Monday, 27 June 2011


Many people often discuss which Step 3 (Step 2 prior to the creation of the Conference North and South divisions) league is the strongest. The cold end can help you with this argument about The Isthmian League Premier Division, The Southern League Premier Division and Northern Premier League Premier Division with the following information

A good start point is the 1986/87 season as this was when automatic promotion to the football league from the Conference was introduced.

SEASON   NPL                  ISTHMIAN             SOUTHERN 
1986-87  Macclesfield Town    Wycombe Wanderers    Fisher Athletic   
1987-88  Chorley              Yeovil Town          Aylesbury United 
1988–89  Barrow               Leytonstone/Ilford   Merthyr Tydfil 
1989–90  Colne Dynamoes*      Sutton United        Dover Athletic 
1990–91  Witton Albion        Redbridge Forest     Farnborough Town 
1991–92  Stalybridge Celtic   Woking               Bromsgrove Rovers 
1992–93  Southport            Chesham              Dover Athletic 
1993–94  Marine*              Stevenage Borough    Farnborough Town 
1994–95  Marine*              Enfield FC*          Hednesford Town 
1995–96  Bamber Bridge*       Hayes                Rushden and Diamonds 
1996–97  Leek Town            Yeovil Town          Gresley Rovers* 
1997–98  Barrow               Kingstonian          Forest Green Rovers 
1998–99  Altrincham           Sutton United        Nuneaton Borough 
1999-00  Leigh RMI            Dag and Red          Boston United 
2000–01  Stalybridge Celtic   Farnborough Town     Margate 
2001–02  Burton Albion        Gravesend and N      Kettering Town 
2002–03  Accrington Stanley   Aldershot Town       Tamworth 
2003–04  Hucknall Town*       Canvey Island        Crawley Town 
------------  Creation of Conference South and North Divisions ------------ 
2004–05  Hyde United          Yeading              Histon  
2005–06  Blyth Spartans       Braintree Town       Salisbury City 
2006–07  Burscough            Hampton and Rich     Bath City 
2007–08  Fleetwood Town       Chelmsford City      Kings Lynn 
2008–09  Eastwood Town        Dover Athletic       Corby Town 
2009–10  Guiseley             Dartford             Farnborough
2010–11  FC Halifax Town      Sutton United        Truro City 

2004-05  Workington           Eastleigh            Hednesford Town
2005-06  Farsley Celtic       Fisher Athletic      Bedford Town 
2006-07  AFC Telford United   Bromley              Maidenhead United 
2007-08  Gateshead            AFC Wimbledon        Team Bath
2008-09  Ilkeston Town        Staines Town         Gloucester City   
2009-10  Boston United        Boreham Wood         Nuneaton Town 
2010-11  Colwyn Bay           Tonbridge Angels     Salisbury City 

red denotes went to become a football league club
* denotes not promoted 
1989/90 - Gateshead promoted in place of Colne Dynamoes
1993/94 - No club promoted in place of Marine 
1994/95 - Morecambe promoted in place of Marine
          Slough Town promoted in place of Enfield
1995/96 - No club promoted in place of Bamber Bridge
1996/97 - Cheltenham Town promoted in place of Gresley Rovers 
2003/04 - No team promoted in place of Hucknall Town

Number of clubs who went into the football league since 1986/87
As you can see the since the advent of automatic promotion from the Conference it's the Isthmian League who are winners with a total of six clubs moving up to gain football league status. Both the Southern and Northern League's are on a total of four each although the Southern League counts Boston United and Rushden and Diamonds as the only clubs on the list to be promoted and then relegated from the football league.

The table also shows that since the formation of the Northern and Southern Conference divisions in 2004 it has become harder to gain promotion into the football league with a further division to negotiate. Only AFC Wimbledon have come from the new Step 3 since that time to gain promotion to the football league.

The introduction of two up/two down from League Two in 2002 has also strengthened the Conference league transforming it into a more professional league with a total of fourteen of the twenty-four clubs in the Blue Square Premier for 2011/12 being ex football league sides#.

Going back a decade to 2001/02 the total was just seven of twenty-two club division. This number included Northwich Victoria (members of the league from 1892-1894, Southport (1921 -1974) and Stalybridge Celtic (1921 - 1923).

# - includes the reformed Gateshead and Newport County

Yeovil Town have reached the highest position in the football league when in the 2006/07 season they finished in fifth position in League One and qualified for the Play-Off final at Wembley. The semi-final was was an amazing 5-4 aggregate victory over Nottingham Forest. Although mention must go to Wycombe Wanderers who have gone on to reach the Semi-Final of both the FA Cup and League Cup since joining the league in 1993.

Only Rushden and Diamonds (2002/03) and Yeovil Town (2003/04) have been winners of Division Three/League Two with Wycombe Wanderers, Dagenham & Redbridge, Macclesfield Town, Cheltenham Town and Stevenage Borough all going up via the play-offs or automatic promotion.


LEAGUE ONE          LEAGUE TWO           Blue Square North   ??????
Stevenage Borough   Accrington Stanley   Boston United       Rushden and Diamonds
Wycombe Wanderers   AFC Wimbledon
Yeovil Town         Aldershot Town       
                    Burton Albion 
                    Cheltenham Town 
                    Crawley Town 
                    Dag and Red 
                    Macclesfield Town                                   
The formation of AFC Wimbledon in 2002 and the fantastic story of their rise through the Combined Counties and Isthmian divisions and onto the Blue Square South and National divisions shows the dream of a club climbing up from the depths of the non-league to the football league is still alive.

What Stevenage Borough fan would of thought back in 1990 (they were relegated when finishing second bottom to Wolverton Town in the Isthmian League Division One) that in 2010/11 they would be playing Sheffield Wednesday and Charlton Athletic in the football league?

And what of the next twenty years??  Lowestoft Town v Ipswich Town, Fulham v Sutton United or Gillingham v Chatham Town anyone??

1 comment: