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BLIND, STUPID AND DESPERATE
 
05/06: Preview:
‹beranalysis

Predictions
The table below summarises the relative confidence (or lack of) of Division Two supporters at the start of play. As ever, the results are sensitive to the timing of the survey before/after key transfers. Sixteen clubs predict a top-half finish with eleven predicting a play-off place The mean prediction is down from 9th to 10th, the second drop in successive years in part due to the falling confidence of Watford's support which makes up over a quarter of the survey. Particularly evident is a stretching out of predictions in the "middle" of the table below, with four predicted finishing places separating the top eleven and four separating the next three - indicating a growing gap between the two ends of the table, at least in perception.

Last year's confidence position in brackets...

                       VOTES        MEAN PRED
					   
1  (-)	Crystal Palace 	65 		2.05 
2  (-)	Norwich 	53 		2.23 
----------------------------------------------
3  (2)	Wolves 		49 		2.31 
4  (-)	Southampton 	30 		4.20 
5  (8)	Ipswich 	31 		4.97 
6  (4)	Sheff Utd 	63 		5.03 
----------------------------------------------
7  (18)	Preston 	74 		5.25 
8  (11)	Leeds 		35 		5.66 
9  (9)	Reading 	131 		5.77 
10 (15)	Derby 		31 		5.81 
11 (7)	Leicester 	55 		6.07 
12 (17)	QPR 		31 		6.87 
13 (21)	Burnley 	28 		8.15 
14 (10)	Coventry 	31 		10.65 
15 (-)	Luton 		26 		11.81 
16 (-)	Hull 		32 		12.22 
17 (14)	Stoke 		29 		13.34 
18 (16)	Plymouth 	31 		13.61 
19 (-)	Sheff Wed 	55 		14.47 
20 (12)	Millwall 	45 		14.91 
21 (19)	Watford 	401 		16.11 
----------------------------------------------
22 (13)	Cardiff 	28 		16.54 
23 (20)	Crewe 		29 		17.72 
24 (24)	Brighton 	34 		18.15 
				
TOTAL			1417		10.31	

The Perfect Table
The table below summarises the pet hates and sympathies of Division Two supporters by standardising each club's votes for promotion and relegation choices to a weight of 25 and then summing. Thus, a club with 25 correspondents has their votes added straight into the pile, whilst a club from which 50 responses were received will have its votes halved. From Watford, for example, the number of votes for relegation for each club according to the Hornets' support is multiplied by 25/401=0.0623... so the 43 votes for promotion that Brighton received from Watford fans are scaled down to 43 x 0.0623 = 2.68 votes in this table. Clear ? Good.

Norwich's relegation from the Premiership sees Ipswich drop to second in the popularity stakes - the Anglian rivals occupying the top two positions for the first time in three seasons, whilst Palace, like Wolves last year, return much higher in the popularity table than they left it. No change in the bottom three though. Derby and Preston pick up the annual sympathy vote for play-off screwups and shoot up the table from last year's positions. The other big movers are the Hornets, due in no small part to the arrival of our friends from up the Motorway, with the consequence that we're now less popular than Wolves. Which would be alarming, if you cared about such things. Luton themselves are clearly not just disliked by ourselves, Plymouth and QPR also giving them a good kicking leaving them on the edge of the "relegation zone", albeit comfortably clear of Millwall.

Coventry retain their position of side voters claim greatest indifference to with 47 votes in total, a modest improvement on last year's 42 with Reading next in on 61. Leeds provoke the most votes, most of them in the same direction. As ever, the anti-Watford vote may have been curtailed by those with ingrained anti-Watford sentiment not bothering to participate in the survey.

                                UP      DOWN    POINTS
1  (-)	Norwich 		188.71  41.14  	147.57 
2  (1)	Ipswich 		140.99  38.32  	102.66  
---------------------------------------------------------
3  (5)	Crewe 			91.81  	36.17  	55.63  
4  (13)	Preston 		70.01  	23.51  	46.50  
5  (17)	Derby 			47.98  	33.01  	14.98  
6  (3)	Plymouth 		41.07  	26.16  	14.91  
---------------------------------------------------------
7  (14)	Reading 		38.79  	23.89  	14.90  
8  (-)	Hull 			69.46  	58.88  	10.58  
9  (4)	QPR 			32.42  	24.20  	8.21  
10 (-)	Crystal Palace 		83.31  	84.23  	-0.92  
11 (-)	Southampton 		73.82  	79.61  	-5.78  
12 (11)	Coventry 		16.50  	30.22  	-13.73  
13 (-)	Sheff Wed 		45.86  	59.68  	-13.81  
14 (10)	Wolves 			69.94  	93.47  	-23.53  
15 (7)	Watford 		20.52  	49.81  	-29.29  
16 (18)	Leicester 		11.25  	61.45  	-50.20  
17 (15)	Brighton 		43.80  	102.51  -58.72  
18 (19)	Stoke 			7.65  	77.74  	-70.09  
19 (20)	Burnley 		8.90  	79.19  	-70.29  
20 (16)	Sheff Utd 		27.40  	100.51  -73.11  
21 (-)	Luton 			19.87  	103.18  -83.30  
---------------------------------------------------------
22 (22)	Millwall 		11.37  	134.36  -122.99  
23 (23)	Cardiff 		7.26  	207.17  -199.91  
24 (24)	Leeds 			31.33  	231.60  -200.27    
	
TOTAL                       	1200     1800 	 
Choice Signing
Three runaway leaders here, Dean Ashton coming in on top with 219 votes, followed by Andy Johnson on 184 and Peter Crouch on 106. With Crouch already departed, it will be interesting to see whether any of these three remain at this level come the end of August - last year's top three were in the Prem by season end. Steve Sidwell of Reading polled the most votes of players who played in this division last year, but was a distant fourth overall.

World Cup or Promotion?
Just under 70% chose Promotion for their side over World Cup success for their country. Whilst this is quite a conclusive overall result, it's a considerable drop from two years ago, when 75% of a similarly sized poll chose Promotion over European Championship success - perhaps emphasising the significance of the global tournament. Wales's chances of qualifying already being remote might have been expected to sway the Cardiff vote, although they came in with a roughly average preference for the division. Leicester and Watford expressed the greatest desire for international success over promotion, albeit edging towards a 50/50 rather than clear preference for the World Cup option... in our own case we can only speculate as to the reasons for our own club's success seeming less important. Sheffield United, Preston and Palace were keenest on promotion, although all the recently relegated clubs placed a relatively strong emphasis on going back up.

In general, what's your opinion of beards ?
A distinct lack of consensus overall... "Can be grown under license" received the greatest number of votes(377), but the hard-line "Ban 'em" option came a close second on 355 suggesting that a cross-division agreement on this issue is not going to happen any time soon. 294 elected that this was not a matter for government intervention, 218 suggested encouragement where appropriate whilst only 108 thought that beards should be made compulsory.

Stoke and Wolves posted the highest votes in favour of compulsory beardage, which either suggests something geographical or the lingering cultural influence of George Berry - Crewe, interestingly, provided no votes in favour of this option, supporting the latter explanation. Cardiff and Reading were in favour of encouragement "where appropriate", although this woolly definition would need hardening up if it were to be enforced. Norwich and Sheffield United felt that this wasn't a matter for government intervention, QPR and Derby were in favour of licensing, whilst Luton and Millwall were in most in favour of banning beards altogether.

What is the capital of Ecuador ?
In our annual academic test we went for Geography; a disappointing 38% of responses proved accurate. Southampton achieved the highest result of 60% accuracy, although they do have a geographical advantage due to proximity - not that this helped Plymouth, who languished in 13th on this one. Derby and Stoke were least capable here - perhaps unsurprising in the latter case, since no members of Ecuador's 2002 World Cup squad sported beards. It's Quito, by the way, and we were fussy about spelling.

If your players were given the task of making gravy as some kind of team-building exercise, how would it turn out?
It's a sad day for the nation's food-lovers, with "Strangely Lumpy" coming out a strong winner with 595 votes overall. To what extent this result is influenced by the presence of the aesthetically pleasing word "lumpy" is unclear. Just Right came in second (344) followed by Custard (178), Cold Water (137) and Dry Paste (110).

Coventry and Sheffield United are most likely to produce lumpy gravy, which nobody who's seen either side play over the last couple of years will be too surprised about. Stoke and Burnley are most likely to generate Custard, whilst Luton have the greatest faith in their squad getting it Just Right - pushing Delia's charges, Norwich City, into second. Cardiff and Coventry were the most likely to generate Dry Paste, whilst thinness of squads at Millwall and Crewe may contribute to them topping the Cold Water table.

Which is best, Mud or dust?
A conclusive 78% in favour of Mud, here... Coventry and Derby most decisive on this score, whilst Southampton and Crewe were least so. Coventry's vote may be influenced by the desire for some firm progress with their Ricoh Arena development...

Is there really any need?
A narrow majority, 54% to 46%, thought there was. Derby and QPR were most certain about this, whilst Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday weren't altogether convinced.