The Welsh Gull

Torquay United, the Football League and other stuff

UC: Time’s up – time for some analysis

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The deadline has passed – anyone wishing to enter the Ultimate Championship will have now have to do so with the addition of penalty points. It also means I can talk people’s predictions and stats in more detail.

Premier League
There are 10 entries for the Premier League – 9 people who have entered all 4 leagues, and Richard Brown who has just entered this league. The combined predictions aren’t far off what they were when I posted them earlier in the week – you’ll see them when I upload the spreadsheet.

Manchester City are overwhelming favourites, with 9 out of the 10 predictions having them on top – only Andy Charles went for Manchester United, putting City 2nd. Talking of the Red Devils, they are widely tipped to be 2nd – aside from Andy, Jake Gibbons has them 3rd while Stuart Bennett (my dad and a former winner) has them 4th. Chelsea are expected to finish 3rd (with 1 2nd and 2 4ths alongside 7 3rds), and Arsenal are tipped to finish 4th (with 1 2nd, 1 3rd and 1 5th alongside 7 4ths). You can see the pattern emerging.

Only 1 person put Tottenham in the top 4, in 3rd – Jack Howes, who is a Spurs supporter, funnily enough. It seems people are not expecting Andre Villas-Boas to have an instant impact at White Heart Lane, with two people predicting them as low as 7th. In addition to that, no one has predicted either Liverpool or Newcastle to break into the Champions League spaces, so the top 4 seems pretty nailed on in the eyes of UC participants.

The “mid-table” has tended to be a group of about 5 or 6 teams, from 7th or 8th down to 12th or 13th. This consists generally of Everton, Fulham, Sunderland, Aston Villa, West Ham and Stoke. However, there are exceptions – Stoke in particular have been tipped for a struggle, not least by myself, and I’ve also gone for Everton to finish above Liverpool again, although that’s a bit of a gamble. Stuart has put Fulham down in 16th, the only placing for them from outside 8th-12th. Aston Villa have teh lowest range in this group, being predicted 10th-14th.

Below them, there is a not-so-magnificent seven – West Brom, Southampton, QPR, Swansea, Reading, Wigan and Norwich. Six of them have been predicted at least once to finish bottom, and the other, Wigan, has been predicted to finish as low as 19th (which must be the first time in a while no one’s gone for Wigan bottom) but no higher than 16th. Southampton have the biggest range in the whole league, predicted as high as 9th (yep, Stu again). In particular, people seem pretty certain Norwich will have a tough time of it, with only reigning champion Nick Hancock putting them outside the bottom 4.

I’ve used the combined predictions standings to project a “predicted” UC standings – it’ll be interesting to look back on this and see how accurate it is. The one with the lowest points may not be guaranteed to win, though – if anything, it just shows who’s predictions are the “safest” and most in-line with what everyone else is expecting. For the Premier League, those standings are:

Overall AND Drop/Best Worst (same for both)
Andy Charles – 16
Joe Shennan – 16
James Bennett – 22
Mark Streather – 24
Nick Hancock – 24
Jake Gibbons – 26
Jack Howes – 28
Richard Brown – 28
Phillip Horton – 32
Stuart Bennett – 46

Championship
As you would expect, things are a bit more open in the Championship, but one can still divide the teams into particular groups, with big jumps in the average positions. Bolton and Birmingham seem to be in a two-horse race at the moment – the Trotters are predicted in the top 3 by 7 entrants, including to win the league by 5 of them. The same number of entrants has Birmingham 2nd, with 2 others predicting them to finish top. Their average is let down, though, by Jack Howes predicting them to finish 12th, so they’re a little bit behind.

There are then 5 teams who seem set to battle for the play-off positions, at least in the eyes of our entrants. They are Leicester, Wolves, Cardiff, Blackpool and Middlesbrough. However, there are exceptions to this – I’ve tipped Blackpool to struggle in 15th, giving them a range of 14 places due to Stuart predicting them to win the league, while he has gone for Middlesbrough to also finish 15th.

The only team outside this group to be tipped to go up automatically are Leeds, who Jack reckons are strong contenders, although other predictions have been inconsistent, the lowest position for them being 15th (and I nearly put them lower than that). They’re in another group of about 4 teams, all of whom are generally predicted mid-table but with 1 or 2 tips for the play-offs – Blackburn, who I’ve tipped to finish 20th, are in this group (having also been predicted as high as 3rd), along with Hull and Brighton. Charlton and Forest and just off this group as well, Phillip Horton tipping the Addicks to finish 4th.

Sheffield Wednesday, promoted automatically by finishing 2nd in League One last year, are dividing people too – most think they will be a solid mid-table team this year, but Jake has tipped them to finish 20th and Andy 24th. This puts them just ahead of a group of about 5 teams expected to hover in a group just clear of the relegation scrap – Ipswich, Derby, Watford, Huddersfield and Burnley. It seems many are pessimistic about Ipswich’s chances after being disappointed in the past, as I was last year – having said this, Stuart has once again gambled, putting them 6th.

The bottom 5 are quite some distance off the rest in the averages. Millwall, Palace, Bristol City, Peterborough and Barnsley are here, and it is the latter trio that are most widely expected to be relegated. Only 2 people have predicted Barnsley to survive – Phillip and Stuart. Bristol City and Peterborough have only been predicted to survive three times each. Phillip and Stuart are also the only ones to predict that two of these three will survive; Phillip instead went for Huddersfield and Millwall to go down, while Stuart also picked the Lions alongside Burnley.

Those predicted UC standings are as follows:

Overall
Joe – 28
Mark – 42
Jake – 52
Andy – 60
James – 66
Nick – 72
Jack – 74
Phillip – 78
Stuart – 82

Drop Best/Worst
Joe – 28
Mark – 40
Jake – 50
Andy – 58
James – 66
Jack – 72
Nick – 74
Phillip – 78
Stuart – 84

League One
The third tier seems even more unpredictable than the second, with massive ranges in the predictions for each team. Nonetheless, there is a clear top 2 – only 2 people (myself among them) have gone for Sheffield United to not go up automatically, while my tip for the top, MK Dons, are just behind and are expected to at least finish 4th.

The rest is complete haywire. Swindon, 3rd in the overall table, could win according to Jake but could also finish 14th according to Nick. Coventry are next up, tipped by 4 people to go up automatically, though I am more dubious and have put them 12th, in-line with other poor performances from relegated teams in recent years. There does seem to be a general consensus only Notts County, Doncaster and Carlisle being in and around the play-offs, along with Swindon, while Preston aren’t as highly fancied by UC entrants as they are by the pundits, only twice predicted inside the play-offs.

The mid-table zone is a complete mess. Brentford and Colchester are just clear of a gaggle of teams that could finish as high as the play-offs or as low as the relegation zone. Hartlepool typify this, predicted 5th by Phillip and 23rd by Stuart. Stevenage have been predicted in the top 10 by 5 people and the bottom 6 by 3, leaving only Mark’s prediction of 12th outside this (which could prove to be a wise, damage-limiting call). In all, 17 of the 24 teams have been predicted to finish inside the top 10, and 14 have been predicted to finish 18th or lower.

Walsall, Leyton Orient and Bury are clear favourites to go down, although only the Saddlers’ average position is actually low enough to fit them into the relegation zone. Shrewsbury and Portsmouth (whose financial issues have grown further since entries were opened, and thus some may have missed them by entering early) aren’t expected to be much higher. Of the other promoted sides, Crewe are tipped to be near the relegation zone without necessarily being in it, although some have tipped them for mid-table, while Crawley are either definitely going down, safe in mid-table or pushing for a play-off place.

The projected standings scores a bit higher for this one because of the league’s unpredictable nature:

Overall
Joe – 32
Mark – 58
Jack – 76
James – 78
Jake – 78
Nick – 78
Phillip – 82
Stuart – 88
Andy – 90

Drop Best/Worst
Joe – 30
Mark – 60
Jack – 74
James – 78
Nick – 78
Jake – 80
Phillip – 84
Stuart – 86
Andy – 88

League Two
After the unpredictability of League One, League Two does seem to have more of a clear hierarchy, although there are a couple of wild predictions which could make things interesting. Credit in particular must go to Phillip, who has gone contrary to received wisdom and really mixed the order about a bit – that’s not a criticism at all, because in League Two anything can happen. There are no bad predictions until the final tables are confirmed.

Top of the pile are Southend, tipped only by Joe Shennan to miss out on automatic promotion (and he put them 4th, which is still pretty close). Paul Sturrock’s side are likely to be challenged for the title by Rotherham, who have been predicted to be champions by more people (4 vs 3) but also have a 9th (Jack) and a 17th (Phillip) in the list. Chesterfield are currently 3rd with an average close to Rotherham’s due to that 17th, and also comfortably clear of the chasing pack, though not many are convinced they will go up – only 2 predicting automatic promotion.

Gillingham, tipped for automatic promotion by 4 people, are 4th, again clear of a group of about 5 teams expected to be contenders by most entrants – Fleetwood (with a range of 18 due to Phillip predicting them to finish 20th), Bristol Rovers, Wycombe, Cheltenham and Oxford. Exeter and Torquay are a bit behind but not too far and should be in the top half, judging by these predictions.

A group of 6 teams follows – these are teams occasionally predicted towards the top and occasionally predicted towards the bottom but generally predicted mid-table. Port Vale, Northampton, Bradford, Richdale and Aldershot make up this pack. Plymouth are in a bit of no-man’s land after this group – they could be in for a bit of a struggle but only once predicted to go down (Phillip again). AFC Wimbledon and York, a bit further behind, might be a bit closer to the drop zone. Accrington and Morecambe should expect things to get quite tense.

And then on to a clear bottom three. Burton’s average was initially lower than Dagenham’s (especially before I changed my prediction to put them a bit higher up the table) but later predictions have put them safe, if only just. The Daggers are now seen as the most likely of the pair to go down, though only 4 people have actually got them in the bottom 2 – the other teams tipped to drop, other than Burton, are Accrington, York and Plymouth. And Barnet. Poor old Barnet. An average position of 23.4, with only Phillip predicting them to survive (albeit in 22nd). In their final year at Underhill, they are once again favourites for (another) relegation to the Conference.

The final projected UC standings are:

Overall
Joe – 24
Mark – 48
Andy – 58
Stuart – 60
James – 62
Nick – 64
Jack – 72
Jake – 72
Phillip – 142

Drop Best/Worst
Joe – 30
Mark – 44
Andy – 60
James – 62
Jack – 68
Stuart – 68
Nick – 74
Jake – 86
Phillip – 152

The cups
Starting with the Football League Trophy, unsurprisingly no one seems to have much of a clue what’s going to happen, but then that’s not surprising as it’s probably the most unpredictable cup competition in the world (mainly because no one gives a shit). Doncaster are the only team tipped by more than one entrant (Joe and Andy). Brentford, Carlisle, Colchester, MK Dons, Rotherham, Scunthorpe and Stevenage all get mentions.

In the League Cup, amazingly there are only 5 teams across the 9 entrants, 4 of which have been chosen twice – they are Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and Newcastle, with Man Utd chosen by Jake. These all seem sensible choices considering the League Cup is now slowly becoming dominated by the big clubs’ reserve teams.

The FA Cup sees 2 teams picked 3 times – Man Utd and Chelsea. Though Chelsea is understandable, Man Utd haven’t won this competition since 2004, though with points awarded for appearances in the semi-final and the final, it’s a safe bet regardless. Arsenal have been predicted twice, while Mark has gone for Man City to regain the cup after winning it in 2011.

And so, the projected UC standings, without taking into consideration the cups, are as follows:

Overall
Joe – 100
Mark – 172
Andy – 224
Jake – 228
James – 228
Nick – 238
Jack – 250
Stuart – 276
Phillip – 334

Drop Best/Worst
Joe – 104
Mark – 168
Andy – 22
James – 228
Jack – 242
Jake – 242
Nick – 250
Stuart – 284
Phillip – 346

It is worth bearing in mind, though, that actual scores will be A LOT higher – the record lowest score for what I call the Core 4 (Prem, FLC, FL1 and FL2) was set last year by Nick with 418, while my 2nd-placed score of 424 was also the 2nd-highest ever, ahead of the mark set in UC6 (2009-10) by Stuart of 432. Usually 100+ points per division is the norm, except for the smaller and more predictable Premier League. The record lowest total in each division is as follows:

Premier League: 40 – Mark Thomas (UC7 – 2010-11)
Championship: 92 – Nick Hancock (UC8 – 2011-12)
League One: 90 – Mark Thomas (UC5 – 2008-09)
League Two: 82 – James Bennett (UC4 – 2007-08)

It wouldn’t surprise me if at least one of these records goes this year, though – scores have gradually been getting progressively lower over time. Some of the highest scores came in UC2, which was also the previous record holder for the most number of entries with 8. This has surpassed that, which I am immensely grateful of – thank you all for entering and I hope you enjoy the competition. The onus is on me now to keep delivering enough updates to keep you all interested.

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Written by James Bennett

August 18, 2012 at 01:48

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