We take a look at which clubs in the Premiership and Championship over performed and under performed last season, based on their economic status. ALEX MILLER reports
At the start of the season, I wrote a feature for fcbusiness magazine, which explored the league positions that Premiership and Championship clubs ought to finish in, based on simple economics.
It is a fascinating and vast area to explore, question and debate – the idea that (to a degree) economics can predict the outcome of a football season.
The fcbusiness table used a combination of each club’s ground size, average attendance, revenues and wage bill from the then latest Deloitte Annual Review of Football Finance and also included the approximate value of each club’s star player, to predict a final league standing. It must be stressed the research was not pretending to be anything other than a straightforward benchmark exercise.
I carried out more in-depth economic research with Professor Chris Brady, for use on the UEFA Pro Licence training course last summer, which found that it is very unusual – but certainly not unheard of – for clubs to finish more than three places either side of their economic status.
With that in mind and with the season now over, it is possible to deduce that from an economics point of view at least, last season threw up some massive surprises.
Man City won the Premiership title in thrilling style, pipping Man Utd on goal difference after Sergio Aguero scored to beat QPR 3-2 with almost the last kick of the season.
But the biggest winners in terms of over performing were not Man City, but Swansea City under manager Brendan Rogers. The Swans managed to finish 11th – an impressive nine places higher than the club’s economic prowess would warrant.
Meanwhile, WBA under recently appointed England manager Roy Hodgson finished in 10th, seven places higher than the club’s stature, while Norwich City under Paul Lambert, finished in 12th spot, six places higher than economics had predicted for the Canaries.
Conversely, the biggest under achievers were Aston Villa who finished in a disappointing 16th spot, 10 places lower than expected. As a result, the club subsequently wasted little time in terminating the contract of manager Alex McLeish once the season finished.
Other big under performers were Blackburn Rovers who were relegated after Steve Kean’s team finished eight places lower than they may have been expected. Wolves were relegated after finishing in last spot, five places lower than they may have expected. The club replaced former manager Mick McCarthy with interim boss Terry Connor in February. A full-time replacement has since been named, following the appointment of Norwegian Stale Solbakken.
In the Championship, champions Reading embarked on a remarkable run to end the campaign – and which saw Brian McDermott’s side finish a massive 10 spots higher than our research suggested they might be reasonably expected to. Runners-up Southampton under Nigel Adkins finished seven spots higher than may ordinarily be expected.
The biggest over achievers though, were Ian Holloway’s Blackpool, finishing in fifth place – 19 spots higher than their economic status merited. Other over-achievers were Gus Poyet’s Brighton, Malky Mackay’s Cardiff and Sean Dyche’s Watford. On the flip side, relegated Portsmouth under achieved by 10 positions, but Leeds and Nottingham Forest both under achieved by 11 positions.
At a time when statistics are increasingly used in the game, it is the performances of clubs such as Blackpool and Swansea that remind us that football is still the beautiful game with a fluid and unpredictable nature, capable of producing both romance and genuine surprise. However a caveat from the world of economics: What goes up… must come down – even if it takes a while.
Alex (@alexmiller73) is a freelance sports/finance Journalist and writes for the Mail on Sunday, fcbusiness, Sportbusiness International, The Sunday Mirror, UEFA, the Wisden Cricketer and www.sportingintelligence.com.
The views of our regular columnists are independent, and as such do not represent those of Leaders in Football.