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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rising In The East

With two of its top teams in the race for promotion to the Premier League and Derby showing signs of progressing, Turls reports on the renaissance occurring in East Midlands football.

Leicester's recent revival has been echoed across the East Midlands

East Midlands football is a subject that is rarely spoken about outside the region.

When Southerners talk about the 'big clubs' in the Football League - a rare conversation admittedly, but it must happen somewhere in London, they can't all be trying to become the next Danny Dyer - they lean towards Ipswich, Norwich and Southampton.

When Northerners have the same conversation - more likely to happen over a pint of Theakston's - they look at Sheffield Wednesday, Leeds, and Newcastle.

No-one seems to even consider the vast area of space in the middle.

The East Midlands is a forgotten region and lumped in with the general moniker of Midlands along with Birmingham, Aston Villa and Stoke City. To be fair, you can't blame them.

For the last few years, the East Midlands has been awash with overwhelming mediocrity and underachievement.

Derby managed to become the worst team in Premier League history. Leicester have gone from top-flight regulars to battling in the Championship - and ultimately falling into League One.

Forest, well, the Reds from Nottingham became the only club to have won the European Cup and dropped into the third tier of their respective division.

The East Midlands has been a dark place in football but the good times look like they could be heading back to Stilton country.

Nottingham Forest have been the tour de force for the region.

They have been up and around the automatic promotion spots for a good few months now and although they are starting to drift away from the top two, they should finish in the play-off spots with relative ease.

Forest are looking for a return to the top flight for the first time since 1998

Billy Davies - officially sponsored by Soccer AM/MW - spent wisely in the summer and has turned the club into a team that plays a variety of football and are a real threat.

They went plenty of games without losing, they haven't lost at home since 1921, and although the wheels have come off away from home, the team is still looking like a strong contender for promotion.

Leicester City have caused even more of a shock than their regional rivals.

Having gained promotion from League One at the first time of asking - they made the league look so easy that I was embarrassed for every other club in the division - Nigel Pearson was expecting the club to have a tough relegation battle on his hands.

A slow start to the season convinced the Foxes faithful that this would be the case but the team has hit its stride and is now in the play-offs.

They have been on a fine run of form recently and should they maintain this, then they will definitely be in the end of season shake-up.

What about Derby County? Well the season began terribly. In fact, the only way it could have been worse was if Robbie Savage was promoted to the manager of the club and Mayor of the city.

Derby are rebuilding under the management of Nigel Clough

Nigel Clough was finding his first full season as a Football League manager tough.

However, the club is steadily progressing under him and the derby day victory over Forest looked to have given the players the boost they needed.

They still find themselves in the bottom half but relegation isn't a real threat anymore and there is already talk off planning for next year.

Clough took a while to turn Burton into a Football League club but he was proof that you need time to succeed.

If the Derby board stick with him, they could be looking onwards and upwards in a few years time - but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

It's a shame that Notts County aren't bankrolled by the Middle East anymore because that would have been another example of growth in the region - although they still fancy their promotion chances.

The fact is that the East Midlands is on the up and could very well see a couple of clubs in the Premier League in the next few years.

Here's hoping that they are in the top-flight at the same time. It's about time the East Midlands got recognised for what it is - a football stronghold steeped in footballing history.

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