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Damned Lies and Football Statistics?
Written by bluesman on Wednesday, 3rd Mar 2021 11:28

Football is possibly the most observed sport of all time, and there is plenty of statistical information available in the public domain to make some informed observations about clubs and managers, and their performance over the years.

I have found an interesting set of statistics published on a site called Transfermarkt which shows clubs' positions each season in a league of squad values.

I have put this table together from this information which is freely available on the internet, showing Town's market value (MV) and performance each year.

Y/ELeagueLeague FinishMV leagueSquad MV (£M)ManagerOwner/ChairScore
2005Champ36NA Royle Sheepshanks3
2015Champ61622.1 McCarthyEvans10
2017Champ161820.9 McCarthyEvans2
2018Champ121821.2 McCarthyEvans6
2020League 111213.48LambertEvans-9
2021League 111116.29LambertEvans-10

The table shows league position compared to the club's position in a table of market values for those clubs in the given league in the given year. The final column is a 'score' which is the league position subtracted from the position in the MV table. While not entirely scientific it is accurate enough to give an interesting insight into the fortunes of the club.

The table shows the impact Marcus Evans made on the club financially when he first took over, and the gradual investment he made boosting the club's market value after emerging from administration to somewhere near that of the top six spenders.

It shows the disastrous impact of Roy Keane's management and the initial struggle Mick McCarthy had to recover from this and rebuild the team. It also shows that Evans retrenched considerably during the McCarthy years and that, after rebuilding, McCarthy was able considerably to outperform his budget.

We can see that in the early years of the recent period squad value ranking more or less matched league position, and that this ceased to be the case after 2015.

This supports the accusation that Evans has underinvested in the club, although it also shows that he invested millions before doing so, and of course he bought a significant debt when he took over. We can only reflect regretfully on the choice of Keane when money was available to invest.

We can then see the impact of the second disastrous management appointment, that of the inexperienced Hurst, who was unable to continue McCarthy's defiance of gravity

It is quite clear that the club (and some supporters) massively undervalued McCarthy's achievement at the club, and that many of the latter probably owe him an apology for the abuse he got during the later years of his management.

Finally we see Lambert unable to turn the club around from the Hurst disaster in spite of having the League One top-valued squad for nearly two seasons.

So, what should we make of Paul Lambert, now he has moved on? I have looked at his career in the same way.

Year endTeamLeagueLeague
Squad MV
Squad MV
2006WycombeLeague 26141.068
2007WycombeLeague 21282.41 -4
2008WycombeLeague 271200K -6
2009ColchesterLeague 11275.54 -5
2010NorwichLeague 11 317.352
2011NorwichChamp2 1919.28 17
2012NorwichPrem12 2420.25 12
2013Aston VillaPrem15 1390.92 -2
2014Aston VillaPrem15 14104.67 -1
2015Aston VillaPrem17 11 114.3 -6
2016BlackburnChamp15 1038.25 -5
2017WolvesChamp15 747.16-8
2018StokePrem1912 160.02-7
2019IpswichChamp242020.24 -4
2020Ipswich League 111213.48 -9
2021IpswichLeague 18116.29-7

Apart from his near miraculous management of Norwich into the Premier League, Lambert's management record by the same measurement does not appear to be impressive. The table makes it pretty clear why he left Villa, Blackburn, Wolves and then Stoke in quick succession.

Of course, it can be argued that he was not allowed time to turn around the last three clubs (and all three were in basket case condition), and short tenure is the bane of managers.

Leaving these three aside, his turnaround of Norwich remains extremely impressive, but his performances at Wycombe, Colchester, Villa and then Ipswich were much less so.

He was very clearly not a manager you would bring in to turn things around quickly, since he has not done this successfully at any point in his career, so he was a poor choice to rescue the club after Hurst.

For a bit of fun, we can make a table of Ipswich managers using their MV scores. It looks like this:

ManagerSeasonsScoreScore per season
Mick McCarthy 7 [1 season shared with Jewell]28 4
Jim Magilton33 1
Joe Royle2 [incomplete]10.5
Roy Keane2 [1 season shared with Paul Jewell]-12-6
Paul Lambert3 [1 season shared with Hurst, one incomplete]-20-6.66

Joe Royle would certainly be higher than Jim Magilton if stats existed for his early years in charge, but probably not high enough to challenge McCarthy, since the financial competition was less intense in the earlier 2000s.

We now have one more question to contemplate. What does Paul Cook's management record look like using these stats?

2007 to JanSouthportConference 4 NANANA
2008Sligo RoversIe Prem 4 NA NA
2009Sligo RoversIe Prem 6 NA NA.
2010Sligo RoversIe Prem 3 NA NA
2011Sligo RoversIe Prem 2 NA NA
2012 to FebSligo RoversIe Prem [1] NA NA
2012 to OctAcc StanleyL2 14 19 5
2013ChesterfieldL2 8 11 3
2014ChesterfieldL2 1 4 3
2015ChesterfieldL1 6 19 13
2016PortsmouthL2 6 3 -3
2017PortsmouthL2 1 4 3
2018Wigan L1 1 2 1
2019Wigan Champ 18 18 0
2020Wigan Champ 23* 20 -3

*Deducted 12 points
[2.73 per season]

Squad market values aren't available for Cook's years at Southport and then Sligo. Since then though, his performance has been pretty solid, and certainly there haven't been any Keane or Hurst level disaster years. Only time will tell if he's able to knock McCarthy off the top spot at Town though.

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Steve_M added 11:37 - Mar 3
Interesting but I do think this piece is slightly flawed in the way it it treats ITFC in isolation and only implicitly makes reference to the vast hyperinflation of football finance over the last 20 years. That's not to excuse Evans who has been a disastrous owner but it is necessary context.

bluesman added 16:04 - Mar 3
Thanks Steve Good point. I had another table which looked at that issue, but I thought there were enough tables in the piece by then! But maybe I can make a separate piece on that subject...

jas1972 added 17:38 - Mar 3
Very interesting. I agree that this shows how undervalued McCarthy's efforts were and it is interesting to see the job he is now doing at Cardiff. A 4-0 demolition of Derby gives an interesting one-on-one comparison. As far as Paul Cook's figures are concerned, wouwould it not be fairer to score his 2020 performance as a 13th place finish, that is ignoring the 12-point penalty? That would give him a +7 score for 2020, which makes him look a much more hopeful proposition and certainly vastly superior to Lambert. Of course, I might be just clutching at straws here.

bluesman added 21:19 - Mar 3
I agree with you jas1972. +7 it is!

bobble added 08:25 - Mar 5
makes McCarthy look good , which he clearly wasn't ,apart from one solitary season.
he spent a long long time at the club taking us down slowly, or treading water at the was pretty clear early on that the dark lord and jewel and hurst were disasters ,but McCarthys negative boring football and endless slow slide flatters his actual reality while in control of OUR team...i see nothing in your tables that changes the reality of our clubs management over the last few years.
there were all sh-te...

ricardo55555 added 11:53 - Mar 6
Fascinating. In defence of McCarthy I think felt he had to play more negative football considering his resources. At Wolves, I believe the year he took them up, they were prolific goal scorers, because they could afford the more able players, and he thought he could afford to play more expansively.
Paul Cook stats are very encouraging. He needs to be given time, which I hope he will be given.

Blueballs83 added 11:46 - Mar 7
Brilliant research! It just shows how lucky we were to have McCarthy and how bad a manager Lambert has generally been!! If only Evans had access to this!
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