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How Important Is A Strong Start For Reading FC?

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With the season rapidly approaching, Wimb crunches the numbers to see how important the first six games are to a team's final position.

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Everyone wants to see their side get off to a strong start but it's a 46 game marathon and not a sprint. But just how true is that manta? I took a look back on the past 10 Championship seasons to see how important or costly a start has been to Reading's prospects and how the slow & fast starters held up over the campaign.

Reading's starts

Reading After Six Championship Games
Season Points Position Final Position
2015/16 9 9th 17th
2014/15 10 9th 19th
2013/14 8 13th 13th
2011/12 4 23rd 1st (P)
2010/11 9 11th 5th
2009/10 6 17th 9th
2008/09 10 5th 4th

Generally, Reading haven't been fast starters since returning to the Championship from the Premier League in 2008. In that time we've only found ourselves in the top six ONCE after six games and have never earned more than 10 points from a possible 18. That season in the top six also saw us finish there but the stats show that a slow start didn't always hold us back. Brian McDermott's play-off finalists in 2011 were only 11th after six matches, while the Championship winners of 2012 were inside the relegation places before an astonishing run to the title.

The Championship at large

OK, so a slow start for Reading hasn't been fatal to our promotion hopes but how about the rest of the Championship over the last decade?

Championship Top Six After Six Games
Number Of Teams Percentage
Promoted 18 30%
Finished in top six 29 48%
Relegated 0 0%

What surprised me was just how many teams continued their early season form right throughout the season. Just under a third of the teams who wound up promoted found themselves in the top six after as many games and overall 48% of the teams to be nestled in a play-off spot or better managed to still be there come the final day.

What about the early strugglers, how did they fare?

Championship Bottom Three After Six Games
Number Of Teams Percentage
Promoted 2 7%
Finished in top six 2 7%
Relegated 7 23%

Equally surprising was how little the teams that started badly end up paying for it with relegation come the close of the campaign. Only seven of the 30 sides in the drop zone after six games wound up relegated and Reading (2011/12) & Derby (2007/08) actually wound up promoted having been in the bottom three early on.

So what do the stats tell us?

We all know that football is an unpredictable beast and that every team and every season is different. However, the stats above do show us that those first six games can give a big indication of how the season is going to end up, so they can't just be written off. The fact that nearly half of the teams who went on to promotion were in those places so early on demonstrates how getting your house in order early can be a big benefit.

Yet they also show us that anything can happen and that just because you've started well doesn't mean you'll finish there and likewise an awful start has only got sides relegated 23% of the time.

So if Reading's season under Jaap Stam does start badly it's unwise to be smashing that panic button but if it starts well, it might just be wise to keep mid-May clear of weddings, parties and what not....