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Second Season Syndrome

Filed: Monday, 24th June 2013
By: David Hautzig

The minute a newly promoted team survives their first year back in the top flight of English football, talk of a mystical and deadly disease begins. The dreaded ‘Second Season Syndrome’. And the way it's presented makes it seem plausible. Even logical.

Teams coming up from the Championship can rely on the fact that 16 of the clubs they will play know them and their methods about as well as they know the dietary practices of Inuit Eskimos. (Seal blubber is very important to them, by the way, which always makes me less nervous when I enjoy a bit of the fat on my pork chops. That's a discussion for another day. Worth it, too.) They can use their opponent’s lack of familiarity to their advantage. But once the second season gets going, they can no longer rely on that.

However the statistics suggest otherwise. Actually, that's being polite. The statistics pretty much shoot the whole idea down in my view. Of the 62 teams that have been promoted to the Premier League, only eight have been relegated in their second season at the top. Admittedly, it has happened more in recent times than in the years following the birth of the EPL.

In the 1990s it only happened once. Middlesbrough finished 12th in their first year up after winning Division One. But in their sophomore campaign they were relegated on the last day of the season despite spending bags of money on players like Fabrizio Ravanelli and Emerson to push onward and upward. And to add insult to injury, it was a three-point deduction for postponing a fixture that eventually euthanised their EPL life.

As best as I could muster in between work, kids, mowing the lawn, and reading Twitter (Admit it. You do it too), here are the statistics for the so-called Second Season Syndrome. I grabbed it off some article online. It isn't a research paper needed to receive some degree so I just took it at face value...

Clubs promoted to the Premier League (1992-2012) – 62
Clubs relegated after first season - 27
Clubs relegated after second season – 8

1995/96 12th (43 points)
1996/97 19th (39 points)*
*deducted three points

1999/00 17th (36 points)
2000/01 20th (26 points)

2000/01 5th (66 points)
2001/02 18th (36 points)

West Brom
2004/05 17th (34 points)
2005/06 19th (30 points)

2006/07 8th (55 points)
2007/08 18th (36 points)

2008/09 17th (35 points)
2009/10 19th (30 points)

2009/10 9th (50 points)
2010/11 18th (39 points)

2011/12 17th (37 points)
2012/13 20th (25 points)

Not so fab: it sooned turned sour for Ravanelli and Juninho at Middlesbrough

Now I'd like to show you Sam Allardyce's numbers throughout his managerial career. Sam's time at Bolton is the best way to judge him, in my opinion.

2001-02: 40pts, 16th
2002-03: 44pts, 17th (we went down with 42)
2003-04: 53pts, 8th
2004-05: 56pts, 6th
2005-06: 56pts, 8th
2006-07: 56pts, 7th (Bolton were 5th with two to play when Sam left. Everton finished on 58pts, Spurs on 60.)

Every year he either matched or exceeded his point total from the previous year. Add that he has never been relegated as a manager, and second season syndrome seems more like a convenient bit of superstition used by people who want to "analyse" us. Facts, however, get in the way. We seem to have a manager and a board that have a methodical and conservative approach to moving the club forward.

I would even classify the permanent signing of the giant, flying striker with the ponytail from up north as conservative. During the weeks of Twitter madness leading up to his putting pen to paper, my best friend Jon would remind me that from an on-pitch perspective, Andy Carroll joining us permanently did not add to the squad. It simply maintained what we had last season.

So bearing that in mind, our record signing was in fact somewhat conservative because we had tasted the goods before we brought them home to make dinner. That would NOT have been the case with Bony, Negredo, Hooper, Rhodes, or any other name that we were linked with to help avoid this Second Season Syndrome that really doesn't exist.

There is an old cliche that anybody that has ever bought some lumber in the hope they could build whatever it is they need or want.

Measure twice. Cut once.

As I follow the happenings at our beloved club, I can almost see Sam, Karen, and the two Davids in their offices with that little squared-off pencil that every carpenter uses. They measure things out, grab their ruler or square, and draw the line. Then they do it again. And then they bring it to each other to have another look. Finally, they cut. It's boring. It's a bit tedious. But it's also unlikely the framing of the house will crack and either need serious repair or just collapse one day in the middle of breakfast.

I am a VERY nervous supporter. There are times I can barely watch our games. During the playoff final against Blackpool the guy sitting next to me at a bar was genuinely concerned about me because I was shivering from fear and worry. And I will almost certainly go through that for large parts of the upcoming season. But I won't fret because it's our second season back. I will have regular panic attacks because we are who we are.

West Ham United.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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