Football League Third Division: Wikis

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From the 1992-93 to the 2003-04 season, the Football League Third Division was the third-highest division of The Football League and the fourth-highest division in the overall English football league system. Before that it was the third division overall, but that ended with the creation of the Premier League prior to the start of the 1992-93 season. The Football League Fourth Division was abolished altogether and the Third Division took its place.

The Third Division was renamed as Football League Two prior to the start of the 2004-05 season. The corresponding place of the original Third Division, however, is Football League One, also since 2004.

Contents

Founder Clubs of the Third Division (1920)

Most of these clubs were drawn from what was then the top division of the Southern Football League, in an expansion of the Football League south of Birmingham. As Cardiff City was long considered a potential entrant for the Second Division due to their FA Cup exploits and Southern League dominance, they were sent directly into the Second Division and Grimsby Town, last place in the Second Division for 1919-20, was relegated.

This league continued as Football League Third Division South; Football League Third Division North is formed with Northern clubs; geographical separation is abolished in 1958.

As a single Third Division

The original members in 1958-59 were:

  • From Third Division North: Accrington Stanley, Bradford City, Bury, Chesterfield, Halifax Town, Hull City, Mansfield Town, Rochdale, Stockport County, Tranmere Rovers, Wrexham
  • From Third Division South: Bournemouth, Brentford, Colchester United, Newport County, Norwich City, Plymouth Argyle, Queens Park Rangers, Reading, Southampton, Southend United, Swindon Town
  • Relegated from Second Division: Doncaster Rovers, Notts County

Of these, Bradford, Hull, Norwich, Notts, QPR, Reading, Southampton, and Swindon made the top flight. Stockport, Doncaster, Notts County and Rochdale were the first to be relegated into the Fourth Division the following season (1959-60), starting the bottom-four-team turnover tradition for the third tier. As with the Second Division, the champion and runner-up were automatically promoted; the third place was also promoted automatically beginning in 1974. Play-offs for the third promotion place were introduced in 1987. AFC Bournemouth, formerly Bournemouth & Boscombe Athletic, hold the record as the club to have spent most time in this Division.

In 1992 the FA Premier League started and the Football League was reduced in numbers, leading to the third tier being renamed the Football League Second Division. See Football League One for subsequent third-tier history.

As the basement flight

Essentially substituting for the Football League Fourth Division, the new Third Division from 1992 to 2004 was the basement level of League football. Fallen giants to have passed through the bottom League flight Third Division and recovered include Preston North End, Huddersfield Town, Notts County, Blackpool, and Cardiff City. Third Division members who went all the way to the Premier League include Fulham, Wigan Athletic, and Hull City.

Automatic relegation to the Football Conference was continued as it had been with the Fourth Division since 1987, although from 1993 to 1996 there was no automatic promotion due to the Conference champions (Kidderminster Harriers, Macclesfield Town and Stevenage Borough, in chronological order) having stadiums not meeting Football League standards. Kidderminster and Macclesfield were allowed in subsequent years but Stevenage has so far been unable to win the Conference championship or the playoffs, a League feature which was extended to the second-to-fifth places in the Conference in 2002.

For further history to present day, see Football League Two.

Winners of the Third Division

See List of winners of English Football League One and predecessors for winners before 1992 and List of winners of English Football League Two and predecessors for winners afterwards.

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