Is This Season Like 2006/07?

Credit - Graham Burrell

I keep seeing lots of comparisons between this season, and 2006/07.

Some feel it is the style of football that starts the comparison off, with the recent form indicating we might be tailing off, as we did in that campaign. It isn’t the only season that is drawing comparisons, this excellent thread on our forum charts the 82/83 season alongside current events. it’s well worth a read if you have a few minutes, and a follow thanks to Kev Malcolm and the other contributors.

So, are the comparisons between 2006/07 fair? Or, is there enough to make the two markedly different for history not to repeat itself? Let’s look at the evidence.

2006/07 – Courtesy Graham Burrell

Background

2006/07 was, like this season, the first full campaign for a new management team after an era that was perceived as a success. Of course, Keith’s side didn’t actually get promoted, but it was a rags-to-riches tale that put the club on the map, much as Danny and Nicky’s reign was. There was also a significant change in styles in both seasons, with 2006/07 seeing lots of nice football being played at the Bank, possibly the first time we had put on such a show since the early eighties. The same has to be said of this season, a new style has marked Michael Appleton’s reign as unique, just as it did John Schofields.

What of the two managers? In a way, the combination of Schofield and Deehan was a little like having one Michael Appleton. Schofield was a coach, a man who worked brilliantly on the training ground, whilst Deehan had contacts at bigger clubs and was the ‘name’ that drew people’s attention. Michael is like both rolled into one, a respected coach and a man with contacts.

Credit Graham Burrell

There is a difference in financials, one feels. In 2006/07, City had sold Jack Hobbs and it could be argued we were in a stronger financial shape than at any time since the eighties. This season we might be on a level footing, but the budget has been reduced 40% from last season, and we’ll be one of the ‘poorer’ teams in the division whereas it is likely that wasn’t the case 14 years ago.

The board situation in 2020/21 is almost certainly settled though, whilst in his opening notes of the 06/07 season, Chairman Steff Wright made reference to a hostile PLC approach by Ray Trew and Keith Roe. That had little bearing on the season though.

Squads

There is no doubt a difference in the squads, certainly in terms of summer churn but not numbers. In 2006/07, the opening day fixture against Notts County had 29 players listed as being part of the first-team squad. it could be argued that eight of those were youth team players, namely Tom Kemp, Phil Watt, Andy Toyne, Leon Metttam, Shane Clarke, Tom Wilkinson, Owain Warlow and Ayden Duffy.

This season, the opening day programme listed four fewer players, 25 to be precise, with four who could have been described as youth team players at the time, Hayden Cann, Ben Sault, Sam Long and Sean Roughan. That means both squads were technically at around 21 senior professionals, although it must be noted one is a League One side, the other a League Two side.

Jeff Hughes – Credit Graham Burrell

Six of the team that started the 2006/07 season played in the final match of the previous campaign, namely Alan Marriott, Paul Morgan, Lee Beevers, Jeff Hughes, Scott Kerr, Lee Frecklington and Jamie Forrester. Colin Cryan, Paul Mayo and Gary Birch all featured on the bench in both games, meaning the squad was churn was around 38%.

For the opening game of this season, six players remained from the squad which beat Burton 3-2 on the ‘final day’ of the previous campaign. Jorge Grant, Harry Anderson, Tom Hopper and Anthony Scully all started, whilst Max Melbourne and Zack Elbouzedi both sat on the bench. With increased subs, that is a squad change of around 67%, but it is worth noting Liam Bridcutt was out injured.

After Ten Matches

In 2006, the Imps played eleven matches in 50 days, ten of which were in the league. The only cup game was a 4-3 defeat against Scunthorpe United in extra time, Ian Baraclough getting the winning goal for them. The Imps won seven of those opening fixtures, losing just once, at home to MK Dons in a 3-2 thriller. There had been just three-midweek games in the opening 50 days, and the Imps averaged a game every four-and-a-half days.

This season, City had played ten matches after 56 days of the season, but that period included also included five cup games, making it an average of a game every 3.7 days. The outcome was largely the same, seven wins in each and joint top in both seasons too. We had scored and conceded more 15 years ago, but the goal difference was broadly the same.

After Twenty Matches

In 2006, it took 123 days of the season to reach 20 matches, with City in second place in the table. It seemed as though Walsall might run away with the division, which was disappointing given we’d been top at the end of October. Our 20th game had been a 2-0 win at home to Bristol Rovers, who would beat us in the play-offs, but it ended a four-game winless streak. Only one win separated us and Posh in sixth, but remember the play-off spots stretched to seventh. We were eight clear of Darlington, who had 30 points in eighth. Our games to days ratio was a game every 5.3 days, as we had only played three cup games in total, going out of the FLT to Grimsby, and the FA Cup to Port Vale.

After the same number of matches this season, we were top of the table, although all of our rivals had games in hand. We had won one game more and had three points more. Note the goal difference is comparable too – we were still scoring and conceding more 14 years ago. In terms of days elapsed, we hit 20 matches after 119 days, so we were catching up, but with cup games, we had actually played 29 matches, a game every 4.1 days. The gap between us and the last team outside the play-offs was nine points in January, not dissimilar to the 2006/07 season.

Winter Window

The two windows were not hugely different either. We didn’t lose any key players in either window, in fact only Luke Foster and Colin Cryan left the club in the winter of 2006/07. Cryan moved to Boston, and Luke Foster went to Oxford United. We lost Alex Bradley and Aaron Lewis permanently this summer, with three also leaving on loan, Zack Elbouzedi, Ethan Ross and Max Melbourne.

Winter window acquisition, a right-back like Paul Green – Credit Graham Burrell

In terms of incomings, four joined in this window, Morgan Rogers on loan, with Cohen Bramall, Regan Poole and Max Sanders coming in permanently. The Imps acquired Dany N’Guessan and Paul Green in 2006/07, with Nicky Eaden and Spencer Weir-Daley coming in on loan. It is often suggested a lack of action in that window cost us, but instead of the injury crisis we now face, it was considered to be the lack of striker that people moaned about. Given that Forrester scored 18 in the league and Stallard 15, I don’t buy that. Never did, never will.

The loan window was a little different, so both Junior Mendes and Peter Holmes also featured in the latter stages of the season, but joined after what is the current window.

After 31 Games

I stretched this to 31 games, to give us a view of where we are right now, compared to the 2006/07. In fairness, the ‘collapse’ had already happened to a degree after 31 matches. We had drifted to eight points off the top, and resided fifth, which is where we finished. We averaged 1.8 PPG, which did drop to 1.6 by the end of the season, but the teams around us tailed off too.

We were nine points clear of the final play-off place, which is a bit better than our current seven, but not a huge difference. Our PPG is better now, by a single point, at 1.83. Oddly, our goal difference has caught up and improved, showing what a great run we actually have had up until the last month.

In terms of runs, going from game 25 onwards, the Imps had one win in six in 2006/07, that being a 1-0 victory over Peterborough, which is a little ironic. We lost our 31st game 3-1 away at Notts County, and had drawn three in a row prior to that, with the first game of the six defeat at Macclesfield. In the current season, we have exactly the same record, one win in six league matches, two defeats and three draws. Even I have to admit, that is spooky.

The last 15

In the last 15 matches of the 2006/07 season, we collected 18 points, an average of just 1.2 per game. It was a significant collapse, mainly due to the number draws rather than the defeats. We won just four of the last 15, one of which was a stunning 2-1 win at leaders Walsall, but from Feb 20th to May 6th, we won just two matches. We drew six and lost five, but our league position was largely unaffected, although had the season carried on for another three games, the fall might have been even worse.

If (and it is a big if) we were to get the same PPG over the next fifteen matches, we’d finish with 75 points. That’s been enough to secure a top-six spot in every season since 2010, but obviously many fans wouldn’t consider that a success, even though the fact is that it would be, in the context of a whole season.

Is It The Same?

That’s the big question, isn’t it? It seems similar in terms of squad numbers, transfer dealings, and even at every stage of the season we have looked at, but the fundamental comparison is one that cannot be quantified by stats or tables. People feel this season we are tailing off, as we did in 2006/07, and to a degree that is right – the form over the last six games, from game 25 to 31, is identical. However, I firmly believe we tailed off in 2006/07 for different reasons. Our approach was found out and we didn’t have a plan B, which is different from this season. We haven’t been found out, when we are on form teams cannot stop us playing, but the injuries to key players have derailed us. Also, in 2006/07, there were a few selections which looking back, were odd.

For instance, Junior Mendes came in on loan and started ahead of leading scorer Forrester, without a period of settling in. Peter Holmes came in and replaced Hughes one game, Freckleton the next, Amoo in a third, then Forrester as we switched formations around. It showed we were trying to find a new way to win, but without luck.

Credit Lincoln City FC

Incidentally, Holmes played in five games, three of which we lost and he didn’t taste a win in an Imps shirt. The final appearance he made, a 3-0 home defeat at the hands of Wrexham, saw him replaced at half time. I suppose it is worth noting that captain Paul Morgan was injured on February 24th and only played once through until April, a little like the Bridcutt loss. We didn’t lose a Jorge Grant figure though, and whilst Morgan was a centre half, losing both Jackson and Bridcutt is a double-blow, whilst Morgan was a single player.

It remains to be seen if our current form continues, or if we can get something against a Crewe side who have only won two in nine themselves. Whilst I can see the parallels now between 2006/07 and the current season, 14 years have passed and pound for pound, we have a better squad now than then (which stands to reason, given where we are). John Schofield was looking for an alternative approach entering the final stages of that season, needing more steel from his side after some really soft defeats, whilst Michael doesn’t need that. He just needs key figures back, and one or two who have tailed off to pick up the slack. If that happens, I firmly believe we can arrest the downturn in form and make a decent fight for automatic promotion, whether we actually make it at the end or not.

Do you think the seasons are similar? Have your say on our forum here and help raise a little bit of money for the FPS at the same time.