At the time of the first International break we had accumulated 7 points and were sitting in a very comfortable 7th place in the league. I suggested then that the next six games (seven with the Carling) leading up to the next International break might reveal more clearly where we sit in the pecking order of this league.
Our next three games against the ‘bottom three’, of Palace, Derby and Burnley, did not really follow the script, as we started with another away defeat in London. And then, picked up just two points from the two home draws.
After what was on paper the easier half of this run of games we then entered the much tougher sequence of Reading, Preston and Wolves. And we started really badly, as we took a 4-0 thumping at the Madjeski, and for some the writing was on the wall. How much of this defeat was due to the after-effects of the preceding fine win against our near neighbours, is open to conjecture.
What is without doubt, is that we were totally outplayed by Reading and we were lucky to keep it to four. At that stage, there were the beginnings of disquiet in some quarters, with the gainsayers almost gleefully telling us, “they told us so”. The panickers were beginning to panic, but in truth that was the first time we had seen a team who had matched us this season, except perhaps for Cardiff in the first 20 minutes. But when the going gets tough, the tough do get going, and that was definitely the case for the Swans as our recovery was both swift and spectacular.
The set back at Reading was forgotten as we moved on to a very professional away win at Preston, and a comprehensive victory over the table-topping Wolves. The doubters had for the time being been proved wrong and have once again fallen silent. Have no doubt though that they are lurking, waiting for the next slip so they can preach their doom-laden prophecies.
And so as we end the first semester, and rest up for the second International break, we reach the time where according to conventional wisdom it is valid to look at the league table and take something from it.
8th place; 15 points; out of the play offs only on goal difference – most would say very satisfactory indeed.
But, when we look at that league table should we be looking up towards the play offs and automatic promotion places? Or, should we be looking down at the trap door back to purgatory, which places 22, 23, and 24 stands over?
I thought it would be instructive to have a look at the table at the same stage last season to see if it revealed anything useful.
The only thing possible to conclude from that league table is that is it’s impossible to conclude anything from it!
Clearly, being top at this stage means nothing, but I doubt that Birmingham will blow up quite as spectacularly as Watford did last year. Reading, are 3 points better off and in the same position as WBA were last season. On what we have seen so far they have to be one of the serious contenders to be Champions.
Scunthorpe were on 14 points and were relegated from that position. That’s worth considering very seriously. And promoted Hull were in 15th spot and not looking in contention at these early stages. The other two relegated clubs Colchester, and in particular Leicester, didn’t at this early stage look like early candidates for the drop.
There was significant movement and change after this point in the season and so it’s pretty obvious, isn’t it, that it’s dangerous to read too much into the table at this early stage. There are far too many games, and far too many points to play for before anything at all is decided. It’s what happens from this point that really matters.
Now here is something spooky about last year’s table.
7th and 8th spots occupied by two teams on 15 points – as is the case now.
7th and 8th spots occupied by local rivals, 40 miles apart – as is the case now.
The fortunes of those two teams were very different.
One team ended up in 7th place just missing out on the play offs. The other in 21st place only just escaping relegation.
And the teams this season in 7th and 8th spot, on 15 points, and separated by only 40 miles? Well I don’t need to tell you the answer to that do I?
Are you looking up, or are you looking down?