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Football's ever-changing fortunes

For the believers in the restorative powers of a good underdog victory, there's nothing quite like the magic of football and it's ever-changing landscape. Following the fortunes of small clubs like Doncaster Rovers, Scunthorpe United and Preston North End can excite a lifelong loyalty and passion for the little guys of the biggest game.

It's definitely a fickle game, full of unexpected fortunes and unwelcome losing streaks. But that's part of the charm and one of the many qualities that make football one of the most watched sports in the world. All you have to do is take a look at the mixed records of any number of clubs both great and small to see what makes the Beautiful Game so exciting.

Take for example the Lilywhites, better known as Preston North End FC. Formed in 1880, the club joined football League in 1888 as part of the orginal prestigious 12 founding teams. They have the honour of being the very first team to win the FA Cup and Champions League double in 1888-1889 and they even went on to land the League title the following year. It led to fans renaming them The Invincibles. But their last major win was to come in 1938 and their last period in top flight was in 1954. In fact, their lowest moment was landing a 91st place finish in the League, forcing the club to apply for re-election. But like so many other football tales, a dramatic fall was met by an equally unexpected rise, with the club these days remaining cmfortably near the top of Division One.

Even greater woes and triumphs can be found in the story of Doncaster Rovers FC. Founded in 1879, the club has one of the most checquered histories in football. In the 1900s they enjoyed two brief spells in in the Football League, finally rejoining in 1933. After only two years they were promoted from Division Three and in 1936 they attained their highest ever rank of Seventh in the old Second Division. And in 1946-47 they earned the honour of being the side with the most recorded victories in a league season when they won 42games. But the success was not to last and the slide downward eventually saw them setting the rather more dubious record of being the team with the most losses in one season, when they lost 34 games in 1997-98. By 2007 though, the club redeemed itself when it lifted the Johnstones' Paint Trophy, its first major domestic trophy.

It's a mixed bag sort of legacy of the kind so common to football fans and clubs and Doncaster Rovers are certainly not the only ones to know the agony of applying for re-election. It's a fate that was shared by Scunthorpe United in 1982 after they finished second last in the League. Formed in 1899, the Iron FC was only admitted as a Football League club in 1950. In 1957-58 they managed to grab the Third Division title and remained in the Second Division for six years. But 1964 brought an end to their place on that roster and they were not to return until 2007, giving them a more than 40 year absence from the Second Division.

For fans there are highlights and great seasons and then there are the low points, sometimes lasting decades. But it all only adds to the cinematic quality of this truly singular sport.

There's no real mystery to the enduring popularity of football. It's all in the fast pace, the unexpected heroes, the fading stars and the ever-present uncertainty.




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