By Brian Sears
12 August 2011
If Queens Park Rangers, Norwich and Swansea can manage victories in their opening games of the new Premier League season, then they have a 75 per cent chance of staying up. That at least is what statistical history concludes.
QPR begin their campaign at home to Bolton, Norwich travel to Wigan, and Swansea will visit Manchester City on Monday.
Including the three newcomers, 59 teams have been promoted to the Premier League up to 2011-12, which is the League’s 20th season. (Three teams have come up per year except in 1995 when only Middlesbrough and Bolton came up as the division was cut in size).
And of the 56 ‘debuts’ so far by teams in a ‘coming up’ season, only 12 teams started with wins, 14 began with draws, and 30 lost their opening games.
Let’s focus on those 12 first-day winners first. (They are listed in the graphic below). Of those 12, nine of them (or 75 per cent) went on to retain their Premier League status at the end of that season. That’s why a first-day win could be so vital to this term’s newcomers.
The three among the dozen who won their openers but went down anyway were Blackpool (last season) and Bolton and Crystal Palce in 1997.
So what chance of QPR, Norwich and Swansea winning this weekend?
The stats suggest Swansea have the best chance – albeit not a good chance. Teams arriving in the Premier League as play-off winners from the second tier have the best record on the opening day (five wins, five defeats and nine losses in 19 matches to date).
The champions have a very slightly worse record (W5, D4, L10) and the runners-up have the worse record (W2, D5, L11).
On this basis, Norwich have the toughest historical hoodoo to overcome. The last time the Championship runners-up won their first match the next season in the Premier League was in August 1999 when Bradford won 1-0 at Middlesbrough.
The biggest win by a promoted side in their ‘debut’ game was 10 years ago when Bolton won 5-0 at Leicester and the largest debut defeat was a year ago when West Brom went down 0-6 to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. West Brom survived, of course, so losing doesn’t mean relegation. But winning certainly helps survival.