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League Two

Sammy McIlroy's Blog 41

28 May 2013

This is my last blog of the season and after nine months of games, I've have to say it's been a genuinely cracking year of npower League 2 action.

Obviously I'm biased but I really don't think anyone can feel short changed after what we've all just watched.

Of course Aldershot Town and Barnet fans aren't going to be on cloud nine at the moment and the supporters of Burton Albion, Cheltenham Town and Northampton Town will still be wondering about the what ifs, but there's no doubt in my mind it was a great season with plenty of talking points, great matches and it kept me on the edge of my seat until the final day.

There were also a lot of managers who lost their jobs. By my reckoning, 15 of the 24 npower League 2 clubs changed managers during the season and I make no apologies for repeating myself when I say it's ridiculous. Richard Bevan, the chief executive of the League Managers' Association, described the turnover as "embarrassing" a couple of months ago and I couldn't agree more.

I don't expect a closed shop. Managers are going to get sacked but the lack of patience in the division is just crazy and my biggest worry is young coaches are never going to get the time they need to grow into the job and learn their trade. I know I'm not in the minority with that view, but the people who do the hiring and firing obviously don't agree.

But back to the positives and it was an incredible season for Tom Pope at Port Vale. He richly deserved his npower League 2 Player of the Year award but I doubt even he believed he'd hit 31 goals for the club back in August. He'd only reached double figures once before in his career and even then he only scored 10, so it really was a bolt out of the blue.

I think the turning point for Tom was the 6-2 demolition of his old club Rotherham United in September. He scored four of them and I wrote in the blog then that it was yet another example of a player coming back to haunt an old club. It never really worked out for him with the Millers but I think that performance against them was the spark - the display that gave him the confidence to go on and become the division's most feared striker.

Congratulations also to both Martin Allen at Gillingham and Gary Rowett at Burton Albion. Martin had to cope with the weight of expectation at the Priestfield and except for a little wobble in January, the Gills dominated the division and were worthy winners.

The job Gary has done at the Pirelli has been unbelievable. Like a lot of people, I wasn't tipping the Brewers to pull up any trees this season and to make the Play-Offs was an exceptional season. It was only Gary's first full season in charge and he proved himself to be a fantastic young manager.

There were plenty more notable individual and team performances but I think the final table gives the clearest reflection of how exciting and hard-fought npower League 2 really was. I'm not usually one to put much store in statistics but in this case I'm happy to make an exception.

I mentioned Barnet earlier, who finished 23rd with 51 points. Exeter City were 10th on 61 points, which means just 10 points separated 14 teams. If that's not the definition of tight, I don't know what is. To put that in a bit of context, last season Hereford United finished in 23rd with 44 points while it was Rotherham who came in 10th with 67, a difference of 23 points.

It was the same story at the top of the table. There was only 14 points between the top seven teams in the division, while there was a 21-point gap between the champions Swindon Town and seventh-place Crewe Alexandra at the end of the 2011/12 season.

Which all goes to prove how incredibly evenly-matched so many teams were, and had one or two sides enjoyed a lucky bounce of the ball, not hit the woodwork or been on the wrong end of a couple of bad decisions, the final table could have looked very different indeed.

I hope you've enjoyed the season as much as I have. Enjoy the summer.

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