League Two promotion winners illustrate the strength of the National League

With just two games remaining in the EFL League Two, three teams have already earned promotion to the third tier of the English game.

Two of those teams will be highly familiar to National League fans, as league champions Stockport County and third-place Wrexham have both recently been in the National League.

The last two National League champions will be in League One next season

Not only are County and Wrexham familiar to National League fans, but they are, in fact, the teams that have won the fifth tier in the last two seasons.

Stockport claimed the title in season 2021/22, and Wrexham won the National League crown in season 2022/23. Some would say that the fact that the fifth-tier champions have found promotion relatively easy in League Two is a poor reflection of League Two.

However, it also shows the National League’s strength in recent seasons. Some will claim that Wrexham’s financial muscle has aided their promotion bid.

The Welsh club may have spent money to win promotion from the fifth tier and on wages, but even by League Two standards, their spending of £290,000 is not massive.

Stockport’s achievement was even more impressive as they didn’t spend any money on transfers, yet won the title, scoring an impressive 91 goals in the process.

There is not much difference between the fourth and fifth-tier

pyramid of footballsMany observers have stated in the past that there is not really a massive gulf in class between League Two and League One teams.

Over the years, National League teams have proven that point by climbing the football pyramid.

The fact that so few teams suffer immediate relegation back to the fifth tier also illustrates the point that there is little difference between the top half of the National League and the bottom of League Two.

Far more teams keep progressing up the leagues and then return to the fifth tier. On the other hand, not many teams that suffer relegation from League Two to the National League earn an instant return to the EFL, as the division is unforgiving.

Three teams should be promoted from the National League

Recent seasons in the National League have only added to the theory that three teams should earn promotion to the fourth tier. In season 2022/23, Wrexham and Notts County were outstanding.

County was so good that Wrexham’s co-owner, Ryan Reynolds, stated that he believed both teams deserved to go up to the EFL, and there should be two automatic promotion spots.

In the end, the Magpies did earn promotion by winning the play-offs. While Wrexham won promotion this season from League Two, at the time of writing, Notts County are in 14th place in the table with just two games remaining.

County won’t win promotion this season, but they are closer to the play-off spots than to the relegation zone. Like Stockport, they are likely to come back stronger in their second year back in the EFL.

Chesterfield has dominated this season’s National League campaign. They are currently in their sixth season in the National League after being relegated from League Two in 2018.

The Derbyshire outfit have been in and around the league’s top six for much of their time in the National League after initially struggling to adapt to life in the fifth tier.

The Spireites will be the only team to earn automatic promotion, having picked up an impressive 95 points this season. The situation is harsh on second-place Barnet in particular, who have accrued a respectable 83 points, and third-place Bromley, who are third-place on 81 points.

In any of the English football leagues, Barnet and Bromley would be fighting it out for second place and a spot in a higher division as runners-up.

However, as it is second place, it means very little except to determine who both teams will face in the playoffs. One of the teams may well win the play-offs and still win promotion. However, the play-offs are far more of a lottery, with no guarantee of promotion.

The fact that three teams don’t earn promotion from the National League is very much the teams in the EFL protecting just their own interests.

Chesterfield thriving in League Two next season wouldn’t be a surprise

Chesterfield FC

Chesterfield thriving in League Two next season wouldn’t be a massive surprise. As has been proven by several teams in recent years, the step up is not a massive one from the fifth tier to the fourth tier.

The Spireites have spent most of their existence in the football league until their recent stint in the National League. Considering their performance this season, they could once again win promotion next season.

The fact that former National League teams are thriving in higher divisions of the English games just illustrates how strong the fifth tier is. Teams winning promotion from the division should not be underestimated in League Two in future seasons.

Are the top teams in the National League the same quality as the bottom half teams in the EFL?

By Bob