Recruiting a Premier League Manager? Flip for it.

*With Manchester United starting the process to find a new manager, like a football vulture I had to take the opportunity to re-post this.  Didn’t I?


I left school at 16 and, after a short stint as an apprentice fitter, I joined the Royal Navy.  On completion of my training I was posted to HMS Brave, a Type 22 Frigate which was to be my home for the next 3 years.

The captain at the time was a smashing bloke, a real leader with a wicked sense of humour but a guy who also respected the line between officers and ratings.  He would take the time to wander around the ship and say hello, feigning interest in whatever task you were on with, although he never let it show that his interest was anything other than genuine.

He was the ‘firm but fair’ type of leader and the ships company liked and respected him, which meant that we were all working toward a single objective and the ship performed well.

Even when I was responsible for creating a diplomatic incident which resulted in the ship being kicked out of St Johns, Newfoundland (a story that I can only tell when I’m drunk) he showed me a level of support and restraint that I really didn’t deserve.  He was a good captain.

Then, when the Gulf War started, HMS Brave was sent to provide support to the coalition.  The ship was ready and the crew were ready but sadly our captain wasn’t.  He turned into a shadow of the man that we all knew and respected, struggling with even the most basic of operational tasks.  The pressure of being responsible for this multi-million pound piece of kit and potentially hundreds of mens’ lives broke him.

Early on in the deployment he was removed from his post by the First Lieutenant until a permanent captain could join.  This was no doubt very embarrassing for the Admiralty, however they could never have seen it coming.

The point of the story is that, when you are giving someone a role, it is virtually impossible to predict how they are going to operate, or change, or react.  It doesn’t matter what industry you are in, there are never any guarantees.

Which means that appointing managers of football teams is essentially guesswork.  Yes you can look at their history in previous roles, and the successes therein but it needs to be comparable history to make an educated decision doesn’t it?

When Chelsea appointed Mourinho they knew what they were getting.  When Crystal Palace hired Pulis they knew what they were getting, and hired him regardless.  Rodgers to Liverpool, Allardyce to West Ham, Bruce to Hull City.

Sometimes though it doesn’t quite work out and a toss of a coin might have been a better decision making tool.  Manchester United thought they knew what they were getting when they appointed David Moyes and Newcastle can be forgiven for not foreseeing that Pardew has, erm, ‘anger management issues’.  I’m sure that the coin that was used to decide on hiring Pochettino is safely tucked away in the Southampton owners safe, ready for next time.

Whilst I accept that hindsight is a football fans favourite tool, let’s look at the managers brought in to take over Premier League teams this season:



I’d always assumed that the most successful managers were those that had been ‘headhunted’ and that the wisest advice was to avoid sacked managers as if they were successful they wouldn’t have been sacked in the first place.  This seasons changes would appear to suggest that philosophy is flawed.

Now let’s look at how they’re performing (position and points per match):


Soooo, in terms of league position, the manager with Premier League experience is the one performing best.

Ok, I know that at a glance it doesn’t mean much as there are only 7 managers in the chart, however, as mentioned above I am convinced that Palace hired Pulis to deliver exactly what he has so far.

Apart from Pulis and Mel, all of the other new guys have found the last 8 games a particular struggle (although Solskjaers consistency is Solskjaer all over).

Sherwood skews things a little as he inherited a very strong set of players and had to be a special sort of person to not deliver at least a consistent level at Spurs.

Seems like an appropriate time to look at the managers performance v the previous manager.


In terms of Points Per Match, all new managers except one are outperforming their predecessors and all but two are doing at least as good (bad) with league position.

But, are they performing as well as their owners would’ve hoped when they appointed them?

I would say that, with the exception of Tony Pulis, the answer is a resounding no.  Despite changing their managers when they were either in 19th or 20th position, Cardiff, Sunderland and Fulham are still favourites to be relegated and their new regimes have gone out with a whimper rather than a bang.

Pulis has managed a 5 place climb up the table and almost an extra point per game v Holloway, the others are limping around the numbers that their predecessors achieved and who is to say that, if AVB was still in charge at Spurs or if Mackay was kept on at Cardiff that they wouldn’t be in better positions.

Each of the clubs who have brought in new managers during the season will have had reasons for selecting the ones that they did.  They might have carried out in-depth statistical analysis of each candidate.  They may have conducted hours of interviews and assessments.  They may have sat through slides and slides of presentations by hopefuls.

None of it matters.

There are no guarantees.

Hopefully the captain will succeed and the ship won’t sink

So just toss a coin, hope for the best and prepare for the worst.


Horrible FC – The most horrible team ever?



I was asked on Twitter last night why, as a Hull City fan, I didn’t want Crystal Palace to beat Everton in the Premier League.  The scenario being that we wanted Everton to drop points, allowing Arsenal a better chance of reaching the top 4 and Champions League qualification, thus meaning that even if we lose in the FA Cup Final we would qualify for the Europa League by default.  Phew!

Unfortunately, I have an irrational dislike for Crystal Palace, a mental block if you will.  I can’t explain it.  Doesn’t every football fan have one of those clubs that they just can’t get on with?

Anyway, I started thinking about under what circumstances I could ever want Crystal Palace to win:


You see, my mental block doesn’t just include teams, it includes players also.  All will be revealed shortly.

Soon after, I started receiving tweets nominating other players who are equally as horrible as Barry, Beattie and Kenny.  The definition of ‘horrible’ being, well, just horrible, for whatever reason.

So here is the Horrible FC team, as put together last night.  I apologise if it is fairly Hull City-centric, most of my followers are Hull City fans, however if you want Horrible FC to sign other players just let me know who and why.

The Team

SPT IHN 111206-30


Paddy Kenny

Giving the finger to opposition fans is horrible.  As is ringing and texting staff at your previous club to mock their results.  This is Paddy Kenny people (the first offence v Hull City in 2006 and the second was aimed at QPR in 2012).  Horrible man.


Gareth Barry

Completely unrelated to football, Gareth Barrys horrible offence involved my mates (now ex)wife, a few years back.  The scumbag.


Sol Campbell

He should’ve been England Captain for 10 years.  Yeah, because he has all the qualities of a leader…..

Doing a runner from Notts County after 1 match is enough but then I saw this tweet last night:


Classy Sol. real classy.

To be honest, i’m not sure if it’s really Campbells account or not but the fact that John Cross follows him is enough for me.




Efe Sodje (nominated by @cathtiger)

Butter wouldn’t melt etc etc

Whilst we can’t see Sodjes elbows in the picture, we could ask Stuart Elliott what they look like after he got a close up view a few years ago, fracturing his cheekbone in the process.  Deliberate?  I wouldn’t like to say.  Horrible man.

g1Gareth Barry

Yes he’s in again.  My feelings towards him are that strong!  To be fair, I originally had him in the team 5 times so to now only be in it twice is a real feat.  The scumbag.

Pepe and Casquero

Pepe (nominated by @MarkBrown88)Mar


‘Nuff said.



Dennis Wise (nominated by @NickQuantrill)

Nick relates Wise’s horribleness to games he played against Hull City, and it would be impossible to argue with him.

Add on the allegations of ripping his best mate off for £1m and you get a horrible man.  Allegedly.

Wise is the team Captain.  Mainly just to p*ss Gareth Barry off.

-home-panew-uk_news 10-1

Lee Cattermole (nominated by @Chris_Ransom)

Not just a horrible player on the pitch (the 3rd highest Cards Per Match record in Premier League history) but seemingly plays life like he plays football.  Horribly.

SPT IHN 140208-05


El Hadji Diouf (nominated by @steveacko1975)

Do I need to explain?  He was responsible for this:


and, more horribly, this:


I think that’ll do.



James Beattie

Another one completely unrelated to football.  On a quiet night out at the Barbican in Birmingham, Beattie bumped into me, making me drop my drink of milk.  Not only did he not apologise, he sent one of his ‘friends’ over to demand that I apologise to him!  It all got a bit messy thereafter.


Duncan Ferguson (nominated by @FletcherTommy)

With 4 assault convictions and a prison sentence for headbutting John McStay on the pitch, how could we leave ‘Big Dunc’ out?

His only saving grace was the fact that when 2 burglars tried breaking into his home he caught one of them and put him in hospital for 3 days!

The Subs Bench

Samir Nasri (nominated by @NickQuantrill)

Nicks 2nd nomination, which I believe is another of those nominations for irrational reasons.  But then again, it is Nasri, so its probably completely rational.

Left on the bench with no chance of ever getting a game.  Just to be mean.

Danny Guthrie (nominated by @FletcherTommy)

For an explanation of why Guthrie is here, ask Craig Fagan.  Or look at this picture:


Yes, he broke his leg with that ‘tackle’.  Fagan was out for 3 months.  Guthrie was out for 2 games.

Cesc Fabregas 

Another Hull City related horrible player, Fabregas was investigated and charged by the FA for allegedly spitting at Brian Horton but was subsequently cleared.  Ok, fair enough.  But we all know he did it.  Plus, Michael Ballack says that he’s got previous too.  Unfortunately I can’t post the video that would let you decide as it has been blocked by UEFA.

Vinnie Jones

Just a horrible, horrible man.  Although this video of a half time team talk is funny:

Still horrible though.

Manager – Steve Evans

This post from @twoht says it so much better than I ever could: Steve Evans: Football Manager. Convicted Criminal. 


Director of Football – Neil Warnock (nominated by @ChrisPHull)

Does anyone not think Warnock is horrible?  Of course Jason Puncheon apologised for comments made on Twitter about Warnock, and was fined £15,000 for said tweets so we need to disregard everything he said about backhanders for playing time.  Don’t we?

Even without that though, he’s still a horrible man and perfect to head up recruitment of players.


That’s it, the most horrible team in the world!

Of course, if you disagree with any of the above or want to nominate players, tweet me or leave a comment.

Football is officially dead

Football confuses and annoys me.

How can you have something so pure and perfect and go and break it?

How can you take such an important piece of football heritage and cheapen it?

How can you break my heart so easily?

Yes Herbert Hainer, i’m talking to you!

For those of you who don’t know who Herbert Hainer is, this is a picture of him:


Recognise him?  Any idea what he does for a living?

Let me help you by showing you another picture of him, at work:


Herbert Hainer is the CEO of Adidas group.

He’s the boss.

The big cheese.

The head honcho.

And ultimately, he’s the man responsible for the worst, most heinous decision in modern football.

He’s the man responsible for these…

Adidas Copa Mundial Solar Slime (1)

and these…

Adidas Copa Mundial Blast Purple

and these…

Adidas Copa Mundial Samba Solar Zest

and these…

Adidas Copa Mundial Samba Vivid Berry

and these…

Adidas Copa Mundial Solar Blue

(I’m filling up here!)


This is how they should look…


Quite simply, the best, most comfortable, most respected boots in the world.  Perfect in every way.

They’ve been worn by the best players in the world.  They’ve been worn by the worst players in the world.

The fact is, the black and white Copa Mondial boot are instantly recognisable, demanding respect of opponents, indicating that the wearer knows his stuff.  As a friend of mine tweeted:


They’re loved.  They’re much coveted.  They’re iconic.

Sadly, not for much longer though.

Adidas plan to release the new colours in 2014 to coincide with the World Cup in Brazil.  Hence the vivid colours, as a hat tip to the bright, vivacious carnivals that Brazil is famous for.

Over time, the black and white Copa’s will disappear.  There’ll be a raft of coaches wearing Solar Slime, Samba Vivid Berry and Samba Solar Zest.

And i’ll weep.

I implore you Herbert, have a rethink.  Sacrifice the millions that Adidas will earn for some common decency.  Just leave them alone.

Think about how this man would react…


(thats Adi Dassler by the way).

As Buddha said:

There has to be evil so that good can prove its purity above it.

The new colours are the evil.  And you’re killing the good.

Football is destroying itself, and you’re firing the final arrow.  The final, sacrilegious arrow.

Shame on you Herbert.

Shame on you Adidas.

And shame on you, internet, for not caring more.


(thanks to @Footy_Headlines for the tip-off)

What if…The Premier League awarded reward points for English players

The two targets I have for the England team are – one, to at least reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020. Two, win the World Cup in 2022.

When the new FA Chairman Greg Dyke made his keynote speech a couple of weeks ago, it prompted a lot of discussion and debate in the media about what could be done to support, renew and develop English football, and in particular the England team.


Sadly, the majority of the debate was about apportioning blame rather than finding solutions.

The blame was attributed to the usual suspects; grassroots football had its customary (and very poorly informed) hammering, the Premier League got more than its fair share of finger jabbing and even the good old English weather got a mention.  Did I dream about the article that said England should stick to what we’re good at – blood and thunder, long ball football?  Hope so.

Buried within the tosh though was a Talksport radio show (I think it was the Drivetime show with Adrian Durham and Darren Gough) where they were actually trying to seek a solution.  A lot of the suggestions that listeners were calling in with were unworkable, some due to European law, some due to human rights and some due to plain old greed.

However, one guy had an idea that I quite liked.  He proposed that the Premier League could encourage the Premier League clubs to select and play more English players by rewarding them with points.  This would result in more English players getting more top level experience providing the England manager with more to select from.  Genius!

Of course it’ll never happen but it got me thinking, would the points on offer make any difference to clubs position in the league?

So let’s do it, lets recalculate the Premier League with Reward Points.

The Method

Each Premier League team has played 4 games at the time of writing this so I’ve looked at each teams weekly match squad and counted the number of English players that made an appearance each week.  This includes substitute appearances.

Next we need to decide the level of points that are awarded.

Over the years I have taken huge enjoyment from seeing some of the worlds best foreign players grace the English leagues, from Ravanelli to Klinsmann, Cantona to Zola and Veron to Boogers.


Ok, maybe some duffers have snuck in too, but we want the quality foreign players to keep coming though don’t we?  Therefore I think it would be reasonable to suggest that a fair amount of English players playing for a team each week is 6, from a maximum potential 14 (11 + 3 subs).  If each team fielded 6 English players each week that would give us 120 English players getting the much needed game time.

A nice round (and pretty arbitrary) figure for a points reward would thus be 0.25 per player – 6 English players x 0.25 points = 1.5 points reward.

For every English player that plays in a Premier League game, I will reward the team with 0.25 points.

The Numbers

(Click for interactive detail)

At a glance it seems pretty obvious that Newcastle United and Swansea aren’t doing much to help the cause.  Ironically, the biggest supporter of the England team is Cardiff.  Thanks Cardiff.

The overall figures so far are as per the chart below:

(Click for interactive detail)

The next job is to multiply these appearances by 0.25 to gain an overall Reward Points score.


As we knew, Newcastle are left embarrassingly behind in the potential supply of England players and Cardiff and Manchester United lead the way.

And so to the main point of the article, would reward points make any difference to the Premier League table.  The table, with these reward points added, would look like this:


Whilst the top spot in the table doesn’t change, 15 out of the 20 clubs do actually change positions.

The biggest winner is, unsurprisingly, Cardiff City with a climb of 5 places (and into a European place).  As expected, Newcastle suffer the most, dropping 7 places with Man City not far behind, dropping 6 places themselves.


Doing a hypothetical exercise like this does actually highlight a few flaws within the plan.  For example, Sunderland gain points for playing Kieran Richardson, however, despite him still only being 28, it is unlikely that he will have an impact on the future of the England squad.  The same can be said for a number of English players (Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Peter Whittingham).

Overall, I like the idea, and the potential benefits of it. If it was applied to the Premier League, and each team fielded 6 English players, there would be a difference in only 4 weeks of +129 English appearances.


Sadly, it’s never going to happen, and if it did there is still no guarantee that it would impact positively on the England team.  My solution is for every England youth team from u16 to u20 to get together at St Georges Park for 1 week every month to spend time with the England coaches, receiving England specific training (tactics, style, formation etc).  This would need the cooperation of all the clubs but would create a future pathway for England players who had trained and played together for an extended period.  The result being a unified approach across all of the England teams.

But, hey, thats just me.

What if QPR had signed Messi?

Back in January I wrote a hypothetical article contemplating where Hull City would be if they had signed Pele (original article here).  As I’m now getting bored waiting for the new season to start, I thought i’d have some fun and see what might have happened if QPR had signed the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.

images Fantasy Stats Blog: Could Messi Have Saved QPRs Season?

So here’s how it works:

  • Messi scored a goal every 57 minutes in the Spanish League last season
  • I assign Messi’s goal ratio to an existing QPR player
  • Goals only count if the QPR player was on the pitch at the same time Messi’s goal ratio dictates (i.e. every 57 minutes)
  • If the player had actually scored in a game where Messi’s goal ratio dictates a goal scored, then only one of the goals count
  • Points and goal difference are recalculated to create a new end of season table.

The player I have decided to replace is Adel Taarabt, for two reasons.  One is that Taarabt is an attacking player and it would be crazy to swap Messi with, say, Clint Hill.

Secondly, Taarabt played the most minutes at QPR last season of any attacking player and actually (along with Clint Hill) played the most number of  games.  To digress slightly, the centre forward with the most appearances is Bobby Zamora with 21, followed by Djibril Cisse with 18.  Compare that with the other Premier League strikers and it tells a story in itself:

31 Fantasy Stats Blog: Could Messi Have Saved QPRs Season?

(click for detailed view)

An example of how this works:

In the first game of the season, Taarabt played 90 minutes in a 5-0 defeat to Swansea.

Obviously he didn’t score.  However, by replacing him with my fictional Messi, QPR did score, in the 57th minute.  Sadly, the only difference this makes is to the goal difference.

Here we go then, the following are last seasons fixtures, with actual and ‘Messi’ figures:

Picture1 Fantasy Stats Blog: Could Messi Have Saved QPRs Season?

Hooray for Messi!

The Messi factor has made the difference in 15 out of the 38 games with 4 losses being turned into wins, 9 draws becoming wins and 2 losses being turned into draws.

The slow start, i.e. no points difference in the first 7 games is due to Taarabt not playing in 4 of them, meaning that Messi didn’t play either, and the fact that Taarabt scored in the following 2, thus cancelling out Messi’s goals.

An alternative view of the QPR points gain by team is below:

21 Fantasy Stats Blog: Could Messi Have Saved QPRs Season?

(click for detailed view)

Messi’s QPR profit the most against Reading and Wigan (4 points apiece) whilst the teams that didn’t have any points difference include Swansea, Fulham and Arsenal.

Coincidentally, QPR now end the season with the same amount of points as Messi’s goals per minute ratio – 57.  Don’t you just love it when numbers do that!

As well as a huge points difference, the goal difference also increases dramatically with an extra 34 goals.

Now the bit we’ve been waiting for, the recalculated league table.  This is what the league table may have looked like if QPR had signed Lionel Messi:

Picture42 Fantasy Stats Blog: Could Messi Have Saved QPRs Season?

So there we have it, the answer is a resounding YES, Messi would have kept QPR in the Premier League.  Not only that but  his goals would have propelled them up the league into 8th!

As well as QPR, 2 other teams would profit from QPR’s success, these being Chelsea and Southampton due to an improved goal difference, however Norwich and Stoke are worst hit (in terms of position) both dropping 3 places.
Of course, the actual team that suffers the most is Newcastle, dropping down into the Championship (thanks to Mike for pointing out my original oversight in not taking GD into account when creating the table and condemning Sunderland to relegation).

Whilst all of the above is fantasy, there is an important message there for the teams that are coming up into the Premier League this season.  Sign Messi.  Simple.  And if you can’t sign Messi, sign someone else who will score 34 goals.

There’s loads of them available.  Aren’t there?

The first 4 games – Premier League forecast

It’s getting closer! The new Premier League season is only 4 weeks away and the excitement is building.  Transfers are being made, kits are being released and season passes are being sent out. Squads are all back to undertake their pre-season training.  Some are going on (quite frankly, crazy) pre season tours to the Far East, Australia and America, others taking it a little easier with jaunts around Europe.  All aiming to get themselves in perfect shape, both physically and mentally, for the long season ahead. I wanted to have a look at which teams, historically, start the season well and which teams take longer to get out of the blocks.  I therefore compiled the following information for the first 4 games, over the past 4 years of the teams that will be competing in the Premier League this season:

  • Won
  • Drawn
  • Lost
  • Goals for
  • Goals against
  • Goal difference
  • Points
  • Percentage of overall points at end of season

There weren’t a huge amount of massive shocks, but there are a number of little surprises. This post doesn’t take into account the difficulty of opening fixtures or the league that the teams were in over the past 4 years, purely the figures as stated above. So firstly, here’s a dataviz showing who has gained the most points from the first 4 games over the last 4 years and the total number of goals scored:

11 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

Chelsea are slightly ahead of Man Utd in the points stakes (44 v 38), however, Man Utd lead the way with 47 goals.  The lowest points scorers are Norwich with 16, with Hull City and Norwich slightly ahead with 18 apiece.  Unsurprisingly (as a Hull City fan), they are the team that have scored the least amount of goals, with only 13 in 16 games.  Interestingly, the bottom half of the points gained list are only seperated by 6 points, whilst there is a 20 point gap between West Brom in 8th (24 points) and Chelsea. The biggest surprises in this list are Cardiff, who are 3rd best points scorers, gaining an impressive 34 points in their first 4 games over the 4 seasons and Liverpool and Everton who are 13th and 15th respectively, suggesting that they do start seasons slowly.  Cardiff will no doubt be hoping for a similarly strong start to next season. Next, a quick look at games lost and goals conceded:

2 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

As expected, Chelsea fare well in this list too (as it is almost a reverse of the last), having never lost in their first 4 games of the last 4 years.  They have also conceded the least with only 8 goals, 5 less than Man City their closest rival.  Crystal Palace hold up the bottom, having lost 9 of their 16 games, with Hull City and Southampton not far behind on 8. Always looking for a way to bring Hull City to the fore, here’s a chart they lead in:

3 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

Sadly, it’s not a great one to be showing….. Now that the Totals have been viewed, its worth having a quick look at what percentage of clubs end of season points have been picked up during the first 4 games:

4 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

The chart shows that Man City are way ahead in respect of percentage of points gained in the first 4 weeks.  A consistent team across the seasons would show an average of 9.5%, therefore the further away that teams get from this, either positively or negatively, the less consistent they are. Finally I have looked at the averages over the past 4 seasons in order to try and predict who will start next season strongly:

7a7 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

So based on the average over the last 4 seasons, Chelsea will end the first 4 games at the top of the league with 11 points (yes, i’m aware they can’t get 11 points in 4 games but thats averages for you) whilst Man Utd will lead the goalscoring charts with 11.75 goals.  Cardiff will be top 3 and Everton and Liverpool will be playing catch-up to Stoke. The league table, after 4 weeks and based on the averages, will look like this:

62 The First 4 Premier League Games: Analysis of results for last 4 Years

Of course, the above table won’t happen.  That’s the beauty of football, it is unpredictable and it is that unpredictability that we love. Although, Chelsea being at the top of the EPL after 4 games has to be worth a punt, doesn’t it?

Managers – Experienced or Progressive?

At some stage, within every single club forum, there will be a comment that states “…we need an experienced manager” or a version thereof.  This got me thinking, and caused me to ponder a few questions:

  1. Does experience really matter when recruiting a manager?
  2. Are modern methods more relevant than experience?
  3. Does managerial performance improve with experience?

What i’m trying to do is raise some debate around whether modern management / coaching methods & a deeper academic knowledge of the game are as valuable as experience or does experience trump all?

There are a number of things to consider before I start trying to tackle the questions.

Firstly, from being children we are taught that “practice makes perfect”, which is an adage that I wholeheartedly agree with.  However, when preparing for a maths test for instance, is it better to spend 10 hours taking similar tests or spend 10 hours learning the formulas required to take the test?  I’m afraid I don’t have the answer but hopefully you’ll see where i’m coming from.

Secondly, my dad has 30 years more experience of maths than me.  If we were to take the test together, he would use his experience and knowledge to tackle the questions, whereas I would use a calculator.  I wouldn’t like to speculate who would score higher, but IN YOUR FACE DAD!

Finally, what would happen if I gave my dad the calculator?  Would he use it?  Would he be able to use it?  Or would it sit unused on the desk?

Lets take a look at the experience of the coming seasons Premier League managers:

Picture21 Experience v Progressive   Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

The average length of experience for Premier League managers next year will be 11.9 years.  In my opinion, and for the purpose of this post, an experienced manager is one who has over 10 years experience, .  Therefore, 11 of the 20 managers can be classed as experienced.

By the way, if experience was the be all and end all, the table above is also the final Premier League table for the 2013/14 season.

Of course, football doesn’t work like that.  Which reinforces question 1, does experience really matter when recruiting a manager?

The chart below shows next seasons Premier League managers in the order that they finished this season:

Picture3 1024x5761 Experience v Progressive   Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

7 of the 11 experienced managers (with 10 or more years as a manager) finished in the top 6 of their respective leagues last season.  That’s 64%, whereas only 2 (34%) of the ‘inexperienced’ managers managed the same feat.

Does this mean that experience wins?  It almost does, however clubs that are expected to be challenging for major honours are more likely to be risk averse and rely on the traditional ways of appointing managers meaning that opportunities for inexperienced managers to join a club that is expected to challenge (and has the resources to) are reduced.

Is the nervousness of the so called ‘big clubs’ justified?  After all, both Spurs & Liverpool were brave enough to appoint inexperienced managers with a modern football approach and the general consensus is that they have both done decent jobs last season.  Their level of success next season will be interesting to see and they both have room to have better seasons without having to challenge for the top 2.

But, (frustratingly) this then raises another question.  Will any improvements next season be as a result of their modern approach to football or because of their extra years experience?

My view is that the only way to gauge whether a manager has been successful or not is to look at their final place v pre-season (or pre-employment) objective.  6 (54%) of next seasons 11 experienced managers either achieved or over achieved in 2012/13 (including Laudrup at Swansea, Allardyce at West Ham and Bruce at Hull City).  However, 6 (67%) of the 9 inexperienced managers at least achieved their objective (Steve Clarke at West Brom, Pochettino at Southampton and MacKay at Cardiff for example).

I’m coming to the conclusion that a mixture of both is the right answer which is a real wimps way out!  As a believer in modern techniques in football and making full use of technical advances I will always favour a thoughtful, educated manager with a background in the deeper side of the game rather than a blood and thunder ex-pro who relies on his many years of management experience to get him a job.

Nick Levett (@nlevett), the FA National Development Manager for Youth Football posted the following on twitter a couple of days ago:

Capture Experience v Progressive   Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

Capture2 Experience v Progressive   Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

Capture3 Experience v Progressive   Managers in the EPL | Stats Analysis

Having considered his points, its hard to disagree with him.

In essence, the appointment of a manager has to be based on a number of things, experience & management / coaching style being just 2 of the considerations.  I think we are certainly going to see a new breed of manager coming through in the next 5 to 10 years with a complete understanding, and appreciation, of technology, statistical analysis and modern coaching styles and maybe some of the ‘dinosaurs’ will disappear.  There will be less & less demand from fans for an experienced manager, and more for an educated, innovative and progressive type that will help lead (or drag) clubs into the future.

Personally my natural instinct is leaning towards the Villas-Boas / Rodgers type of manager rather than a Pardew or Hughes.

Which kills me as a Hull City fan!

Do Manager changes guarantee success?

The twenty Premier League teams for next season are very close to being finalised, with the final place being decided this weekend in a £120m game between Crystal Palace & Watford.  Both clubs have had new managers in the last 10 months and both are (almost) reaping the rewards.

This means that 15 of the 20 teams that will be competing in the Premier League next season will have changed their Manager in the previous 12 months:

  • Manchester United
  • Manchester City
  • Chelsea
  • Everton
  • Tottenham Hotspur
  • Liverpool
  • West Brom
  • Swansea City
  • Norwich City
  • Stoke City
  • Southampton
  • Aston Villa
  • Sunderland
  • Hull City
  • Crystal Palace or Watford

Its important to note that not all of these changes are as a result of a manager being sacked, indeed 4 of them were as a result of managers moving on to ‘bigger’ clubs, 1 due to retirement and 1 to take on the England managers job.  However, regardless of the reasons for change, I wanted to look at the impact of the new manager taking over and also what will be expected of the new managers next season.

I think it’s fair to state that when a club hires a new manager the minimum that they expect of the replacement is an improvement in the team performance. In essence, if an outgoing manager has won 10 points in the previous 10 games, the new guy has to get 11 out of the same number of games, doesn’t he?

In order to assess the improvements that arise from a new manager coming in, I’ve done a comparison of the newbies that were introduced by Premier League clubs either before or during last season against their predecessors, over the same amount of games. For instance, Paolo Di Canio managed Sunderland for 7 games so I have compared this against Martin O’Neills last 7 games.  Of course there may be a difference in the quality of opposition over the 7 games, however these are purely as a result of scheduling and club chairmen are aware of the games coming up anyway.

 (I have restricted the comparison to the teams that were playing in the Premier League in the 2012/13 season).

Picture241 1024x545 Premier League Managerial Changes: Do They Guarantee Success? Stats


In pictorial terms there’s no-one that really jumps out as having a huge impact compared to the previous manager.  In fact, only 1 manager bettered their predecessor by more than 2 wins, Paul Lambert at Villa with 3 more wins by Alex McLeish.  So does that mean that Lambert was the best Premier League replacement last season?  The next chart shows the overall points difference by club:

Picture311 1024x654 Premier League Managerial Changes: Do They Guarantee Success? Stats


So, compared to their predecessor over the same number of games, Brendan Rodgers comes out on top with 9 points more than Dalglish (38 games) and Paolo Di Canio follows in 2nd by gaining 6 points more than Martin O’Neill (7 games).

Despite all the plaudits and praise that Michael Laudrup has received, even being touted for the Everton job in some media reports, he actually finished 1 point behind Rodgers 11/12 Swansea points.  Laudrup did however manage this whilst delivering a net transfer spend of +£10,709,600 versus Rodgers -£10,907,600.

Chris Hughton will no doubt be delighted with finishing 11th in the league, despite finishing 3 points behind Lamberts Norwich side the previous season.  Those 3 points would have given Norwich a 9th place finish.

To give a better ‘at a glance’ view, the following shows Points per Game:

Picture421 1024x586 Premier League Managerial Changes: Do They Guarantee Success? Stats

When Martin O’Neill was sacked by Sunderland there were a lot of comments on Twitter questioning the decision, and particularly the timing of it.  Clearly his last 7 games giving a PPG of just 0.29 was rotten.  Di Canio managing 1.14 PPG seems to justify the decision.

Interestingly, the same questions were asked about Southamptons sacking of Nigel Adkins.  The fact that Pochettino managed exactly the same record of wins, draws & losses as Adkins (over the same amount of games) means that the questions remain unanswered.  The only positive influence that Pochettino has had so far is that Southampton conceded less goals (20 v Adkins 25).

So, 5 of the 8 managerial changes delivered positive improvement.  Only time will tell if they can continue to do so next season.

There will be (at least) 5 Premier League clubs with new managers next season so, in closing, I wanted to take a quick look at the challenges ahead of them (2012/13 figures):

Picture531 1024x170 Premier League Managerial Changes: Do They Guarantee Success? Stats

Clearly David Moyes has a huge (almost impossible) task ahead of him, having to emulate (and quite frankly to better) Sir Alex.  In fact, none of the jobs look easy.  The only one where I would be confident enough to put money on an improvement is Chelsea, and only if Jose Mourinho does go back.

There will no doubt be lots of interest in the Stoke job as it appears it requires the lowest level of success to have an impact.  However, they are clearly keen to move into a more ‘continental’ style of football and shrug off their reputation of being a ‘typically English’ kind of team.  To do this will they will need to recruit a foreign manager, or at least a British manager with a continental style, and how many of them will be looking to take on the ‘project’.  I wouldn’t be surprised though to see Zola’s name linked if Watford fail to gain promotion.

Stoke & Zola, a match made in Heaven.

How common are Premier League shocks?

Football is an incredible game. Sometimes it’s so incredible, it’s unbelievable. – Tom Landry

Ok, so Landry was talking about the ‘other’ type of football, however the sentiment remains true for ‘real’ football.  One of the most beautiful things about the beautiful game is the potential for a freak, unexpected result.  An incredible, unbelievable result.

There’s nothing that neutral football fans enjoy more than seeing an underdog grabbing a win against the odds.  So how often does it happen?  And who are the best at it?

The very fact that a shock result generally means a ‘weaker’ team gaining points from a ‘stronger’ team naturally excludes a number of teams from doing well in this scenario.  Manchester United, Manchester City and, to some extent, Chelsea are expected to win almost every game in a season therefore reducing their chances of securing a shock result.  Even Man Citys 2-1 win at Old Trafford in April wasn’t considered a shock.

For the purpose of this post I have defined a shock result as one being given odds of 5/1 or more by bookmakers.  Why 5/1?  Blame my dad.  He once told me that any bet less than 5/1 wasn’t worth the shoe leather for the walk to the bookmakers, and i’ve continued his rule on.  Also, 84% of odds quoted in the Premier League this season (up to 12th May) were at odds of less than 5/1, thus meaning that 16% of results could be classed as a shock.

So, how many results have there been that meet my criteria?  Looking at the last 4 seasons of the Premier League:

Picture14 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

Including season totals and percentage of total games played:

Picture23 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

The figures show that, on average just over 6% of games end with a shock result and, with the exception of 2009/10, away shocks are vastly more common than home shocks.  This makes sense as it is generally accepted that it is harder to win away, even without the differences in squad abilities.  The number of shock results has reduced massively this season, possibly suggesting that the gulf in quality between the favourites and the underdogs is growing and it is getting harder for underdogs to bite back.

Indeed, whilst it is a very small sample size, the 2012/13 season has seen less shocks even than the trend suggests:

Picture3 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

For clarity, the following is the list of games from this season that have had shock results:

Picture41 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

Clearly QPR winning at Chelsea was a massive shock (regardless of the odds) and even Norwich winning at home against Arsenal & Man Utd offered odds of over 6/1.

Only 14 (15%) of the 93  shock results in the last 4 seasons have been HUGE shocks, offering odds of over 10/1.  The biggest shock, according to the bookies was Blackburn beating Man Utd 3-2 at Old Trafford on New Years Eve 2011, with Bet365 offering odds of 26/1!!!!!

We have so far established that shocks happen, on average, once every 17 games andHUGE shocks only happen in 1 in 108 games.  So which team are best at pulling off shocks?

Picture52 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

Wigan have recorded the highest total number of shock results over the last 4 seasons with 11, Wolves are second on 8 and Villa & Sunderland are 3rd with 7.  I’m not sure whether this can be worn as a badge of honour or not, is the fact that you are regarded as an underdog a good thing or not?  Should Arsenal & Man City be embarrassed that they appear on the chart at all?  Arsenals 1 shock result was the 5-3 win away at Chelsea in 2011 and Man Citys was the 4-2 win in 2010, also away at Chelsea.

Obviously the above chart is weighted in favour of the teams that have spent the most amount of time in the Premier League, so by dividing the number of shocks by the number of seasons in the league we’ll get a better picture of who has the best record.

Picture62 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

Blackpool therefore have the best record of shocks per season, with 5 in their only season in the Premier League in the last 4 seasons.  Wigan still fare reasonably well based on this criteria, coming in 2nd with 2.75 shock results per season.

Finally I wanted to have a look at which teams are more likely to be on the wrong end of a shock result.

Picture71 The Premier League Shockers   How common are the shocking upsets?

Of the 93 shock results in the last 4 seasons, 18% (17 in total) have occurred against Chelsea.

If I had a time machine and could go back and have a £10 bet on each of the shock results this season, i’d have a profit of £1176.  If my time machine allowed me to go back to each of the past 4 seasons I would have made £6728.50.

So, does anyone have a time machine I can borrow?

Relegated from the Premier League? What happens next….

It is a sight no football fan wants to see.  The dreaded ‘R’ next to your club in the league table.

It is incredibly difficult for fans to prepare themselves for the emotions that they go through when relegation from the Premier League is sealed.  Anger, frustration and even relief are just some of the feelings that they’ll succumb to.  Pragmatists will say c’est la vie, others will feel like it’s the end of the world.

But is it?  Your team will bounce straight back up won’t it?

Lets find out.  If you’re of a nervous disposition, look away now!

So what happens when you’re team is relegated.  In a picture, this (up to and including 2011/2012):

Picture11 1024x597 Relegated from the Premier League. So What Happens Next? Stats Analysis


Busy isn’t it?

In order to make sense of the information, I have isolated key elements of it.

The average amount of time that teams, who eventually do make a return to the Premier League, stay out of it is just just over 3 years which equates to 4 seasons.  However, if we take out all the occasions when a team has returned the year after relegation (15 times), this increases to 5 seasons away.

There has been 61 relegations since the Premier League started, with a total of 34 different teams having to suffer it.  Some have had more practise than others at handling relegation with Crystal Palace leading the way with 4 relegations, closely followed by Birmingham, West Brom, Bolton, Sunderland, Leicester, Forest & Middlesbrough, each with 3 Premier League relegations.  Of course an alternative point of view is that these teams have secured more promotions than others, sadly this post isn’t about promotion.

The following chart shows how quickly teams have  historically bounced back into the Premier League.

Picture4 Relegated from the Premier League. So What Happens Next? Stats Analysis

So if you are relegated, you are more likely to never return to the top division than you are to return if you take more than 3 years to do it.  Clearly, with the amount of money involved in parachute payments, teams that are relegated have a bigger chance of returning to the Premier League within the first 2 years.

There have only been 4 teams that have managed to climb back to the Premier League after dropping more than 1 division having suffered Premier League relegation:

Picture5 1024x547 Relegated from the Premier League. So What Happens Next? Stats Analysis


There is much to be admired about the above chart, whether its Norwich or Southamptons swift climb from the 3rd tier to the Premier League in only 2 years having been away for 6 & 7 years respectively, Man City managing the same feat between 1998 & 2000 (only to suffer relegation again the following season) or QPR’s return to the top league after 15 years outside of it.

The teams that have dropped the furthest down the leagues since playing Premier League football are as follows:

Picture6 1024x437 Relegated from the Premier League. So What Happens Next? Stats Analysis



The fastest, and furthest, drop is Bradford City although they currently sit in a play off place in League 2 so may be starting on the road back to the Premier League.  Or maybe not.  My gut feeling is that it may be a good few years before any of these teams return to the Premier League, with a QPR style climb rather than a Norwich leap.

The next chart shows a total of how many seasons teams have spent outside of the Premier League since their first relegation.  Teams that were in the Premier League in the 11/12 season aren’t included:

Picture12 1024x541 Relegated from the Premier League. So What Happens Next? Stats Analysis

From the above, Middlesbrough, West Ham, Charlton & Birmingham are actually performing the best since their first relegation, spending less than 50% of the time outside of the top flight so far.

The key messages then for relegated teams are that you need to go all out to return to the Premier League in the first 2 years and if you don’t manage it, start preparing for an extended holiday away.  Don’t drop into the 3rd tier as you then need to match up with just 9% of teams that have climbed back into the Premier League.

Not forgetting, if you drop into the bottom division you’re doomed.