History of Championship relegation battles doesn’t make for good reading... but Forest’s great escape of 2009 must give Town hope
- Credit: Picture: Steve Waller
Can Ipswich Town avoid relegation to the third-tier for the first time since 1958? STUART WATSON looks at the odds based on 14 years of Championship football.
Rock-bottom Ipswich Town missed a golden opportunity on Wednesday night. Twice they squandered leads against out-of-form Bristol City to lose 3-2 at Portman Road.
The gap to safety remains at six points. So what does history say about their chance of avoiding the drop from here?
The second-tier of English football was rebranded as the Championship in 2004/05. Using that as a start point, here are the stark statistics regarding the 19 game mark:
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• 25 of the 42 teams (60%) that were in the bottom three at this stage ended up getting relegated.
• 11 of the 14 teams (79%) that were bottom at this stage ended up getting relegated.
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• Only Nottingham Forest, in 2008/09, beat the drop after being six points adrift at this stage.
• On four occasions teams have had the same/less points than Town’s current 11 after 19 games (Rotherham in 16/17, Blackpool in 14/15, Portsmouth 11/12 – after a 10-point deduction – and Rotherham in 04/05). All went down.
• Since relegation from the Premier League in 2001/02, Town have not been in the drop zone this deep into a campaign. After the early struggles of 2009/10 and 2012/13, the Blues had climbed out of the bottom three by this stage under the management of Roy Keane and Mick McCarthy respectively.
Here’s how those who beat the odds managed it...
Bolton in 2017/18
The Trotters, who had just been promoted back to the Championship at the first attempt, had to wait until mid-October for their first league win.
A 5-1 thrashing at eventual champions Wolves in game 19 left them bottom and three points adrift of safety.
The Lancashire club stuck with boss Phil Parkinson. Five gritty 1-0 wins during the second half of the campaign proved crucial.
They lost six games in March/April, but completed the great escape in dramatic fashion on the final day – goals in the 86th and 88th minute securing a 3-2 home win against Nottingham Forest.
Norwich in 2007/08
The Canaries had finished 16th the previous season, but struggled at the start of Peter Grant’s first full campaign at the helm. Grant was sacked on October 9 and Jim Duffy was in caretaker charge for three games before Glenn Roeder was appointed.
Roeder’s first game was the East Anglian derby at Carrow Road, his side coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2. Norwich still went into the November international break on the back of a 12-game winless run in all competitions that included 10 defeats.
Ched Evans (Man City), Matty Pattison (Newcastle), Mo Camara (Derby) and Martin Taylor (Birmingham) were all quickly signed on loan.
Their spectacular turnaround began with a 2-0 home win against Coventry on November 24. There was just one defeat in the league between then and the middle of February (W9 D6).
Footnote: Roeder lasted until the following January, Bryan Gunn replaced him and Norwich were relegated to League One.
Preston in 2007/08
The Lilywhites were second-bottom and, like rock-bottom Norwich, also five points adrift of safety at the 19-game mark in 07/08.
Alan Irvine replaced Paul Simpson in the hot-seat on November 20. Three wins in December helped bridge the gap and then a fine March (five wins from six) led to a 14th place finish.
Footnote: They finished sixth the following season before losing to Sheffield United in the play-off semi-finals under Irvine.
Nottingham Forest in 2008/09
The only example of a team who have managed to beat the drop after being bottom and six points adrift of safety after 19 games.
This was the East Midlands club’s first season back in the Championship following three years in League One and they were involved in a relegation fight throughout.
Current Town skipper Luke Chambers and former Blues duo Paul Anderson and Joe Garner were all involved.
Forest were up to 22nd and within one point of safety when Colin Calderwood was sacked on Boxing Day. Billy Davies was soon appointed and they promptly won his first four games in charge.
Form remained patchy in the second half of the campaign, but a six-game unbeaten finish (three wins, three draws) saw them end up seven points clear of the drop zone in 19th as Norwich went down.
Footnote: Forest finished third under Davies the following season, losing to Blackpool in the play-off semi-finals.
Doncaster in 2008/09
Having beaten Leeds at Wembley to win the League One play-offs and end a 50-year absence from the second-tier, the South Yorkshire side endured a nightmare start to life in the Championship.
Manager Sean O’Driscoll survived a 12-game winless streak which included 10 defeats. A 1-0 home win against Ipswich on November 15 halted that run, but Donny were 23rd and five points adrift of safety by game 19 and were back bottom of the table on Christmas Day.
A 4-2 victory at Nottingham Forest on Boxing Day was the start of a remarkable charge. Their next loss did not come until late February. They won 13 of their final 22 games to finish comfortably in 14th.
It was all achieved with the bulk of the team who had gone up the year before too.
Footnote: They finished 12th the following season.
Here’s the bottom three after 19 games in previous Championship seasons, how many points they had at this stage and where they ended up...
Sunderland 14pts – RELEGATED*
Burton 14pts – RELEGATED
Bolton 13pts – Finished 21st (ended 2pts clear)
• Barnsley (18th with 20pts) went down*
Cardiff 19pts – Finished 12th*
Wigan 18pts – RELEGATED
Rotherham 7pts – RELEGATED* (ended 23pts adrift)
• Blackburn (21st with 20pts) went down*
Charlton 16pts – RELEGATED*
Rotherham 15pts – Finished 21st
Bolton 12pts – RELEGATED* (ended 19pts adrift)
• MK Dons (20th with 16pts) went down*
Wigan 17pts – RELEGATED*
Rotherham 16pts – Finished 21st
Blackpool 9pts – RELEGATED* (ended 20pts adrift)
• Millwall (20th with 20pts)*
Yeovil 16pts – RELEGATED
Sheff Weds 14pts – Finished 16th*
Barnsley 14pts – RELEGATED (ended 5pts adrift)
• Doncaster (20th with 20pts) went down
Bristol City 15pts – RELEGATED*
Sheff Weds 15pts – Finished 18th*
Peterboro’ 13pts – RELEGATED (ended 1pt adrift)
• Wolves (19th on 22pts) went down*
Coventry 13pts – RELEGATED
Doncaster 13pts – RELEGATED*
Portsmouth (game in hand) 10pts** – RELEGATED (ended 8pts adrift)
** 10pt deduction
C Palace 20pts – Finished 20th*
Middlesbrough 18pts – Finished 12th*
Preston 15pts – RELEGATED* (ended 6pts adrift)
• Sheff Utd (20th on 22pts)* and Scunthorpe (21st on 20pts) went down
Crystal Palace** 16pts – Finished 21st*
Plymouth 15pts – RELEGATED*
Peterborough 13pts – RELEGATED* (ended 15pts adrift)
• Sheff Weds (20th on 18pts) went down
** 10pt deduction
Charlton 16pts – RELEGATED*
Doncaster 14pts – Finished 14th
Nottm Forest 13pts – Finished 19th* (ended 7pts clear)
• Norwich (19th on 20pts)* and Southampton (20th on 20pts)* went down
QPR 16pts (game in hand) – Finished 14th*
Preston 15pts – Finished 15th*
Norwich 15pts – Finished 17th* (ended 3pts clear)
• Leicester (17th on 21pts)*, Scunthorpe (16th on 22pts) and Colchester (19th on 20pts) went down
Barnsley 18pts – Finished 20th*
Hull 17pts – Finished 21st*
Southend 12pts – RELEGATED (ended 7pts adrift)
• Luton (20th on 22pts)* and Leeds (21st on 19pts)* went down
Hull 18pts – Finished 18th
Brighton (game in hand) 16pts – RELEGATED
Millwall 13pts – RELEGATED* (ended 10pts adrift)
• Crewe (19th on 19pts) went down
Gillingham 15pts – RELEGATED*
Nottm Forest 14pts – RELEGATED*
Rotherham 7pts – RELEGATED* (ended 21pts adrift)
* Changed manager at least once