Since last August I have been posting at least one item per month showing Leeds United at the top of the Championship, the second tier of English football. Every post contains a screenshot taken from the BBC website. Here is this month’s example, making it 10 months in a row that I have been able to show the team that I have supported since childhood leading the way.
This screenshot is different from all of its predecessors because it shows what might have been. There has been no elite football played here in England since 12 March. In the Championship each team had nine fixtures left to play when the season was suspended. The screenshot above is taken from this piece on BBC website. It appeared on Saturday 2 May via a link on their Leeds page reading “How would the Championship have ended?” The article is headed “Championship: Experts at University of Reading predict the ‘final table’.”
The season was due to end on 2 May, with all 24 teams kicking off at 12.30pm. That scheduled round of fixtures included Leeds at home to Charlton, a repeat of the final match in the 2003/04 season, when Leeds were relegated from the top flight after a 3-3 draw. I was at that game, and if things has gone to plan would have been back at Elland Road for this season’s finale. Instead, I was reading the results of the research conducted by the Department of Economics at Reading University. As the BBC article tells us, they “employed the same methods they use to forecast things like inflation or gross domestic product (GDP) to predict the results of the 108 games left in the Championship”. They ran 10,000 simulations based on historical scorelines to predict what would have happened.
As the table shows, across those 10,000 simulations Leeds finished top 54.8% of the time. According to the text in the article, the team finished second in 35.1% of the simulations, giving a probability of just under 90% that Leeds would have been promoted. That 1 in 10 chance of missing out on promotion is essentially what happened last year, when Leeds finished third and failed to progress in the play-offs. The team managed just one point from the last four games, allowing Sheffield United to finish in second place.
There are plans for the Premier League to resume at some point in June, but as I type these words there is no news of how the Championship season will be concluded. Until we hear further, I can enjoy looking at the results of the research from Reading University and reflect on what might have been.