Numbers game adding up for sustained push from Huddersfield Town

David Wagner.
David Wagner.
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IN the words of Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies and statistics.

And if you are a Huddersfield Town supporter, then the club’s current vital numbers are measuring up pretty immaculately, midway through the second international break.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

Graphic: Graeme Bandeira.

The top of the Championship table makes for a thoroughly pleasant sight for the Town faithful, with an outstanding haul of 25 points from 11 matches seeing David Wagner’s side lead the way at the summit.

But delving through more historic Championship data is perhaps even more revealing as a number-crunching exercise – and reassuring from a Town perspective, too.

Summit fever may be a prevalent danger in autumn, but it is by no means an affliction, quite the opposite in fact.

History suggests that it would take a bit of an anomaly if front-runners Town were to fall away from the top-six places, come May.

Since international breaks became part of the Football League tapestry in the early Noughties, just one side who has led the second-tier table at the start of the second fortnight-long hiatus has gone on to miss out on the play-offs.

All told, in the past 12 seasons since 2003-04, 10 sides who were leading the way at this stage of the season have gone on to achieve promotion, while another two sides have reached the play-offs.

Among that number are Brighton, whose tally of 25 points from 11 games at the start of 2015-16 represents an identical amount to that of Town, with the south coast outfit going on to miss out on automatic promotion by the finest of margins last term, even accounting for a major mid-winter wobble.

Three sides who have led the way in early October have retained their place and gone on to be champions in the shape of Cardiff City (2012-13), QPR (2010-11) and Newcastle United (2009-10).

Meanwhile, Sheffield United – the last Yorkshire team before Huddersfield to be at the second-tier summit after 11 games – were also savouring automatic promotion at the end of the 2005-06 season, if not by lifting silverware.

But a couple of other historical examples do offer a salutary warning to the present-day Huddersfield, too.

Cardiff were leading the way at the summit after 11 games of 2006-07, but went onto finish a far-from-lucky 13th, while Town fans will also recount the events of 1998-99 all too well, painfully.

Rewind the clock 18 years when Huddersfield, under the command of Peter Jackson, were riding high at the top of the table with Sunderland before the wheels fell off in the new year and the West Yorkshire outfit ended up in a thoroughly deflating 10th position.

Alongside Town, two other Yorkshire clubs in Bradford City and Doncaster Rovers find themselves in the automatic promotion places two months into the 2016-17 campaign, but each are also afforded a bit more historical food for thought following the events of previous seasons.

In the last three campaigns, Walsall, Swindon and Peterborough have occupied Bradford’s current position of second place in League One in early October, with all losing at the play-off stage.

That is certainly something that the Bantams do not wish to countenance again following their semi-final loss to Millwall last term with the desire to 
avoid the end-of-season lottery likely to be heightened by those events.

The last side to be in second place in League One at this stage of the season and win automatic promotion were Leicester City in 2008-09.

Like Bradford City, Rovers are riding high in second position in League Two and history has shown that the South Yorkshire outfit should at least clinch a play-off place come early May, at the very least.

That said, the sight of a side coming out of the pack to clinch promotion has occurred at frequent intervals at this level over the years and represents something to be wary of, as Doncaster supporters should know only full well.

Rovers are currently playing in the Football League’s bottom rung for the first time since 2003-04 when they lifted the title under Dave Penney, beating Yorkshire rivals Hull City to silverware.

The present-day Rovers’ haul of 20 points from 11 matches is actually four more than the tally accrued by Penney’s all-conquering class some 13 seasons ago.

Rovers were as low as 10th spot in the table in early October 2003, but produced some powerhouse winter form to nail down a top-two place.

Rovers’ neighbours Rotherham United also know a fair bit about timing in the bottom rung, as do Bradford in a league where it can be more about how you finish as opposed to how you start.

The Millers famously won their last five matches to claim runners-up spot in League Two in 2012-13 under Steve Evans – after being as low as 11th place in mid-November.

The Bantams also memorably clinched promotion via the play-offs in that very same campaign which saw them stride out at Wembley on two occasions.

It represented no mean feat, given that the club were languishing in 12th place and with much work to do in mid-March of 2013.