Christopher Panks reveals why recent history suggests another promotion for Swindon Town in 2012/13 would be an unlikely turn of events…
There is plenty of cause for optimism around the County Ground before the start of the 2012/13 League One campaign. Any trepidation caused by the appointment of an unknown quantity twelve months ago was quickly eradicated as Paolo Di Canio’s team took League Two by storm, crowned champions as they crushed Port Vale 5-0.
This cause for optimism, coupled with some smart summer signings has resulted in serious talk of two promotions in consecutive seasons, with supporters looking back at what Macari achieved with a Division Four title in 1985/86 and Play-Off winners in 1986/87. Though subscribers to the ‘Di Canio effect’ appear to be acting fairly realistically, the recent history books hold a warning.
Looking back over the fortunes of promoted clubs within the Football League over the past 20 years to when Sky invented football in 1992, raises reservations into how achievable back-to-back promotions will be.
In the past 20 years, the back-to-back promotion feat has only been achieved ten times, most recently by Southampton, who returned to the top flight of English football by winning League One in 2011 and finishing Championship runner up last season. Included in that ten promoted sides is Brighton and Hove Albion, who are the only club to have achieved the perfect run, by topping the table in two consecutive seasons, arriving in the second tier in the 2002/03 season. The joy was shortlived as they their status was limited to one season by relegation.
Not many more sides have been beaten after finishing in the Play-Offs a season after promotion, just 13, most recently Stevenage who were denied a place in the final by Danny Wilson’s Sheffield United earlier this year.
By far the most likely outcome for Di Canio’s boys appears to be mid table obscurity. 60 percent of the 186 clubs who have been promoted since 1992 are rewarded with an a season of anxious inconsistency.
Not good enough to be far enough from the drop zone for comfort, not poor enough to actually be in the bottom four, this is what seems likely for Swindon, though for a team who finished rock bottom of the league they will compete in only two years ago, perhaps anything but relegation could be seen as progress as Swindon build towards the target of the Championship within three years.
That will not be enough for Di Canio, nor the fans, players and board who have been swept away in his movement and surely relegation is not even a concern. History says that Swindon should be concerned – more than one in three teams promoted fail to make the grade at a higher level and return to the competition they have triumphed in 12 months later.
There is a potent warning from Chesterfield, the team that breezed past Swindon in the 2012 Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final, who, with equal ease, were crowned League Two champions in 2010/11, only reposes of the places vacated by Swindon’s success.
Though there’s nothing to do but wait and see, back-to-back promotions are a tougher proposition than some are giving credit for. That said, if it is done, it serves to underline what a monumental achievement it is.