John McCormick writes: I’ll update my “relegation watch” charts over the empty weekend (aren’t all weekends empty these days?) and you can work out just what our chances are of surviving the drop from some numbers that are looking less dodgy with every match. In the meantime, here’s Peter Lynn, AKA Wrinkly Pete, with some reasons why we should not be feeling too happy after taking four points from our arch enemy
“Back to bed, back to reality”.
Thus sang The Beautiful South in their “Carry on up the Charts” album.
So, here is my reality check, post Sid James Park.
First, a look back at history, although, as those financial warnings say – “past performance is no guarantee of future results”
On 14th April, 2014, we were rock bottom of the Premier League with 25 points from 32 games, having just lost at home to Everton, and our six remaining fixtures were Man C (a), Chelsea (a), Cardiff (h), Man U (a), WBA (h) and Swansea (h).
We survived, by 5 points and with a game in hand.
Currently, we sit third bottom, with 26 points from 30 games and will face WBA (h), Leics (h), Norwich (a), Arsenal (h), Stoke (a), Chelsea (h), Everton (h) and Watford (a) in our eight remaining fixtures.
Thus it would seem, on paper, that we are much better placed now to stay up than we were then. Why is it then that I (and others?) feel that we won’t escape this time?
Well, firstly it’s that hope thing.
On April 14, 2014, we were effectively down and so the players seemed to play with the freedom that comes from having nothing to lose. Now, we have got ourselves to the brink of escape and so have something to lose and thus don’t play with freedom.
The last two games are perfect illustrations of this effect. With seconds to survive against Southampton and seven minutes to go against Newcastle we have everything to lose and stop doing the very things that have got us into a winning position. Included in this are tactical changes. Now, of course, I don’t know the fine detail of those changes with regards injuries and fitness but I can see, with the benefit of hindsight, that they didn’t help.
The second thing for me is history, in particular our recent record.
For the past four seasons we have spent the vast majority of the time in a relegation position. Statistically, therefore, we are bound at some point to go down on that basis. I, incidentally, don’t want this to happen.
The third thing is the manner in which we have earned our meagre six wins this season.
For half of them, against Newcastle (h), Stoke (h) and Swansea (a) we have enjoyed the huge advantage of playing against only ten men for a large part of those games. Would we have won against full sides? With that in mind, how realistic is it to expect the four wins we require from the remaining eight games?
It is in that very last point that I see hope. In the past four seasons, it has been at the very point of hopelessness that the miracles have begun.
Perhaps this time we will do it with two games in hand!!!!!!!