The Football League Championship – the cherry on the cake.
From the lowly place we (Reading FC) ended up in the final table, can I say Congratulations to AFC Bournemouth. What a story! Bankruptcy & likely relegation from the bottom division less than ten years ago. But now the Cherries are off to the Premier League. Well done.
And also, hard luck to Watford FC. So close, just missing out on the last day.
Hang on, you’re saying. The Hornets have also been promoted to what, around the world, they call the EPL. Hard luck?
Yup. You see you’re thinking like a modern football fan. Both those teams I mentioned will be going up. But perhaps the more important thing here: Bournemouth are Football League Champions!
OK, since the formation of Premier League soccer in 1992, the league championship has diminished in stature. It only represents the 2nd level standard of English football. But you can’t (although some media outlets do) forget 104 years of tradition & glory.
And there’s the trophy itself. A vase with fancy handles – but picked up by its stem – with ornate engraving and a figure of Victory on its small plug lid. That same familiar trophy had been awarded to the National champions for more than a century – excluding the war years and a few seasons when sponsors offered something grotesque and forgetable in its place.
Perhaps you have some images of it in your mind?
The 1961 double-winning Spurs team displaying the league trophy & FA Cup in their team photo on what appear to be wedding cake stands.
Bob Paisley retiring from the Liverpool job, the TV film of him carrying the trophy back to his Boot Room set to the strains of “My Way”.
And back in 1966, our two major trophies sharing the stage with the Jules Rimet Trophy – the FIFA World Cup that was – at an all Merseyside Charity Shield game.
So many famous teams held that trophy, Starting with Preston North End in Victorian times, Herbert Chapman’s dynastic Huddersfield Town in the 1930s, and those Liverpool sides of the 70s and 80s. Don Revie’s tough Leeds teams, the nemesis of Brian Clough who won with unfashionable Derby County & Nottingham Forest, Amazingly Manchester United would not take the title after 1967, Chelsea just a sole win in 1955. And what of Alf Ramsey taking the title for tiny Ipswich Town in 1962, great things soon would beckon Ramsey off the back of this.
Which is why, on both occasions when my team Reading FC gained promotion to the Premiership they went up at Football League Champions. That open-top bus tour of the town wouldn’t have been the same without that trophy as a figurehead leading the way.
So, enjoy your day in the sun AFC Bournemouth. You’ll be taking a bus ride along the seafront I understand. The great irony is you’ll not be in a position to defend the title : No one does now. Maybe The Royals can capitalize?