Facts speak louder than fear

By Rod Lawson

I guess the vast majority of Bradford City supporters are extremely concerned by the form of the team, which since the start of 2018 has been exceptionally poor. A good many of us seem to feel that we are stuck at the bottom of the division, that there is very little prospect of us starting to improve and that relegation is a near certainty. I must admit that I share a lot of these views.

On his return to Valley Parade on the 5 November 2018, in the role of consultant, Julian Rhodes made a number of comments in respect of the current position, he is quoted as saying, “It is a privilege to be back here and I will do all I can to help turn things around.” As such, there was an immediate realistic acknowledgement of the club’s precarious position. He freely admitted that, “David’s (Hopkin) brief is let us finish 20th this season. That’s it and then you go from there”.

So is that the summit of our ambition? Is it realistic, can it be achieved?

Given the aspirations for a ‘Great Escape’, then is there any evidence, that a team which has sunk to the bottom of the table, can accumulate sufficient points and subsequently avoid relegation.

Somewhat amazingly, with a little research, the evidence is quite pleasing. History seems to be on our side, safety can still be achieved. It may well be that as fans we tend to be unduly pessimistic.

I have looked back through the records, in particular at the team which was bottom of League One on 9 November, throughout the current decade 2010-2018.

League One Table, teams in 24th Position:

Played Won Drawn Lost Goals F Goals A Goal D Points
2018/9 Bradford City 17 3 1 13 12 31 -19 10
2017/8 Plymouth 16 2 5 9 12 24 -12 11
2016/7 Shrewsbury 16 2 5 9 16 29 -13 11
2015/6 Crewe 16 3 4 9 14 24 -10 13
2014/5 Crewe 16 4 2 10 13 32 -19 14
2013/4 Notts County 15 3 1 11 17 29 -12 10
2012/3 Hartlepool 16 1 5 10 13 28 -15 8
2011/2 Yeovil 17 2 6 9 18 28 -10 12
2010/1 Walsall 15 3 2 10 15 25 -10 11


Amazingly only two of those clubs were relegated at the end of the season. The real surprise is the final position of Plymouth in May 2018!

Final table positions of the above clubs at the end of the respective season.

Points Final Position
2017/8 Plymouth 68 7
2016/7 Shrewsbury 51 18
2015/6 Crewe 34 24
2014/5 Crewe 52 20
2013/4 Notts County 50 20
2012/3 Hartlepool 41 23
2011/2 Yeovil 54 17
2010/1 Walsall 48 20


So the evidence questions my initial hypothesis that we were in a position which meant that relegation would be an inevitable conclusion, to the end of this season. In short there is a small glimmer of hope, and evidence that teams in a similar position to City, have managed to climb off the trap door and avoid the drop to the basement division of the Football League.

However, the stark reality is that a number of the teams were relegated in subsequent seasons. Crewe Alexandra, Notts County, plus Yeovil Town are now in League Two; whereas Hartlepool United have sunk to the National League. Having said that three of the teams are still in League One. Currently the sides which avoided the drop are Plymouth who are in the bottom four, Shrewsbury currently eighteenth and Walsall who are comfortably mid table on eleventh.

The bold plan to get City into the Championship within three seasons, which was proclaimed by Rahic in May 2016, sadly this has now been proved to be rather hollow rhetoric. It should be noted that none of the above clubs, which were in the bottom spot on the 9 November, have subsequently made it to the Championship! So to get that plan ‘back on track’ will need a herculean effort and one wonders whether Rahic and Rupp have the personal, managerial and financial ability to achieve this reasonable aim.

It is going to require cool and calm determination, with the defence proving to be far less pervious than it has been. Simply put, we have to stop conceding – something which previous incarnations of the team have been so good at. It may not be pretty, but gutsy performances, with real application, may well strike a chord with many supporters.

It is not only the team on the field which has to change, but those who have made the decisions, which have resulted in this calamitous position. The management team have to demonstrate an awareness and a tangible ability to change. Results on the field will assist, but the feeling of alienation amongst the supporters is, I believe, a result of the detachment between fans and the owners, who seem aloof from the reality of the situation. It is all very well saying ‘Sorry’ very publicly, but then doing nothing about it, and failing to meet with any of the supporters, or do anything to provide evidence of change, compounds the growing feelings of mistrust.

Football is different from many ‘products’. It is not an essential, but rather a leisure activity. As such it has to be something which is attractive. For some, supporting City is a luxury, subsequently if it becomes an unpleasant experience, then it is an activity which they do not need, and in many cases they can cease to actively support the club.

So let’s escape from this potential fall from League One. However, the climb back from the precipice will not solely be based on what happens on the field, but rather the totality of the direction of the club, which will need to reinvent itself to win back the doubters. Many changes will be required to achieve that goal.

Categories: Opinion

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17 replies

  1. Ah optimism, how I have missed you. Thanks for a short succinct article that may hopefully instil some belief among a few supporters at least. Here’s to L1 survival this season which can then be the building block to getting back to where we belong in a few years.

    • Be carefull what you wish for Chris….

      A similar analysis on City’s league positions post war would probably indicate that we are exactly where we belong – or maybe even slightly above!

      However, I agree with you. We’ve all taken pot shots at the team recently but I took heart from the FA cup result this weekend. OK it was ‘only’ Aldershot but for the City team, on the back of 6 defeats on the bounce, to come from behind in conditions that were quite frankly unplayable shows to me that this team has found resilience and backbone.

      There are twists and turns to come this season. Long live optimism…..

      • I get that point but looking now at the size of the club (albeit before Edin’s dismantling) we have the potential to be a solid mid to lower table Championship side. I’m just sick now of all the negativity, name calling and general low mood around the club, I can totally understand it but also think it is time to move on, get behind Hopkin and Rhodes and hope the players can put in more passionate performances and lift us out of this mess.

  2. Yeovil were promoted to the Championship in 2013, there is hope !!

    • You are correct! I have to accept that fact slipped past me! As you point out, they were promoted the following season 2013, via the Play Off’s, only to be relegated in 2014 from the Championship and then subsequently from League 1 in 2015.

  3. Very interesting. Shrewsbury that season were the worst team I have seen in Division 1, Plymouth won at VP last November but were poor. I cannot predict the future, but the article by Simon Parker this morning shows to me the shambles Rahic has created, and which Rhodes and Hopkin are trying to repair. I will not detail the various aspects of the shambles as they are there for all to see. But if we survive it will be a fantastic piece of management. Sadly, Rahic is still there.

  4. Sorry don’t agree with 50%of your post .we have so many good players coming back from injury you don’t mention I’ll put my money on avoiding the drop and maybe much higher I’m CTID

  5. I’m sorry to disappoint the fans who view this statistical analysis with optimism but it includes two significant flaws which distort the results.
    The first flaw is the timing. The only time this analysis is statistically valid is mid season after 23 games have been played by all the teams. Therefore, all teams have played everyone once.
    The second flaw is the emergency transfer rule which was abandoned two seasons ago. City have been prevented from this type of loan which was available to clubs prior to the 2016/17 season. Therefore, making the earlier seasons invalid for this comparison. This restriction on emergency loan players is truly handicapping City this season.
    I wonder how many injuries did Plymouth 2017/18 and Shrewsbury 2016/17 have during their great escape seasons??

    • Plymouth Argyle had their fair share of injuries last season. They used at least four different goalkeepers during their league games. I think that I am correct in saying that their star player missed the league game at Valley Parade last November too, when they beat us 1-0. Plymouth Argyle built an amazing amount of momentum last season and it’s a surprise to me that they are struggling this season.

  6. It may not be precisely right to a statistician but this analysis is surely good enough. I found it very helpful in that it shows that our position is not hopeless and it would be nice to think that we have now started an unbeaten run . However the analysis cannot answer the critical question: Are our players good enough to improve ?

    There are three key weaknesses:
    • Lack of solidity – we concede too many goals in first 20 mins, especially from set pieces.
    • Lack of creativity – we do not create enough chances.
    • Lack of resilience – we do not recover from a goal down (Saturday was the first time this season)

    I have not seen much evidence that players out of the team will come to our rescue. You might argue that Reeves in the form of early 2017/18. and Jones (the squad’s top City goalscorer with 10!) might make a difference, but we cannot wait for their recovery. In fact the next six League 1 games are critical. If we have not made any improvement by January, then the good players that we need will not want to come to a side bound for League 2

    It has to be said that we have had some bad luck (eg the loss of Robinson). But we are vulnerable to more bad luck, should O’Donnell not be available with unproven back-ups.

    • The title of this article should accurately read “SELECTIVE FACTS speak louder than fear.” This in my opinion is a very misleading article since it is written in such a way to distort the dire situation that City are currently in. Mathematically, City are a long way from relegation but seriously, City are likely going to have to pickup points at a playoff pace come January if improved results are delayed any further.

      • How is misleading to compare City’s current league status with clubs at this stage of the last 10 years? This article is based on statistical facts over a decade-long measurement period.

        You are right to say we would need play off form to get out of it, no one has disputed that. But you are applying your subjective thoughts and opinions to rubbish an article based on statistics.

      • Thanks for your observations WoodyCanuck. Looking at your comments, then they merit a response.

        The comparison was made on a season by season basis, taking a single date in the month. Indeed it focused on the League One tables on exactly the same date back to 2010, reported the position of the teams at that point and subsequently the final outcome, at the end of the season. That is a comparison based on fact.

        In respect of the transfer mechanism and the change in the ‘emergency’ loan system, that may indeed have had some impact. Perhaps you could provide detail of the players signed per team and some objective reporting as to how they made an impact. I would anticipate that may have been a factor, but not necessarily the decisive one.

        The fact is that Shrewsbury and Plymouth, both made good progress after the 9th November in 2016 and 2017, despite the abolition of the ‘emergency’ loan system, should not be discounted.

        Now for the avoidance of doubt, let me categorically state, that I believe City are in a very difficult position, which it may not be possible to ‘turn around’. If we carry on as we have been, then the outcome will be relegation.

        However a significant number of other teams, who were bottom of League One around this time of the year, subsequently avoided relegation and no matter what data/statistics you feel should have been considered, that is fact.

  7. Let me start by saying how much I enjoy and respect the WOAP articles. I am not implying that this article is deliberately written to deceive but that the facts noted are misleading because of the variables I’ve noted are ignored.
    Hopefully, the writer can do an update after the Scunthorpe game and mid season with all the teams having played 23 games. That would eliminate one of the variables I have a concern with. Hopefully, the other variable being injuries and no emergency transfers will become a non issue in the second half of the season.

    • An interesting note, both Plymouth and Shrewsbury won their game in hand (17th game) which put them both 4 points ahead of City for this season. They also quite likely were not in last place.
      Also, other than Yeovil 2011/12 all the other last place teams had games in hand compared to City’s 17 games played.
      Restricting this analysis to a specific date rather than equal number of games played definitely distorts the results and conclusions.

      • There is just a chance you are over thinking this?! If we are writing ourselves of now we might as well not bother. We all know that things can change quickly. Funny old game.

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