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A catch-up with the English Football League

Roar Guru
26th November, 2015
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With just over a third of the season gone, a catch-up of the Football League is long overdue after the previous weekly segment disappeared.

This quick catch-up should provide some of the big stories from the Football League, which has announced since the last update that it will rebrand itself next year as the EFL – English Football League.

It’s also good to know some of the teams and trends in the Football League before April as well, when most of the football world will release three of these teams will be in the EPL next season.

Championship
Brighton and Hove Albion are the only unbeaten team in top five English divisions after a run of 17 games. Their current run in the Championship is a long way from some of the low times of the past three decade. Less than 20 years ago they needed a draw on the last day to stay in the fourth division, and even had to play over 100 kilometres away in Gillingham.

But with the new stadium, Brighton and Hove Albion were promoted to the Championship, and after a few playoff attempts look like they may be able to go all the way to the EPL. It is a similar path that now high-flying Leicester and Watford took.

They are not first however, with Hull City taking that honour. Hull, along with fifth-placed Burnley, are starting to prove the importance of EPL parachute payments. As long as you are a reasonably well run club, who prepare for the possibility of relegation, the advantage of the parting payment from the EPL is an advantage very few clubs can match in the new era of Financial Fair Play.

With the new EPL deal kicking in next year, it will provide even more firepower for the sides coming down. And if a side the size of Aston Villa or Newcastle are relegated, which remains a possibility, the three places for promotion will become harder fought than ever. Hopefully the competitiveness of the Championship, for which it is so famed, doesn’t disappear into a predictable class system like other leagues.

Down at the other end of the Championship are last placed Bolton Wanderers, and an example of how to get things wrong after relegation. While they haven’t slipped further down the Football League yet like Portsmouth, Wolves and Wigan before them, they are on track to do so, with just one win and eight draws from their first 17 games.

Bolton have no less a manager than ex-Celtic boss Neil Lennon, and possess some quality players. Yet they also have more than 150 million in debt hanging over their head, making it hard to progress. The current owner has said he’d wipe off the debt if a buyer can be found, and that buyer will be vital in securing their future in the Championship.

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Interesting stats
The Championship has the highest draw percentage of the three divisions at 33 per cent. League Two is 27 per cent and League One 24 per cent. Four teams have eight draws from 17 games including Brighton (second) and Bolton (last).

Brighton have the longest unbeaten streak with 17, Hull City are next with 11. The season’s longest winning streak so far is five for Hull and Middlesbrough. Bolton are winless in 11 games, and have only won once.

As of this weekend only Charlton (20th) are on a winning streak of more than one game (two). Two of the four worst form teams (last six games) have already replaced their manager, proving a change in boss doesn’t always bring a change in fortunes – Huddersfield and Rotherham.

Sam Hutchinson from Sheffield Wednesday has nine yellow cards from 13 appearances including in every away game he has played this season.

League One
The third tier has a top six full of surprising achievers including the likes of recently promoted Burton Albion, and lesser known footballing teams like Gillingham and Walsall. While League One usually supplies a small team that overachieves for half a season, these three teams have been a fixture in the top six over the past few months, and promotion does not look beyond all of them.

Coventry are currently top, and while they are considered a bigger club, they haven’t been without drama since being relegated to League One in 2012. The 1987 FA Cup winners then suffered two consecutive seasons of 10-point deductions and haven’t yet finished higher than 15th since their arrival.

Coventry also had to play their games 50 kilometres away in Northampton after a dispute with the owners of their home stadium. First at this time of year will be seen as some kind of achievement.

The other big team, Sheffield United, look destined for an extended stay in League One. It was only in 2006-07 when they were sent down by West Ham and Carlos Tevez, a relegation they received compensation for.

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But since their relegation to League One in 2011 they have been a marked side, the benchmark for all other teams. Only in the cups do they get a break, and have been hugely successful in recent seasons with the pressure off. But cup runs are one thing, and the expected promotion looks another year off at the moment.

Interesting stats
Goals aplenty in League One with 39 and 40 from the last two rounds, an average of 3.3 per game. Peterborough (7th) lead the way with an average of 3.8 goals per game this season. Burton (3rd) have seen goals at a miserly 1.7 goals a game.

Coventry (1st) have the longest current unbeaten run of 10 games, one shy of the season’s best of 11 by Wigan. Port Vale are on a winning run of four games, while Bury have the longest run this season with six.

Blackpool are on the longest losing streak with five, but are still three behind Barnsley’s eight straight losses. Barnsley stopped that run last weekend only to lose again in midweek.

League Two
Northampton’s success, despite its off-field struggles, is simply outstanding. During October 2015 a winding-up petition was launched by HM Revenue and Customs to recover unpaid taxes. This was after the staff and players weren’t paid during October, and a collection was taken when the Cobblers met their former tenants Coventry in the FA Cup first round in Coventry earlier in the month.

The big issue is what happened with the £10.25 million loaned to the club to pay for a stadium redevelopment. The repayments to the Council have gone unpaid, just as the builders’ bills. All that’s left to show are minor works on the west stand, and floodlights.

Despite all this Northampton sit third, just two points behind leader Plymouth Argyle, and have the best form from the last six games with five wins and a draw. Such resilience in the face of drama deserves promotion. A new owner and the Council resolving the payment of the debt are the first signs of a turnaround.

Interesting stats
League Two have an average of three goals per game from the past two rounds. Off-field strugglers Northampton (3rd) and previous on-field strugglers Newport (20th) have the longest current unbeaten run of six games.

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Dagenham and Redbridge broke an 11-game winless streak midweek by beating Wimbledon. York (13) and Yeovil (11) are now competing for worst winless run. Unsurprisingly, both are in the bottom two. Yeovil are on five straight losses.

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