Foxes midfielder Ritchie Wellens made some interesting comments in yesterday’s Leicester Mercury. Asked about the sides’ performances he said,
“I still don’t think we have reached our peak, I think we can play a lot, lot more. Sometimes it is just too easy to pump the ball up to Steve Howard or hit the channels.
“I think we have more in the locker because we have good players who can play.
“I think in the next five or six games you will see that. The first couple of games are tough but after five or six the quality will come through.”
Do City have that long to shape up? Certainly. No season is lost in the first half a dozen games. But if Sousa’s style fails to make an immediate impact on City’s form (perfectly possible, and should I add, understandable) how long will it before aspirational talk of building for next season takes precedence over the current campaign?
There are quite a few examples of sides making poor starts in the Championship but still forging successful campaigns. It’s easy to forget that Nottingham Forest won just seven points from the opening eight matches last season.
Oft cited examples of recovery come in the shape of Sunderland and Crystal Palace. The former lost the opening four matches of the 2006/07 season and struggled to 17th place after 16 games. Despite being 14 points adrift of leaders, the Black Cats went on to win the title.
First impressions were also deceiving in 2004/05, Sunderland took five points from their first six fixtures but went on to win the division by seven points.
Crystal Palace twice made improbable runs for the playoffs in recent seasons. In 2007/08 the Eagles had managed just two wins from their first 16 games and were 11 points adrift of the playoffs in 23rd place. They finished 6th regardless.
Palace also made the playoffs despite opening the 2003/04 season with just 22 points from 22 games. The Eagles were 3rd bottom, 13 points off 6th, but recovered with an incredible run and secured a famous promotion through the playoffs.
They were not alone that year. Ipswich made the playoffs after beginning the campaign with just two points from their opening six matches. A start which had put them 9 points adrift of the top six.
Unfortunately for fans witnessing their sides make poor starts, the successful revivals are all too rare. Often sides leave themselves with too much to do. Last season’s hopefuls were Reading, who dragged themselves from the relegation places and made an admirable dash for 6th. But in truth, an 18 point gap (as it was in late January) was an insurmountable one, and the Royals finished seven points behind 6th placed Blackpool.
By contrast Ian Holloway’s side were never more than six points off the playoff picture, which made their end of season run (19 points from their final eight fixtures) a successful one.
Several clubs have overcome similar deficits to reach the playoffs. Preston managed to overcome seven and eight point gaps in 2004/05 and 2005/06 respectively. Derby and Hull both recovered from six points behind the playoff places, the former in 2004/05 and the latter in their promotion season, 2007/08.
That said, it’s never really been Leicester’s style to stage a miracle run to promotion. Almost every single Leicester side which has made the playoffs (or has been promoted automatically) since the war has not dropped out of the top half of the table after August.
The one exception to this was 1982/83, where the club climbed from 15th place on the 27th November to snatch 3rd place and the final promotion spot from Fulham. 1982/83 was also the last season in which City were promoted having lost on the opening day.
Paulo Sousa’s side clearly have time to get things right. And there have been positive signs if not points on the board. But if after the clocks go back City are more than two wins from the top six, it’ll be hope more than experience that keeps the playoff flame burning.