Do pre-season results mean a thing? This is what the stats suggest...
- Credit: PA
So, do pre-season results really matter?
Speak to most coaches and managers at all levels of the game and the vast majority will say, no they don't.
According to them, pre-season is just that. Running off the rustiness of the summer break, bed new players in, even try new formations, results aren't that key. Or are they?
What do the stats tell us about having a good or poor pre-season... Anything? I'll take a look at a few pre-season's in Town's history and see if results have mattered.
One former Town boss who never rated pre-season was Mick McCarthy. “Pre-season’s crap, I hate it," he said in the summer of 2013.
"Let me tell you, let me clear it up, I hate pre-season, with a vengeance. I’ve been in pre-season where we’ve lost most of them and we’ve had a great season and I’ve been in pre-seasons where we’ve won and we’ve had a crap season, a crap start. I hate it, I hated it as a player, I hate it even more as a manager."
That 2013/14 season McCarthy's Blues won five of their six pre-season games and finished ninth in the Championship.... not bad Mick, not bad.
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However, as we all know, the real stuff comes round pretty quick, so will too much tinkering and emphasis on formations and fitness put you in good stead for the season ahead?
Ipswich Town begin their pre-season friendlies at Needham Market on Saturday afternoon at Bloomfields.
Will a win there and victories in the other pre-season games mean a good season is forthcoming? Or will a lousy pre-season, results-wise, mean a lousy season ahead?
You pays your money!
Town won the FA Cup in 1978, as we all know. But it was a right mixed season for Bobby Robson's side.
Their league campaign was poor, finishing 18th in the First Division, far lower than the heady heights they had been used to that decade. But they won the Cup, so who cared?
And, like the season itself, pre-season was also a mixed bag, with all Town's fixtures away from home.
A win over Colchester United was followed by a European pre-season tour of Holland and Belgium, with mixed results, before Town thrashed Millwall 6-1 in a bizarre coincidence, seeing as Robson's side then beat Millwall 6-1 at The Den in the sixth round of the FA Cup, later that season.
Pre-season results: Colchester United (A) 1-0; FC Utrecht (A) 1-2; FC Bruges (A) 1-3; NEC Nijmegen (A) 2-0; NAC Breda (A) 0-3; FC Twente (A) 0-0; Millwall (A) 6-1. Win ratio: 43%
Without doubt one of the greatest-ever seasons in Ipswich Town's history.
UEFA Cup winners, second in the First Division, semi-finalists in the FA Cup. But how was pre-season that campaign?
Well, you won't be surprised to know that Town played eight pre-season games, including three in the local competition the Willhire Cup - and only lost one of them.
A tour on the continent where Town were unbeaten, setting themselves up for an opening day 1-0 win at Leicester - and a cracking season t'boot.
Pre-season results: Cambridge United (A) 0-1; Colchester United (H) 4-1; NEC Nijmegen (A) 0-0, Willem II (A) 1-1; Excelsior (A) 3-1; PSV Eindhoven (A) 2-0; PEC Zwolle (A) 5-3; Norwich City (H) 2-2. Win ratio 50%
By the end of this campaign, John Lyall had managed to get Town promoted to the inaugural Premiership and there was joy abound for Town fans.
However, if one had taken pre-season results too seriously, you would have been forgiven for thinking Town were more likely relegation candidates than promotion ones.
A three-game trip to Finland and a return to England saw one win and all manner of defeats, including a 0-3 loss to Norwich in the Norwich Hospital Cup. Town duly went on to win four of their first six Division Two games that season on their way to title glory.
Pre-season results: Rips Rihimaki (A) 0-1; Kemin Palloseura (A) 1-2; Kotulan Uheilsat (A) 3-0; Lincoln City (A) 1-1; Peterborough United (A) 3-3; Scunthorpe United (A) 0-2; Norwich City (A) 0-2. Win ratio: 14%
George Burley's Blues and their army of fans enjoyed a day in the sun at Wembley at the end of this season.
A third-placed finish and a win in the Division One play-off final, Burley's boys had a relatively quiet pre-season with only five games, the centre-piece being a home game with Dutch side FC Twente a week before the season began.
Pick the bones out of this season by all means, but it tells you little of what was to come.
Pre-season results: St Albans City (A) 3-0; Gefle IF (A) 3-2; Giffarna (A) 1-1; Peterborough United (A) 1-0; FC Twente (H) 1-2. Win ratio: 60%
The last season Town were in the play-offs and for most younger fans, the last season there really was much to cheer about.
Mick McCarthy guided the Blues to a fine sixth-placed finish and a play-off clash with Norwich City, which sadly Town lost.
For all his vitriolic words of dislike about pre-season, and while Big Mick may not like the stats, this pre-season was not only one of his best as Town boss, it also saw him go unbeaten, and then beat Fulham on opening day.
Just coincidence Mick, we know!
Pre-season results. Shelbourne (A) 4-0; West Ham United (H) 0-0; Colchester United (A) 3-0; Gillingham (A) 2-0; Southend (A) 2-1; Leyton Orient (A) 1-1. Win ratio: 67%
Never judge a book by its cover, so they say.
And certainly if you are on the side of, 'never judge pre-season results for the campaign ahead', then 2018/19 was it. Paul Hurst's short tenure (he was in charge pre-season) saw four pre-season wins (out of six) but was then followed by relegation 10 months later after Paul Lambert took over.
Indeed, after a very decent pre-season,Hurst and Lambert's Blues then managed to win only five Championship games from a 46-game schedule!
Pre-season results: Kilmarnock (A) 1-0; Brantree Town (A) 0-2; Crawley Town (A) 1-0; Barnet (A) 1-0; Milton Keynes (A) 1-0; West Ham (H) 1-2. Win ratio 67%
A guide to the season, or nothing to be taken seriously?
A snap-shot of a few Town pre-season campaigns which I've highlighted can be taken either way.
From the brilliance of Sir Bobby's 80/81 team where they were off from the get go, to John Lyall's team that couldn't buy a pre-season win, on their way to the title in 1992.
The decent success of Paul Lambert's pre-season campaign in 2018/19, that ended with Town hardly winning a match all season, to George Burley's solid 99/2000 season that ended in Wembley glory, you really can make any judgement call you wish.
So, I'll finish with a few more well chosen words from Mick McCarthy at the start of that 2013/14 pre-season I mentioned earlier yet, at the same time, remember the day at Charlton four years after this rant when, on the eve of the new Championship season, McCarthy's Town lost 1-6 at The Valley, before then notching up four straight wins at the start of the new season to head the table by August.
“They don’t count if you win, they count a helluva lot if you lose! That’s the problem - ‘Oh, it was only pre-season, it doesn’t count that we won 7-0’.
“Lose 1-0 to Southend, ‘Bloody hell!'. I hate it, I’m just telling you now. When you come and ask me questions, be careful!”
Ah, we do miss Mick's rants.