The results are in, all 100-odd have been entered into a spreadsheet, taking up too much of my life, and your 1-24 has been decided.
This exercise has taught me two lessons. The first is that in truth, nobody has a real clue where anyone will finish. You’ve chosen 15 different teams in the top three and eight different champions. According to the votes, any one from 13 different teams could go down, and the biggest range is one person picking Bolton as champions, another picking them to finish bottom! Still, when you strip away the anomalies, the league table does look fairly close to how I personally imagined it might go.
The second lesson is to find a less time-consuming way of collating the data next year. it’s taken me hours.
Firstly, let’s revisit a Tweet I put out last week, shall we? I was interested, ahead of the 1-24, to know what people felt would be the roadmap for next season. Are Lincoln City going to be promotion challengers, top half, bottom half, or relegation fodder? More than 1000 people responded, with 55.6% selecting a bottom half finish, but in a position of safety. The top half was a narrow second with 21.9%, with a relegation battle on 19.1%.
The basic split was three in every four Lincoln City fans are predicting a bottom-half finish this season. 3.5% of you think we’re going for a promotion battle. Isn’t it a shame that just 14 months on from being a game away from the Championship, just three people in every hundred think we can do the same again? The numbers don;t lie and it’s nice we’re not a deluded fan base, but May 2021 feels like a long while ago right now.
With one week to go, where do you think City will finish?
— The Stacey West (@Staceywestblog) July 22, 2022
That was the Twitter vote, but does the 1-24 back it up. The short answer s yes, but I’ll come to that. Firstly, let’s break down the outcomes as you see them.
Champions – Sheffield Wednesday
Ben Heneghan, David Stockdale, Will Vaulks, Michael Smith, Michael Ihiekwe, Akin Famewo, Reece James and Tyreeq Bakinson have all arrived in a busy summer for The Owls, and coupled with retaining the likes of Barry Bannan, it makes them favourites in your eyes. Only five of you have predicted them to finish outside the top six (I should say only five of us) and that puts them at the top of the tree, hunting a Championship return.
If I’m honest, my gut feeling is they could get off to a challenging start, replace their manager and play catch up, much like Ipswich Town did last season.
Promoted – Ipswich Town
Last season, everyone tipped Ipswich to go up after they brought in a huge number of players, but a woeful start saw them miles behind everyone and playing catch-up. Of course, they beat us home and away, and you think they’re going to finish second this year. They’ve added wisely, with Freddie Ladapo, Dominic Ball, Marcus Harness and Leif Davis catching the eye, and they seemed to go ell under Kieran McKenna last season. He’s some hope for us, an unproven coach coming in and doing relatively well.
Play-Offs – Peterborough, Derby County, Portsmouth, MK Dons
These four certainly split opinion; Derby are one to keep an eye on. Some had them storming the league, others fearing that the competitive nature of League One, plus their upheaval of late, could prove to be a stumbling block for them in the division. Nobody predicted Peterborough outside the top ten, and only the odd one had Pompey outside the top eleven. Danny Cowley’s recent business, Colby Bishop, Joe Pigott and Michael Morrison, certainly looks strong on paper, and with Ronan Curtis and Joe Morrell there also, they do look quite strong.
As for MK Dons, a lot of people are tipping them to do well, and shifting Scott Twine for a big fee has allowed them to recruit really well. Watch out for Louie Barry, a flop at Ipswich last season but likely to thrive at MK. I also like the look of Nathan Holland, but they might suffer from such high squad churn.
Relegated – Port Vale, Fleetwood, Cheltenham, Morecambe
It’s interesting that last season, not a single promoted club suffered relegation. This season, you’re predicting just one, Port Vale, to struggle, although Exeter and Forest Green were 19th and 20th. Still, I don’t think there’s a huge amount separating those sides, but as last season proved, coming into a season on the crest of a wave can be advantageous.
Fleetwood hobbled over the line last season, and in a better League One would have gone. Cheltenham have lost Michael Duff and that’s obviously at the forefront of your minds, whereas with Morecambe, it’s surely a club-size thing. However, under Derek Adams, they’re robust and if they stay hard to beat, I’m not sure they’ll be 24th as you’ve placed them. More on that tomorrow when we record the podcast.
In the Twitter poll, you said bottom half but safe, and in the 1-24, you’ve got us in 14th. I’d take that right now, but it seems you’re an optimistic lot. However, bar one single person putting us third, nobody has us above tenth. It’s fair to say there’s optimism about us being comfortable, but not aspirations of being higher among those who put in a 1-24.
There’s a fear of a worse finish; at least five had the Imps to be relegated, but it’s just too early to tell. Next week at this time we might know a bit more, having seen the lads in a competitive game. Until then, we’re working on too many unknowns to get a decent picture.