Pete Barrow column: 41 per cent win ratio is all Huddersfield Town need to achieve play-off paradise

New season offers plenty of opportunity for Mark Robins side

Manager Mark Robins with his squad.
Manager Mark Robins with his squad.

So another season is upon us and football fans around the country are gearing up with a mixture of excitement and fear for the big kick-off.

The coming Championship campaign certainly seems to be one that the Town fans I know are treating with a distinct amount of caution.

Those who fall into the glass half full category seem to be setting their sights on a possible break into the top six and a shot at the play-offs.

For the ones who are in the glass half empty section there seems to be an expectation that another battle to beat the drop could be in the offing.

Over the years I have fought shy of playing the predictions game, preferring to take a ‘well what looks likely to happen’ approach instead.

The equation that looks easiest to deal with this season is for those doubting Town fans.

All you have to do is find three teams who will finish below you and then you can stop worrying.

For the coming Championship campaign, as with just about any other, the law of averages suggests that one of the three teams promoted from League I will not have a fun time at the higher level and my pick would be Rotherham United.

So we are down to two places and Blackpool’s summer preparations have been more about fighting fires than proper preparation, so there you have another candidate.

My third option would be Leeds United under the intriguing rule of Sardinian svengali Massimo Cellino.

One of my Town following mates Dale wonderfully referred to Cellino’s takeover at Elland Road as ‘the present that just keeps on giving.’

Spending transfer funds on buying back the ground is one thing, but hiring a non-League manager and decreeing that players should live locally and wash their own kit is another.

To be honest I have seriously thought about spending my time off hanging around launderettes in Holbeck and Beeston just to see if I can spot any Leeds United ‘stars’.

Super Six - Huddersfield Town's new Championship opponents: Norwich City 

That gives us three teams and if as an anxious Town fan you are seeking further security, of those teams to finish below Mark Robins’ side in the table last year, Millwall and Charlton Athletic have few reasons to feel they will perform much better – though Birmingham City have been recruiting and may be expected to be more impressive under ex-Town boss Lee Clark this time out.

Far more fun is to look up and consider what breaking into the promotion race or just the play-offs actually entails.

I don’t recall at this time last year sitting with any other football followers and hearing anyone saying ‘and how about Burnley for a return to the Premier League’ – and that will have included diehard Clarets.

However, Burnley are back among the elite and their tactics last season were quite simple.

In Sam Vokes and Danny Ings they found two strikers who stayed fit for the whole season and bagged at least 20 league goals each, while behind them they operated an efficient side who worked on the premise retaining possession is a good thing, and that passing the ball tidily to a player wearing the same coloured shirt as you would pay huge dividends.

But perhaps it is the challenge of breaking into the play-offs is one that will truly gladden the hearts of Town fans when I reveal that you don’t even need to win even half your games in the season to achieve this feat.

In the past 22 seasons of reaching the second tier play-offs the highest win percentage ratio needed to take sixth place was 48%, with Derby County (1992-93) and Norwich City (2001-02) the ones who were made to work really hard for their shot at gaining top flight status.

The lowest win ratio was a mere 37% which was the level achieved by Charlton Athletic back in 1995-96 – a season when Town finished eighth.

The past five seasons have settled into a pattern with a 41% win ratio seemingly the standard for finishing sixth.

The roll of honour since 2009-10 is Blackpool (41%), who were promoted after winning the play-off final 3-2 against Cardiff City, then a 43% record for Nottingham Forest in 2010-11, to be followed in the last three seasons by Cardiff City, Leicester City and Brighton all on 41%.

So for those of you Town fans holding a half full glass just start chalking off those wins on the way to the magical 41% doorway to play-offs paradise.

 
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