With Sunderland entering the final quarter of the 2020-21 season, there is a general feeling growing that the Black Cats may be on their way back to the Championship.
It’s certainly possible, and I myself like their chances at this time, as their form, combined with players returning from injury and the form of teams around them in the table indicate that a top-two spot is very much up for grabs.
But they’re not there yet.
One of the biggest question marks that remains is just how well the team needs to perform over the final stretch to grab one of those two spots. I took a look at the tables from the last 21 seasons to see just what it might take for the team to get over the top.
Here’s what I found.
In the most recent 21 seasons, the range of points necessary to grab the second promotion spot (not winning the league) has ranged from as high as 96 points in the 2017-18 season to 81* (Rotherham United’s 1.77 points in the standings per game put them on this pace last year) or 82 points in a full season (Nottingham Forest in 2008).
The front runners would have to drop off of their current paces in order for that lower end of the scale to come into play, so instead I decided to look at the average and median (hence why I picked an odd number of seasons).
The average point total since 1999-2000 (when Manchester City came in second in League One) over a 46 game season that achieved automatic promotion is 88.47 points. The median was 89. So if that’s the bar you want to set, Sunderland need 26 points from their remaining 12 games to hit that mark.
By my (admittedly not my strongest subject) math, there are two ways of getting to that number:
- The team wins seven, draws five and loses none the rest of the way. (7-5-0)
- The team wins eight, draws twice and loses twice. (8-2-2)
While the first option isn’t entirely realistic, the second option seems doable for this group. Of course, 89 points doesn’t guarantee you anything, as the necessary point number has been higher nine times in the past 21 years. Especially if those losses come at the hands of Peterborough or Hull City.
So if Sunderland want to hit that 96 point total that has meant promotion every single time, all they have to do is win 11 and lose once (11-0-1). Piece of cake, really.
Much remains to be played, and while this run of form has been fantastic, all runs do end eventually. It all starts with a very big game against Lincoln City.
Will Sunderland achieve automatic promotion? Will 89 points be enough? Let me know what you think in the comments below, and don’t forget to smash that like and subscribe button.
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