Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Ask The Fans

This is quite interesting if you're looking for some pointers for next season. I always say that anyone who watches their own team regularly, whether as a fan or someone in the local media, is always going to know more about that team than someone who doesn't. Even if the someone who doesn't is the biggest (so-called) expert in the biggest paper or on the main TV show. I would give a lot more weight to this survey than any nationwide preview by one indivivual, however knowledgeable or well-intentioned that individual might be.

So, the five questions asked here don't relate directly to a forecast for next season, but even so they're a decent indicator of the level of confidence that fans have in manager and playing squad. The questions were as follows :

1. How would you rate your club's current manager (from Dreadful to Excellent) ?
2. How do you rate your club's players (ditto) ?
3. How would you describe your feelings about the forthcoming football season (from Very Fearful to Very Hopeful) ?
4. How would you rate your team's style of play towards the end of last season (from Dreadful to Excellent) ?
5. Overall, how would you rate the match day atmosphere at your ground last season (ditto) ?

Now, let's have a look at the results (to date, this runs till the start of the season but I wouldn't expect them to change all that much except in the case of major transfer deals).


Tottenham and Portsmouth fans are more confident than I would have expected. If I think about it though, Spurs have signed some exciting players and (most importantly of all) kept hold of Berbatov. Can they crack the top four ? 3.3 on Betfair to do so. Will Nugent be the goalscorer that Pompey missed last season ? Perhaps their fans think so. Pompey are 26 to finish top 4 and a more tempting 5.7 for top six.

Down at the bottom, no surprise to see Bolton fans being very pessimistic. 6.8 to be relegated now Fat Sam has left looks tasty. Fulham are 3.1 but, despite their fans obvious lack of enthusiasm for Lawrie Sanchez, I think they've signed some good players (Cook, Baird, Kamara). Signing players from the lower English leagues is currently viewed as a gamble, but I think if you know your players and buy wisely then it's much less of a gamble than signing foreign players (particularly South Americans who really don't have a good track record in the Premiership). Wigan are second favourites for relegation on Betfair (2.14) but in the top half of the fans' survey - do they know something we don't ? If they do, it's certainly something I don't know :-)


No major surprises near the top, the fans of the three relegated clubs seem confident that they can make a quick return, but then again Wolves are top of the pile under Mick McCarthy, and that's a group of fans not known for their optimism :-). 3.1 for promotion doesn't appeal all that much to me, partly because I don't rate Eastwood all that highly.

West Brom and Southampton fans obviously aren't too keen, given the players sold by both clubs. Southampton can be laid for promotion at 4.1, but in each case it might be better to just oppose them on a match-by-match basis for a while. Of the promoted clubs, it's interesting to see how much happier Blackpool fans are than their counterparts in Scunthorpe. The loss of Billy Sharp has probably knocked confidence in Yorkshire, and the Irons are 2.32 to go straight back down, which may be worth an interest. QPR's mid-table position echoes where I expect the Rs to finish up this year. Meanwhile Palace fans have just about had enough of Taylor and/or Jordan by the look of their position.

Leagues One and Two

These tables might be the most useful of all, especially close to kick-off. I don't think anyone actually expects Leeds to finish bottom of League One but clearly morale is at an all-time low. 3.5 looks grotesquely short for promotion, and 4 is a tempting lay, although this should be left to tighten up for a few weeks. Odds to win the division seem to match the supporters' table, if you don't like Forest or Leeds then Swansea (12.5), Doncaster (12.5) and Millwall (14.5) are all worth consideration. Oldham could be the pick though at 22 to win (6 to be promoted).

Down in league two, Barnet fans are obviously down at the sales of King, Bailey and Sinclair, following on from Kandol's departure last winter. However, those sales did pull in about £700K which is a heck of a lot in this division and Barnet are one club who aren't in a bad long-term financial position despite a small turnover. It will depend whether Fairclough can attract any players of similar quality to the ones who left, even if he has the budget. Rochdale, Shrewsbury and Chester all have favourable odds and supporter backing, while Chesterfield, Brentford and Rotherham fans are more downbeat, though this could just be relegation blues. Peterboro at 4.9 to win is an awfully short price for anyone in this division, so maybe Bradford (15) could be worth a look.

Generally I would advise keeping an eye on this, and anything similar, especially when considering the lower divisions. Even the biggest statto in a gambling paper just isn't watching these teams like the fans are and, despite what you might hear from media mouthpieces and phone-in presenters, fans aren't stupid.