a play-off final win on penalties over Orient in 2013/14. Their survival in the Championship for the last two years, secured by the volcanic duo of Evans and Neil Warnock, has the look of their salad days under Moore.
So, what can the two promoted clubs look forward to next? Rovers will see themselves as being somewhere near their rightful place again, having been a mid-table side in what is now the Championship in the early 90s and a competitive side in what is now League One in the early 21st century.
The Gas’ drawn-out saga regarding getting planning permission to build a new ground echoes that of fellow back-to-backers Brighton (two promotions from 2000—02), who achieved that feat whilst playing at the dreadful Withdean. Should Rovers win the battle to relocate, there is no reason why they can’t look further up. However, it is likely that Clarke will focus on slightly lowlier ambitions in the immediate term.
Burton, great story though their success is, have the look of the Yeovil side who came up short in the Championship in 2013/14. Given the inflated sums routinely chucked around in transfer fees and wages in the Championship, it is hard to see how a well-run club with a capacity of 7,000 will be able to break a glass ceiling that gains an extra layer of glazing every year. Burton will enjoy their ride, collect some notable scalps, but it is likely that they will have to take a step back this time to entertain the idea of going forward again longer term.
Do you think that any of the clubs who have been promoted this season, or those in play-off contention, can emulate what Bristol Rovers and Burton have done in 2015/16?
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