Earlier this summer E4 introduced to the world to Will McKenzie. Will had been kicked out of a private school his mother could no longer afford and was forced to deal with life in the heretofore-uncharted waters of a comprehensive. Will sticks out like a sore thumb; he wears a blazer and tie whilst his classmates sport bright blue jumpers, he takes a briefcase to school whilst his friends carry rucksacks, he treats fellow students like adults and is in turn treated like an adult by the students – with utter contempt.
Will McKenzie, for the purposes of this analogy, is Leicester City. Dumped into an unfamiliar division, Leicester too feel out of place. The Walkers Stadium dresses the club in clobber unbefitting of their current status, it was not built for League One football. The players too will see themselves as cut from finer cloth than their competitors. They will have to adapt to a new ‘style’ of play. One Sheffield Wednesday fan recently recalled his club’s stint in League One to me;
“The standard of football is…well, it’s absolutely dreadful. Massive lumps of men with no skill flourish in this league as they can batter their way through defences for goals, and centre halves just bully everyone that comes near them. Ref’s are used to it, so you’ll come away with a ton of injuries, and finding yourselves having to play like everyone else to get any decent results.”
Leicester will need to get physical, fast. In ‘The Inbetweeners’, Will survives by integrating. City will need to do the same.
One change that will become apparent is the structure of League One itself. Unlike the Championship where managers can legitimately claim their side can beat any other, League One is more stratified. Teams who win the division tend to win it well. Luton, Scunthorpe and Swansea have run away with the title in the last four seasons. The trap door too League Two is often filled quickly too. In recent years Stockport, Peterborough, Brentford, Rotherham, Luton and Port Vale have all had their seasons effectively ended in early April. (Stockport and Peterborough have, of course, since returned.)
In this new climate, what sort of points tally should City be aiming for? The last four champions of League One have won with points totals of 98, 82, 91 & 92 points, though this is not an indicator of the number of points they needed. In each season, the title could have been won with totals of 87, 80, 86 & 92* points, an average of 86.25 points. If you fancy City will beat that total, the bookmakers will currently give you odds of 11/2 for the championship.
Perhaps more realistically, City should have their eyes on the 2nd automatic promotion place. To attain this in the last four campaigns clubs have needed 80, 77, 84 & 81 points. That’s an average of 80.5 points, or rounding up the total to 81, 1.76 points per game.
To secure a play-off place, clubs in each of the last four seasons have needed 71, 70, 73 & 70 points. The mean here is 71, or 1.54 points per game.
To satisfy the curiosity of gloom merchants (who might well recall that Sheffield Wednesday almost suffered the embarrassment of successive relegations at this level) the average survival total is 50 points (1.09 per game).
City fans will do well to realise that whilst they may feel uncomfortable in their new surroundings, escaping them will not be easy.
*Removing Leeds Utd’s 15 point deduction would leave them in 2nd on 91 points.