Bournemouth, Luton, And A Football League You’ve Never Heard Of. Back in 2008, the beloved British TV show Soccer AM decided to unofficially create a fifth section of the English football league. Three teams in the English fourth tier, namely League Two, had points deductions handed out to them for entering administration due to financial difficulties. Those teams were Rotherham United, AFC Bournemouth, and Luton Town.
The former of those two were docked 17 points, while the latter started the 2008/09 season a whopping 30 points below zero. Sky Sports’ Saturday morning show, however, had the ingenious idea of wiping those points deductions off and giving the three teams a league of their own. Before you knew it, League Two (A) was born.
As the season progressed, it became clear that the Millers would be the runaway winners of the league. Powered forward by 17-goal man Reuben Reid, the South Yorkshire club finished 14th in the table, and had they not been docked points, they’d have missed out on automatic promotion by just three points. Their performances, however, were good enough to secure them the first and only League Two (A) trophy ever to be awarded.
Bournemouth finished in second in the unofficial standings, some 12 points adrift of Rotherham. In the actual standings, they avoided relegation by nine points. Unfortunately for Luton though, they could not overhaul their massive deduction. The Hatters were relegated from League Two and to make matters worse, finished rock bottom of League Two (A) for good measure.
In the 14 years since all three clubs have managed to rise from the ashes of financial ruin with differing levels of success. Let’s take a look at their stories.
Rotherham United were undoubtedly the strongest of the three teams docked points. They looked to press home that advantage the following season when they opened the checkbook to sign strikers Adam Le Fondre and Tom Pope. However, the Millers couldn’t achieve promotion as desired and it would take them another three years to finally climb out of the English Football League’s basement division.
Promotion eventually came in 2013, and the South Yorkshire outfit would follow that with an immediate promotion to the championship the following campaign under the stewardship of controversial manager Steve Evans. From there, the club remained in the second tier for three seasons before a disastrous campaign under four different managers saw them relegated back to League One in 2017.
From there, Rotherham has bounced between League One and the Championship, either being promoted from the former or relegated from the latter in six consecutive seasons. They bucked that trend last season when they finally managed to avoid relegation from the Championship, and they will be aiming to solidify their status further this season.
Many had expected it to be Rotherham to be promoted in that 2009/10 campaign however, it was Bournemouth who managed to achieve the feat courtesy of 26 goals from striker Brett Pitman. The following year, the club was purchased by Russian business mogul Maxim Demin, and throughout his first two years with the club, they consolidated in the third tier. In 2013, they secured promotion to the Championship following an epic three-way title fight between themselves, Brentford, and Doncaster Rovers.
After just one season, the Cherries were on the move once again, this time to the Premier League. They managed to win the Championship in 2015 and spent four years in the English top flight before suffering relegation back down to the second tier. In 2022, they returned to the Premier League, avoided the drop last term, and now an online sportsbook, Bodog, has given them odds of -400 to repeat the feat this season.
The team that was in the worst position following that League Two (A) season was without a doubt, Luton Town. Their 30-point deduction was too much for anyone to handle and they began the 2009/10 in the English non-league for the first time in almost a century. And they wouldn’t go on to secure any immediate promotions like the aforementioned Bournemouth.
The Hatters spent four long years loitering around in the Conference Premier, the fifth tier of English football and the same division that Ryan Reynolds’ Wrexham were recently promoted from. They would go on to spend another four years in League Two, meaning that just five years ago, Town were still in English football’s fourth tier. Since then, however, their rise has been meteoric, and they have achieved it without the aid of a Russian billionaire.
After securing promotion from League Two in 2018, they would immediately romp to the League One crown the following year propelled by the goalscoring exploits of striker James Collins. Suddenly they were in the Championship and, just as they did in League Two, they would consolidate for a couple of years before striving for greatness. In their first campaign back in the second tier they would avoid the drop, before finishing midtable the following year.
In 2022, the Hatters made it to the playoffs however, they were defeated in the semifinals by Huddersfield Town. They wouldn’t make the same mistake the following year, once again reaching the playoffs, however, this team made it to the Wembley showpiece. There, they managed to knock off Coventry City on penalties and their rise from the Conference to the Premier League had been completed, and it had been completed in just nine years.