Five things we learnt – Football League opening weekend

Joseph Stephens looks at the weekend that was in the Football League.

1. Bolton won’t have things all their own way this season…

As opening day matches go, a visit to the home of your bitterest rivals is just about as tough as it gets. In a fixture that has been about much more than just local bragging rights since Bolton manager Owen Coyle left Turf Moor to take charge at the Reebok in 2010 it was Burnley who emerged victorious – much to the displeasure of their former boss – and while Wanderers may yet live up to their billing as one of this season’s favourites for promotion you can’t help but think that Saturday’s result represents a huge missed opportunity to really set themselves up for what will undoubtedly be a long, hard campaign. Then again, maybe they’ll just be glad to have got it out of the way.

2. …and nor will the other relegated teams

Between them, the teams that finished in the bottom three of last season’s Premier League managed just a single point from their opening matches in the Championship (courtesy of Blackburn’s draw at Ipswich). Of course, none of Bolton, Blackburn or Wolves will have any reason to panic at such an early stage of the season, but it may take a few games for last year’s whipping boys to come to terms with the fact that they will now be seen as a major scalp for many of the sides lower down the division.

3. Crawley could make it a hat-trick of promotions

After spending over a century going about their business with relative anonymity, the last couple of years have seen Crawley Town well and truly making up for lost time. After back-to-back promotions from the Conference Premier and League Two, the Sussex club began their first ever campaign in the third tier of English football with a thumping 3-0 win over Scunthorpe and currently sit at the top of an embryonic League One table. The combination of director of football Steve Coppell’s experience and recently-appointed manager Richie Barker’s hunger and enthusiasm is showing early signs of promise, but what’s most important is that two promotions in as many years have taught this Crawley team how to win – and it would take a brave man to bet against them doing more of the same this season.

4. Fleetwood aren’t just here to make up the numbers

League Two new boys Fleetwood Town could do a lot worse than look to Crawley’s rapid ascent through the divisions for inspiration. Just three years ago they were playing in the Conference North, but after winning last season’s Conference Premier at a canter the Cod Army headed into their first campaign as a Football League club full of hope that maybe, just maybe, they could carry on where they left off. In truth, a 0-0 draw at home to Torquay probably wasn’t quite the dream start those involved might have been hoping for – though given that this summer saw the departure of last season’s main man, Jamie Vardy, to Leicester a goalless outcome was perhaps not much of a surprise – however Fleetwood can take a lot of positives from avoiding defeat against a Torquay side who will surely be challenging for an automatic promotion place come the season’s end.

5. Before anyone starts getting carried away…

Let’s be honest, making any sort of judgment after the opening match of any season is a fairly pointless exercise. Of course, it’s never nice to start the campaign off with a defeat, in much the same way as it’s never nice to start the first day of a new school year by forgetting your pencil case, or accidentally calling your teacher “mum” – not ideal, but hardly the end of the world. And with 45 games still to play, there’s plenty of time left to atone for any ‘first day of term’ mishaps. Class dismissed.

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Joseph Stephens

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