By Brian Sears
4 August 2011
With a new campaign in the Football League set to start on Friday as Hull host Blackpool, the season of guessing football league table outcomes is upon us. And according to a sportingintelligence ‘pedigree’ analysis of clubs in the Championship, history says West Ham are favourites to go up, with Leeds, Leicester and Nottingham Forest in the chasing pack.
At the other end of the table, we’d suggest that Peterborough and Doncaster could struggle, while Reading, Brighton, Millwall, Hull and Bristol City won’t be too far ahead of them. (See table at bottom of piece for full details).
If this feels in some way ‘right’, then it’s not because we’ve considered the relative merits of Big Sam at Upton Park or Simon Grayson at Elland Road, or the cash outlay at the King Power Stadium (that’s Leicester’s Thai-branded duty free-based home) or the nous of Steve ‘Schteve’ McClaren.
Rather we have considered how many post-war seasons (of 65) each club has spent at a higher level than the second tier (or Championship as it is now), and how many years lower, and what their pedigree is based on this simple measurement (number of years higher minus number of years lower).
The results are in the table below, with West Ham (45 years above minus no years below) on a pedigree of 45. Leeds (37 minus three) are on 34, followed by Leicester (32), Forest (30), Middlesbrough (29) and Birmingham (27).
Of course environmental factors can and will skew the picture as the season unfolds; financial ‘doping’ at Leicester will have an impact, for example, and economic chaos and possibly worse at Birmingham.
History would suggest that neither Peterborough nor Doncaster will go up: neither have ever played at a higher level than now. Four other clubs – Brighton, Millwall, Bristol City and Cardiff – have played at a higher level but never in the Premier League era (since 1992).
The other 18 clubs all have. West Ham have played in 16 of the 19 Premier League seasons while among the others, Middlesbrough have played in 14, Southampton 13, Leeds 12, Coventry nine and Leicester eight.
If one of the six clubs who’ve never tasted the Premier League are going to make it, perhaps it will finally be Cardiff, the highest ranked of those six on ‘pedigree’. But they have been playing at their current level without going up or down for nine years, a total beaten only by Coventry (11 straight seasons in the second tier) and Ipswich (10).