Let’s be fair, most Blackpool fans expected us to be right at the top end of the table this season after the summer of recruitment we had. After all, we’re not used to the level of ambition we’ve seen recently under Simon Sadler, so it may have gone to a few of our heads – myself included. Four defeats in the first five games was the reality check some of us maybe needed. But have we blown it altogether after our sluggish start, or are we still in with a shot? Here, I wanted to compare the current season so far with the three most recent promotion seasons – League Two in 2016/17, the Championship in 2009/10 and League One in 2006/07 to understand how we compare and what sort of form we’ll need to see to make the Play-Offs.
How do we compare?
So we’re currently on 22 points from 15 games. How does this compare to previous promotion campaigns under Simon Grayson, Ian Holloway and Gary Bowyer? As shown by the graph above, we’re largely on track and actually ahead of the points total we had in both 06/07 and 16/17.
2006/07 is renowned for our slow start and the fact we achieved a points haul of 83. But we actually started the 2016/17 season even slower and had 18 points at this stage, in comparison to the current 22 for Neil Critchley’s Seasiders. The 2009/10 season under Ian Holloway saw us on 24 points at this stage – the highest of the four – though we only achieved 70 points in total, the joint-worst total of the seasons in question.
The table above breaks down the points accumulated at this point in each of the last three promotion seasons, vs the current one, and how this compared to the final total. The 2009/10 had us on 1.6 points per game at this point (24) and we continued to reach 70 points, the same total we reached in League Two in 2016/17 when we only had 1.2 points per game at this point (18). In 2006/07, we had 1.4 points per game (21), one point less than our current total this season, and went on to achieve 83 after winning all of our last seven league games in the Perfect 10 run.
So can we make it?
Based on the average of the three promotion-winning campaigns, which is in the Points Req. column for the current season, we’d require 71 points to make the play-offs. But it’s worth bearing in mind that we finished 7th in League Two which has one additional promotion place so we may need more in League One. That almost definitely looks to be the case this season, given Charlton in sixth place are on 27 points from 15 games – 1.6 PPG – which would imply that 83 points would be required! In reality, it’s likely it will be less as all teams tend to have different levels of form through a full season.
Using the average of 71 as the benchmark – also the average number of points required from the last five full League One campaigns – we’d need a further 49 points over the next 31 games. That’s 13 wins and 10 draws, allowing for eight defeats, or 15 wins and four draws – allowing for 12 defeats. Sounds achievable, doesn’t it?
So far, we’ve only drawn once so it seems that the squad tend to go for the three points where possible in every game. But if we can turn some of the games where we don’t perform to our maximum from losses to draws, we’ll certainly have every chance of making the top six. If we’d drawn against Lincoln, Charlton and AFC Wimbledon, all of which we ended up with less than 11 men, then we’d be on 25 points at this stage – higher than all of the last three promotion campaigns. So we just need to turn those losses into draws and nick a couple more wins like the one on Saturday, and we won’t be far away.
It’s a long old season. While we shouldn’t get carried away after a few victories – just as we shouldn’t have got carried away by the transfer window in the summer, or indeed the initial losses we saw in the early part of the season. We just need to navigate through the congested fixture schedule of the next few weeks, come out of January looking stronger than we were going into it, and we should have every chance of making a typical late run to reach the play-off places. .
The key worry is the high points total accumulated already by the top six, with Accrington in 7th also having three games in hand on some teams. It’s likely that they’ll each have a dip in form and that total will come down, but it’s definitely looking like we’d need closer to 75 than 71 to squeeze in this year as things stand.
What bodes well for us is the competitive squad we’ve built – going through the squad we have two players for each position and the quality doesn’t really get impacted from the loss of a couple of players. We’ve had Daniel Ballard, Ethan Robson, Keshi Anderson, Sullay Kaikai and Ben Woodburn all missing for significant periods of the campaign so far and although we currently have an almost-fully fit squad at the moment, surely there will be further injuries to come in the upcoming games. Will we manage to keep teams guessing and finding a winning formula if we lose a key performer such as CJ Hamilton, Gary Madine, Kenny Dougall or Chris Maxwell?
Do you think we’ve got enough quality to see a similar run to that we saw in each of our last three promotion winning campaigns? Let us know in the comments!
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