by Max Barry

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History of the Premiership 7: Revelations

The fallout of the bizarre 64 season was extensive. Emery Lineker's final match at Chatswood was a heroic 2-0 win over Brinemouth that lifted them from 22nd to 18th. She resigned in the aftermath. While she jumped, Erica Brewer was pushed, and Crisisbless' Cup-winning 8-0 win over Extreme Hills proved her last game, a model assistant for Reinhard Shale whose split not only proved she couldn't manage alone, but also lead to a downturn in Shale's fortunes. Starling were not alone in the ranks of ambitious smaller sides, though they would prove the only sides that could sustain it. Creed United had gone from 17th to 14th to 8th in their first three Premiership seasons, and boasted impressive young talent and an eye for picking the right kind of journeymen. They had, however, just lost mercurial winger Corvid Alemane to the Rage. World champion Theresa Riether had surprisingly taken over at Vermillion Rage a year earlier, citing the desire to be in a lower-pressure environment, and it's often forgotten that they were a game away from winning the league at her first tilt. Her first tilt at the Premiership at all. Before losing 5-1 to South Laithland. The 64 season was, Champions Cup victory aside, both insane and stupid, and in a fairly muted international window, nobody really has the energy to make an eyecatching signing.

Despite bullish preseason predictions, Brinemouth start the season poorly, culminating in a staggering 7-0 defeat at home to Coret Hawks. By a distance their worst ever defeat. Alyss Montague runs the game for the Hawks, and supposedly it is this performance which convinces the Dockers to buy Montague later on. Not long afterwards, a Vermillion side flying high at the top of the table get dismantled 6-0 by the Moths, as people realise that they have zero defensive depth should anything happen to Hye-Min Jeong. They cling on until halfway through the season, but a run of two points from seven games sees them relinquish the lead. The Dockers are angry. The Dockers go on a tear of winning four matches by an aggregate scoreline of 26-2, with young playmaker Konrad Gosforth beginning to seriously make a name for himself.

After Vermillion fall, Brookford take the lead, but they too fall away at the end. By the penultimate matchday, order seems to have been restored; Treason sit at the top, Brinemouth, somehow, a point behind after a 4-0 thrashing of floundering Crisisbless, and Athletic in third. The title fight is the only thing left to resolve in the league, and while Chatswood are unable to hold off Brinemouth, AFC Treason put Parrhesia away to reclaim the title. Others had risen and fallen above them, and Brinemouth had made a terrifying surge at the end, but it was Treason's simple consistency that got them across the line. Six titles now. One ahead of Brinemouth to continue a remarkable trend where Treason never quite stretch out in front but Brinemouth never quite overtake them.

Stahlburg City rest in 21st. Unthinkable, fifteen years ago. They have been terrible all season, though had they managed just a point more their final-day 3-1 win in Goodfeather would have had them overtake the Quakers to safety. This season is unique, however; it sees the first instance of the promotion/relegation playoff between the top two leagues, and the Smiths beat Leichhardt 2-0 to earn a reprieve. While this adds much-needed intrigue to the picture at the bottom of the table, the Smiths will prove an exception to the rule; the next seven 1Div teams will earn promotion through the playoff.

While Brookford and, improbably, Creed United have overtaken them, Vermillion Rage have fallen out of the UICA positions altogether. They still have the CEDC Final to contest, however, and that, inexplicably, winds up a 7-6 bloodbath against Alianza FC, the Rage narrowly on the right side of the scoreline. And even in eighth, their 80 points would have been enough to win the league last season. Starling, two points and two places above, have never quite been in the title challenge, but all eyes are on them regardless. Raynor City United loom in the Champions Cup Final, and Claudia Cautcher puts the Passerines ahead twelve minutes in. However, for once, fate does not smile upon them. Lithvathar equalises in the second half, the Passerines begin to tire and fade out in extra time as RCU win 3-1.

The Premiership had by this point risen once to the top of the world rankings, but thanks to Starling's success they were back to stay. Across the past eleven years, the Premiership has been ranked first in the world for nine of them. Admittedly, illustrating the tight margins at the top of UICA, the Premiership slipped back to producing just three CC entrants for one of the other two years. The next season ends with Treason defending their title powered by the newly-arrived centre-half Peter Svensson, one of the great defenders of world history. The Top Six come first through fifth, with Brinemouth lagging behind in eighth; the picture becomes familiar. Aaliyah Johnson gets her fourth Iron Boot and has a fifth to come, where no other player has ever won more than two. Gerhard Thunder takes over at the Moths, and without him, Brookford crash to 15th; Chatswood, Goodfeather FC and Stahlburg City, who had all enjoyed periods of genuine dominance, were all relegated, with Morningstar and Belgrave set to replace them and make their Premiership debuts. Top-quality players in Robert Griffin, Catherine Gryphon and Oscar Coltrane join the league, but they are now among a galaxy of stars. A Roque Acosta impact will never be felt again.

Thirty years ago, on an arid, windswept pitch, Catheline Locklear knocked a counterattacking pass through a sluggish, ill-disciplined high line and smashed the first modern Premiership goal past Lauren Brockhurst. Fans swayed from flimsy terraces, having paid for their tickets with loose change down the back of their sofas. The last goal of last season belonged to Xx ns, the greatest player in the world knocking the last of a hat-trick past Sabrefell Moths, a derby day on the final match watched by millions across the globe. As soon as the season ended, foreigners flocked to buy slick, modern shirts with new, more elegant crests. Agents got on the phone to shop around seasoned veterans squeezed out of the six hundred places up for grabs in the Premiership but easily good enough to thrive elsewhere. Players leapt on planes to accept callups from all across the world, from small fish of great nations to undisputed stars of relative minnows, and of course the spine of the Cormorants themselves. It has not been an easy journey, and some might argue some soul has been lost along the way. But the path has been hard-fought and hard-earned, and enriched by so many stories. Gerhard Thunder, Erica Kenney, Josephus Flaccus, Kunibert Mathias, William Čalrek, Daniel Canady, Roque Acosta, Anders Engstroem, Espen Knutsen, Aziz Senturk, Yupanqui Sarracena, Adrian Middleton, Gabriella Antonio, Roddy Fraser, Solara Vol. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and we salute them.

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