If you follow a particular sport, and if you have children who also follow that sport, you can pass on to them the things you have picked up over the previous decades: experiences, resentments, wisdom. If your children follow football, you can be the person who explains to them the offside rule, or the difference between injury time and extra time, or which offences merit an indirect free-kick rather than a direct free-kick. You can point out that Aston Villa are never referred to as “Aston”. The club’s name is always shortened to “Villa”.
I recall, many years ago, trying to explain the concept of offside by positioning various teddy bears and other soft toys in attacking and defensive positions on the living-room floor. “If this teddy is here when the ball is played forward, he’s offside. But if we move him back here, level with the last defender, he’ll be onside, and if he scores a goal it won’t be disallowed”. That sort of thing.
This season I have talked often to my daughter, aged 12 and keen on her football, about the importance of averaging 2 points per game. You get 3 points for a win and 1 point for a draw. If your team can average 2 points per game throughout the season, they will be at the top, or near the top, of their league by the season’s end. Premier League teams will almost certainly finish in the Top 4 and qualify for the Champions League. Lower league teams will probably finish in the automatic promotion places. If not, they will definitely make it to the play-offs.
Back in December, I wrote this piece about goal difference. It included a screenshot, taken from the BBC website, of the Top 6 in the Championship (the second tier in English football). It shows that the Top 2 before Christmas were averaging at least 2 points per game: Leeds (45 points from 22 games) and Norwich (44 points from 22 games). As you can see from the following screenshot, taken from the BBC website earlier today, no teams in the Championship currently average 2 points per game. The Top 2 are the same as a month ago and both have played 28 games: Leeds have 54 points, Norwich have 53.
If Leeds win their next 2 matches, they will average exactly 2 points per game (60 points from 30 games). Norwich would have to win their next 3 matches to do so (62 points from 31 games). They can’t both do it because they play each other on 2 February.
By contrast, the Top 4 in the Premier League all average at least 2 points per game. So would Arsenal, in 5th, if they had beaten West Ham the weekend before last. Here’s a screenshot, also taken from the BBC website earlier today, of the current Top 6:
I was wondering if any team had ever won the league while averaging less than 2 points per game. I didn’t have to think too hard about it. It happened in 1991-92. As a Leeds fan I can recall that season very clearly. Leeds won the title with 82 points from 42 games. I didn’t have to look up those numbers: they’re firmly lodged in my memory. That was the last season before the creation of the Premier League, and I have checked back over the years since 1992 to see if the title has been won by anyone else while averaging less than 2 points per game. It has happened once: Manchester United in 1996-97, 75 points from 38 games. I check these things so that you don’t have to, and so that I can pass this knowledge on to my children. 2 points per game is usually enough.