Relegation: it’s still Bournemouth and Watford. Can Leicester and Norwich relax?

John McCormick:
John McCormick: I’m biased. Are you?

Strange, isn’t it? I spend Monday evening idly browsing the MLS (aka Major League Soccer) website trying to work out how it (the league, not the website) operates and then along comes David Millward with a piece about a football convention in the USA. I wonder if the fans he mixed with can get their heads around relegation and promotion better than I can handle the subtleties of the MLS.


I can understand the two Conferences (each of 10 clubs). I can also understand that the top six in each Conference, via play offs and semi finals, end up with a single club which goes through to the MLS cup final, so that the final contains a club from each Conference. It’s very much an American Football, Superbowl-led model, which no doubt appeals to USA soccer fans, and good luck to it.

I can understand that to determine the top six, the clubs in one Conference play the other nine, home and away. I can also understand that they play every team in the other conference, five of them at home, five away, plus another six interconference games, three home and three away. I don’t know what decides who goes where in these games, however, and I don’t know for certain if they all count towards Conference placings (although I’m pretty sure they do), so MLS will remain an arcane system beyond my wit and understanding for the time being.

I also wonder how this system will energise the clubs that, even now, about half-way through the season, know they won’t be going through to the playoffs. With nothing left to play for, is there any point?

Or am I being too judgmental? Does a league of 10 clubs where six go through to the playoffs have the potential to involve all clubs until almost the end of the season, unlike a league of 20 where there can only be one champion and half of the clubs know they can’t win it by Christmas.

The irony, however, is that in the English leagues, the  Premier League included,  the season’s not over  for the clubs in the bottom half, and it won’t be over for a long time. The R word begins to rear its head. Relegation truly makes sure the clubs in the bottom half can’t switch off, and the fact that it exists surely concentrates minds from the start of the season.

This might explain the response to my poll asking who would go down, and the optimism displayed by some fans of newly promoted teams, including the few who posted predictions.

The poll originally went out midweek to the predominantly SAFC fans who visit the Salut site. In three or four days about three hundred votes were cast. When these initial results went out on the Friday evening  fans from other clubs were invited to join in. Over the weekend three thousand votes were cast and we’ve now had over 10,000 hits on the site.

Thank you, one and all. Before I give you the results let me remind you of the situation on the Friday:

Relegation poll, 19th June. Votes cast for each team
Relegation poll, 19th June. Votes cast for each team

And then look what happened:

Relegation poll, 25th June. Votes cast for each team.
Relegation poll, 25th June. Votes cast for each team.

Although the numbers have increased and Norwich have moved past Leicester the graph is substantially the same, with the exception of one club. There’s a simple reason for this:

We (SAFC fans) have been ganged up on.

Excuse the tortured English but it’s true. The total vote went up by a factor of about 10 (i.e. about 10 times as many people voted in the second poll as in the first). The votes for the other clubs in the poll went up by around the same factor, so the proportions of votes going to them didn’t change a lot. The vote for Sunderland went up by a factor of 58.

It looks very much like fans of Bournemouth, Watford, Norwich and Leicester (and others – including Newcastle fans, of course) have all voted for Sunderland to go down, and only then have they given any consideration to other clubs. We can’t complain, we’d do – we did – pretty much the same, only the other way round, by voting for other clubs to go down and not us.

So it’s hardly an objective poll, but never mind. The results so far give a strong pointer as to which teams I should track next season, more or less – Villa are still loitering with intent. As things stand it will be ourselves, obviously, and then the four favourites in the poll: the three promoted clubs plus Leicester.

How will I do it? I’ll be looking at win-loss ratios. There’s a rationale for that but I’ve reached the end of the page so I’ll leave a detailed explanation until next week. Before then, though, you might ask yourself what tenuous link connects Sunderland, Aston Villa, Wolves, Wigan, Sheffield Utd, Portsmouth, Derby, Coventry, Southampton and Man City.

I’ll leave the poll running for another week or so. Having mentioned some other clubs we might get a wider response, or Leics/Norwich fans might come out in large numbers to condemn Villa. Whatever happens, if you haven’t already voted, feel free to choose the three teams who will go down. As ever, alternative teams to the seven below are welcome, as are comments. That’s especially true if you’re a visitor from the home of the MLS.

And if anyone wants to go right back to the beginning they could visit the post I put up a year ago or follow the dodgy numbers thread

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10 thoughts on “Relegation: it’s still Bournemouth and Watford. Can Leicester and Norwich relax?”

  1. Seriously, as a Leicester City fan who walked away with the Championship by a much larger amount of points the year before – I can tell you it doesn’t matter how good your team was in the championship or how successful your manager is (Bournemouth fans) – The Premier League is a different gravy. Tougher in every way. Those half chances that come your oppositions way become goals, your mistakes your defenders mildly get away with are punished, and those chances you could get away with spurning in the championship are the only chances you get – you have to put them away – because other teams will.

    I’m amazed though that Leicester City were near the drop in this poll. After finishing 14th, above Villa, Sunderland, Newcastle etc. Ok so it was possibly a freak 10 game run – but we were good all season long and pundits and fans alike always believed we were good enough to stay up. We gave every team in the league a game.

    If I was to pick out anyone who will struggle this year I’d say the teams that came up, but there’s always a surprise package and I think Bournemouth are more likely to be the team to stay up than the others. I think this year more than most the relegation scrap will be tighter than ever.

    • Good points Leigh. I only saw Leicester the once when they came to the Stadium of Light and whilst I am dubious about judging teams purely on what I’ve seen on TV I was generally impressed by the way the Foxes played all season, even when they were bottom of the pile. More so than I was with us under Poyet. Apart from the game at Sid James’ Park it was only when Advocaat came in that we showed positive intent.

      But the second season is always harder as sides get worked out. Bournemouth and Watford fans have every right to be optimistic but I believe the truth is that they will struggle. Norwich supporters will possibly be more realistic.

      It’s been a quiet close season news wise so far and though I expect to see some activity soon, I would like to see the transfer window closed before the opening day of the season. There can still be quite a change in personnel in the first few weeks of the season and it must make the coach’s job more difficult if his squad isn’t finalised during pre-season.

      As well as the three promoted sides Leicester, Villa, Palace, The Mags, West Brom, West Ham could all be in the mix for a lot of the time. I’ll hold fire on Sunderland’s chances until I see who we manage to bring in but I’ve watched Sunderland for too long to think we’ll have it easy either.

    • There’s absolutely no chance Leicester will be in a relegation dogfight next season, we shouldn’t have been this season but it took us until April to learn how to win.

      Only Leicester, Man City and Arsenal avoided defeat by less than three goals and Wenger and Walcott both said we were the best side to visit the Emirates. Mourinho said we were the best team they’d played in a month and we received plaudits from opposong fans, managers and pundits all season saying “if they carry on playing like this there’s no way they’ll go down and loads of managers like Wenger, Redknapp, Mourinho, Allardyce, Pocchetino and many more plus Paul Merson ‘who rated us all season.

      We finished top of the league in the last nine games and were in the top five teams in Europe on form so we were better than our league position and as soon as we found a formation and style that worked, we became the very good side we’d promised to become.

      We completely dominated the Championship and with all due respect, our team was a lot stronger than any of the promoted sides and there’s not really much denying that. We finished in 102 points, finished nine above Burnley and 22 above QPR and they both went down. We survived because we were a better side to start off with.

      We also signed players like Cambiasso, Huth, Albrighton and Ulloa so you need to be signing players of that quality if you think you can stay up. Personally I think you’ve got no chance.

      We’ve now signed Huth, Cambiasso is expected to re-sign, his kids are re-enrolled in school, we’ve signed Fuchs, Austria captain been playing Champions League for the last five seasons and also Okazaki today, one of the best strikers in the Bundesliga.

      To think we’ll get relegated is silly. Oh and we’re extending our stadium to 42,000 for the 2016/17 season, it’s a shame none of you will still be in the league to play in it. Expect a long though season, it’s going to take a lot of character for you to stay up and some quality players of course. Good luck ????

      • Absolutely no chance of being in a relegation scrap? – that is a bold statement Steve, and one I fancy one you will have to revise.

        I recall Hull City fans saying the same thing at the start of last season.

        Leicester spent the better part of last season as favourites for the drop, but survived as a result of a brilliant spell of results in the final games.

        We [ Sunderland ] had a similar experience in each of the last three seasons, and history shows that our end of season ” miracle ” had no positive effect on our results next time round.

        Second season syndrome often proves fatal. I hope not in your case, but in truth there are probably up to ten contenders for the bottom three next season, including Leicester [ and Sunderland ]

  2. You rely on penalties ha ha! We win a lot of penalties because of Callum wil sons style of play and defenders can’t handle him! Maybe you should look at how many goals have been scored from open play by our team!! Don’t believe all in the media!

  3. What about all the sad jealous afc Bournemouth haters all voting for us to go down!with our new signings and current squad and the best English menager since Brian cough we WILL stay up!!AFCB

    • err – No you won’t
      You rely on penalties and premier league defenders will not be so “clumsy” – Ritchie and Wilson will have to learn to stand up and not behave like circus clowns!

    • Norwich fan here. Not that jealous of Bournemouth, I was actually very pleased you won the league (albeit it was a lot closer in the end than it looked like it was going to be earlier on).

      Nevertheless would make Bournemouth one of my favourites for the drop this time out (somebody has to be and as OP said, we are less likely to pick our own team).

      Reality is that all of the teams mentioned in the article are going to be in a dogfight not to go down, and it nearly always pans out that the bottom 6 or 7 are very close until Easter at least, so it is literally a case of tossing a coin to decide who might fall below the line.

      Voting with my head I went for Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester.

      But if you asked me who I wanted to go down, it would be Villa, Newcastle and Watford. Well, I might include Liverpool in that, but I have to be realistic 🙂

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