John McCormick: We're not bottom, so is it a Happy Christmas?

John McCormick

Another empty weekend unless you’re a groundhopper like Sixer or a local league fan like Malcolm, which means it’s time for a relegation review. With six games to go in a compressed framework and a holiday coming up this is probably the last one I’ll be able to fit in.

It has been a long and tedious season (as have been the last four apart from that trip to Wembley,  only three years ago although  it seems like a lifetime, those six wins in a row, a sequence of wins against Citeh and wins at places like Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge *[see below]) and while some of our chosen teams have reached safety we haven’t and are still awaiting a conclusion.

And according to my calculations, as if you needed them, that conclusion isn’t good for us.

Let’s recap:

Here’s a graph I saved on 13th August 2016, the day our season started against Man City. At that time readers had identified their favourites for relegation, which became the teams I would subsequently track and report on.

relegation poll results on 13th August 2016

My tracking method was to be the number of points clubs would need to average in each of their remaining games in order to reach 39 points. All clubs start with a requirement for 1.03 points per game if they are to end the season with 39 points. Consistent winners require fewer and fewer points per game, consistent losers require more and more.  A club requiring no more points would obviously have reached 39 points and presumably safety; any club requiring more than 3 points per game would not get there, which I suggested would result in relegation. As well as the named clubs I added Swansea City. 100 votes had been cast for “another club” and they fitted the bill as their performance began to decline.

 Here’s a graph to show where the chosen clubs are with five or six games left; a rising line signifies increasing safety, a falling  line indicates danger:

points required per remaining game, April 2017

You can see quite easily that West Brom became the first  to reach the 0 points required marker, i.e. the first of the chosen clubs to get to 39. Watford became the second, just a game ago.

And you can see just as clearly that we have hit the bottom. With our draw against West Ham we became the first club to require 3 points from each of their remaining games in order to reach 39 points. The sums are now simple – 21 points on board leaves 18 points to get. 18 points divided by the 6 games remaining equals three points per game. We’ve been saying for a while “it’s a must-win game”, now they are all must win games.

And that includes a final game against Chelsea, who might well need a win in order to clinch the championship, and one against Arsenal, who are not only one of the few clubs we find it impossible to beat but who will probably be fighting to continue their Champions League tradition.

Let’s face it, we’re not going to win every game.

Does that mean we’re doomed? Well, deep down we know we are but this series isn’t called McCormick’s dodgy numbers for nothing. It’s not yet a mathematical certainty. Earlier in the season David Moyes was saying 34 or 35 points might be enough and he could be right, so there’s still the hope.

But realistically, if we don’t win any game – if we don’t win every game – we’re going down.

And from the graph it looks like ‘Boro will be joining us, along with one of Hull or Swansea. These three are the other clubs on a downward trend and the gap between them and the rest is widening. Hull, with three more points and better recent form, have the edge over Swansea, but they also have historic form when it comes to relegation.

So do Burnley, who along with Bournemouth and Palace are on an upward trend. None are mathematically safe (even Watford aren’t, and they’re currently in 10th place) but we all know they’ll be OK. There’s something to be said for getting points on the board early or for making your home ground a fortress, and if that fails you can always hope a change of manager will bring a bounce. Get the right one, i.e. Sam Allardyce, and he will.

So there we have it. The pundits only got it part right. Hull, the firm favourite, might not be going down. Burnley, their second favourite, won’t be. Sunderland, the third favourite, will. And with them could be ‘Boro, who got under 10% of the votes and Swansea, who really didn’t feature at all. On the strength of that I’d say you shouldn’t all rush down to the bookies and put your cash on Sunderland for promotion.

But if you do, I hope you’re right. See you at Bolton next season.

John Mac.

And for those who want to linger..

This season’s series starter 

Take pity on Hull, Burnley and Sunderland, all doomed before a ball is kicked 

 Where it all began those years ago

Dodgy -ing relegation

Jake: ‘the moment we cancelled trips to Derby and Leeds’

 * and to prove it hasn’t been all bad, click on the icons or follow the links below

Wembley and safe

Jake can barely believe it


Jake say’s “keep the faith”

One of Sixer’s best moments of a troubled eason

Jake: ‘back to the Vito we know’

 Sixer’s travels  McCormick’s dodgy numbers  Malcolm Dawson’s

“View from the North West corner”






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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

8 Responses to “West Brom, Watford safe. Palace, Bournemouth, Burnley relaxing, ‘Boro, Hull, Swansea sweating. Sunderland propping them up.” Subscribe

  1. Mike April 21, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

    Hi John,

    Watford fan here. I just wanted to say that I have followed your writings / predictions over the last two seasons. Thanks for the good writing, and the calm logic you have provided, when it can´t have been easy.

    I currently live in Hannover Germany, and the mighty Hannover 96 got relegated, without troubling the scorers, last season. So I know the pain from recent experience. If you´re interested, check Bundesliga 2, where you will find 4 teams separated by three points looking for promotion. 2 go up and 1 plays off against 3rd bottom in the Bundesliga. The leader changes every week.

    Good luck to Sunderland for next season, whichever league you are in.

    • John Mac April 21, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

      Thanks, Mike.
      I think that thumbs down arrived accidentley when I was trying to edit on my handheld device.

      • david miller April 21, 2017 at 1:37 pm #

        John, I’m sure you did that to me in the Colisseum in a previous life……

        • John Mac April 21, 2017 at 6:16 pm #

          Went to the plaza, the apollo (before it became a bingo hall)) and even Bolam’s (aka Theatre Royal) in Birtley but have no memory of the Coliseum. But then, I did drink in my youth.

          And after getting married

          And middle age

          And since retiring

          Hope this helps

  2. salutsunderland April 21, 2017 at 1:34 pm #

    Some of the links on the icons were broken. I think I’ve now fixed them all. If not let us know.


  3. Wrinkly Pete April 21, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

    Nice one John.

    Can’t wait for your article next season but will your graph be big enough for all those extra teams???

    • John Mac April 21, 2017 at 6:06 pm #

      Oh yes.
      ( I think)
      But I might have taken to drink by then

  4. Paul April 24, 2017 at 7:17 am #

    At least life’s very simple for Sunderland, win all
    six or else. My money is on or else.

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