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Richard Gordon: SPFL deserve praise for lower leagues boost, plus Championship, League One and League Two predictions

The SPFL deserve praise for the current campaign aimed at promoting the lower leagues during the Premiership shutdown, writes Richard Gordon.

Falkirk's Gary Oliver scores to make it 4-0 against Cove Rangers in midweek. Image: SNS.
Falkirk's Gary Oliver scores to make it 4-0 against Cove Rangers in midweek. Image: SNS.

The SPFL, as an administrative body, attract plenty criticism, some of it entirely warranted, but they deserve praise for the current campaign aimed at promoting the lower leagues during the Premiership shutdown.

To be fair, they do a decent job generally on that front, helping with the online presence of the smaller clubs, and it is, of course, understandable the bigger ones do tend to hog the headlines.

During the break, the “No Rest For The Wicked” project has been implemented – reminding everyone football is still taking place, and encouraging fans to get out and support the other clubs across the country.

In collaboration with former Dumbarton and Airdrieonians defender Sam Wardrop, and the highly popular YouTuber Sam North, the SPFL has organised a number of entertaining and engaging features which have been broadcast across the various social media platforms.

A quick look at the “likes” and views shows just how popular they have been, and how much interest there is in the lower league sides.

It would, of course, be even better if more of those fans attended the games, but the campaign will – hopefully – encourage them to do so.

At Cove Rangers, we got involved last weekend when Sam North visited and was given “access all areas” at Balmoral Stadium. The excellent video he produced has now been watched by more than 18,000 people.

It would be lovely to see even a few of them at our matches in the second half of the season, and also getting out to support other clubs across the lower divisions.

How will Championship, League One and League Two pan out?

Should they do so, one thing they will be guaranteed is excitement and drama as the Championship and Leagues One and Two draw to a conclusion.

The battle for automatic promotion to the top-flight is intriguing, and Raith Rovers deserve huge credit for their campaign to date.

Having seen plenty of them last season, I was not anticipating such a challenge, and it will be fascinating to see if Dundee United can withstand the pressure.

United have just posted losses of Β£2.8 million and cannot afford another year in the Championship – but they face an almighty struggle if they are to emerge victorious.

Partick Thistle will secure a play-off place, but it is impossible to offer further predictions – the division is so tight, any one of the other seven could yet find themselves embroiled in a relegation tussle.

Given my role at Cove, I have seen more of League One than the others, and as we found out to our cost in midweek, Falkirk are miles ahead of the other teams.

Falkirk's Finn Yeats and Cove Rangers' Tyler Mykyta battling for the ball. Image: SNS.
Falkirk’s Finn Yeats and Cove Rangers’ Tyler Mykyta battling for the ball. Image: SNS.

I have no doubt they will win the title, and Hamilton are currently favourites to finish second. Our meeting with them on Saturday afternoon will be a huge game.

Five or six sides are in contention for the top four, with Edinburgh City, ravaged by financial woes, likely to finish bottom.

Annan are odds-on to end up in the relegation play-off place, but they play some decent football and might yet pull themselves clear.

Stenhousemuir have been on a sensational run, taking a grip of League Two, but that was a big win for Peterhead on Tuesday after a poor run, and they will, at the very least, make the play-offs.

Jack Brown celebrates making it 3-1 to Peterhead against Dumbarton. Image: Duncan Brown.
Jack Brown celebrates making it 3-1 to Peterhead against Dumbarton. Image: Duncan Brown.

There is much to unfold across all three divisions in the coming months and I would highly recommend all football fans to get out and take in a game.

It may not have the glamour, the big crowds or the kudos the Premiership has, but the game at the lower levels has an honesty, a simplicity, that has been lost over the decades higher up the ladder. It means just as much – perhaps even more – to the players and supporters.

I still enjoy the big occasions, covering the high-profile matches for the radio, but I do feel it is more of a business at that level. No longer football as it was when I was growing up.

I said last weekend in an interview my work with Cove had helped me to fall back in love with the game – that, for me, sums up the joy and satisfaction to be found further down the leagues.

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