The Football League got off to its usual blistering and insanely competitive start. Already there have been shocks. Bristol City beat League One title favorites Sheffield United at Bramell Lane and Iain Dowie made a new friend on Soccer Saturday. As always the main topic of conversation for the season will be who is going up and who is getting those elusive play off spots. There is nothing better than the toenail-biting excitement of the Play Offs and we’ve cracked open the history books to see what exactly a team hoping to get into the coveted spots needs to do.
The Championship once again proved why it is one of the most exciting leagues in the world after the opening weekend. There were some absolute goalzalo’s (Tom Cairney) and some moments of madness (Martin Olsson). The Championship is officially back and the Play-offs is the 18 runner race with everyone fancying their chances of winning . What better way to spend the next nine months of your life than sweating nervously about whether or not your team is heading down Wembley Way come May?
On the graph above we have plotted West Ham from 2011/12 as the best team to finish in the Play Off spots, Leicester from 2012/2013 as the worst and the average of the last ten years. On average teams were conceding just over a goal a game and banking a healhy 1.6 points a game. Over the last 10 years to make those precious positions and fight over the Premier League like the Kardashians fighting over the family brain cell, teams need to win 21 games a season and net 69 goals for the season. Goals win games and nothing sums that up more than the Championship. Last season Watford (13/10) finished 13th with 74 goals to their name. The season before when they had Matej Vydra they finished 3rd with 85 goals to their name. Now he’s back and it only took him 23 minutes to score. Fulham signed Ross McCormack for £11 million after the striker scored 29 goals last season to fire them back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
Wolves (9/4) and Blackburn (13/5) are the two outside shots for promotion. After back to back relegation’s Wolves will be hoping for a turnaround and make it back to back promotions this time round. They still have a lot of players with Premier League experience and the retention of Bakary Sako was a major plus. Blackburn have Jordan Rhodes. It really is that simple. 51 goals in 90 appearances for Blackburn tells it’s own tale. He has the ability to fire Blackburn into the top six after narrowly missing out by two points last year. If they don’t go up this year he may move on in search of top flight football.
Some familiar names who could be battling for the Play Offs:
- Norwich (evens) have a point to prove after last season. They were as about as useful as your tonsils. Lewis Grabban was brought in to score goals alongside Gary Hooper. In the Championship those two should guarantee a top six finish.
- Fulham (11/10) have spent the money, have a manager that is saying he’s the man to bring them back up and have the players that should go back up at the first time of asking, but it’s never that simple as the Ipswich game showed. Magath has the players at his disposal and all the evidence points towards a top six finish.
- Deeney and Vydra. Watford (13/10) have a great chance of going back to Wembley with the signing of Vydra. The two have picked up where they left off two years ago and Championship defenses will have a lot to worry about.
- Wigan (11/10) They don’t have a striker that will put them in the top, but they will be pushing for the top two. Cardiff (4/6) could be the ones to lose out. Callum McManaman will be vital for them this season.
League One – the Sinatra of football. You know, if Sinatra was a mute. The football may not be at the highest standard, but it makes for some of the most exciting matches. The last day of the 2012/13 season for example. And you can be sure that the Play Offs will be no different.
On the graph above we have plotted Sheffield United from 2011/12 as the best team to finish in the Play Off spots, Bournemouth from 2010/11 as the worst and the average of the last ten years. League One was similar to the Championship with the average points picked up about 1.6 and goals conceded just over one per game. Over the last 10 years to break free of League One teams need win 22 games and score 73 goals over the course of the season. Leyton Orient (evens) will be out to prove that their excellent season last season was more than just a once off. They have a new owner who has recruited the likes of Jobi McAnuff and Jay Simpson. Bristol City (8/13) have brought in some quality players like Frank Fielding and Wade Elliot who have Championship experience to spearhead their push for promotion. Sam Baldock scored 19 goals last season and he will be vital if they are to go up.
Some familiar names who could be battling for the Play Offs:
- Doncaster (6/4) look like the outsiders to get into the Play Offs and do well. They had a bad season in the Championship and have a point to prove. They won the league two years ago with pretty much the same team.
- Joe Garner scored 18 goals last season for Preston (8/11) and Simon Grayson will be looking for more of the same this time round. Grayson himself is a great asset to have. He’s been promoted with both Blackpool and with Leeds. He knows how to get the job done and was unlucky not to do it last year.
- Peterborough (11/10) were made for this division the way alcohol was made for Irish. They go up and go back down and go up and go back down. It’s ridiculous. With the loss of Britt Assombalonga they could struggle for goals, but should still have enough to make the Play Offs.
- Bristol City (8/13) should be challenging the top two sides, but it looks like they could just fall short. Sam Baldock and Jay Emmanuel Thomas will be able to get the goals to fire them up to the business end of the table.
League Two kicked off the season the way it always does. By kicking each other. It’s never good to watch, but it is tight and it is exciting. The Play Offs are the best part. It’s like a ‘who can kick who harder?’ competition. Lucky Solange Knowles isn’t in it. Until this happens. Then it’s still rubbish.
On the graph above we have plotted MK Dons from 2006/07 as the best team to finish in the Play Off spots, Lincoln City as the worst from 2005/2006 and the average of the last ten years. On average teams were conceding a goal a game and picking up 1.5 points. Over the last 10 years to break free of League Two teams need win 20 games and score 65 goals over the course of the season. York City (13/8) have come on leaps and bounds in the last couple of years and are on the verge of kicking down the gates to League One. Unlucky not to get to Wembley last year they will want to go further this year. Shrewsbury (4/6) have a fantastic chance of going up this season. Liam Lawrence and Andy Robinson were both brilliant signings. Lawrence, an expert in the field of hair gel, has Premier League and Champions League experience. Robinson has been promoted from League One twice with Swansea City and Leeds United.
- Carlise (15/8) are the outside bet to get top seven, but the signing of Billy Paynter was a coup for Carlise. If they can get him scoring the way he did at Swindon then they will have a lot to say come the end of the season.
- Southend United (11/10) were unlucky not to get to the Play Off final last year and Phil Brown will be looking foe more this season. They signed promising young midfielder Conor Clifford and Shaquile Coulthirst. If they can get Barry Corr fringing like an Uzi again they will be challenging.
- York City (13/8) need to make the top seven again this season for the sake of their progress. They have had a great two years and have a strong side. Should finish in the top four.
- Shrewsbury (4/6) Liam Lawrence and Andy Robinson will be the leaders in this team. If they get to the Play Offs will be the favourites to win them.