The desperation within clubs toward the top of the table for League One to be finished on the pitch is high, with the rest of the league not having the same intentions.
The divide has created much scepticism as to whether the whole league can come back, with some clubs scared for their future if they are forced to play with no money to afford it. On this basis it would not be fair to complete the league in full, due to the finances of the smaller clubs, and their ability of clubs with nothing to play for to compete with the teams playing to either survive or get promoted.
The hierarchy at clubs such as ours are treading on thin ice making the moral argument for playing on when they know other clubs cannot afford it, and the league itself does not get given sufficient funding to bridge the gap. Their desire is to get promotion, which in Sunderland’s case would be our last chance to achieve it this season.
On this basis, it is only fair to either end the season now, or to create a ‘mini-league’ for the teams fighting for the play-off places to play out games against one another to determine who gets the final Championship promotion place.
Unlikely as it is to happen, what could we expect the result of such a mini-league to be?
Play-Off Mini-League Predictions
The points difference between all of the top 10 is, as it stands, very close.
Factor in other variables such as injured players returning, the ease of each team’s run-in, or momentum, all of which cannot be accounted for in a simple, unweighted Points Per Game (PPG) based on performance against the whole league in the games played so far. Anything could change in a matter of days. To strip football of such factors does not do it the justice the game deserves and would be inaccurate to predict the remainder of the season as such.
Leagues One and Two could be decided by the top eight sides from each division taking part in a mini-tournament to decide who is promoted.— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) April 25, 2020
So I have used PPG only in games between the other teams in our mini-league - Oxford, Portsmouth, Fleetwood, Peterborough, Wycombe and Doncaster - in order to determine where each team would finish if these games were played out. Would Sunderland even have a chance of winning this mini-league?
Based on current or previous form against these teams, it does not look pretty. Our inability to put away teams around us is clear, we only had 3 shots on target at home against Fleetwood, and 2 against Pompey, Coventry and Oxford, taking 4 points from those games.
This season we have taken 20 points from 13 games against the teams in the currently placed between 3rd and 10th, Ipswich have taken 9 from 12, Peterborough 18 from 13, Oxford 15 from 11, Wycombe 16 from 13, Fleetwood 25 from 13, Pompey have 14 from 11 and Doncaster have 20 from 13 games.
If you take these results and use PPG to calculate where each team would finish based on this season’s results between this set of teams, we would finish 2nd or 3rd in the mini-league (4th or 5th in the league overall), with the mini-league table estimated to look like this if the games replicated themselves:
Despite this looking like high praise for Sunderland, if this were the resolution voted on by the clubs in League one, there would only be space for one team to get promoted. This means that there would be no room for settling for draws or crippling under the pressure like our previous campaign.
Against this set of teams, we do not have many chances, however with other teams seemingly able to blow others out of the park, I feel with our lack of consistency in front of goal, results could go either way.
Moreover, based on the results and runs teams have been on over the course of the season, I do not feel like our team would have the required quality or drive that would be needed to be promoted in this alternative way. And, if our owners aren’t willing to spend on extending our players contracts, I’m not sure they would spend their money financing a mini-league either.