Is Promotion Feasible?

It’s amazing what a win can do for confidence in the camp. Leicester’s 3-1 triumph over Scunthorpe Untied, coupled with the appointment of Sven-Göran Eriksson, has brought a new wave of optimism to the club.

The new boss has done little to dampen expectations.

“My message to the players is that we have to be very clear what we want to do. The players are a huge part of that and the target will be the Premier League. Hopefully it will happen this year but, if not, it will be the year after. It will be a big target but we have to work towards that. The starting position is not the best in the world. The only way is up, of course.”

Despite the diplomatic tone of the new boss, City’s starting position could hardly be much worse. One victory against a Scunthorpe side who have won just 37 of their 177 away matches in English football’s 2nd tier does little to change that.

Since Division One was renamed as the Championship, no side with just 8 points on the board after 10 matches has claimed automatic promotion or even a playoff place. In order to reach an automatic promotion spot City will have to take an almost unprecedented points total from their remaining 36 matches. Reaching the playoffs will be extremely tough too.

With 108 points still to play for, it’s impossible to know exactly how many the Foxes will need to achieve promotion, but we can make a fairly good guess based on previous campaigns. In the last six seasons the highest points total of a side finishing 2nd is 91, achieved last May by West Bromwich Albion. Stoke City won just 79 points in 2007/08, the lowest total of a promoted side since Derby County in 1995/96. The fewest points won by a promoted side in the era of three points for a win is 78 (Aston Villa 1987/88. Portsmouth 1986/87). On average, 86 points have been needed to gain automatic promotion in the last six seasons.

To reach the playoffs an average of 73 points has been required since 2004/05, with 75 points (Southampton, Crystal Palace) being the highest, and 70 points (Watford, Blackpool) the lowest totals needed during that time.

So, if we take the averages, City will need to win 78 points from their remaining 36 matches to gain automatic promotion. To reach the playoffs the Foxes will need approximately 65 more on the board.

It has been done. Reading took 83 points from their final 36 games of the 2005/06 season. Likewise Newcastle United took 79 points after 1st October last year. But since 2004 that’s it. Realistically the best City can hope for is a playoff place.

On this front there is slightly better news. A total of 11 clubs have won 65 points or more in an equivalent timeframe since 2004. One team, Sunderland, have done it twice. But only four of the sides who performed these heroics didn’t achieve automatic promotion, and without exception these campaigns were solid throughout the season and did not rely on a late surge after a poor start.

What these numbers do demonstrate, however, is that if Sven can pull off promotion this season, he’ll be worth every penny of the £2 million he is reportedly being paid to revitalise Leicester City. “It won’t be easy” is the understatement of the year, but until it’s mathematically impossible we will always have hope.

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