Leagues, Shields and a Whole lot of Footballing History

I hope you enjoyed reading my first weekend betting guide, and also hope that a few of you took heed of the recommended bets that weekend – Phil Taylor won the featured darts tournament at a 7/2 price, and Nico Rosberg romped to victory in the German F1 Grand Prix at 2/1. But this week – it’s back – the Football League starts again this Friday.

Football League history – taking it back to 1888

Founded in 1888, the Football League is the oldest competition of its type and was once the highest level of professional football in England, until the Premier League was formed in 1992.

Accounting for this change, the rebranded Football League then changed from four to three divisions; the First, Second and Third Division. However, in the 2004-2005 season, the First Division was renamed the Football League Championship, the Second Division became Football League One and the Third was reborn as Football League Two.

Cash is most certainly king in a Premier League

Most notably, the inception of the Premier League and vast difference in TV money given to its members, compared to the Football League, has meant that the difference in quality on the pitch between each brand is extremely high and only continues to grow.

Sadly, it’s fair to say that despite the £30 million or so on offer to each of the three Championship teams that gain promotion to the Premier League in any given season, they’re all favoured for immediate relegation back to the Championship due to the steep step up in class. It’s sad, really.

Hope for the Football League

As much as I’d like to see teams promoted from the second tier of English football to the first, and immediately challenge for the title like I occasionally witnessed as a young boy, it is what it is.

Plus (bar fans of Football League clubs), the truth is that we’re all looking forward to watching the higher quality Premier League – which begins in a week and will be previewed here – more than The Football League.

The Football League is a punter’s division

The Football League and its seventy-two member clubs tend to produce a lot of goals on a weekly basis. This means that, since a large portion of punters like to bet on markets such as over 2.5 goals and both teams to score, the Football League has made football betting very popular and, generally, well worth watching if you’re a neutral.

Indeed, a Spanish friend of mine (imaginatively named Spanish Dave in my old workplace) got so tired of spending hours researching Spanish Segunda matches only to lose, or make a minor profit most weeks that, having noted how often both teams score in Football League contests, decided to randomly bet on both teams scoring in Football League matches!

Of course, I wouldn’t recommend shutting your eyes, finding the appropriate coupon and randomly clicking yes to both teams to score six or seven times on a bookmakers website, but the amount of times Dave won through such a system was quite ridiculous. “Adios Segunda, hello Football League and profit,” says Dave from Cordoba!

Looking towards the first Football League game of the season

From a serious better’s perspective, however, the simple truth is that it isn’t easy picking bets in the first weekend of any league season. This is because players and coaches change and we don’t have recent, competitive form to work with, which can be crucial.

However (and while I only recommend a small stake if you opt to follow my advice), I’ve found a bet I fancy in the very first Football League game of the new season – Blackburn Rovers v. Cardiff City, due to be televised via Sky Sports on Friday evening, at 19:45.

The price is only 4/5, but as Blackburn have kept hold of their best attacker – Scottish International striker Jordan Rhodes – who scored twenty-five goals last season, and factored in that Cardiff City are attack-minded with a proven striker in Adam Le Fondre, I can envisage both teams scoring in the season-opening Championship game.

I like Nottingham Forest to win the Championship

If you’re looking for an ante-post bet that will last you all season, I like Nottingham Forest to win the Championship at 18/1.

Why? Well, while two of their best players have been sold to Premier League side, Newcastle, for a combined fee of £7 million, Forest have otherwise bought well in the off-season transfer market, and England’s old left-back has a squad tailored to his demands.

Stuart Pearce might be named “Psycho” but he gets the players in

Actually getting the players you’ve asked for in a transfer window is rare in football management, so Pearce’s board have clearly backed him in that respect, which is a positive sign.

All in all, having impressed in 2013/2014 until their last manager was sacked, Forest seem likely to stand a good chance of starring in the title picture in 2014/2015.

With a stronger and better-balanced squad, they look overpriced at 18/1, but with 1/4 odds covering the first three places, you could even have a bet each way if you like.

Looking back into the Community Shield vault

Moving on to the Community Shield – history tells us that this event was originally called the Sheriff of London Charity Shield.

The Sheriff’s event was introduced in the 1898-1899 season and was a one-off match between professionals and amateurs which, mainly through gate receipts, generated money for charities around the country.

However, after problems between the amateurs and the game’s governing body in England, The Football Association (FA), the FA Charity Shield replaced the Sheriff of London Charity Shield in 1908. The new format was an all-pro affair at its inception, with the Football League First Division champions playing the Southern League champions.

Long before penalty shoot-outs were introduced as a method of deciding drawn cup games, Manchester United won the inaugural FA Charity Shield 4-0 in a replay after the first game ended 1-1.

The Community Shield has moved on from a game for amateurs

In its current format, the first game between the FA Cup winners and First Division champions – the equivalent of the Premier League winners at that point in time – was played in 1921, but the cup did, confusingly, revert back to involving professionals and amateurs on occasion.

In terms of its location, the Charity Shield has been held all over England, including at notable venues such as Stamford Bridge, Old Trafford, Highbury and Goodison Park. Millwall’s Old Den, however, was not a venue I expected to see on the list!

London’s world-famous Wembley Stadium became the home of the FA Charity Shield in 1974 and lasted until 2000, when Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium took the reins until the New Wembley was ready in 2007.

Thinking of the Community

Interestingly, the change from FA Charity Shield to FA Community Shield came about when, in 2002, the FA was judged to have failed to meet its legal obligations under charity law.

The main gripes were that the FA had delayed payments to nominated charities and had failed to specify exactly how much of the ticket sales revenue went to said charities.

So, presumably unwilling to meet such criteria, the FA renamed the one-off Premier League season-preceding affair, and Arsenal were the first winners of the Community Shield after a 1-0 defeat of Liverpool.

Since 1908 and including shared titles, Manchester United – the 2013 winners – have triumphed in the most Charity/Community Shield’s with a tally of 20, while their eternal rivals, Liverpool, sit in second with fifteen wins. The teams competing in the 2014 Community Shield – Arsenal and Manchester City – have twelve and four wins respectively.

All in all, the Community Shield is not considered to be anywhere near as prestigious as the FA Cup or Premier League in modern times, but it is still a trophy of sorts and Arsenal have started the season with a nice piece of silverware in the back pocket.









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