Look around now, the names of recent years, Nottingham Forest, Swansea, Huddersfield, Leeds, Charlton, Southampton, Sheffield Wednesday et al have been replaced with a different set of names which currently make up the top third of the table.
Tranmere, Stevenage, Sheffield United, Crawley, Notts County and Swindon make up the current pace setters and whilst they are all indisputably there on merit, with the exception of the Blades none of them could compete with those names of just a few short years ago.
Having been spolit by a stay in the Championship, the quality of football on offer a league below does not bear much comparison. Even taking into account that Doncaster Rovers are now a slightly bigger fish in a much smaller pond than this time last year, the sight of away teams getting men behind the ball and hitting long percentage ‘passes’ to the front man is now more the rule than the exception. Last time we were here, the Rovers boasted a midfield of Coppinger, Wellens, Stock and Green. A midfield that would dominate this league (indeed it would probably dominate the league above too) and one put together for relative peanuts, with only Stock requiring a transfer fee, was only effective enough in those days to warrant a play-off place.
The league has the look of one where any team who is organised and tight at the back and who stumbles across a run of form, will find themselves so far in front even Frankel would struggle to catch them in the final furlongs.
Just a smattering of quality is all that would be required to stand above the rest of the mediocre teams in what will be a nip and tuck league.
The only problem is where is the quality? Organised and solid we may be at the back, but going forward we are badly lacking. Can Martin Woods find a glimpse of the player he once threatened to be? Can Bennett and Cotterill find the consistency to effect games on a weekly basis? Can Robbie Blake lose those last few pounds which would allow him to conformably wear his match shirt, let alone have a creative influence on the team? Or can Saunders find a gem from nowhere which will provide some much needed flair in midfield?
Time will tell, but the truth is that having gone almost back to square one on the playing side, we aren’t too far away. If there is a final couple of pieces of the jigsaw waiting to be found then who knows? The frustrating thing is knowing that there may never be a better chance to get out of a usually ultra-competitive, suffocating league, which is unusually low on quality this year.