They Might Be Giants: The Big Six of League One

There has been many references recently to the so-called Big Six of the Premier League, amid the furore of the abortive Franchise Zombie League breakaway bid and it reminded me that there are some pretty hefty hitters languishing in League One, writes Lincoln City fan Richard Godson.

Let’s take a look at them here.


Blackpool

 

Any club that has an FA Cup win under its belt, can boast the inaugural winner of the Ballon D’Or in its side and has spent an extended period in the top flight of English football has to be included in this category. Established in its present form in 1887, Blackpool FC spent nearly a decade in local football before being elected to the Second Division of the Football League in 1896. They became one of a select number of new members whose first opponents were Lincoln City, the game ending in a 3 – 1 home win for the Imps.

The Seasiders’ most successful period endured from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, during which time they were a permanent fixture in the First Division, reached three FA Cup finals, the third of which, in 1953 became known as the Matthews Final, in which they overturned a 3 – 1 deficit to beat fellow Lancastrians Bolton Wanderers by four goals to three. Their highest league placing was second in 1954 when their team included names such as Stan Mortensen and Stanley Matthews that were legends to my father’s generation. Nor should we forget Jimmy Armfield, who played his entire football career at Blackpool between 1954 and 1971.

Their manager during their most illustrious period was Joe Smith who was at the post for 23 years from 1935 to 1958, but they’ve had some very familiar names at the helm since then. Bob Stokoe (of which more later) had two spells in charge in the 1970s and Sam Allardyce one in the 1990s. Several former players including Mortensen, Alan Ball, Nigel Worthington, Colin Hendry and Simon Grayson managed the side. In contrast to Joe Smith’s tenure, Michael Appleton’s lasted just 65 days, before he left to take charge at Blackburn Rovers.

The last 40 years have been pretty turbulent for Blackpool with relegation to the Fourth Division in 1981. In the following decade they were the opponents at the first game to which I took my son. Appleton is not the only Imps manager to have also taken charge at Bloomfield Road. Sam Ellis had a seven-year stint as boss during which they escaped from the league’s basement division in 1983. Those years of turbulence coincided with ownership and control by the Oyston family starting with flamboyantly dressed, goatee bearded former estate agent Owen, who in 1996 was convicted of rape and indecent assault. Oyston has always denied the charges although at two appeals, including one to the European Court of Human Rights, the original conviction was upheld. During his enforced absence at Her Majesty’s pleasure, his wife Vicky was Chairman with son Karl replacing her in 1999, although in 2018 Owen removed his son and appointed one of his daughters in his place. The Oyston family ownership and the consequent fans boycott finally came to an end in 2019.

Blackpool’s second spell in Division Four coincided with the introduction of play offs to decide the final promotion place and the Bloomfield Road outfit have the unique distinction of having gained promotion from every Football League division through the play offs.

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