The Football League celebrates its 125th anniversary this weekend, with clubs from the original set-up playing against each other on the opening day, along with some mouth-watering games involving newly-promoted sides.
The latest team to make the step up from the Blue Square Conference is South Wales’ own Newport County.
After going bankrupt in 1989, the club has been on a long and painful journey back up the football ladder, but has now accomplished what it set out to do by finally returning to league football proper.
Accrington Stanley was one of the founding members of the league alongside Newport County, and the two teams are the first to square up against each other this Saturday to mark the anniversary.
Meanwhile, Burnley vs. Bolton and Derby vs. Blackburn are the Championship’s representatives for the 125th anniversary, while Preston vs. Wolves and Sheffield United vs. Notts County represent League One. Rochdale vs. Hartlepool make up League Two’s contribution.
Making the transition into unknown territory is League One play-off winner Yeovil Town who, for the first time in the club’s history, will play teams in the ‘second division’. Newly-promoted sides often do well in the Championship and with clubs like Charlton and Brighton & Hove Albion proving a hit; Yeovil will be hoping to do much the same.
Very much like Newport, it has been on a long road to get where it is today and manager Gary Johnson, who in 2012 returned for his second stint at the helm of the club, is credited as the man that started the ball rolling.
Back in the 90s, Yeovil was yo-yoing from the Conference to the Isthmian League and back again until Johnson took charge and gained the club’s first ever Football League status in 2003.
After just two seasons the club was promoted to League One and Johnson moved on to Bristol City to face a new challenge knowing he had left behind a legacy to be proud of.
However, seeing his old Yeovil side languish in League One had clearly not satisfied the Englishman so, much to the delight of the home fans, he returned and once again broke club records in getting the team one step closer to the promised land of Championship football.
The first game this season is away to Millwall this coming Saturday, with Birmingham being the first Championship side to make the trip to Yeovil’s Huish Park stadium a week later.
Redemption will also be on the minds of clubs like Wolves, Hartlepool, QPR and many others who were relegated from their leagues at the end of last season. Sometimes, though, with relegation there comes a sense of liberation and togetherness that money cannot buy.
With relegation a club can feel a sense of loss of identity that it knows it needs to re-establish urgently and none have experienced such challenging times more than Portsmouth.
After winning the FA Cup in 2008, the club faced unforeseeable challenges that meant it had to sell off its bigger players in order to pay off debts before going into administration.
Since then it’s been a learning curve for the side and now, it is starting fresh in League Two after the Pompey Supporters Trust gained possession of the club to make it the largest fan-owned football team in English history.
With the club now out of administration, it can finally look forward to what lies ahead, namely football and will first will have to contend with Oxford United travelling to Fratton Park.
Whatever is thrown at them, these clubs will always fight to gain promotion and get ever closer to the top tier of English football, and as a result the loyal fans of football league clubs will always be treated to the best league football in the world.