| Tavita |
THE New Year’s begun, the season’s half over and football watchers are split into two varieties of hard-core addicts. Uppers and Downers.
Us older experts, though, don’t go much on the uppers.
Far too safe, warm and comfortable.
At our time of watching, we need a spot of pulsating despair. A sharpish edge at sofatime.
And it’s the downers that grab our attention, watching them all go down, down, down, and maybe even downer in the coming footy seasons.
So this, the first full weekend of the New Year League season, offers us an exciting moment to ignore the Imperial Portuguese Fleet sailing along on the Dark Blue Waves of the Sea of Chel.
It’s a chance to forget the City of Light Blue Arabian Knights; the Scarlet United Dutch Masters; the Red and White Fancy French Classicals and all the Striped Southerly Hamptons and Razor-Sharp Silvery Spurs hovering up in the lofty heights of Top Fourdom.
It’s time, instead, for a contented click on the flounderers: those who are due to spend from now until next May looking downer and downer as the view from the Transfer Window turns from Dismal Grey to the Bleakest of Black.
The relegation struggle.
Ever since 1898-9, the English system has been as brutal as a Colonial Secretary dealing with an Uppity Local.
No second chances. No play-offs. No appeals. Just down you go. Get out of my sight.
Loss of prestige. Skid Row down to the Conference. Financial Collapse. Off to the Administration Court. Bankruptcy. Liquidation. And all the great memories washed down the drain of football history.
Initially, it was only one team down.
And, finally, it got really savage in the third and fourth divisions, with four teams down and the introduction of three non-league waste bins.
Every club’s had its downer at some time or other and the scramble to avoid it has often been the most exciting part of a season.
In 1927-8, no less than nine teams were possible contenders on the very last day of the season, with Middlesbrough and Spurs eventually getting the chop.
Bristol City once went down three seasons in a row from Division One to Division Four in the 1980’s.
Even more dramatically, there was Portsmouth’s move from number one club in the world and successive Division One champions in 1949 and 1950; star-studded BPL and EURO glitterers in 2008-9; and then down from the Premier League to the Fourth Division between 2010 and 2013.
Biggest of the other collapsed great names from the top division are Bradford Park Avenue.
Division One from 1914-21, they went steadily downwards, decade after decade, till eventually liquidated, then revived, and now currently twenty first in the Conference North and heading for non-non-league status next season.
Others who have gone from top to bottom are Carlisle United, Luton Town, Swindon Town, Oxford United, Brentford, Oldham Athletic and Northampton Town,
Perhaps the number one downer of all is Grimsby Town, the greatest team in all Lincolnshire.
They were once managed by the likes of Bill Shankley and Lawrie McMenemy. They were multiple appearers at Wembley in heaps of different finals. They made it to 5th in the First Division in 1945.
Then came financial collapse in the 2000’s, a 25 game losing streak in 2010, relegation to the Conference on the last day of the 2010 season and out of the Football League for the first time on 100 years.
Now they’re desperately hanging on to fourth place in the Conference League in the hope of a play-off return to the Fourth Division.
As the pundits like to inform us, at ever-increasing moments until April and rising to an estimated 18 times a minute in May, it’s all a matter of maths.
The classical BPL safety cut-off line is 40 points, or 1.05036 pts per game.
With 20 games now gone, this means that anyone currently on less than 21.0052 points is a potential downer.
So, watch out Everton, Sunderland, Hull, QPR, West Brom, Crystal Palace, Burnley and Leicester City.
It means today’s biggest test at the Front Room Clinic is West Brom versus Hull City.
According to the granddaughter’s Big Book of Highly Advanced Arithmetic, a loss for Hull today will put them down to an average of 0.905 per match and a season’s potential total of 34.385 points.
Defeat for WBA will down their average to 0.809 and a disastrous Maytime total of 33.853.
According to football history, that means, for either of them , the path will be open to potential administration, bankruptcy, liquidation and re-emergence under another readjusted name in the Darlington and District Second Division within the next twenty years.
Almost dead cert downers….
And maybe years and years of rehab!