It's been a morning for the calculators as with now really just two rounds left the possibilities are inevitably narrowing. I think Bowyer has it right that if we had held on for the win last night we would, on 49 points and with a better goal difference than those around us, probably have been safe. We didn’t, so what are the odds?
I’m informed that Betfair has us staying up, above Barnsley, Hull and Luton (but below Wigan). Don’t know what points assumptions lie behind that, and of course the bookies only deal in probabilities (and money wagered), not forecasts per se. And that’s not the outcome I’d say was likely.
Let’s leave aside Barnsley, given their final three fixtures and position – although no doubt they will go and win at Leeds tonight. I have Luton to beat Hull, Hull then to lose at Cardiff, and on 45 points they take the second relegation spot. Luton, if they beat Hull, would have a home game against Blackburn to win to stay up. Entirely possible. Then we have Huddersfield. If they lose at home to West Brom, which you would say is likely (but no more than that), we have to rely on the Spanners finally doing us a favour and beating them in the final round. That would leave them on 48 points, with a worse goal difference than us.
That leaves us and Wigan. All you can say at this stage is that if we beat Wigan I’d say we are 95% likely to stay up, with 50 points looking like enough. Only problem is that Wigan will of course be aware that if we do beat them they are most likely down, as even victory in their final game at home to Fulham would leave them (assuming the 12-point deduction) on 48 points, then hoping that Huddersfield blow it. A draw for us against Wigan and I’d say we are 60% likely to go down, with survival probably dependent on Huddersfield losing their final two games, or Wigan losing their last one. We could always get something at Leeds on the final day but it would be against the odds.
So 48 points for us could conceivably prove enough for us, but is so dependent on other results that it probably would not be. And of course our game against Wigan will be over before Hull and Luton kick off, both of them will start with a better idea of what they need to stay up (most likely even a win will not be enough for Hull, given their now much worsened goal difference, a win for Luton and they could smell survival, a draw and it’s probably curtains for both – which would be fine by us of course). If we lose to Wigan you’d have to say we’re 90% likely to go down, needing probably to win at Leeds to stay up, depending on the other results.
There’s no questioning the character and commitment of the squad, they’ve demonstrated that since the restart. But this is now also about nerve, trust and confidence. The ability to remain calm and to focus when the chances come along, and to remain calm and organised when looking to see out a game. On both those fronts we have come up short too often.
I’ve seen the criticism of Bowyer’s substitutions, but for me there’s too much hindsight involved here. At the resumption it was assumed that players would need to be rotated (and subbed) due to lack of fitness. We’ve now since 20 June played seven games, seven in three-and-a-half weeks, with two more to come in a week. Clearly there are a lot of tired limbs during games. Add in the complicated mix of how many substitutions you can make in how many changes and I don’t know how anyone can say they got it right – or wrong. You can’t repeat the experiment. If you cough up points in the final minutes (Brentford, Birmingham) you come in for flak, if you see the game out (Hull, QPR, Cardiff) you are deemed to have got it right.
Of course none of this matters. Saturday is a showdown, a high noon shootout. Depending on the outcome, on Wednesday we either play the part of the Forlorn Hope (or to please my partner Suzanne les enfants perdus) or join Leeds for a party.