As you know, we don’t do a full 1-24. They’re nonsense, one person’s opinion based on little more the supposition. I like listening to the NTT20 because it comes from a place of knowledge, but few can honestly say they have that level of knowledge. You don’t know the ins and outs of Orient’s business or where the gaps are in Burton’s squad. You can’t.
However, they are fun, and when it’s a collective opinion, nuances (like me tipping Fleetwood for promotion) are soon ironed out. That’s why I’ve spent the last two hours inputting numbers onto a spreadsheet. Those numbers are the 1-24 predictions of more than 100 Stacey West readers. One person’s opinion might not offer much clarity, but what about 100, with an average, worked out? you do get more of a balanced overview.
Without further ado, shall we see who you’ve picked to finish where?
Champions – Derby County
Derby County have everything according to you. They’re your pick to win the division, and I think it’s a fair shout – they’re my pick too. I like the consistency they have in Paul Warne and his backroom staff, combined with some really good football players. Their business has been excellent – former Imp Joe Ward is a massive capture, as is full back Kane Wilson. Players like Conor Hourihane shouldn’t be at this level, and I don’t think he will be in 12 months’ time. Derby are a big club, their stadium is always packed with atmosphere and with Warne’s players this season, they’re going to take some stopping.
Promoted Automatically – Bolton Wanderers
It seems that the masses and I are in agreement because I also had Bolton to go up in second place. I think there will be eight or nine points between the top two and everyone else this season, and you seem to agree. Bolton and Derby were the top two in some way in your picks, and I can see why. Ian Evatt has done a solid job, and again they’re a huge club with the power to pull in the top players. They’re strong across the top end of the field, and they might pop up with a headline loan as well. I don’t like Bolton in terms of their approach, but I do like them in terms of enjoying efficient football that is both attractive but also performed by a tough team who can go toe-to-toe with anyone.
Play-Offs – Portsmouth, Peterborough, Blackpool, Barnsley
I can see a reasonable shout for any of these, but first, let’s be clear; there was a bigger gap separating the top two in terms of average position than the next seven clubs. Charlton could be tagged onto this little group as the front-runners for the top six – Peterborough’s average position was 6.0, Blackpool’s 6.3, Blackpool’s 6.4 and Charlton’s 6.5. Pompey were 5.2, so you think they’re likely to be the other promoted team, and I can’t disagree. I do think Oxford, who you have in eighth, will be in the top six, and I think Barnsley will be lower down.
Relegated – Northampton, Carlisle, Cambridge, Cheltenham
The bottom four were quite clear in your eyes – all of them averaged below 20th, whereas the team you think will just survive, Stevenage, were 18.8. that means these bottom four are the ones you think will be cut adrift. I do wonder if some of you might not realise that Reading can’t register their new players just yet, and might not finish the season. You’ve gone for Reading in 11th, and I think there are plenty of Royal’s fans who would bite your hand off for that right now.
I can see Cheltenham and Cambridge struggling, but not Carlisle. Northampton: all of the teams that have come up are a little unknown. That’s perhaps why they all score so lowly – only Orient are predicted outside the bottom five from last year’s intake, and yet last season, only one of the promoted teams were in the bottom five come May. Never underestimate the power of momentum.
9th – Lincoln
Finally, you’ve predicted the Imps to finish ninth. Before the end of the week, I’ll be doing a piece with my own thoughts, but I think it’s a reasonable pick. It’s better than last season, and arguably the division looks weaker on paper, but I think that means, in real terms, it could be harder – more teams will be taking points from each other, meaning a tighter division with points spread more evenly. That means three wins could easily be the difference between 16th and 8th this season, whereas last season it was six wins. In a tighter league, lower on quality, there’s more chance of success, but more teams will feel the same. Interestingly, 22% of you had us as sixth or higher.
I’d take ninth now, especially if it was ninth, but with a possibility of sixth with three or four games to go. That would be progress.