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UC: The Results

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Apologies for the complete lack of updates in recent months – I have been updating the tables, particularly the English tables, and have been posting the odd score on Twitter, but just never got round to posting the latest standings in full. Well, here they are now – in full, the results:

UC9

Premier League
Andy Charles – 54
Nick Hancock – 58
Jake Gibbons – 58
Mark Streather – 66
Phillip Horton – 70
Joe Shennan – 70
Richard Brown – 70
James Bennett – 70
Jack Howes – 76
Stuart Bennett – 82

Championship
James Bennett – 132
Mark Streather – 134
Jake Gibbons – 138
Nick Hancock – 146
Jack Howes – 150
Andy Charles – 158
Stuart Bennett – 160
Joe Shennan – 164
Phillip Horton – 170

League One
Jack Howes – 146
Andy Charles – 154
Joe Shennan – 158
James Bennett – 158
Jake Gibbons – 158
Mark Streather – 172
Stuart Bennett – 174
Phillip Horton – 188
Nick Hancock – 204

League Two
James Bennett – 116
Nick Hancock – 124
Mark Streather – 130
Joe Shennan – 130
Jack Howes – 132
Jake Gibbons – 138
Stuart Bennett – 144
Andy Charles – 152
Phillip Horton – 176

Bonuses
Mark Streather – 5 (5 for Man City finishing as FA Cup runners-up)
Andy Charles – 2 (2 for Chelsea reaching the FA Cup semi-finals)
James Bennett – 2 (2 for Chelsea reaching the FA Cup semi-finals)
Nick Hancock – 2 (2 for Chelsea reaching the FA Cup semi-finals)
rest – 0

Overall Standings
James Bennett – 474
Jake Gibbons – 492
Mark Streather – 497
Jack Howes – 504
Andy Charles – 516
Joe Shennan – 522
Nick Hancock – 530
Stuart Bennett – 560
Phillip Horton – 604

Spreadsheet

———

UC Conference

Conference Premier
Andy Charles – 122
James Bennett – 128
Phillip Horton – 128
Nick Hancock – 140
Mark Streather – 142
Stuart Bennett – 186

Conference North
Mark Streather – 118
James Bennett – 120
Stuart Bennett – 130
Phillip Horton – 144
Andy Charles – 148
Nick Hancock – 160

Conference South
Nick Hancock – 86
Phillip Horton – 92
James Bennett – 94
Stuart Bennett – 100
Mark Streather – 104
Andy Charles – 120

Bonuses
Andy Charles – 10 (10 for Wrexham winning the FA Trophy)
Mark Streather – 5 (5 for Grimsby Town finishing as FA Trophy runners-up)
rest – 0

Overall
James Bennett – 342
Mark Streather – 359
Phillip Horton – 364
Andy Charles – 380
Nick Hancock – 386
Stuart Bennett – 416

Spreadsheet

———

UC Europe

Ligue 1
James Bennett – 64
Mark Streather – 64
Andy Charles – 66
Nick Hancock – 68
Stuart Bennett – 74
Phillip Horton – 80

Bundesliga
Andy Charles – 42
Mark Streather – 56
Nick Hancock – 56
Stuart Bennett – 58
James Bennett – 64
Phillip Horton – 66

Serie A
James Bennett – 52
Nick Hancock – 56
Stuart Bennett – 58
Mark Streather – 58
Andy Charles – 60
Phillip Horton – 62

La Liga
Mark Streather – 70
Nick Hancock – 76
Andy Charles – 84
Phillip Horton – 84
Stuart Bennett – 88
James Bennett – 90

Bonuses
James Bennett – 2 (2 for Real Madrid reaching the Champions League semi-finals)
Mark Streather – 2 (2 for Barcelona reaching the Champions League semi-finals)
Nick Hancock – 2 (2 for Barcelona reaching the Champions League semi-finals)
Phillip Horton – 2 (2 for Barcelona reaching the Champions League semi-finals)
Stuart Bennett – 2 (2 for Barcelona reaching the Champions League semi-finals)
Andy Charles – 0

Overall
Mark Streather – 246
Andy Charles – 252
Nick Hancock – 254
James Bennett – 268
Stuart Bennett – 276
Phillip Horton – 290

Spreadsheet

———

So congratulations to myself, myself and Mark on winning the competitions. Next year’s predictions will be a streamlined affair – as the lack of updates suggests, it became too big to manage this year, so I’m slimming it back down to focusing on the 4 main English divisions. I will also run the competition through Apocalypse Football to see if we can build on the numbers we picked up this year.

For those that played and followed, thanks again.

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Written by James Bennett

July 9, 2013 at 18:28

UC: Update ahoy

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About time we had another update of the three Ultimate Championship…championships. It remains early but even so, there has been considerable movement in the lower leagues and in Europe, though the Premier League remains relatively static. You’ll notice that the scores have generally come down (with a few exceptions) – expect this to continue for now, but there will be diminishing returns for obvious reasons. But obviously this means nothing if your rivals’ scores are also decreasing at the same rate.

The overall standings for each are as follows:

UC9
Andy Charles – 482
Jack Howes – 492
Joe Shennan – 496
Nick Hancock – 506
Mark Streather – 516
Jake Gibbons – 530
James Bennett – 554
Stuart Bennett – 566
Phillip Horton – 566

Top 3 for each league:

Premier League
Andy Charles – 54
Nick Hancock – 60
Jake Gibbons – 62

Championship
Jack Howes – 106
Mark Streather – 122
Andy Charles – 126

League One
Andy Charles – 130
Joe Shennan – 136
Jack Howes – 150

League Two
Nick Hancock – 150
Stuart Bennett – 160
Jack Howes – 162

Cup competitions:

– In the League Cup, Newcastle (picked by Jack and Nick) and Manchester City (picked by me and Mark) are both out

– In the Football League Trophy, Rotherham (Jake), Scunthorpe (me again), Colchester (Mark), Stevenage (Nick), MK Dons (Phillip) and Carlisle (Stuart) have all been eliminated

———

UC Conference
Mark Streather – 382
James Bennett – 392
Nick Hancock – 412
Andy Charles – 416
Stuart Bennett – 420
Phillip Horton – 424

Top 3 for each league:

Conference Premier
Nick Hancock – 142
Andy Charles – 154
James Bennett – 154

Conference North
Mark Streather – 100
James Bennett – 102
Stuart Bennett – 114

Conference South
Mark Streather – 126
Stuart Bennett – 130
Nick Hancock – 132

———

UC Europe
Andy Charles – 346
Stuart Bennett – 354
Nick Hancock – 354
James Bennett – 358
Mark Streather – 362
Phillip Horton – 372

Top 3 for each league:

Ligue 1
Andy Charles – 82
Stuart Bennett – 84
James Bennett – 88

Bundesliga
Andy Charles – 60
James Bennett – 64
Mark Streather – 72

Serie A
James Bennett – 80
Stuart Bennett – 80
Andy Charles/Mark Streather – 84

La Liga
Nick Hancock – 96
Phillip Horton – 108
Stuart Bennett – 110

The evidence:
UC9
UC Conference 2012-13
UC Europe 2012-13

Written by James Bennett

October 12, 2012 at 16:39

UC: The first proper update

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I’ve neglected to update the UC tables as of yet because it’s still very early in the season and the overall tables weren’t really representative. However, most of the leagues have now had a few matches (though the Bundesliga and Serie A have only had 2 rounds of matches so far), so I’ve taken the opportunity of the international break to update all three competitions.

The overall standings for each are as follows:

UC9
Joe Shennan – 560
Nick Hancock – 568
Mark Streather – 572
Jack Howes – 572
Stuart Bennett – 582
Andy Charles – 592
James Bennett – 646
Jake Gibbons – 646
Phillip Horton – 674

Top 3 for each league:

Premier League
Nick Hancock – 90
Phillip Horton – 98
Andy Charles – 100

Championship
Jack Howes – 134
Joe Shennan – 156
Mark Streather – 156
Stuart Bennett – 156

League One
Andy Charles – 140
Nick Hancock – 148
Joe Shennan – 154

League Two
Mark Streather – 138
Joe Shennan – 146
Stuart Bennett – 148

———

UC Conference
Mark Streather – 386
Phillip Horton – 388
Stuart Bennett – 392
Andy Charles – 402
James Bennett – 410
Nick Hancock – 430

Top 3 for each league:

Conference Premier
Phillip Horton – 138
Andy Charles – 150
Nick Hancock – 156

Conference North
Stuart Bennett – 106
James Bennett – 106
Mark Streather – 108

Conference South
Mark Streather – 108
Stuart Bennett – 112
Andy Charles – 120

———

UC Europe
Stuart Bennett – 390
Nick Hancock – 406
Andy Charles – 412
James Bennett – 418
Mark Streather – 432
Phillip Horton – 434

Top 3 for each league:

Ligue 1
Andy Charles – 96
Stuart Bennett – 98
James Bennett – 104

Bundesliga
Nick Hancock – 78
Andy Charles – 80
Stuart Bennett – 84

Serie A
James Bennett – 86
Stuart Bennett – 88
Nick Hancock – 90

La Liga
Phillip Horton – 120
Stuart Bennett – 120
Nick Hancock – 120

I’ve attached all three spreadsheets. I’ll not go into them in detail as all the info you need is in them.

UC9
UC Conference
UC Europe

Some things to bear in mind:

– This is of course the first time everyone can see everyone else’s predictions. For UC9 only, I’ve included the combined predictions table.

– Portsmouth are yet to be deducted 10 points for going into administration, as this will not take place until they actually come out of administration.

– Truro City, on the other hand, have received a deduction and currently sit bottom of the Conference South with -2 points.

I’m off to cry in a corner now, gripping tightly to my Serie A lead and trying to remind myself that there’s a long way to go…

Written by James Bennett

September 13, 2012 at 16:40

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.

Written by James Bennett

August 18, 2012 at 01:48

UC: Combined predictions

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With just under a day and a half to get your predictions in, I’ve compiled combined prediction tables for the 4 UC leagues using everyone’s predictions, to work out an average. I’ve done this in two ways – one is just a straight average, while the other removes the highest and lowest positions the team is predicted in.

I would point out (mainly because it’s only fair if I do) that the order the teams are in now isn’t really representative of where people have predicted the teams to finish, especially in the lower leagues where there are some big ranges between best- and worst-predicted positions. Full details will be available in the UC9 spreadsheet when it’s uploaded here.

Premier League – Overall
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Chelsea
4. Arsenal
5. Tottenham Hotspur
6. Liverpool
7. Newcastle United
8. Everton
9. Fulham
10. Sunderland
11. Aston Villa
12. West Ham United
13. Stoke City
14. Southampton
15. West Bromwich Albion
16. Reading
17. Queens Park Rangers
18. Swansea City
19. Wigan Athletic
20. Norwich City

Drop Best/Worst
1. Manchester City
2. Manchester United
3. Chelsea
4. Arsenal
5. Tottenham Hotspur
6. Liverpool
7. Newcastle United
8. Everton
9. Fulham
10. Sunderland
11. Aston Villa
12. West Ham United
13. Stoke City
14. West Bromwich Albion
15. Southampton
16. Reading
17. Queens Park Rangers
18. Swansea City
19. Wigan Athletic
20. Norwich City

Championship – Overall
1. Bolton Wanderers
2. Birmingham City
3. Leicester City
4. Wolverhampton Wanderers
5. Cardiff City
6. Blackpool
7. Middlesbrough
8. Leeds United
9. Brighton and Hove Albion
10. Hull City
11. Charlton Athletic
12. Blackburn Rovers
13. Nottingham Forest
14. Sheffield Wednesday
15. Ipswich Town
16. Derby County
17. Watford
18. Huddersfield Town
19. Burnley
20. Millwall
21. Crystal Palace
22. Bristol City
23. Barnsley
24. Peterborough United

Drop Best/Worst
1. Birmingham City
2. Bolton Wanderers
3. Leicester City
4. Wolverhampton Wanderers
5. Cardiff City
6. Blackpool
7. Middlesbrough
8. Brighton and Hove Albion
9. Leeds United
10. Hull City
11. Blackburn Rovers
12. Charlton Athletic
13. Sheffield Wednesday
14. Nottingham Forest
15. Derby County
16. Watford
17. Ipswich Town
18. Burnley
19. Huddersfield Town
20. Millwall
21. Crystal Palace
22. Bristol City
23. Barnsley
24. Peterborough United

League One – Overall
1. Sheffield United
2. Milton Keynes Dons
3. Coventry City
4. Swindon Town
5. Notts County
6. Preston North End
7. Doncaster Rovers
8. Carlisle United
9. Colchester United
10. Brentford
11. AFC Bournemouth
12. Stevenage
13. Scunthorpe United
14. Hartlepool United
15. Tranmere Rovers
16. Crawley Town
17. Yeovil Town
18. Portsmouth
19. Shrewsbury Town
20. Oldham Athletic
21. Crewe Alexandra
22. Bury
23. Leyton Orient
24. Walsall

Drop Best/Worst
1. Sheffield United
2. Milton Keynes Dons
3. Coventry City
4. Swindon Town
5. Notts County
6. Doncaster Rovers
7. Carlisle United
8. Preston North End
9. Colchester United
10. Brentford
11. Stevenage
12. AFC Bournemouth
13. Scunthorpe United
14. Hartlepool United
15. Tranmere Rovers
16. Crawley Town
17. Crewe Alexandra
18. Oldham Athletic
19. Portsmouth
20. Shrewsbury Town
21. Yeovil Town
22. Bury
23. Leyton Orient
24. Walsall

League Two – Overall
1. Southend United
2. Chesterfield
3. Rotherham United
4. Gillingham
5. Fleetwood Town
6. Bristol Rovers
7. Wycombe Wanderers
8. Oxford United
9. Cheltenham Town
10. Torquay United
11. Exeter City
12. Northampton Town
13. Rochdale
14. Port Vale
15. Bradford City
16. Aldershot Town
17. Plymouth Argyle
18. York City
19. AFC Wimbledon
20. Morecambe
21. Accrington Stanley
22. Dagenham and Redbridge
23. Burton Albion
24. Barnet

Drop Best/Worst
1. Southend United
2. Rotherham United
3. Chesterfield
4. Fleetwood Town
5. Gillingham
6. Bristol Rovers
7. Wycombe Wanderers
8. Oxford United
9. Cheltenham Town
10. Torquay United
11. Exeter City
12. Northampton Town
13. Port Vale
14. Rochdale
15. Aldershot Town
16. Bradford City
17. Plymouth Argyle
18. York City
19. AFC Wimbledon
20. Morecambe
21. Accrington Stanley
22. Dagenham and Redbridge
23. Burton Albion
24. Barnet

If you think you can do any better, now’s the time to enter.

Written by James Bennett

August 16, 2012 at 15:47

My Ultimate Championship predictions – League Two

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Reminder: the deadline for Ultimate Championship predictions (for the Premier and Football Leagues) is Friday 17th August at midnight. Entries will be accepted after but will be subject to points penalties.

League Two, the all-important league for myself on a personal level. Always unpredictable, and yet there is a rough hierarchy which most teams usually slot into, although there are a couple of floaters (Torquay, for instance) and always a couple of teams that don’t fit the patterns. Calls here will range from spot on to “oh fuck”. But at least this year I won’t get any abuse from Hereford fans.

1. Rotherham United – #whoatealltheplayers
New stadium, new manager, new players. Rotherham are favourites for a reason, Mr Evans. After a huge spending spree in which they added some solid League Two players to what was already a solid squad. After a few years at the dire Don Valley Stadium in neighbouring Sheffield, which must have put off a few hundred fans at least, it seems the club is banking on the New York Stadium being a hit. I think it will. Promotion at least.

2. Southend United – #bilelmohsniisatwat
This smacks as a bit of a safe choice, since form from season to season tends to vary, but given that Southend have assembled arguably the best strike-force in the division, it’s hard to look past them as promotion contenders. Building on a successful campaign last season under the experienced (some would say wily, if they wanted to include as many clichés as possible) Paul Sturrock, you’d fancy them to go one better this time as Shrewsbury did last year.

3. Bristol Rovers – #thegasworks
A bit of a gamble. Rovers, who I tipped for promotion last year, had a disastrous first half of the season, leading to the dismissal of Paul Buckle. Mark McGhee was entrusted with turning around the poor form and he did so, recovering the Pirates to a safe mid-table position. Since then, it has been about rebuilding (again). Buckle signings like Mustapha Carayol (to Middlesbrough) and Chris Zebroski (to Cheltenham) have gone out for differing reasons, and he has added to the squad. They could be contenders, though this time it would be a bit of a surprise.

4. Gillingham – #youaintnothingbutamaddog
Like him or not, Martin Allen gets results, and results are what Paul Scally wants right now. After a couple of near-misses, club hero Andy Hessenthaler has been sacked again, and Allen, a controversial, divisive figure in lower league football, has been brought in after a harsh dismissal at Notts County last year. You would think they’ll be in the play-offs this time.

5. Oxford United – #odear
Speaking from experience, Chris Wilder has once again made Oxford a difficult place for visiting teams to get results. These days they are one of those teams you would pencil in for at least a top half finish. But in recent years, there are a couple of teams who have found it difficult to bridge the gap from top half finish to play-off position, and Oxford are one of them. I fancy them to do it this year, though.

6. Fleetwood Town – #areyoucrawleyindisguise
Make no mistake, Fleetwood are this year’s Crawley – they’ve spent big in their march up the leagues. There are a few questions, granted – Micky Mellon, the former Tranmere and Blackpool player who has been their manager since 2008, has no FL experience, and it’s fair to say they haven’t spend as much money as Crawley. Their attendances may still be quite low too, although they have been growing as the club has become increasingly successful. So I think it would be unfair to predict them as high as JESUS SHITTING CHRIST LOOK AT THAT SQUAD LOOK AT IT

7. Chesterfield – #istillhaventforgottenlukebeckett
Chesterfield’s return to League One last only one season. I had expected them to do better but after losing Craig Davies to Barnsley, I should imagine it wasn’t that big a surprise. Either way, they’ve come down with a slightly weaker side than the one they went up with, but you would still think that they are likely to be contenders for a play-off spot at the very least. With striking options of Craig Westcarr, Marc Richards and Jack Lester, goals are unlikely to be a problem.

8. Port Vale – #thereisnoportvaletheyplayinburslem
On the one hand, Port Vale have been in financial trouble and have gradually lost a couple of their better players, including captain and 11-12 top scorer Marc Richards. On the other hand, the takeover is in the process of going through (although at the time of writing, doubts had resurfaced), Micky Adams is still in charge, they still have the core of a good side, incoming players include Jennison Myrie-Williams, David Artell and Richard Duffy, and they are still one of the biggest clubs in the division. Always a solid bet for a top 10 spot, and could sneak into the play-offs.

9. Northampton Town – #putabootthroughit
After a couple of seasons stuck in the mire, Northampton should recover this year – I say should, because it’s never guaranteed in this division. They’ve certainly got plenty of options going forward – Adebayo Akinfenwa was one of the division’s leading scorers last year, and he has been joined by the experienced Clive Platt, while winger Chris Hackett joins from Millwall. But there are two question marks – one is the defence, and the other is Aidy Boothroyd, who’s one of those managers who keeps promising so much and then fails to deliver.

10. Bradford City – #avoidodsalatallcosts
Bradford are one of those clubs everyone seems to predict to finish high up the table but then struggle; certainly that was the case last year. However, they did pick up form after the arrival of Phil Parkinson as manager, and this summer has seen the former Colchester manager initiate a massive clear-out. In have come former Rochdale veteran Gary Jones, Swindon’s Alan Connell, former Hull winger Will Atkinson, and five other players, all on free transfers. While I think the play-offs might be a bridge too far, this could be the season where finally Bradford avoid a struggle.

11. Cheltenham Town – #whaddoyouknow
Last season, Cheltenham confounded all expectations by reaching the play-off final at Wembley. Like Torquay in 2010-11, it wasn’t the prettiest way of getting to the top but it was effective and relied on a great midfield playmaker. Somehow they’ve managed to hold on to Marlon Pack, who impressed me in the play-offs and certainly impressed whoever decided to include him in the League Two Team of the Year. Jermaine McGlashan and Kaid Mohamed are also still there on the flanks. They’ve lost Spencer and Burgess, who were both on loan last year, but have brought in Chris Zebroski to compliment Daryl Duffy and Jeff Goulding, two good League Two level strikers. However, it is still difficult to see them repeating last year’s feats.

12. Wycombe Wanderers – #sitdownshutup
The Chairboys are one of those clubs that usually bounce straight back after relegation, at least with a positive campaign even if they miss out on promotion. This time, though, it looks like it’ll be difficult. Financial trouble, though not totally crippling, has left them with a lack of striking options in particular – with Stuart Beavon inevitably on his way sooner rather than later, that leaves with Dennis Oli and Richard Logan. It would be wrong to totally underestimate them – they’ve even managed to tempt Gary Doherty down to League Two – but I think this year they’ll just be happy with a top half finish, which is just about what I’ve given them.

13. Aldershot Town – #theyvehad20yearsofthisshot
Aldershot have been a mid-table side since promotion from the Conference, and I can’t see that not continuing. On the one hand, they have added to a side that was already reasonably strong – two former Torquay players have arrived after poor 2011-12 seasons in Craig Stanley and Guy Branston, while Guy Madjo and former Stevenage and Newport striker Craig Reid are interesting acquisitions up front. I’m struggling to get excited about the squad but I see no reason why they’ll struggle.

14. AFC Wimbledon – #undergroundoverground
Last year, the aim for The Dons was survival in their first season back in the Football League. 16th was good. This year, the aim is surely consolidation, and they look like they have a squad that should achieve this. Although I did suspect they might struggle in what will be a more competitive league this year, they’ve made some good signings and some of their Conference heroes have left; I can relate to that, since that was pretty much the same process that we went through after we struggled in our first year back in the league. The squad has a really solid feel to it, and retaining the league’s joint-top scorer Jack Midson is key. They could surprise people.

15. Exeter City – #greekfinancialcrisis
Paul Tisdale is quite possibly the best manager in the lower leagues. Look at his record – he is the most successful manager in Exeter’s history, taking them from the Conference to the top half of League One in five years, and has done it all on free transfers. This alone is what Exeter has going for it this year – surely a Tisdale side won’t struggle again. Of course the alternative scenario is that it isn’t a Tisdale side at the end of the season, but I still think the players they have, with all the experience of the likes of Cureton and Doherty, should see them to a solid mid-table finish.

16. Torquay United – #mydingaling
Ouch. 16th, really? Well, where do I start? With O’Kane and Olejnik gone, Torquay are down two of their most important players in 2011-12 – fans can talk down O’Kane’s contribution for the sake of being optimistic, but I think that’s detracting from the wider issue. O’Kane also hasn’t been replaced (and the potential in-squad replacements aren’t too convincing), two centre-backs have been replaced by one (at the moment), the squad also lacks striking options, and end-of-season form, often a sign of things to come, was poor. It’s hard to see another play-off challenge coming out of this. The form of lead striker Rene Howe is going to be key.

17. Rochdale – #colemansteamnotcuttingthemustard
Past form suggests at least one of the clubs relegated from League One goes on to have a poor following season in League Two too. My money’s on Rochdale, who overachieved in their first year in League One, and then plummeted down the table after losing their manager and key players, and finished well adrift at the bottom. Having lost more players, I can’t see how anything positive can come from this. I actually have family connections to Rochdale so I don’t want to see this, but this was one of my early calls.

18. York City – #ivelostmytrainofthought
No club has yet made an immediate return to the Conference after promotion from it, and I can’t see it happening this season either. Despite this, it’s fair to say that York weren’t the second best team in the Conference last season; in fact, the table suggests they were the fourth best. Such is the quirk of the play-off system. I think they should be safe as they have a solid squad but I don’t expect huge feats from them. I may have underestimated them putting them this low but it’s a competitive division this year.

19. Plymouth Argyle – #warrenfeeneylol
When I did my first rough draft of my predicted league table, I had Plymouth quite a bit higher, with the expectation that their reputation would draw in some quality players that would help erase the memory of a dire 2011-12. However, it simply hasn’t happened. It’s pretty much the same squad that struggled last year, although Nick Chadwick has been signed permanently which at least gives them someone who can score. They are relying heavily on the form and development of youngsters like Luke Moore and Conor Hourihane. That’s not me as a biased Torquay fan – I’m not really all that bothered. I just can’t see how it’s going to be that much better if the players are the same.

20. Burton Albion – #disappearinginacloudoftyresmoke
Burton’s form dipped horrifically in the second half of the season, and they would surely have been relegated had they not had such a positive start. This was despite having Justin Richards, Billy Kee and Calvin Zola all leading the line. After this, it’s safe to say Burton have settled as a bottom-half side, and I can’t see this changing with the side little changed after that spiral out of control and an inexperienced manager in Gary Rowett. But I think the talent they’ve got going forward should be just enough to keep them from the drop.

21. Accrington Stanley – #thewrathofkhan
Accy have been punching above their weight for a couple of seasons now, but lost long-term manager John Coleman to Rochdale last year, and chairman Ilyas Khan also resigned. Instability like that often prepares the way for a struggle, and I have a feeling they will find it tough this year. Looking at their results towards the end of the season, they picked up only 2 wins in the last 9 matches, with 6 defeats. A side that was virtually unbeatable at home in 2010-11, they may once again be banking on their form at the Crown Ground to keep them safe from relegation.

22. Morecambe – #actuallyericwasalutonfan
Last season started so well for Morecambe, but in the second half of the season, like Burton, they fell away dramatically, finishing 15th. That’s never a good sign going into a new season. Of course, they may recover and I could be totally wrong. But this is Morecambe, not a traditionally big club. Do they have the resources to stop the rot? Jim Bentley doesn’t have a huge of amount of experience. I’m really not sure which way this could go, but past form suggests it won’t go well. I think they could struggle this year. But I predicted that last year too.

23. Barnet – #floatlikeabutterflystinglikeabutterfly
Perennial strugglers Barnet avoided relegation on the last day of the season again thanks to another Martin Allen intervention. Can anyone see that being any different, aside from the lack of a Martin Allen intervention? Even if they don’t go down, you’d still expect them to be towards the foot of the table – last year they nearly went down despite having Izale McLeod, one of the best strikers in League Two. Jon Nurse isn’t exactly a comforting replacement, even if he is a good striker. I get the impression Barnet may play their first season at The Hive in the Conference but don’t rule out another miraculous escape.

24. Dagenham and Redbridge – #keepstill
After a double promotion, the team the videprinters call Dag & Red have come back to Earth with a bump over the last two seasons. They ended the season relatively well, with only 1 defeat in the last 10 to a Shrewsbury side cruising into League One. It wasn’t an easy run-in either. Having said that, I still don’t fancy their chances for this season. I’m sure most Daggers fans would be willing to admit that they’re not a big club for this division and so they’re always going to be up against it. Maybe it’s harsh, maybe I’m going to get abuse from Daggers fans, but I’ve got to put someone bottom, and ideally not Barnet since they’ll probably scrape survival again. Having said that, if they carry their form over, they could ‘do a Morecambe’, although that may only last them until halfway through the season. So I’m open-minded.

Note: I’ve made some late changes to this, because I have no spine. Originally the bottom 8 was going to be:

17. Plymouth
18. Rochdale
19. Accrington
20. York
21. Morecambe
22. Dagenham
23. Barnet
24. Burton

Written by James Bennett

August 15, 2012 at 18:30

UC: I’ve had a request…

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I’ve been asked today by a prospective entrant if you can only enter specific leagues, because he doesn’t know anything about Leagues One and Two.

I’ve had an idea for a while of splitting the competition up further so that in effect every league becomes self-contained, with an overall competition for whoever wants to enter the whole thing – to make it more open-plan would make more sense if I ever decide to get this baby off the ground properly. I think it’s fair enough if people just want to enter for the leagues they know. I was going to leave it until next year but if people want it now, then that’s fine by me.

SO, I’m opening up that option for this season. Enter whatever leagues you want to. Ultimately there are no prizes even for the overall thing, so it doesn’t really make any difference. I’m all ears for new suggestions.

Written by James Bennett

August 15, 2012 at 17:00