Gr-eight expectations: What history says Wanderers must to do win promotion
ASSISTANT manager Lennie Lawrence has stated Wanderers need to win at least five of their remaining Championship fixtures to stand any chance of gatecrashing the top-six party and extending their season into the play-offs.
It is not inconceivable that the Whites could achieve that aim after putting together an unbeaten eight-match run to get to within three points of the play-off places before last weekend’s defeat at Ipswich – six of which were victories, five in a row.
A similar run now could be enough to bridge what has stretched to a five-point gap to sixth-placed Leicester, though a lot will depend on how the other contenders fare in their matches.
History shows, however, that Wanderers could be looking at winning at least half of those final eight games to give themselves a chance of achieving an eighth promotion since the Second World War.
In each of those campaigns, they have never failed to finish in the top three – even when forced to gain promotion via the play-offs in 2001 and 1995.
In the first of those triumphs, under Bruce Rioch 18 years ago, the Whites finished third on 77 points, five behind Division one champions Middlesbrough and eventually won promotion with a dramatic 4-3 extra-time Wembley triumph against Reading.
But they won just two of their final eight matches that season, narrow 1-0 wins on home turf against West Brom and Sunderland.
They picked up just two points from 12 in the last four games and ended the campaign with 21 wins from their 46 matches and still went up.
Six years later, under Sam Allardyce, they won half of the last eight matches to again finish just outside the automatic promotion places in third.
This time they won 24 matches in total and lost just seven to amass a total of 87 – still 14 points behind impressive champions Fulham.
Just one defeat in those last eight games – 2-1 at Crewe – saw them comfortably into the play-off lottery and a comprehensive 3-0 home triumph in the semi-final second leg against West Brom was repeated at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium against Preston.
In between those play-off triumphs, in 1997, Colin Todd’s Whites swpet all before them to clinch the Division One title by a whopping 18 points.
A record of 28 wins and just four defeats, plus a goals scored column in three figures, was evidence of how much they dominated the division to bounce straight back to the Premier League after a season-long sabbatical.
The procession to the title was illustrated by an unbeaten 14-match sequence at the end of the season and in the last eight they were victorious in six and netted 19 goals.
Despite finishing narrow runners-up to Stoke in 1993, they went one better in their final eight matches by winning seven and losing just one – at Bradford (2-1) – to secure automatic promotion from the third tier, scoring 17 goals in the last eight outings.
Prior to the formation of the Premier League in 1992, Wanderers won promotion from division four via third spot in 1987-88, 12 points behind champions Wolves, winning four of their last eight and losing one with an average of exactly two goals scored per game.
In a 42-game campaign a decade earlier, Ian Greaves’ Whites also won four of their final eight matches but lost two.
They scored just nine goals in those games but still finished top of the pile in the second tier with 58 points.
The first promotion post-war came in 1972-73 when the team again finished at the summit of division three, winning five of their last eight and losing just one – a 1-0 reverse against Rotherham before ending unbeaten in the final seven.
The last time Wanderers won four of their last eight matches was back in 2003-04 when they clinched three points in five matches to finish the season in eighth spot in the Premier League – their highest finish since 1960.
If history is to repeat itself, Wanderers will surely need to win at least four of their final eight this season and having to eat into a gap, it is more likely to be the five or six assistant boss Lawrence predicts.