|Punching Above Our Weight|
Thu 16th Aug 2012 21:00 by Wessex Exile
Here we are again then, time to take our yearly look at how the U's (and the rest of the 92) have been faring in the Punching above Weight (PaW) stakes, based on the simple premise - attendance equals money, and money equals success.
As before, attendance stats are taken from the excellent website http://www.european-football-statistics.co.uk, so any errors in the data are theirs not mine (not that I expect there'll be any). Also as before, I'll look at each of the four leagues individually to begin with, and then finish with analysis of all 92 together in one list. In the case of tied scores when comparing league position vs average attendance rank, positions have been decided in ascending order of average attendance. New to this season's article, I have also included the change (in percentage terms) in average attendance from the previous 2010-11 season.
In the Premier League, newly-promoted Swansea, even with a whopping 29% increase in attendance, should have been relegated as bottom club on their crowds, instead of finishing seven places above in mid-table alongside WBA and Fulham, who came 2nd and 3rd respectively in the PaW League. Spurs were the highest placed of the 'European' (pfft) qualifiers, finishing four places ahead of where their (stadium-restricted) average attendance dictated.
Only two clubs, Nodge in 12th and Chelski in 6th, finished exactly where they should, though Arsenal and Man U were only one place away.
At the bottom, it was bleak news for the Midlands, with Aston Villa and Wolves both finishing seven places below their attendance rank, in Wolves case this of course meant relegation. That other hotbed of football fanaticism - Teesside - saw another season of underperformance at the Stadium of Light.
In addition to Swansea, special mention must also go to Wigan and QPR, the bottom three in average attendance rank, but none of whom were actually relegated.
Premier League PaW table
In the Championship, with nearly one fifth of their glory-hunter 'fans' buggering off, Blackpool performed best in the PaW ranking - their play-off 5th place well above the flirting with relegation 19th place their average attendance ranked them. Likewise Watford did well, and Reading are to be applauded for being crowned champions on mid-table gates.
Cardiff (6th) and back-to-back promotion Southampton (2nd) finished where they should have done, with Barnsley and relegated Doncaster only one place removed from their actual league position.
Bottom of the table, and dear oh dear, quite the rogues gallery of 'sleeping giants' on display - and bizarrely all teams that were previously managed by Brian Clough. Derby (sorry Haps) nine places, dirty dirty Leeds ten places and "we won the European Cup don't ya know" Forest twelve places below where they should have done with their gate receipts.
Special mentions? Birmingham did very well, and the 'appy 'ammers must be pleased to sneak through in the play-offs despite haemorrhaging nearly 8% of their support - no doubt they'll be back this season. For impressive stats though, check out Brighton, who increased their average attendance by a massive 172.4% following the move to Falmer, a performance not quite matched on the pitch, but certainly an encouraging sign for the future.
Championship PaW table
Into our league, and top spot in the PaW rankings goes to Stevenage - and richly deserved it is too - even with the 23% increase in their gates they still should have been relegated, yet managed to finish in the play-offs. The U's as ever followed close behind, our 10th spot finish eleven places above the relegation slot we should have achieved (no doubt helped by a worrying 9% drop in attendance), and newly-promoted Bury weren't too far behind in ranking order either.
Amazingly seven clubs, Rochdale, Walsall, Oldham, Hartlepool, Tranmere, Notts County and promoted Huddersfield all finished exactly where their attendance rankings suggested they should, and Brentford, Mongs, Scunnie and Sheff Utd were only one place off.
Bottom of the heap, poor Chesterfield were relegated with support which should have seen them flirting with the play-offs, under-achievers Preston should have made the play-offs instead of lower mid-table, and both Exeter and our friends Wycombe should have been comfortable mid-table finishers, instead of joining Chesterfield in the drop.
Special mention definitely goes to the monkey-hangers - Mick "Bigger B*stard than Mick Wadsworth" Wadsworth, sacked in December, will take little comfort from their average attendance increasing by nearly 70%, Sheff Wed for finally getting promotion as one of the consistently best supported sides in this division, and poor Rochdale - crowned overall champions of the 2010-11 PaW League last season, and relegated this season…
League 1 PaW table
In the basement league, hats off to Crawley for back-to-back promotions - even with a 28.5% increase in gates they really should have struggled to get out of the bottom half of the table. Torquay (play-offs), Accy Stanley (should have been relegated) and Cheltenham (play-offs) similarly excelled with minimal resources.
Only Gillingham managed to exactly match performance with attendance, though Burton Albion and champions Swindon were only one place off.
At the wrong end of the table, the City Gent army yet again failed to inspire Bradford City - easily the best supported side in the division yet they flirted with relegation most of the season, and poor beleaguered Plymuff didn't do much better - 4th best support in the division, only two places off relegation out of the football league.
As for special mentions, Crewe did well to get promotion via the play-offs on mid-table gates, as did Shrewsbury for getting automatic promotion when they should have only just sneaked the play-offs, and finally to AFC Wimbledon - they definitely under-achieved this season, but will be heartened by a 25% increase in attendance regardless...
…oh and well done Sarfend for increasing attendance by 14% to a solid 6k average, and still managing to choke in the play-offs J
League 2 PaW table
Overall ranking for the 92
So finally, looking at all 92 together, who are the overall winners and losers?
At the bottom:
Yet again the PaW 92 ranking is propped up by Bradford City, 48th best supported team and (yet again) 86th place in the football league (-38 places!);
Poor Plymuff are second from bottom - should be challenging at the top of League 1 instead of languishing at the bottom of League 2 (-35);
Oxford, who also appeared in the bottom 5 overall last season, are there again - currently plying their trade an entire division below where they should be (-24); a performance matched by…
…Bristol Rovers, again 24 places below the League 1 level they should be playing at; and finally (and the first non-L2 club to feature)
Take a bow our old friends Sheff Wed, 25th best supported team and 46th place in the football league (-21), though to be fair at least they finally managed to get promotion this time.
Only three teams were exactly where they should have been:
Crewe, 75th in both leagues, and promoted via the L2 play-offs;
Crystal Palace, 37th in both leagues; and
Chelski, 6th in both leagues .
Top of the league, and winners of the U'sual Punching above their Weight award for the 2011/12 season are:
Stevenage, 78th in terms of support, yet managed a L1 play-off finish in 50th position (+28);
Followed by in 2nd place
Colchester United, 77th in terms of support (that's lower mid-table League 2 levels), 54th in position (+23 - an increase of four from last season); L1 domination continues with…
…Bury, 79th in support, 58th in position (+21); then
Premier League QPR, bottom half of the Championship for support, finished 17th in the PL (+19); and finally
Blackpool, should have been relegated 2nd from bottom in the Championship, yet managed to make the play-offs (+18).
Special mention will go to Rochdale, last season's champions, 8th place this season, and with the dubious honour of being the highest-placed relegated side in the PaW table - talk about a pyrrhic victory…
The 92 PaW table
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