By Brian Sears
26 March 2010
As every musical statto knows, Queen’s 1984 hit single, ‘It’s a Hard Life’, derives in part from the Leoncavallo opera, ‘Pagliacci’, and close to the start of the song, Freddie Mercury sings:
This is a tricky situation
I’ve only got myself to blame
It’s just a simple fact of life
It can happen to anyone
You win, you lose
It’s a chance you have to take
To my knowledge, Freddie wasn’t talking about having to take chances on a wet Tuesday at Goodison, or even on a Saturday at Turf Moor, but those lines sum up the lottery of playing away from home in the Premier League. The bad news is the lottery just got less fair.
It’s never been harder to win points away from home than this season. Teams are winning fewer away points as a percentage of the total points that in any of the 17 completed seasons of the Premier League. How few? Those of a sickly disposition may want to look away now. (Just 293 points from 843 points won altogether, or 34.8 per cent). I know. It’s a shock.
And the lion’s share of the points won away has gone to the big boys from Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Aston Villa, Tottenham and Manchester City, who have the best away records, in that order.
Meanwhile at the bottom of the table, Burnley (now in the care of Brian Laws) have a measly single away point, and the three other clubs having a particularly hard life this season on the road are Hull (now under Iain Dowie), Blackburn (Sam Allardyce) and Sunderland (Steve Bruce). What a sorry band.
In as many as six of the 17 previous seasons, 40 per cent of total points (or more!) were won away from home, with the peak season being 2001-02, when 42.6 per cent – or 443 points from 1,039 points – were won away.
This season it’s hovering just above one in three points away. Home wins are overshadowing away wins by 158 to 72. It’s enough to make a traveller weep.
With three games remaining away from Turf Moor, Burnley still need two more points to even match the poorest ever total of away points in the Premier League: the three registered by Derby two seasons ago. Those away games don’t come for a while, at Hull and Sunderland next month, then at Birmingham. But all is not yet lost for Burnley.
Three of the teams among the eight teams with the poorest single-season away records in Premier League history still managed to avoid relegation. Fulham finished as high as 12th in 2005-06, Coventry 14th in 1999-2000 and Leeds 17th in 1992-93, even though they had all managed just seven away points.
Joining Burnley with no away wins at all this season are Hull. If things don’t look up they could both be joining the five clubs in Premier League history to have already achieved that unwanted duck for a whole season: Coventry, Wolves, Leeds, Norwich and Derby.