The National (League) Lottery


Happy 200th:

Well here we are at issue 200 of MB. Who would have thought it possible. I remember in the early days writing to the late Paul Mullen asking if they could write an article about one of my early Pools heroes Bobby Folland.

Thinking that the MB enterprise was based in plush modern offices and consisted of several full time professional reporters and columnists I got a swift reply asking me to write it myself! I of course obliged spending several weeks researching the subject in the British Library. (Well reading old programmes and the Rothmans Football Yearbook 1986 / 87 edited by Peter Dunk in the library at South Woodford in East London, which is of course a British library being as it is in Britain.) This has led me to contribute on a fairly erratic basis ever since under several noms de plume.

During that time, 32 odd years - and they have been odd - there have been a lot of highs and lows: some passionate owners and some right chancers, quite a few managers and a lot of players. But of course it is the supporters that have been the constant throughout and I hope will remain so.

Lies, damned lies and Statistics:

Having reached the play offs has brought a mixture of relief and disappointment. Relief after 4 years in the National League we’ve eventually made the play offs having previously finished 15th, 16th and 12th. The disappointment being that we were top of the division for a while looking at and dreaming of automatic promotion.

The play offs have often been likened to a lottery and their main function appears to be to generate finances and keep things interesting for longer during the season. Logic would dictate that the clubs finishing first and second should be promoted following the completion of a season, remember the diktat "it’s a marathon not a sprint" (coincidentally both are names of chocolate bars). However the play offs are just that, a sprint. Still we shouldn’t complain as we didn’t finish first or second.
"The thing with a knockout competition is that anything could happen "

So, uncomplainingly, what are our chances of winning this lottery? Since the end of the club's fine unbeaten run the form seems to be like my MB contributions, erratic.

With the inception of the 6 team play off format 2018 / 19 saw Salford, who finished 3rd, and in 2019 / 20 Harrogate (with their plastic pitch) who finished 2nd, both promoted. Looking at both the later format and the old 4 team one combined, over the past 10 seasons runners up have been promoted 5 times. Teams finishing 3rd have won the play offs and been promoted 3 times and teams finishing 4th have won promotion 2 times. Therefore no teams finishing lower than 4th have been promoted.

Does current form play a part? Over their last 5 games we’ve lost 2, won one, lost another and won another. Taking this as 6 points the current form table is:

Chesterfield  WWDWW  13 points
Bromley  DWDWW  11 points
Notts Co  WDWWL  10 points
Stockport Co  WDDDW  9 points
Torquay Utd WDDDD  7 points
Hartlepool Utd  LLWLW  6 points
British Eurovision song  LLLLL  0 points

Do not be too depressed about the above table. The thing with a knockout competition is that anything could happen and no end of speculation will change that. In Dave Challinor we have the best manager we’ve had in a long time and the group of players, back room staff and owner likewise. I’m sure they will do everything in their power to gain promotion and write their names in the club's history.

Down all the days:

There is a school of thought that says that a club failing to gain promotion through the play offs will have a tough time of it the following season.

I’ll not go into the details of every club that did not gain promotion but again over the past 10 seasons only 2 clubs have been relegated the season after being in the play offs: Braintree (2016 / 17) and Fylde (2019 / 20).

Remember folks, before we go dissing the opposition: Empathy is the ability to walk a mile in your enemy's shoes. By then they will be a mile away and you’ve got their shoes.

Front Page