Anton Rippon: Burton Albion "don't want promotion" claim doesn't hold water
THERE is a claim – admittedly with only the gossip of the four-ale bar to support it – that Burton Albion "don't want promotion".
The theory is that the cost of going up will not be met by any appreciable increase in income.
You can see the logic: promotion to League One would doubtless mean an increase in the Pirelli Stadium wage bill. But attendances probably wouldn't rise all that much.
I argued that there is little point to taking part in any kind of competition if you don't want to win it. The counter-argument was that Albion's fortunes would be best served by flirting with promotion, only to fall gallantly at the last hurdle. Try telling that to the players.
Whatever eventually happens, I have great affection for Burton Albion. I first saw them play in the mid-1950s, in the old Birmingham League. When they entered the Southern League, I often went to Eton Park when the Rams were away.
It was there that I had my first and only sight of one of the great names in British football – "Wor" Jackie Milburn, who scored 200 goals for Newcastle United after the war. To beef-up his credentials as a Magpies supporter, Tony Blair once spoke wistfully about watching Milburn play, which would be quite remarkable since Milburn left Newcastle when the future PM was four years old and had been living in Australia for two years.
But I definitely saw him, turning out for Yiewsley against Burton Albion at Easter 1960. Alas, I can't recall the result, or whether he scored.
Of course, in those days there was no real prospect of Albion ever playing in the Football League, even though the town boasted three League clubs before the First World War.
The Football League was a closed shop. Not until 1987 was automatic promotion and relegation between it and the Conference introduced and the ladder fully extended.
Now Burton have another rung to climb. I'm sure they want to.
The day the Rams lost the "real Cup Final" – according to the Doc, anyway
THIRTY-seven years ago this week, Derby County looked Wembley-bound. The demolition of an understrength Newcastle United at the Baseball Ground put the Rams into the semi-finals of the FA Cup, their first appearance in the last four since 1948. And so we started to dream …
The first two goals against Newcastle belonged to Bruce Rioch – finishing off a Hector-George move; a free-kick from just outside the penalty area – and although Alan Gowling pulled one back for the Magpies before half-time, in the second half Henry Newton scored a third for Derby, and George made it 4-1 before Gowling netted his second.
Four-two was how it stayed, to set up a repeat of the 1948 semi-final: Derby County v Manchester United at Hillsborough.
Twenty-eight years earlier, the Rams, suffering something of a goalkeeping crisis, had lost 3-1 to a rampant United, who went on to beat Blackpool in one of the best-ever FA Cup Finals.
In 1976 it was United who triumphed once more, this time 2-0 – both goals from Gordon Hill, later to play for the Rams – although Derby felt aggrieved over a couple of refereeing decisions.
Before the game, United manager Tommy Docherty had described the Hillsborough semi as "the real Cup Final," adding: "What do you call the other game [between Southampton and Crystal Palace]? I'll tell you – a joke."
As it turned out, United lost the Final, 1-0, to "joke" team Southampton. You could always rely on The Doc to put his foot in it.