with an increasing feeling of optimism…

The poll I set up a couple of weeks ago is still running and you’ll find it below, so you can still vote if you have a mind to. (If you’re new to the site and want to see what it’s about follow this link.)

At the time of writing we have had some 3,818 votes cast, with Middlesbrough leading the pack. Sunderland crept up a couple of places and edged Norwich out of the top six by two votes. Given this is a Sunderland fans’ site we could be expected to do well so I’m taking that as a vote of confidence in Norwich. I’m a little surprised by Fulham, who have exceeded my expectations, and by Derby and Reading, who haven’t done as well as expected and at the moment aren’t going to make the cut.

“What cut?” You may be thinking. Well, read on, and all will be revealed

Do the numbers 85.5 and 72 mean anything to you? Probably not, unless you’re some stats-mad saddo or, like me, an old bloke trying all kinds of things to keep his brain working after the copious amounts of alcohol a long, hard and dismal season forced upon him.

72 is the average number of points gained by the seventh-placed club in the Championship over the past four years. 85.5 is the average number of points earned by the third-placed club over the same period. And those two numbers give us an idea of what we need to do to ensure promotion or, if we can’t ensure it straight away, to give ourselves a chance via the lottery known as the playoffs.

Basically, 72 points means we have to win at least three times as many games as we did last year just to have a chance of the playoffs (as 14 wins and 32 draws = 74 points). Realistically, if we could get past 20 wins we could manage the remaining points with draws, provided we got enough of them. Losing more than 8 games, however, could scupper our chances – unless we won correspondingly more games. Last season, Fulham and Leeds, 6th and 7th respectively, both had 22 wins. Fulham’s 14 draws over Leeds’ 9 was the clincher.

Automatic promotion becomes a mathematical possibility with 25-26 wins, again, as long there aren’t too many losses – in this situation losing 8 games would leave us on the cusp of promotion while losing more than 8 could cost us dearly. It’s likely more wins would actually be needed, however. Reading finished with 26 wins and only 7 draws, well behind Brighton, who had 28 wins and 9 draws.

Doing some sums with those figures gives me my recipe for success – win three times as many games as we lose, with not too many draws.

They do have a bit of leeway, those numbers. There are often points gaps between third and second, and between seventh and sixth. I don’t know why but I’m willing to hazard that the club finishing sixth has to fight all of the way (especially when it could fall out of the pack) and not letting up gives them an edge, whereas any third (or even fourth or fifth) placed club which knows they won’t make automatic promotion plays it safe so as to conserve players and energy for the post season contest – much as Huddersfield did last season.

Even so, 85.5 and 72 will serve as a starting point for this season’s run of McCormick’s dodgy numbers.*

To get above 85.5 a club needs to average 1.92 points per game; to get above 72 it’s 1.57 points per game. And that gives me a way of tracking our chosen clubs over the course of the season.

I’ll be using a graph with the bottom (horizontal) axis showing the number of games played and the left hand side (vertical) axis showing the number of points earned to date, as you can see below:

 

 

The two diagonal lines heading upwards from the bottom left corner of the chart are the boundaries between promotion, play-offs and also-rans, calculated from the above averages multiplied by the number of games played.

From time to time I’ll plot the position of the six clubs which topped the poll onto the chart. Any sitting above the top line will be in contention for straight promotion. Those between the two lines are in with a chance of the playoffs. Those below this line are going nowhere, apart from three unfortunates, and I’m not doing a third line to follow them – at least not yet.

To date the clubs are: Middlesbrough, Fulham, Aston Villa, Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds, plus Sunderland. That might change. The poll will be left open until the season kicks off. It will drift down the home page and be lost to sight before too long but every now and again we’ll revive it. Obviously, SAFC will be one of the clubs tracked, wherever they come in the poll.

If you want to see what I and others think of at least some of the clubs in contention you can visit the original poll, or you can have a look at Pete’s welcome to the fixture list for his take on what could be some tasty games.

And, as always, your comments will be welcome

*McCormick’s Dodgy numbers: the arithmetic’s correct, it’s just the rest could be a bit wonky

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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.

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