Burnley and Leicester saved: our stats man has QPR, Hull City, Aston Villa doomed

John McCormick:
John McCormick: History. Is it all bunk?

This is the latest of John McCormick‘s occasional delve into statistics and logic to weigh up relegation prospects – one day he’ll feel, as Sunderland fan, it’s worth a look at the other end of the table. It has already had an airing and attracted comment from SAFC fans. But what do supporters of the clubs he fears may be doomed think? Is his choice of Hull and Villa harsh, QPR’s inclusion at odds with ‘Arry’s famed powers of survival when given a full season, Sunderland’s exclusion over-optimistic? Have your say …



John McCormick writes:
this post is about relegation, something never far from our minds, and who this season’s three might be.

Over the summer I looked over a little bit of history and generated some numbers in order to bring you more of my dodgy predictions. Enjoy them or argue with them as you will. Just don’t nick the family allowance and run off to the bookies.

It’s the newly promoted clubs that are most at risk. In broad figures, 40 per cent do not survive beyond their first season in the Premiership and only twice, in 2001-2 and 2011-12, have no newcomers been relegated.

Most often it’s only one of the new clubs that suffers but all three of the promoted clubs went straight back down in 1998 and two newly promoted clubs have gone down six times, although you could argue 1995 shouldn’t count as four clubs were relegated (with only two promoted) and Crystal Palace would have stayed up if only three had been relegated.

Relegations in 20 of 22 seasons translate into a 91 per cent probability that at least one of Leicester, Burnley or QPR will be in the drop zone next May. However, the stats for double and treble first- season relegations mean there’s only a low (approx 25 per cent) chance that two of them will go down and there’s a less than five per cent chance that all three will be relegated.

A closer look at the tables shows that seven of the first-season relegations have been the Championship winners, nine the runners up and twelve (43 per cent) the playoff winners. 91 per cent of 43 per cent gives a 39 per cent probability that the playoff winners will go straight back down. I remember QPR fondly but I have to go with such a high probability. First place for relegation: QPR.

Almost 60 per cent of newcomers are gone within two years so it’s worth taking a closer look at clubs in their second season. 28 relegations immediately following promotion mean there are 39 eligible clubs, of which seven (18 per cent) have been relegated. Again, you can argue that 1995 shouldn’t count. Bolton and Middlesbrough were the promoted clubs; Bolton went straight back down and Middlesbrough lasted two years. However, ‘Boro had a points deduction which took them down instead of Coventry.

An 18 per cent chance of relegation doesn’t sound too bad but it appears “second season syndrome” has increased in recent years. Only two second season clubs, including Middlesbrough in ’95, were relegated in the first 13 years of the Premiership. The remaining five have gone down in the last nine years, during which time there have been only two double relegations of newly promoted clubs. That’s a small sample from which to generalise but it now looks more likely that one new club and one in their second year will go down than two newly-promoted clubs will be relegated.

Both Hull and Palace must therefore consider themselves at risk but a strange-but-true statistic offers hope to Palace. There have never been two London clubs relegated from the PL in the same season (unless you include Watford, who have gone down twice, each time with a true London club.) I can’t ignore this; I’ve said QPR are doomed so I have to say Palace are safe.

Jake: 'we like meddling in other people's business'
Jake: ‘we like meddling in other people’s business’

What about Hull?
Hull City finished last season with 37 points after a slide that saw them pick up only two wins and a draw in their last ten games. Some of these games were tough, it must be said, plus there was the distraction of the FA cup, but some were against fellow strugglers. Throw into the mix their six points from us, when we had three sending-offs (I’m not complaining, Tigers fans, but will fortune always make it this easy?) and there are danger signals. Add in McCormick’s law of dodgy averages, which says the syndrome’s due to strike as it didn’t happen last season, then pile on the Europa League, where history suggests competing teams struggle the following weekend and things are stacking up against Hull. Despite some decent signings it may be too much. I hope not, but my second prediction for relegation has to be Hull City, who may be destined to become the next yo-yo club.

Our Lad handed the FA Cup by the King's lass
Our Lad handed the FA Cup by the King’s lass
You’re a Tiger. Enraged by what you’ve just read. This may be the tonic to help you get over it: a Sunderland and Hull legend of the past, and a great gesture of the present. Raich Carter junior wins Salut! Sunderland award; insists the prize goes to kids’ football in his father’s birthplace: https://safc.blog/2014/07/raich-carter-great-gesture-grateful-beneficiaries-in-sunderland/

It becomes more difficult to identify a third candidate. Only three clubs have been relegated after three seasons, 10 per cent of those eligible. Any club has a theoretical 15 per cent chance of relegation at the start of the season, so it looks as if clubs surviving beyond the first two years are as well established as their longer-lived companions, and may be safer than average.

Given this I began to look at the “flirts”, the clubs that spend some time around the bottom but manage to finish just above the relegation places, and found I might be on to something. More of these clubs appear to have subsequently gone down than have climbed. Some, such as ourselves in 2003, dropped like a stone from good positions (it took us just two seasons) but Wigan, Blackburn, West Ham, Wolves, Bolton and possibly others hovered around the bottom for two or three seasons, maybe more, before slipping over the edge.

So when a club heads downwards and stays there the omens aren’t good, and that leads me to Aston Villa, the only club to finish all of the last three seasons in the bottom six and still stay up. This may not be much to go on but it’s an indicator of trouble and as Randy Lerner still hasn’t sold the club I’ve decided to use it. Despite the appointment of Roy Keane as assistant manager (who, remember, not only took us up but also kept us up) and Keiran Richardson, whom I admire, I don’t see them improving and think they could be at greater risk than Hull or Palace. My final prediction for relegation is therefore Aston Villa.

There are a couple of wild cards to throw into the mix. West Brom finished below both Hull and Villa and with three relegations to date are a classic yo-yo club. They could argue last season was their only poor show since promotion in 2010 but there are other reasons to be concerned. Their new manager, allegedly not their first choice, has a mixed record, on top of which the squad changed a lot over the summer.

WBA need a good start, by which I don’t just mean the first game of the season. If they go into winter playing catch up they may not manage another great escape and if it’s not Hull or Villa going down it could be them. I doubt it, though. In fact, I think Southampton are at even greater risk.

This is Southampton’s third season so they should be safe according to some of the figures above. However, 2014 has not looked kindly on them.

In January their Chairman resigned, allegedly due to tensions within the club. Their manager left at the end of the season. Five of their better players followed him, just months after the club had announced it had no plans to sell any of the squad, and others are apparently unhappy at having to stay. Southampton therefore begin the season with a new manager, a weakened squad and internal turbulence.

There are no stats to apply but our own recent history shows such turmoil is dangerous. Like WBA, Southampton need a good start if they are to avoid the kind of trouble we had last year. We know it’s possible to recover, we’ve done it and so have WBA. Nevertheless, if Southampton get off slowly they could find themselves too deep in trouble to be able to make up lost ground.

And what of us?
This is a tough one to call and I’m biased. Against us, we are one of the flirts; not in the bottom six last season but there or thereabouts for some seasons, and that’s not good. We have had years of changes to players and a relatively inexperienced manager, which could spell trouble. On the other hand we have strengthened a squad which proved itself against the best last season, which has a settled nucleus and which has confidence in a manager who survived a baptism of fire, while the chairman and backroom people are providing much-needed stability. That doesn’t sound too bad, not that it matters anyway. No numbers, no statistics will convince me we’re safe until we are. For we are Sunderland, and don’t we all know it!

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31 thoughts on “Burnley and Leicester saved: our stats man has QPR, Hull City, Aston Villa doomed”

  1. The way that Tiote has been playing for the last season and a half I think the Mags would be rubbing their hands at getting good money for him. He’s really lost what edge he had in his early days with them.

    • Not that I’m tht bothered but losing Cabaye, Debuchy, Remy, Tiote and ostracising Ben Arfa suggests all not well. Which is no doubt why Michael Owen tips them to improve this season…..not one-eyed ……in any way….

  2. Agree. Odd sale at this juncture. Maybe Bruce has something up his sleeve. IF not losing Long will hurt Hull. It’s a bit like L’Pool losing Suarez and Nufc losing Remy. Some say Sturridge will step up but much of his success came from the space created by Suarez. Can Sturridge or in Hull’s case Jelevic create the space and score the goals?…. We’ll know soon enough. When Thierry left the Arse the other players stepped up. So it can work out well losing a dominant striker.

    Safc know all about losing strikers at bad times so no room for gloating.

    The Arse may be in for Tiote…..v interesting…..could be paper talk of course. Thankfully they’ve not realised Catts is a better player…..

  3. The sands are shifting all the time. One notable transfer is that of Long to Southampton. He’s a good intelligent player Shane Long and his partnership with Jelavic made a huge and immediate impact to the outcome of Hull’s season.

    Long will move defenders out of position because his off the ball work is first class. How Hull will adapt to losing him will be an interesting one. Jelavic doesn’t look anywhere nearly as effective without Long beside him IMHO.

    Long meanwhile will be pocketing a hefty signing on fee and then another one next summer after Southampton get relegated. He’s not worth 12M but he is a very good player.

  4. The argument of the statistical ‘logic’ is, if nowt else, amusing. I expect Hull City AFC to use the Europa as a decent means of rotating players to keep form; as has been said, it has worked previously for all but Brum.
    DQPR are a tad underpowered at the moment, but, perhaps, the new first team coach has already employed a psychic who tells him things are just fine!
    WBA, Burnley and quite a few others have to get into winning ways and I think it will need to be at the cost of the drop-zone candidates; I think bonus points against top teams will be on ration this season. I can’t be bothered to review the stats, but memory makes me be live that such a trend would be more painful for Sunderland than it would for most others.
    In the words of the French Tickler, ‘Time will tell’; bring it on and enjoy the ride! Cheers.

  5. Well you’ve got the cat in the pigeon shed with this article John! Hah Hah!!!

    The newly promoted teams are always the most at risk. That’s just the way it is and the facts are there for all to see.

    However I think that this year is probably going to be a little bit different. I’ve always had a soft spot for Burnley but they really haven’t a cat in hell’s chance of survival. They are as good as down already.

    Leicester is the trickiest team to predict as they ran away with the league last season and sometimes those who have had the easiest time of it gaining promotion are found wanting when they are in a fight. I think Leicester might surprise a few people. Nigel Pearson is a shrewd manager and I’d tip them to do well this year. They don’t seem like a relegation side to me. Neither to QPR who will be an awful lot tougher than the last time. Redknapp has bought well in my opinion and they won’t be relegated either.

    The stats on relegation don’t take into account the odd curve ball like the fire sales at Southampton who will go down with Burnley.

    We may not like Doubtfire very much but he seems to have done well in the transfer market even if he has characteristically paid well over the odds. Hull will have a good season although how good depends on how far they get stretched with the European adventure. I like Hull CIty and their fans. Just not their manager.

    Sorry Villans but the people running your club seem to have lost the plot. Astonishing to see that Lambert is still there. In case there was any doubt in his ability to get you down this season he has signed the players and assistant who will make that job considerably easier.

    The bottom of the table will look like this. Sunderland for once at least won’t be anywhere near it.

    Aston Villa
    Southampton
    Burnley

  6. The funny thing is every article is saying my club Hull have a more difficult fixture than last season but if we are eliminated to Lokeren (by all means a good Belgium side) we could actually potentially have less games than last season combined with a stronger squad. Our team was pretty much safe towards the end of the season combined with wanting to keep the players fresh from injury for the FA cup, we’ll be more than fine. My prediction has to be Burnley, Leicester and the Baggies, best of luck to all clubs. Group stages and avoiding relegation will be seen as a highly successful season in my eyes for the Tigers.

  7. Hull have a great chance of going down, top half says one! Balancing the europa League with the Premier League will be a lot harder than the FA Cup.

    We’ll be fine. We tried our best to get relegated last year but couldn’t manage it, despite everything that went on. Our squad has improved already and will only be stronger at the end of the month.

    I quite like West Brom but can see the baggies filling a spot.

    Three promoted clubs I feel will all make a good go of it, not sure whether Burnley have enough to survive however.

  8. Any true stats man would know that only one club involved in the Europa League (Birmingham) have been relegated in the same season. Brucey’s boys will be fine.

    • I missed that one. Following your logic means Palace will go down if second season syndrome strikes, which means QPR will be OK. That would put Burnley in the frame.

      And anyone who takes my stuff seriously should note I first posted this under the category “McCormick’s dodgy numbers”.

      Since when has football been logical?

      (Having said that, I predicted Fulham, Norwich and Cardiff would go down.in early February last season)

      I’ll be updating my prediction, and Sunderland’s progress, at times during this season, using whatever dodgy numbers come to hand. You’re welcome to visit, comment, show pity, etc. Just remember M Salut’s rules of decency etc.

      And enjoy the season
      Best wishes
      John Mac

    • Birmingham played in Europa League while in championship. Went down in same season as winning carling cup.

      Ipswich went down in a UEFA cup season, cant think of any other but Swansea came close and consistently lost on a Sunday

  9. Amused, I am… A nice contentious article, indeed, but John does suggest you not put any money on this, and I would support that opinion, don’t put any money on it!
    Apparently, the bookies are laying that Leicester and Burnley are the two most likely to go back down of the three promoted teams, and the bookies very rarely lose, plus there are a number of teams that just about stayed up last season, so at least one of those will go down.
    QPR? Good manager, good first team coach appointed in Hoddle, and a good psychologist/motivational speaker, whatever the bloke is, 2 excellent players back from injury, plus 4 crackin’ signings so far.
    It looks as though it will be difficult for QPR to hang on to Remy (I don’t give a toss if Taarabt stays or goes), and if Remy does go, we’ll need 2 more strikers. Still a wait & see…
    Anyway, you’d expect me to say that QPR will stay up, and I’m saying that, please take note of my forecast in the past on your first ever podcast 😉

  10. Three teams to go down are more likely to be Sunderland – No real improvement or additions from last season, going to be a struggle, Southampton – have lost virtually there whole team, the 3rd one more difficult, QPR, Burnley, Foxes, West Brom and West Ham are all candidates. Yes Hull, Palace could be dragged in but all the odds say that both will survive. The article makes no real sense in its predictions and seems to hang on what has happened in history (which last season proved wrong again in the relegation stakes) and what happened last season, it has not taken into account club purchases, pre season or anything really. It does come across as a bitter Sunderland fan I’m afraid. Last season I thought we’d go down or finish just above, we did a lot better.

    • Sorry but you’re missing the Gus factor. He only had 30 games and still kept us up. His points per game worked out at classic mid- table position. This time with a pre-season we’ll be fine. Have to disagree apropos signings. They’ve been astute eg Gomez, Jones . Rodwell is an excellent signing. Finally Fletcher is looking fit and raring to go.

      Hull tonked us. No complaints. We ended up above them after our worst season in a decade. This season we’ll do better. Will Hull?

      • I have to question that Gus ” still kept us up “.
        In my opinion he had resigned himself to relegation 5/6 games from the end of the season, when he said, without any conviction that ” only a miracle ” would keep us up. I felt he was ready to walk [ remember his comments about something being ” wrong ” at SAFC? ]

        We started winning, in my opinion, when he dropped his failed three centre back system and recalled Connor Wickham, who he had pointedly ignored all season.

        My own opinion is that the players collectively, and in particular, Cattermole, Brown, Larsson and O’Shea, were responsible for our survival.

        Poyet wasted the January window bringing in players who were not as good as those we already had [ Scocco, Virgini, Bridcutt ] and IMO has been very lucky to have emerged with such a glowing reputation. Maybe this means that he is a lucky manager? I hope so. I think he has yet to prove that he is a good one.

  11. Laughable that you have Hull City in the 3! The Tigers will be pushing top half.
    Yes Hull beat Sunderland twice in the league with more men. What about the drubbing in FA Cup QF?
    Sunderland, Villa and Burnley will go down.

  12. I’d be worried about anyone who wasn’t biased. Everything we write is subjective. The acronym IMO is redundant……IMO.

    Anyway, QPR have made an astute signing taking Glenn Hoddle onboard. He may be mad as a box of frogs but he’s a good coach. If they hang on to Remy they’ll be fine.

    Tis true that Brucie enjoys good media relations. I suspect his new recruits will improve their team. That said we’ll take points off them this season.

    For me the three going down will be Burnley, the Baggies and Newcastle……but I am biased…..more behind the scenes rows at SJP. Most creative player banned. Best defender sold to Arsenal. Top scorer back at QPR….hmmm

  13. Of course no-one has tipped hull for relegation, the media love Bruce (with little foundation). However, be aware that their terrible finish to the season was reminiscent of ours under Bruce, a run which continued into the following season and led to his dismissal. Add to that the Europa league, something that has ruined many clubs’ league form and I think hull will definitely be fighting the drop, and may well fail.
    Yes, I’m very biased.

    • I was happy to allow that link, Germany Tiger. But please read John’s piece as a whole. Of course he’s biased, as you and I are, and he admits as much. He may even look for statistical signs favourable to Sunderland. Disagree by all means, as you have, but “No numbers, no statistics will convince me we’re safe until we are” suggests to me a writer trying to be fair. And it is true you tonked us twice last season – the only one of the three games in which you were probably lucky was when we went down to 9 men and you ended the match playing desperately for time!

  14. Hull have significantly improved not only in quality but in additions to the squad which has a British heart to it with a few classy none brits:

    I quote V Trencin – Equalizer – Elmo, Winner Sone Aluko, man of the match Yannik Sagbo.

    You are the only one (and I´ve read a lot) who have Hull in a relegation spot which siggests to me that there is still a bit of disappointzment at being put to the sword 3 times last season by the Tigers and I predict a few more this season also….. oh if we could only play Sunderland every week… deep joy!!

  15. Aston Villa have been relegated in 0% of premier league seasons and therefore will be safe!

    Just kidding, were going to be well in the brown stuff next season.

    Personally though I think Leicester, QPR and Hull but West Brom could well fall into that as I’m still expecting QPR to make a few more signings.

    Waiting for Harry to be leaning out the window of his Range Rover on SSN on deadline day

  16. I have to say, I know this is just all about stats and the like, but I can definitely see Sunderland in the relegation battle again.
    I’m a Norwich fan so don’t really care who comes back down.
    Sunderland only finishing 5 points above the drop!.
    I think this article is more about trying to distract you, from the very real possibility that you will be battling at the bottom yet again.

  17. Supporters of all the clubs John mentions, and indeed those he does not, are welcome to express their views subject only to the usual rules of decency and legality. Mr QPR’s somewhat kneejerk response does not breach those rules even if it offers no constructive ideas on what was a considered, if contentious, article by someone whose statistical analysis have often been proved right.

    Please accept a short delay for moderation if you have not posted here before

  18. What a rubbish article, how can a sunderland fan have any view on relegation when they will be one of the teams themselves

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