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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 12

7 November 2012

There has been a lot of talk this week about changing the promotion rules between npower League 2 and the Conference from next season with a new three up, three down set-up and personally I support the proposed change.

The debate about promotion and relegation has been going on for years. A new rule was talked about back when I was managing Macclesfield Town in the Conference but the idea was knocked back and nothing changed. I'm not convinced the idea will have enough support this time around either but I am sure that sooner or later that we will finally adopt three up and three down.

There are npower League 2 clubs who will definitely oppose the change because they will view it as being against their interests but I believe it's only a matter of time before the new rule is introduced.

The truth is the Conference is a far stronger competition than it was 10 or 20 years ago. The top 10 or so clubs in the division would not look out of place in npower League 2 tomorrow and the argument that they can't survive in the Football League just doesn't carry the same weight as maybe it once did.

I also think it's in the best interests of npower League 2. Three down would only increase competition in the division and the threat of relegation would also probably encourage a few clubs to put their house in order in terms of finances. That's good to be good for the division as well.

On the pitch, the big story this week was Barry Ferguson's loan move to Fleetwood Town from Blackpool. I couldn't believe it when I heard the news but it's certainly a great coup for Fleetwood and a huge statement to the fans and the rest of the division.

For me, it's a superb signing regardless of how Ferguson actually performs. If he can adapt to the hustle and bustle of npower League 2 and if he can cope with being a target for some players, then that's fine. But even if he doesn't make an impact, Fleetwood have sent out an ambitious message.

The big challenge for Ferguson will be how much time on the ball he gets. There's a saying in football that the higher you go in the game, the more time you get on the ball and he'll find time is at a premium in npower League 2.

Some players struggle to make the transition and just find the culture shock too big.

At Macclesfield, I signed a striker called Graeme Tomlinson from Manchester United and although he scored a few goals for me early on, he never really came to terms with the Conference. He was a small lad and he just couldn't cope with the physicality of the drop down the divisions.

Another big-name player in npower League 2 is Edgar Davids at Barnet. I hold my hand up and admit I thought it was a gimmick when he arrived at Underhill but the Bees have got 10 points from five game since he was appointed player-coach and it's difficult to argue with that.

I think even the Barnet fans were a bit sceptical when he pitched up but whatever he's doing on the training ground, it's working. Barnet looked like relegation fodder a few weeks ago but after beating Torquay United on Tuesday night, they're back in touch with the clubs above them.

Exeter City also got an important result on Tuesday with a 2-0 win over AFC Wimbledon at St James Park. It was their first three points since the start of October and it was once again Jamie Cureton with the opener in the first half who set them on the way.

It was Cureton's 11th goal of the season and it just goes to prove that quality strikers never forget where the goal is. He's 37 now and has been playing professionally for nearly 20 years but he's been banging them in this season as if he was a teenager.

It's the mark of a real striker to still score goals even when the pace and the movement have deserted you. It's easier said than done but he's proved that it is possible to age gracefully and inside the penalty area at least, you never lose the knack.

The Grecians will now be hoping they've put their dodgy spell behind them. They came flying out of the blocks at the start of the season and despite a run of poor results, they're still only one win from moving back into the Play-Off places. The challenge is now not to repeat the barren spell.

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