How many times have you heard a Manager in an early season interview, having been asked, “Where do you think you will finish this season?” answer, “I’ll tell you after 10 games”. Those early season games are a terrible indication of where teams are going to finish aren’t they. Or are they?
Here’s a table (TABLE 1) showing how Rovers have faired in the early weeks of the seasons since they joined the Football League back in 1920-21 season and how they finished at the end of those seasons. It gives the stats for the first 10 matches of each season. To highlight the best and worst I have shaded promotion seasons in green and relegation seasons in red.
Our AVERAGE record over those years is: Wins 3.8, Draws 2.6, Losses 3.6 and Final Position 12.4.
I have also repeated the same table (TABLE 2) but this time I have sorted from fewest to greatest the number of Wins and Draws achieved in those first 10 games. It is the same data, but it is easier to see how good a predictor of eventual finishing positions those first 10 games are.
TABLE 1, Chronological order:
TABLE 2, Win, Draw Order:
This really does highlight the benefit of a good start. As can be seen immediately above this, with 7 victories in the first 10 games Rovers have never finished lower than 3rd!
Season 2010⁄11 really should spell out a caution to everyone at the Mem, that relegation season saw Rovers with a record of W4 D3 L3, exactly what we have at the moment. Looking on the bright side with the same Win, Draw, Loss ratio in season 1988⁄89 Rovers finished 5th to earn a Play-Off spot.
By way of contrast, just a few season’s before on 2006⁄07 the record was W2 D3 L5 and promotion was achieved!
Looking at poor starts to a season either 0 or just 1 win almost spells relegation. Even 2 or 3 wins usually indicates a season of struggle (with the exception of that 2006⁄07 season of course!).
We should also take into account the level of the opposition we have met so far. Below in TABLE 3 is the current position of each team we have played and the Win/Draw/Loss record Home/Away.
Whilst Rovers are unbeaten at home draws against the 19 th and 16 th placed teams are a worry. The last two away results have certainly been a real plus. A word of caution also, a number of teams have only played 8 or 9 games and Portsmouth (currently in 20 th spot) have only played 7.
TABLE 3 Results so far and current position of opposition:
What conclusions can we draw from this? There is no doubt that Graham Coughlin has found a way for Rovers to win or draw games that they were losing before he took over last season. Whether GasHeads like it or not, he has stopped the rot. Whilst some people think the football is direct it is certainly not the dire performances we saw under Ian Atkin when he also put a halt to a terrible set of results.
Whilst a Play-Off spot looks like a dream, there is every indication that with a 4 Wins, 3 Draws and 3 Defeats first 10 games start to the season GC might make that dream come true. Goodnight Irene!