SWANNY'S WORLD OF SPORT: It's the budget, stupid
Winning is no longer enough in football.
Promotions, cup successes, and even local league wins, have to now be accompanied by ludicrous brags.
It might have been the champagne fumes that sent Forest Green Rovers boss Mark Cooper giddy last weekend after victory in the National League play-off final against Tranmere at Wembley.
Cooper, a very brief Posh boss, decided his club’s achievement in reaching the Football League was something of a miracle as they hail from a village, Nailsford, roughly the size of Oundle.
It would be if the club wasn’t bank-rolled by a man with a £100 million fortune, the so-called ‘hippy millionaire’ Dale Vince (right).
Location is largely irrelevant if you have a man pumping huge amounts of cash into your club.
Money talks loudest which is why the main man when Posh won automatic promotions in 2007-08 & 2008-09 was not manager Darren Ferguson, but chairman Darragh MacAnthony.
I’m not trying to knock Forest Green and I’m certainly not trying to knock Fergie, a top-class lower division boss as he proved again this season, but huge cash reserves are as important as gifted management.
I’m all for fresh blood and new stadia in the Football League. If I was covering a League Two club I’d look forward to a trip to Forest Green a little more than a trip to Newport County for instance.
But to hype their progress as some sort of incredible romantic journey is way over the top. Forest Green are a club heavily in debt who run up big losses every season. Their model is only sustainable if one man stays interested.
They’ve been a top non-league club for years. They don’t punch above their weight. Considering the financial muscle they have, it’s a surprise it’s taken them this long to break into the Football League.
I remember a similar fuss when Rushden & Diamonds emerged from non-league football with the financial help of Dr Martens’ man Max Griggs.
When the money ran out, the club disappeared completely and last season a club formed from Diamonds’ ashes finished below Spalding United in Division One South of the Evo Stik Northern Premier League.
That’s the division that will boast top city club Peterborough Sports next season and you can bet your last quid they will be keener to talk publicly about playing budgets than they have been this season.
Clubs at all levels don’t want you to think owning the biggest budgets had anything to do with success, but they will always use having a more modest budget than their rivals as a reason for failure.
There are many on the south coast who believe Bournemouth are in the Premier League because of Eddie Howe rather than Maxim Demin.
They are wrong.
The three biggest clubs in League Two were promoted automatically in 2016-17. The fourth biggest finished fourth.
The two biggest clubs in League One were promoted automatically also. They could be joined by the third biggest.
It shows how tough it is for Posh to break out of League One.