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Stats Corner: How Much Is Enough?

What do Reading need to do to be mathematically safe?

Brentford v Blackburn Rovers - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Modou Barrow’s header took the Royals within reasonable grasp of safety on Saturday afternoon, leaving the majority of fans with a positive outlook for where our season is headed, after months of growing pessimism. This now begs the question, with Reading on 42 points, five points above safety with the same number of games left: what total will get us bedraggedly over the line?

I’ve heard ‘just one more’ win, ‘one win and a draw should do us’ or ‘at least two more wins to make absolutely certain’. Realistically we could even lose all five games and beat the drop if the teams below keep up their faltering form. In the Premier League it is a truth universally acknowledged that 40 points is enough for any team to secure survival for another year, but no such accepted figure really exists in the Championship, such is the contradictory nature of each season.

Therefore, I’m afraid it’s time to traverse back through the history books/online archives to work out what we need to do before it’s time for us fans to put up our feet up and relax about a job well done – sort of... As you’ll soon find out, more questions are raised than answered, such is the mixed bag of Championship relegation.

Last ten seasons

2007/08

22nd: Leicester 52 points

Surviving: Coventry 53 points

2008/09

22nd: Norwich 46 points

Surviving: Plymouth 51 points

2009/10

22nd: Sheffield Wednesday 47 points

Surviving: Crystal Palace 49 points

2010/11

22nd: Preston, Sheffield United, Scunthorpe all relegated with 42 points

Surviving: Doncaster 48 points

2011/12

22nd: Portsmouth 40 points

Surviving: Barnsley 48 points

2012/13

22nd: Peterborough 54 points

Surviving: Barnsley 55 points

2013/14

22nd: Doncaster 44 points

Surviving: Birmingham 44 points

2014/15

22nd: Millwall 41 points

Surviving: Rotherham 46 points

2015/16

22nd: Charlton 40 points

Surviving: Rotherham 49 points

2016/17

22nd: Blackburn 51 points

Surviving: Nottingham Forest 51 points

Last season, even 51 points wasn’t enough for Blackburn Rovers to escape relegation, going down on deadline day by a goal difference that was just two worse off than Nottingham Forest. The season before, Rotherham, who finished one place above the drop, secured 49 points - although eight fewer would have been enough to stay up.

Reading that season managed 52 points, the next season they would have only survived by one point. In 2014/15, Rotherham were again the next closest to the drop with 46 but had three deducted. That year Reading had an even lower tally ending up on 50 points. Brighton had 47 and would have been below Rotherham. In recent years, the unluckiest team to be relegated was Peterborough in 2012/13, who would have been rubbing their eyes in disbelief as 54 points wasn’t enough to ensure survival. Wolves 51 and Bristol City 41 were below them. Barnsley one place outside the relegation zone inched over the line with 55 points a total that would have seen them in 16th place the season after.

By using these as a barometer, the average amount of points that sees the team occupying the last relegation spot is 45.7 points. Therefore meaning that generally 46 points would be enough for most teams to guarantee safety. Though guarantee is a very loose word here, in 2014/15 and 2015/16, Reading’s points tallies could have seen us relegated in four of the last ten seasons and it would take a lot for us to surpass those numbers in our remaining five matches.

All along, fans have been saying that we’ll only escape relegation due to there being three worse teams and certainly this makes it as abundantly clear as ever. If we do survive, which I now find it hard to imagine otherwise, we all know it will be down to mostly luck, namely the luck of other teams, which thankfully has been even worse than ours this season – up to now at least, I’m not one to tempt fate.