Sunday, 4 May 2014

Championship Predictions: How did Gabriel do?

After a grueling nine months of my in-depth research and agonizing over the potential outcomes of a series of football matches, this Championship season has finished. So, having predicted a total of 468 games over the course of the season, how have I fared? Here are my results:

Date
Correct Results
Exact Scorelines
Points
03/08
3
0
3
10/08
2
0
2(/11)
17/08
3
0
3
24/08
5
1 - Watford 1-1 Nottm Forest
8
31/08
3
1 - Charlton 2-1 Leicester
6
14/09
2
0
2
21/09
6
1 - Charlton 0-1 Millwall
9
19/10
3
1 - Blackburn 0-1 Charlton
6
26/10
1
1 - Leicester 2-1 Bournemouth
4
02/11
2
2 - Leeds 2-0 Yeovil, Wigan 2-1 Huddersfield
8
09/11
4
1 - Middlesbrough 2-2 Watford
7
23/11
3
4 - Sheff Wed 1-2 Huddersfield, Birmingham 1-1 Blackpool, Ipswich 1-2 Leicester, Nottm Forest 1-1 Burnley
15
30/11
1
1 - Blackpool 2-0 Sheff Wed
4
03/12
3
3 - Birmingham 1-1 Doncaster, Millwall 2-2 Nottm Forest, Derby 2-1 Middlesbrough
12
21/12
2
2 - Bolton 1-1 Charlton, Ipswich 1-1 Watford
8
26/12
2
1 - Huddersfield 1-1 Derby
5
29/12
6
1 - Blackpool 0-1 Brighton
9
01/01
2
1 - Reading 1-1 Nottm Forest
5
11/01
6
1 - Blackpool 0-2 Midlesbrough
9
18/01
2
3 - Bournemouth 1-1 Watford, Burnley 1-1 Sheff Wed, QPR 2-1 Huddersfield
11
28/01
5
3 - Burnley 0-0 Brighton, Leeds 1-1 Ipswich, Millwall 1-1 Sheff Wed
14
01/02
6
2 - Blackburn 2-0 Blackpool, Sheff Wed 1-0 Barnsley
12
08/02
5
0
5
11/02 +
15/02
3
2 - Watford 1-0 Birmingham, Millwall 1-1 Bolton
9(/13)
22/02
4
0
4
01/03
6
1 - QPR 1-1 Leeds
9
08/03
3
0
3
11/03
3
0
3
15/03
4
2 - Leicester 3-1 Blackpool, Millwall 0-0 Charlton
10
22/03
4
1 - Wigan 2-1 Watford
7
25/03
1
1 - Burnley 2-0 Doncaster
4
29/03
1
2 - Bolton 1-1 Wigan, Leeds 1-2 Doncaster
7
05/04
2
0
2
08/04
3
1 - Barnsley 0-1 Burnley
6
12/04
2
1 - Derby 3-1 Huddersfield
5
18/04
2
0
2
21/04
2
2 - Derby 2-1 Barnsley, QPR 2-1 Watford
8
26/04
3
2 - Brighton 2-0 Yeovil, QPR 1-1 Millwall
9
03/05
3
2 - Ipswich 2-1 Sheff Wed, Leeds 1-1 Derby
9
Total
123
47
264
Average
3.2
1.2
6.8
The first thing the jumps out at me is that I have got the right outcome (result & scoreline combined) 170 times. 170 divided by 468 is 0.36. Times that by 100, that's 36%. So my record for getting the right outcome is in fact, only slightly better than 1 in 3. And there's only 1 in 3 possible outcomes of a game. Suffice to say, I do not possess the required psychic powers.

Simplistic though it may seem, the only thing I take away from this, is that it is impossible guess the future. Football is such an unpredictable sport, yet it is a sport that so many people have their opinions on, myself included. But there are so many variables involved, and so many potential factors, that it is impossible to consistently come up with a reliable theory on how a match will pan out. In many ways, that is why we love the game. Football just keeps you guessing.

On a final note, this is my last ever post on this blog. I will be setting up a new website in the summer, for which I will provide the link. Many thanks to everybody who has followed the Score. I do hope you've enjoyed reading it more than I've enjoyed writing it, because it's been an absolute bloody nightmare.

Gabriel

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Gabriel's Championship Predictions: 3rd May

The final day of the Championship season is here, and how quickly has it gone? The race for promotion went down to final day drama last season, but this time around, things at the top have looked rather predictable since February. However, there are still things to play for. Reading’s fate is in their hands, they can clinch the final play-off spot with a win over Burnley, while Brighton will be hoping to take advantage of a slip-up, as they travel to Nottingham Forest. At the other end, Birmingham start the day in the drop zone. Defeat at Bolton would confirm relegation for the Blues, otherwise, their fate will be dependent on Doncaster and Millwall’s results against Leicester and Bournemouth respectively. There’s still much to play for, to round off this Championship season.

Ben Mansford
Barnsley vs. QPR
Barnsley’s relegation was confirmed last week, with a 3-1 loss at Middlesbrough. Chief executive Ben Mansford has promised a ‘competitive’ budget for the club next season, and as things stand, Barnsley looks like they will be in the strongest position of the teams to come down. QPR’s away form is terrible. They have lost 5 of their last 6 on the road, as only Charlton, Blackpool and Doncaster have scored less away goals. Harry Redknapp does have talented players at his disposal, but the likes of Junior Hoilett and Yossi Benayoun have underperformed this season. On this occasion, QPR might have a bit too much quality for Barnsley. 0-2.



Blackburn vs. Wigan
Blackburn need a last day miracle to get in the play-offs. There would need to be a 7 goal swing between themselves and Reading, and that’s in the scenario that Brighton fail to win. Realistically, it’s not going to happen, so Blackburn fans can be forgiven for looking ahead to next season. Wigan, meanwhile, secured their play-off place with a 1-0 win at Birmingham. They just need a draw here to tie up fifth place, and going on current form, most teams would rather play QPR than Derby in the semi-finals. Blackburn are lacking an experienced holding midfielder, and this is where Wigan, a side who close down very effectively in midfield, can benefit. I’d go for a high-scoring draw. 2-2.

Blackpool vs. Charlton
Callum Harriott
Charlton’s safety was confirmed on Tuesday night, with a 3-1 win over Watford. Winger Callum Harriott scored two very well taken goals, which should be a real boost for the youngster. Until recently, he looked like a player who had a lot of pace but lacked intelligence in his play, yet 2 goals and 2 assists in his last 3 games suggests Harriott’s end product is improving too. After a turbulent season, Blackpool need just a point to secure survival. For all his critics, Barry Ferguson deserves credit for getting such a crucial result, a 2-0 win at Wigan, out of his players. Neither side desperately need a win, and both teams have scored the joint fewest number of goals in the Championship. This has the look of a goalless to me. 0-0.

Bolton vs. Birmingham
Bolton have been in excellent form since March, and are ending their season with more positive news, with Neil Danns signing on a permanent deal. He has arguably been Bolton’s best attacking player this season, with 6 goals and 5 assists in just 25 starts since joining in October. Danns will be facing his old club, Birmingham, who start the final day in the drop zone. Defeat for the Blues would confirm relegation, though they can stay up with a draw if Doncaster lose. The one piece of good news is that defender Paul Robinson will return from suspension. Birmingham have a much better record, defensively and overall, with Robinson in the side. He, like Danns, will be up against his old club, in a pivotal game. Bolton have only conceded 4 goals in their last 8 and they will be hard for Birmingham to break down. If the Blues are chasing a goal in the closing stages, they will push men forward, which is a worry because Bolton can counter well. 2-0.

Ipswich vs. Sheff Wed
Stuart Gray
1pt from a possible 9 has mathematically ended Ipswich’s play-off ambitions for this season. It has been a progressive campaign for the Tractor Boys, but they have lacked creativity in midfield. Their highest assister is their left-back, and their highest-scoring non-striker is a centre-back, which tells its’ own story. This summer, Mick McCarthy needs to add an attack-minded midfielder who can get forward and contribute. Sheffield Wednesday continue to leak goals, with 20 conceded in 7 games since the end of March. Stuart Gray is looking to bring in a striker this summer, but there are other areas he may need to strengthen. Questions will be asked of whether the aging pair of Glenn Loovens and Oguchi Onyewu, will be able to play week in, week out next season. 2-1.

Leeds vs. Derby
The animosity between these two clubs has been there since the early 70s, when they were the top 2 clubs in England, with a rivalry fuelled by Don Revie and Brian Clough. After going on an awful run of form over March, Leeds seem to be ending the season on a high, with 3 wins from their last 4 games. Derby meanwhile, have found their goalscoring grove once again. They’ve won their last 5 games, scoring 14 goals. It is no coincidence that Derby have scored more goals since loanee George Thorne has started getting games. Dropping deep, he has given other midfielders the licence to get forward and support attacks, and that is where Derby are at their strongest. 1-1.

Leicester vs. Doncaster
Kevin Phillips
Leicester striker Kevin Phillips has announced that he will retire at the end of the season. You would hope that he gets a substitute appearance at the end for sentimental reasons, because he has been a fantastic professional throughout his career, and one of the best finishers in the English game. There are certainly more pressing matters at stake though, as Doncaster need a win to guarantee Championship survival. If the Rovers do go down, you can put it down to a lack of goals. Paul Dickov’s side have only scored 13 times since the end of January, and sometimes they struggle to create chances. I cannot see Leicester easing their grip, so I think Doncaster’s fate will come down to what happens at the Reebok. 2-0.

Millwall vs. Bournemouth
An injury to Elliott Ward is unlikely to trouble Bournemouth too much, because Steve Cook and Tom Elphick have formed a very solid defensive pairing over the last couple of months. Millwall grabbed a last minute equalizer at QPR, thanks to a wonderful strike from Scott Malone, which will give the team confidence going into the final day. If the Lions do stay up, they might need a little bit more quality in midfield. The likes of Nicky Bailey and Shaun Williams provide bite, but the tactic for them this season has been to hoof it into the box. With a higher calibre of opposition coming up from League One, you wonder if that will be enough next time around. 1-1.

Nottm Forest vs. Brighton
Oscar Garcia
The goals Nottingham Forest conceded last week, came about from them defending far too deep. They appeared happy to camp on the 18-yard line and a side in Bournemouth, who can keep the ball so well, were always going to find their way through eventually. Likewise, Brighton are a possession side, and they had a lot of it against Yeovil last Friday, but only created chances in the latter stages. The Seagulls have never been the type of team that will attack with intent, and Oscar Garcia has been criticized for this at times. Mathematically, only a 16-16 draw in this match would see Brighton get into the play-offs with a point. Although the two teams are currently on the same goal difference, Brighton have a vastly inferior goals scored record to Reading. Realistically, this is a game that Brighton need to win, so it will be interesting to see whether Garcia takes more of an adventurous mentality. 0-1.

Reading vs. Burnley
Time will tell just how important Reading’s 2nd half turnaround at Doncaster will prove to be. The Royals scored 3 goals in typically fast-paced style. They know a win will guarantee a play-off spot, but this will be no easy task, as they face an impressive Burnley side. The Clarets won last week, despite already having been promoted, which suggests that Sean Dyche is keeping his players in check. Winger Michael Kightly has been in very good form lately, with four goals and two man of the match performances since mid-March. While Burnley are unlikely to drop off the boil entirely, I would just go for Reading here. They will have that little bit more incentive to win. 2-1.
Alex Smithies

Watford vs. Huddersfield
Watford will be glad to end the season on their own turf. With a poor away record, they have played their last 3 matches away from Vicarage Road, losing each one. However, the Hornets have only dropped 7 points at home since the turn of the year. They will be confident of a victory, because Huddersfield have lost 12 away games this season, and only Barnsley and Doncaster have lost more frequently. You would think that finishing 2 places higher than last season would be a sign of progress. In fact, Huddersfield are guaranteed to finish with a much lower points tally, and they are a team I would worry about going into next season. Watford fans meanwhile, can feel quietly optimistic. 2-0.

Yeovil vs. Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough travel to Yeovil with news that Greek goalkeeper Dimitros Konstantopoulos has extended his contract for another season. The 35-year-old has only conceded 12 goals in 12 games since arriving in March, and has been man of the match on 3 occasions. There may a communication issue which he needs to work on, because the goals he conceded against Reading were due to a misunderstanding between him and the defence. Aitor Karanka not playing a consistent back-line perhaps doesn’t help this problem. The future of Yeovil’s manager, Gary Johnson, is in doubt. Currently in his second spell with the West Country club, Johnson has made his demands for backing in the transfer window known. Yeovil have shown that they can hold their own at this level, but you would think they need to sign a couple of experienced players on big wages, if they want to be competing at the top of League One next season. 0-1.

Monday, 28 April 2014

The Leeds View

Before Birmingham's match against Leeds, I interviewed Stuart, who has been a home & away Leeds fan since 1994. Stuart gives his thoughts on his club’s takeover situation, the importance of keeping Ross McCormack, and why Manchester United are still Leeds’ biggest rivals…

For much of this season, you’ve maybe been more pre-occupied with issues off the field, than on it. What do you make of the Massimo Cellino takeover situation?
Massimo Cellino
No doubt this had some bearing on the squad, but the wheels fell off on our season in December, and even prior to that we didn't look much cop, just managed to grind out results here and there. The takeover situation itself was complicated, and it made our previous owners, GFH capital, look like a complete cowboy outfit, their lies and cover ups were coming out week by week and it just spread through the club like a disease, thankful it's all resolved now.

Thoughts on Brian McDermott? And given that Cellino has sacked 36 managers in 22 years at Cagliari, can you see him staying for the long term?
Not a fan. He's very tactically inept, I'm still trying to work what formation we played against Forest, could have been anything really. Can't see him being here for pre-season.

Despite going into a decline over the last 10 years, you remain one of the best supported clubs in England. With the right investment, can you become established in the Premier League?
We can do if the investment is right, I think you can say that about any club though, football is governed by money so if you can spend on the right players you can transform yourself and become a big force in football. For us personally, we need a massive overhaul in personnel on and off the pitch so I expect a busy summer for us.

Ross McCormack
Ross McCormack has scored 28 league goals this season, which is more than half your overall goal tally. Do you fear losing him this summer?
Of course, when you look at the team we have, how we have been playing and then think that he is the top goalscorer in the league and then that is an even more impressive achievement. In a way it's the perfect time for us to have him because now we will see what Cellino is made of.

The late 60s-early 70s was the club’s most successful period. Many people criticized the team’s conduct and lack of sportsmanship under Don Revie, was that fair?
Probably not, football was different in them days, many clubs had players who loved a tackle and had that edge, but whenever a team is successful it get's criticised for something and that was our thing. That's just life.

Your club anthem is Marching On Together, songs like this give fans a sense of identity. With the way modern football is shaping up, do you think we’re in danger of losing that?
The evidence is in Man City for me, I used to love the atmosphere at Maine Road and how their fans used to be, they have completely lose their identity now. Many other clubs in that bracket too. Cardiff changing everything about their club for a stab at the Premier League, I would personally rather stay in the championship than go through all that.

Man Utd - still Leeds' biggest rivals
Who do you see as your biggest rivals? Does the fact that there’s a ‘Yorkshire Derby’ pretty much every other week, take away the significance of a game against another Yorkshire club?
Biggest rivals will always be Manchester United. No matter how long we are away from each other that mutual hatred will always be there and the rivalry will never go away from either club. The Yorkshire Derby thing is quite strange, I couldn't really care about most of the Yorkshire sides, we will always have a thing with Sheffield Wednesday but the rest I don't really see as rivals.

I seem to have forgotten what the score was last time Birmingham played Leeds...
4-0 just to jog your memory… Joking aside, you caught us on our best performance of the season. I can guarantee you this won't happen again.

If we’re in the same league next season (a big if for my team at the moment), where would you recommend for pre-match food and drink on our away trip?
It's quite difficult as most pubs around the ground don't let away fans in, so the city centre is possibly the best bet for you. Lots of good bars and food places around.

Thanks for answering our questions. Your prediction for Saturday…

Hard one to call, but with your form at home and our form combined with Brian's tactics then I think this has 0-0 written all over it.

Spireites beat long ball Burton to secure promotion

Going Up - Chesterfield
Chesterfield will be back in League One next season, and they are in pole position to go up as League Two champions, after they won 2-0 at the Pirelli stadium. Meanwhile, defeat for Burton Albion means they still have to play for a favourable position in the play-offs, on the final day.

Chesterfield were always one of the frontrunners for promotion. Manager Paul Cook arrived from Accrington in October last season, and it took him a while to implement his brand of positive football. Prior to his appointment, the club had three years under a more defensive coach in John Sheridan. The Spireites averaged 2 points a game from March onwards, and were unlucky not to grab a play-off place last time around.

Gary Roberts
This summer, Paul Cook was backed successfully in the transfer market, thanks to the funding from chairman Dave Allen. The midfield was improved hugely this summer. Arrivals such as Sam Morsy from Port Vale and Gary Roberts from Swindon, have added quality on the ball, the latter being named League Two player of the year. Ian Evatt, a stalwart at Blackpool, has provided some experience to the defence, while striker Eoin Doyle has taken some of the goalscoring burden off Marc Richards.

Given so many improvements to the team, it would have been a disappointment had Chesterfield not gone up. Paul Cook has certainly brought the best out of his players though, and he has got the team playing good football. They look like the kind of team that will get the ball into midfield quickly, before building slowly from the centre. An attacking trio of Jay O’Shea, Gary Roberts and Dan Gardner, who came on for the injured Daniel Kearns early on, all like to operate narrowly. This creates space for fullbacks to get forward, particularly Tendayi Darikwa, a midfielder by trade who came through Chesterfield’s academy.

The visitors’ looked much the better side and their dominance came to the fore early in the second half. A nice passing exchange between Ritchie Humphreys and Jay O’Shea, allowed the latter to finish coolly, cutting in from the right. O’Shea scored again in the closing stages to cap a deserved win for the Spireites, after a dominant display.

Billy Kee
What about Burton? It was a disappointing performance, in which they simply could not keep the ball as well as their opponents. They rarely managed to string three passes together in Chesterfield’s half, and often looked to pump the ball forward aimlessly, rather than try to dictate play. The Brewers played with two slow, stocky strikers up front in Billy Kee and Gary Alexander, while there was little pace or creativity behind them. It was clear how much the team missed the energy of Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma, who left for Aberdeen and Sheffield Wednesday respectively. They chipped in with a combined total of 27 goals last season, and helped the team play at a higher tempo than Burton have played at this season.

Arguably, the Brewers had a solid defence to thank for the fact the scoreline was not more commanding. Marcus Holness had an impressive game at centre-back, alongside captain Ian Sharps. Going forward Burton never looked a threat, even when Gary Rowett brought on two wingers, Zeli Ismail and Ashley Hemmings, before the hour mark.

Gary Rowett
Rowett, previously of Derby and Birmingham, made no defence of his players after the match. He had told them: ‘if you think that’s enough, then you’re sadly mistaken because one or two of you looked terrible today.’ The 40-year-old also hinted that poor performances from certain players had changed his plans for the play-off games.

The first leg of the League Two play-offs will be played on the weekend 10th/11th May. As things stand, Burton are 5th and will play away to 6th place York in the first leg. However, with just one league game to go, things could change quickly. Burton travel to 7th place Southend next week. If they lose that game, and York win, they will have to play 4th place Fleetwood in the semi-finals, with the second leg being played away. That is a tie which Burton may be keen to avoid.

Gary Rowett deserves credit for getting Burton Albion into the League Two play-offs, in back-to-back seasons, with one of the lower budgets in the division. However, whether Burton go up or stay down this season, they may need to add more guile in midfield this summer. Whether due to an overly defensive approach, or lack of energy after a long season, they did not put Chesterfield under enough pressure.


Chesterfield can begin celebrations on their return to League One, as their fans triumphantly ran onto the pitch after the final whistle. On Sunday’s evidence, there is much work to do for Burton if they too, want to be celebrating promotion in a month’s time.