Some of the most compelling, emotional scenes in football occur when a side has been promoted to a higher division. Sure, a top-flight title or Champions League crown represents the pinnacle of success in the sport at club level, but there’s something altogether more refreshing—more pure—about thousands of home fans rushing the field after the final whistle that has made promotion official.
It’s a different type of success—one that has more to do with the club’s very existence and evolution than merely the coming-good of a handful of multi-million pound signings acquired just a few months ago. There is hope in it. The very top has not yet been reached. There is still a lot to play for.
We were reminded of this again on Saturday when Southampton regained Premier League status after a seven-year absence. Goals from Billy Sharp and Jose Fonte on one side of the interval and Jos Hooiveld and Adam Lallana on the other ensured the Saints’ progression at the expense of Coventry, who having been already relegated represent the exact opposite of the joy expressed at St. Mary’s.
This is the fascination of the The Football League, and every division positioned somewhere between the top flight and the amateur ranks. Its member clubs are typically in a state of flux, either moving upward or spiralling downward, and tend to exist on that knife’s edge where hope beckons on one side and despair on the other.
Thus the scenes both at St. Mary’s on Saturday and at Ashton Gate last weekend when Bristol City beat Barnsley to ensure Championship survival. Striker Jon Stead, whose 51st minute penalty had provided a measure of insurance, was lifted onto the shoulders of adoring fans who chanted, “We are staying up; We are staying up!” It was one of the most heartening moments of the season.
Marin the latest Bundesliga footballer to agree move for next season
A player agreeing and announcing a transfer for the upcoming season before the current one has finished is a phenomenon far more common in German football than almost anywhere else. The latest such transaction became public on Saturday when Werder Bremen playmaker Marko Marin’s move to Chelsea was confirmed. The 23-year-old has already undergone a medical in London and agreed a five-year contract after the Blues finalised a £7m fee with the Bundesliga club.
Marin, 23, can play both in an advanced central role behind the centre-forward or out wide, and it’s already been speculated that his arrival signals the exits of both Salomon Kalou and Florent Maouda from Stamford Bridge. The Germany international was effectively tabbed as Mesut Ozil’s replacement after his former teammate joined Real Madrid in 2010, and while his season has been hampered by injury he has eclipsed the 10-assist mark four times in his career to date.
Marin’s announcement came just a day after Bayern Munich striker Ivica Olic made his summer move to Wolfsburg official. The Croatian was never first-choice in the Bavarian capital following a transfer from Hamburg in 2009 and has bagged just 23 goals in three seasons. Arriving at Bayern Munich in the summer will be Xherdan Shaqiri, who at 20 has already starred for three seasons at Swiss side Basel, and Brazilian defender Dante, who arrives via Borussia Monchengladbach and is one of the most underrated centre-backs in European football.
Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund have also made some early forays into the transfer market and announced in January that Marco Reus would be joining up next season after paying Borussia Monchengladbach €17.5m for the forward. Reus, 22, has scored 18 goals in all competitions this season to go along with 11 assists. Energie Cottbus midfielder Leonardo Bittencourt, 18, will also be joining Dortmund in the summer.
With the summer transfer window still months away no fewer than 22 transactions have already been made by Bundesliga clubs.
Follow Jerrad Peters on Twitter @peterssoccer