Statistical odds against us?

Friday, 24 July 2020, 8:22
2 mins read

Blackburn have done it.  Crystal Palace have done it twice.  West Ham did it in 2005 and Blackpool were the very last team to do it.  But I guarantee now that Steve Cooper will want his Swansea side to be the 5th different club to do it, do you know what it is?

The answer is, very simply, those four sides are the only sides in 33 years of the Championship play offs to have been promoted from 6th place, a position we earned ourselves in the madness of Wednesday night.

It is often talked about in the play offs that the team in 6th place can go into the end of season competition with momentum having perhaps won a few games on the bounce to get there whilst the team in 3rd place may have just suffered the disappointment of missing out.  A classic example of these is probably this season where Brentford have lost back to back games to miss out by just two points whilst we have won back to back to sneak in on goal difference.  That suggests momentum is with us.

But statistically being that bottom side in the play offs has not worked the way that you think it may.  Ever since the play offs started it has always been the top ranked side (remember the first two years it was a side from the higher division) against the bottom ranked side.  In 31 two-legged semi finals, the top ranked side has triumphed on 21 occasions.  Compare that to the other semi final where the lower ranked side has prevailed but only by a margin of 17-16.  Granted it is not a huge difference but enough to suggest that at this level at least that highest ranked side seems to pick themselves up to do well in the play offs.

Of the 21 finals that top ranked side has reached they have won 12 and lost 9 whilst for the 12 finals the 6th placed side has reached they have won 5 and lost 7.   It does give the impression that at this level games can go to league form far more often then maybe the word ‘lottery’ – often used to describe the play offs suggests.

Interestingly it has been more recently that the balance has switched in favour heavily of the highest ranked side.  Since West Ham beat Preston in 2005, only three times has the side that finished 6th reached the final (although if you want comfort two of those have been the last four years) and only Blackpool in 2010 have gone on to win promotion.  The balance of results though between 2nd and 3rd ranked sides remains equal at 7 wins each.

The Swans finished the season 11 points away from their opponents in the semi final – Brentford.  Only twice in play off history at this level has a bigger gap been overcome in a semi final.  In 2005 West Ham overcame Ipswich having finished 12 points behind them and in 2016, Sheffield Wednesday beat Brighton despite having trailed then by 15 points in the league.  It is also worth noting that in 1999 Bolton and in 2002 Norwich overcame 11 point gaps on Ipswich and Wolves respectively.

For those that are fancying an all Wales final (why would you?) then the 3rd and 4th placed teams have only met on 6 previous occasions at this level – the 3rd placed team holding the advantage in the final with 4 wins to 2.

So overall statistical history definitely says that things are stacked against us.  Maybe it is just the prize that is on offer and sides that finish higher – particularly those in 3rd place – are able to pick themselves up with a “you were so close, don’t blow it twice” message or maybe it is just that the 6th placed team has pushed so hard to get there that they run out of steam.

What we should remember though if the statistics are stacked against us in the semi final the three points and five goals was stacked against us around 8.45pm on Wednesday evening.  By 9.20 we were in the play-offs and who therefore is to say that come the morning of August 5th the name of Swansea City isn’t lined up on a wall of honour alongside Blackburn, Crystal Place, West Ham and Blackpool.

Images courtesy of Getty Images, Athena Picture Agency and Swansea City Football Club.

1 Comment

  1. I have long thought that the playoffs should only include those teams within 5 points of the 3rd placed team. That would mean that neither Cardiff nor Swansea would qualify this year, so perhaps it’s as well that nobody gives a toss what I think.

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Phil Sumbler

Been watching the Swans since the very late 1970s and running the Planet Swans website (in all its current and previous guises since the summer of 2001 As it stood was right at the forefront of some of the activity against Tony Petty back in 2001, breaking many of the stories of the day as fans stood against the actions where the local media failed. Was involved with the Swans Supporters Trust from 2005, for the large part as Chairman before standing down in the summer of 2020.


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