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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The History Book: Review

Nobes looks back on how successful his experiment of using historical trends to predict the season was.

Could QPR's success in the Championship have been forecast?

Before a ball had been kicked this season, I decided to test a theory that history could be used to help predict the season's events.

The idea was that, instead of using current form, that actually identifying trends and patterns in the league could give a clue as to the fate which may befall some teams during the campaign.

How successful was this idea though?

One of the trends I identified was that the previous five play off winners all had finished in the bottom half the year before winning the end of season lottery.

Now, that hasn't been the case this year, with Swansea finishing just outside the play offs in 7th last term. However, I also made the comment that:

"All of the teams were also linked in the fact they had a manager taking charge of his first full season in charge of them."

This proved correct, with Brendan Rodgers in his first/full season in charge at the Liberty Stadium.

When you add in to the mix that Champions Queens Park Rangers finished in the bottom half last season and were in the first full season of Neil Warnock's management, then some degree of the trend continues.

We'll gloss over the fact that I fancied Crystal Palace could be that side, and move on to my other trend. Namely that a side who finished in the top half the previous season would be relegated.

"Millwall, Luton, and Colchester all finished 10th before relegation the next term. Charlton went from 11th to 24th in the space of a year, and Sheffield Wednesday were relegated last season after ending the 2008/9 campaign in 12th."

The curse struck yet again - Sheffield United suffering a nightmare campaign to plummet from 8th in 2010 to 23rd and relegated in 2011.

My own tip had been Doncaster to go from 12th to relegated. In the end, Donny finished 21st, just a place above the bottom three. Their South Yorkshire rivals still lived up to their end of the bargain though.

I also made the following forecast:

"Another trend in the Championship is for one of the three promoted sides to challenge for - and possibly finish in - the top six.

Both Leeds and Norwich - sides with strong squads, large fan bases, and talented young managers - could be teams who will feature in the race for the top six in 2010/11.

Promoted sides in general, tend to do well, so it would be no surprise to see the other team coming up from League One, Millwall, more than hold their own.

Indeed, Norwich made it successive promotions finishing as runners-up. Leeds ended up 7th, just outside the play off positions, and Millwall ended up a more than respectable 9th.

Swansea bucked the recent trend to win the Championship play offs this season

Moving onto League One, where I looked back and suggested that:

"At the bottom there seems to be a trend for some of the smaller promoted sides to last no longer than two or three seasons before returning from whence they came.

"By that logic, promoted duo Rochdale and Dagenham & Redbridge - both real novices at this level - may struggle."

Ultimately it wasn't Dale but promoted Notts County who along with Dagenham battled against relegation. The Daggers lost their fight, and Notts narrowly won theirs.

As for the other end of the table:

"At the top, it is safe to assume that a couple of the relegated sides should figure in and around the promotion race.

I would suggest that Peterborough, despite their poor campaign last year, should strongly figure in the promotion race this term."

Sheffield Wednesday began brightly but tailed off as the season progressed. Posh, albeit with a change of manager, continued to hunt an instant return to the Championship - finishing 4th before winning promotion via the play offs.

I also suggested:

"There is also a trend for a progressive club who have been gradually improving year upon year to take the final step and claim promotion.

"It would look likely then that one of last season's play-off losers Huddersfield and Swindon plus the 7th placed team, Southampton, could be celebrating come May."

Well Swindon bombed on their way to ending up bottom, but Southampton secured promotion finishing as runners-up and Huddersfield only fell down in the play off final after finishing 3rd.

Peterborough bounced back at the first time of asking - just as predicted

I acknowledged that League Two was a tricky division to call, but suggested that:

"Promoted sides tend to be those who haven't been in the division for long. That statistic suggests that promotion tends to be won by sides with momentum or those who have rebuilt after relegation and naturally belong at a higher level.

"The second group could incorporate Bradford City, Port Vale, Chesterfield, and Rotherham. Two of those teams could be good bets to finish in the top three and gain automatic promotion."

Bradford failed to hit the heights, but all the others were firmly involved in the top seven race. In the end, Chesterfield were worthy winners of the basement division, with Rotherham and Port Vale narrowly missing out on the play offs.

Wycombe instantly bounced back from relegation the previous year, and Torquay continued their upwards momentum after promotion into the League in 2009 to end up 7th.

I'll admit I was hardly sticking my neck out saying that:

"Sides promoted from the Conference tend to do well."

Oxford finished a respectable 12th and Stevenage ended up 6th and made it successive promotions as play off winners in the basement division.

I also forecast in League Two that:

"At the bottom, the two relegation places tend to be filled by either teams with off-field financial worries and teams who have flirted with relegation in the recent past - or a combination of both."

Indeed, Stockport ended up bottom after recent years of financial mismanagement and administration caught up with the Edgeley Park outfit.

Lincoln also dropped into the Conference, after flirting with the drop the previous campaign. They were relegated on the final day by a great escape from a Barnet side for whom I'd suggested:

"Have ended their last two seasons in 17th and 21st, a trend which doesn't bode well."

Stevenage continued the tradition of promoted sides doing well in League Two

So how did I score overall?


Bottom half to play-off winners: Crystal Palace
QPR went from bottom half to divisional winners though.
Top half to relegated: Doncaster Rovers
Donny ended up 21st, but Sheffield United went from top half to relegated.
Promoted side to challenge: Leeds United
Leeds did challenge, but Norwich went one better to win successive promotions.
One relegation battle too many: Barnsley
Another lower mid table finish for the Reds, but Scunthorpe lost their second successive relegation battle.

League One:

Relegated and bounce back instantly: Peterborough United
Peterborough were instantly promoted back as play off winners.
Making the leap to promotion: Southampton
Southampton finished runners-up and were promoted.
Relegation catching up with them: Hartlepool United
Pools actually enjoyed a rare season of comfort under Mick Wadsworth.
Immediately relegated back down: Dagenham & Redbridge
Dagenham lost their fight against the drop on the final day.

League Two:

Rebuilt and ready to rumble: Port Vale
They rumbled under Micky Adams, but it was Chesterfield who'd rebuilt best.
A club on the up: Burton Albion
Not the Brewers, but the side promoted with them in 2009 - Torquay finished in the play offs. Stevenage continued their upwards trajectory too.
Paying for their flirting: Macclesfield Town
Not a chance, they ended up 15th. Lincoln paid for their previous flirting though.
Lack of money and results: Accrington Stanley
Nowhere near, but Stockport filled this particular vacancy.

So there we have it. While my own predictions for the teams to fill the historical roles were often wayward, the trends themselves were largely accurate.

It shows that history does have a part to play when forecasting the future. Particularly in that notoriously unpredictable division of the Championship.

Everyone says it's a hard league to call, but perhaps that's because people don't look back at previous years.

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