Sunderland’s lengthening list of promotion rivals: Ipswich, plus Rotherham, Peterborough, Portsmouth and Doncaster (or Wycombe, Fleetwood, Blackpool and Coventry)

Another weekend without football, another weekend providing space to keep our readers – and pundits – up to date with our chosen clubs. If you think as far back as the start of the season you’ll probably recall six clubs being selected by our readership as the most likely to finish in the top six slots come the end of the season.

Sunderland made the cut but would have been selected regardless. The other five clubs were Ipswich Town, Rotherham, Peterborough Portsmouth and Doncaster. Ipswich apart, they haven’t done as well as expected. In fact, they haven’t done as well as Sunderland who, as the first two graphs show, haven’t done as well as they did last season

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No need to panic but Sunderland are doing worse this year than last

You might not like this post. You might be able to ignore it. And in truth it probably doesn’t matter too much, being so early.

We’ve had the naysayers making their presence felt after we began with draws. We’ve had the eternal optimists metaphorically singing, maybe even swinging, from the rafters after three wins on the trot. And we are in the playoff positions, so all is not doom and gloom. What’s more, compared to some of the promotion candidates chosen in our poll, we’re doing very well.

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Promotion poll: Sunderland vie with Portsmouth but can Burton, Lincoln or Doncaster make top six?

John McCormick, associate editor, writes: things have quietened down with our ‘who to follow’ poll, as we might expect. Portsmouth, Sunderland and Ipswich are clear leaders, with not much between them, after which we have Rotherham and Peterborough. Then comes Coventry, followed at a distance by Donny, Lincoln and Burton.

That’s interesting because on Wednesday over at  Roker Report, Nick Barnes, who knows more about football than I ever will,  identified Lincoln and Burton as teams that could mount a challenge to Sunderland, along with Ipswich, Portsmouth, Peterborough and Coventry. He didn’t mention Rotherham.

I could extend our watch list to eight clubs, even nine on the grounds that Donny are ahead of Lincoln and Burton in our poll, and I have added clubs during the season – Luton last season being the most recent – but it makes graphics difficult to follow. So I’m going to stick with six.

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Portsmouth then Sunderland, Ipswich, Rotherham, Peterborough and Coventry top our poll. But where are Lincoln?

On Friday we had over 3,000 visitors, followed by a quiet weekend. Not everyone took part in our top six poll  but over 1200 votes (not voters) have now been cast. That’s not bad, I suppose, for a League One fans’ site but I am expecting a few more will chip in before the season kicks off.

Early results suggest the headline I used then – for which I visited a couple of betting sites to find the promotion favourites – was on the right lines. Of the six clubs I named five are in the top spots. Lincoln (currently lingering in 8th place) are the exception with Sunderland, unsurprisingly, replacing them. There’s a gap – slight but quite evident – between the top three and the next three,  after which numbers drop off, so Lincoln and Doncaster, who made last season’s playoffs and now lie seventh, have quite a bit of ground to make up.

All of the clubs in the League received votes, which I’m taking to signify that we  managed a wide reach. It will be interesting to see if enough fans of so-called smaller clubs, which are predominantly towards the bottom of the poll, visit in large enough numbers to move their favourites upwards. Crowdwise, numbers are against them but we have only small numbers voting so you never know.

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Ipswich or Portsmouth? Rotherham or Peterborough? How about Lincoln or Coventry? It’s your choice

Last season our punters got it more or less right and correctly predicted most of the top six. Luton were missed but that was mainly down to the Coventry Ninjas, whose hijack of last year’s poll pushed them (Luton) out of the top places.

Maybe the ninjas or another club’s fans will do the same again this season. As far as I’m aware the polldaddy vulnerability that allowed multiple voting still exists and all I can do is disable the ability of readers to see the results in real time. That might change how the poll coding works (it’s built-in and can’t be changed) but it takes something away. A pity, but there we go.

I’ve got a lot on for the next few weeks so I won’t be conjuring up a novel method of tracking and displaying our chosen clubs’ progress or the lack of it. All I’ll be doing is monitoring the accretion of points for now, though I might come up with something different later in the season.

As always, your comments are welcome. We hold posts for moderation but they do go up eventually, subject to meeting commonsense rules of decency, manners, libel etc.

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End of Season Reviews (3): where Sunderland went wrong.

Do we need to keep a sense of perspective? A year ago we were down and out. Now we’re just down, after failing at the final hurdle. But that was with a hastily assembled squad and a relatively inexperienced manager.  We know there will be changes over the summer and we know when the fixtures come out we won’t be looking at other clubs and thinking “I’ll support them this season”. We are Sunderland, and we are Sunderland ’til we die.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have an opinion on what did go wrong, because things did go wrong. In particular, in my own opinion, the transfer windows were not managed well. There had to be some latitude at the start of the season, given the changes we’d experienced, but what about January? By then problems were obvious but there were too many mistakes in addressing them and it cost us.

I’m going to try to show this below by the judicious use of stats, and have chosen some that back me up. It’s possible you won’t agree and you’re welcome to leave a comment, with or without stats of your own. In fact, I’d love to know what you think of my efforts and my conclusion.

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Sixer’s Heartbreak Sevens: The Wembley curse lives on as Charlton gain promotion

John McCormick writes: I watched on TV. I thought we were poor throughout, with our forwards and midfield struggling to link up,  and as a result we created few chances. I’m not saying Charlton deserved their victory but they did manage to put the ball into the net three times whereas we didn’t manage it once.

But being there in person makes a difference. Pete Sixsmith may have a very different opinion from me and I’ll abide by his judgement, which we can expect in a day or so. For now, he has little to say, though the seven words he texted do enough to convey what we all feel:

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Sunderland and Playoffs. Part 6: Problems with Crystal Palace

John McCormick writes: I have a problem with this game. I was working in Sunderland later in the week and had access to a ticket but had prior unbreakable work commitments in Liverpool on the Monday. It wasn’t until the Wednesday that I arrived at the Roker Hotel, (booked for me but not by me, you understand) parked my gear and went on a tour of the local hostelries. Most were flat, many still had no beer I’d drink, me not being a lager man, but I managed to get enough to keep me numb the next day.

But I don’t really have a problem with Palace. My Balham-born friends were supporters, if they supported anyone, and were not seduced by those fancy clubs across the river. Can’t complain about that.
But  it’s different for Pete Sixsmith

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Sunderland and Playoffs. Part 5: A great night at the Stadium of Light

Pete Sixsmith

John McCormick writes: I’m trying to remember what I was doing 25 years ago. I think I was looking around for a new job, having been knocked back in my career for being a narky get. I wasn’t really a narky get, I’d just reached the stage of having lost respect for a lot of managerial types and not caring who knew it.  I could have been wrong about the year, though I did get a new job not much later.

No such doubts about what Pete Sixsmith was doing – both his daytime job and his other one as a Sunderland stalwart.

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