Ross McCormack to Fulham

We needed this one.

If you look at the last nine sides to go down and what happened to them next, the signs aren’t good:

next up

The numbers in italics are what Fulham might be expected to achieve based on what’s happened before.

Clearly this is an exact science (a very long way from it) but when a team is as bad as Fulham were the next season tends not to be great. My very basic excel predictor suggested that we’d score 52 and concede 69 next year, which would land us in about 18th place, give or take. I do understand the limitations of this – teams change, after all, and a lot of teams do much better in the championship – but it does rather hint at the difficulties involved in transforming basket cases to super teams.  And look at the list above.  While there aren’t any clear clues about which teams improve and which stay bad, it can’t be a good thing that Fulham are going down with a worse defensive record than anyone else has had in the last three years, without the goals tally in attack that might justify this.

In short, we couldn’t just flop down and expect things to be better because we’d been up top a few years, because the playing staff really isn’t good enough for that. Our closest comparator was Wolves, who kept on going. Something needed to be done.

If there’s such a thing as a sure thing in the Championship, Ross McCormack is it.


His goalscoring record is remarkable, both in terms of its quantity and the extent to which he dominated Leeds’ attack. He partnered well with Matt Smith last year, as stereotypical a “big man” as you could hope to see, and I suspect this bodes well for Hugo Rodallega, who is better in the target man role than he looks like he should be. It should be an extremely potent combination.

What might it mean? Well let’s say Cauley Woodrow would have been good for 10 goals. A good number of Championship players score 10 goals. It’s a fair assumption for an unproven young player on a middle of the road team. Suppose that in the same games McCormack bags us 25. Suddenly we’ve gained 15 goals. (yes, yes, I know). If that means we score 67 and concede 69 then now we’re suddenly looking at a 10th place team, give or take.

THEN, if we can tighten up at the back and bring in a central midfielder then suddenly you’re looking at the play off places.

So it’s important that we did this and it could make a huge difference.  I suspect we need a signing of similar magnitude in the middle of the pitch but this is a big deal.


24 thoughts on “Ross McCormack to Fulham

  1. I’d hazard a guess that none of the other teams mentioned will have had anything like as big a turnover of first team players on relegation and it won’t be because our better players have been cherry picked.

    That could be good or bad depending but it does make it difficult to make comparisons. Magath is deliberately and ruthlessly discarding last season’s players but if we end up organised and disciplined with pace, energy and goalscoring nous we should do very well. McCormack is about as much a banker of the latter as we could have obtained and it’s unlikely that he’ll be the last significant purchase.

  2. (funnily enough Excel got next season’s defensive record bang on in most cases but struggled with the attack. not sure what this means though).

  3. So you don’t give a guy who scored more goals than Alesandro del Piero and Emil Heskey? Not sure where Taggart fits – probably gets a game when Hugo does not last 46 games.

  4. I’m very glad we’ve got him, albeit would have been expecting more than 10 from Woodrow, which would have meant better prospects than 18th from a goals-for standpoint. I’m more optimistic than I ought to be about David too, but buying proven Championship excellence in central midfield is also desirable, agreed.

    Your stats amply justify our top-to-toe revamp, while ending their usefulness there — none of those other teams having been so drastic. Nor will the history of our last relegation from the top flight and immediate further relegation any longer be a guide. If we slide further it will be for different reasons than the woeful complacency back then.

  5. I extended the analysis and the two teams that really dominated after relegation were Newcastle and WBA in 2009/10.,,10794~20097,00.html

    They hardly made any changes after being relegated.but had gone down looking much more robust.

    Relegation season First season down
    F A F A
    Wigan 47 73 61 48
    Reading 43 73 70 56
    QPR 30 60 60 44
    Bolton 46 77 69 61
    Blackburn 48 78 55 62
    Wolves 40 82 55 69
    Birmingham 37 58 78 50
    Blackpool 55 78 79 59
    West Ham 43 70 81 48
    Burnley 42 82 65 61
    Hull 34 75 52 51
    Portsmouth 34 66 53 60
    Newcastle 40 59 90 35
    Middlesbrough 28 57 58 50
    WBA 36 67 89 48
    Reading 41 66 72 40
    Birmingham 46 62 54 37
    Derby 20 89 55 67
    Sheff U 32 55 56 51
    Charlton 34 60 63 58
    Watford 29 59 62 56

    1. Eh, not sure I agree with your two points about WBA and Newcastle.

      I don’t have any advanced stats to back this up, but WBA in 08/09 went down as an mediocre side; like Norwich of last season. They haven’t been down since (prob will this season) but were established as a yo-yo side (remember those?). So their performance wasn’t too surprising.

      Newcastle were a basket-case that Chris Hughton did wonders with. They actually purged a lot over that summer, and yet still lost only one—ONE—league game from mid-October onwards. That’s crazy.

  6. Just had a bit more of a fiddle. Basically, the average goal difference improvement across the last 21 relegated teams is +43.

    So if we apply to average that takes us to around break even.

    Then with McCormack, maybe we are about +16 or so, which absolutely would make us a playoff team. If you think McCormack’s worth more than 15 extra goals over his backup then maybe we’re pretty seriously good now.

    Basically we need to be about + 70 over last year for promotion. Say we get the standard (ish) +43 bonus from dropping the division and +20 from McCormack. So now we only need a small swing to be serious contenders.

    Again, it’s all very subjective but the past guides the future, eh?

    1. It’s an interesting way of looking at it, goalswings, and your ball-park figure of a 70+ adjustment is as good as any other. It would have needed 18 less the year that Hull came second and it would have needed more in many other seasons. But that kind of shift would always put us in the running and make for an exciting season, for sure.

      Not much more to be done on the goals-for side of things, which moreover was not the reason we went down anyway. And it’s certain we have a radically changed defence. Reports that we are signing that young Greek left back are encouraging (looks mustard on Youtube so must be good!). Internet talk of Zat Knight is, well, hopefully just that.

  7. “If there’s such a thing as a sure thing in the Championship, Ross McCormack is it.”

    I disagree. If there’s such a thing as a sure thing in the Championship, Jordan Rhodes (rumored to be available for less than we reportedly paid for McCormack) is it. Who knows whether he’s actually available, though?

  8. come on this is rubbish! Every club is different and so is every clubs outlook and reasons for relegation. Some of the clubs were relegated with huge debt and others with awful players. We were relegated because we made some awful decisions in mid season with regards to apointing 3 managers. We have now bought some good players and have some great youngsters up and coming via a youth scheme. What other clubs have been in that position? NONE

    1. 21 teams going down means there are a range of situations of course. I feel like I have a better handle on our situation having worked this through. You are very welcome to not read.

    2. However you dress it up we went down with an awful team. So did others. I’m sure they thought they subsequently bought some good players as well. Yes, circumstances of relegated teams varies massively. All I have tried to do is look at generalities. It’s an idea. It’s trying something a bit different. Opinions are like arseholes so sometimes it is quite nice to bring objectivity into things.

      Rather than just saying “rubbish” how about finding some teams who have taken this approach. How did they do?

    3. If more than a couple of our promising youngsters prove top-notch Championship performers *next season* (the one under discussion) then it’s fair to say that will set us apart. If not, then what will and what won’t? Two cases especially strike me on Rich’s list.

      Wolves also panicked on the managerial front, went down with stats like ours, didn’t have sufficient of a shakeup and bombed again. We’re not making that mistake anyway — the policy of this summer receives backup.

      Then there’s Blackburn who promptly bought Rhodes who scored 26 league goals in their first Championship season — and finished 17th. Danny Murphy was useless for them. Scott Parker won’t be like that, will he? And we’ll be less reliant on a single goalscorer, won’t we. And the chaotic managerial comings and goings that persisted into that season for Blackburn won’t apply here, will they? I’d guessing not in all cases, and what the Blackburn example really does is point to the value of governing a club in a way that seems sane and stable, and what happens if you don’t — having the league’s top scorer won’t be remotely sufficient. See indeed Leeds last season for similar.

      It’s a statement of the bleeding obvious that every situation is different, but still interesting IMO to tease out what seems to work and what doesn’t. Do club ownerships ignore the experiences of other clubs (the kind of stuff Rich has shown us here) and dismiss it as “rubbish?”

      1. I think this is what I was trying to say. Unless there’s a very good reason to think we’re something special then the fates of previously awful teams suggests a long season ahead.

        If you look at the last seven seasons, Fulham are worse than everyone except Derby County who were spectacular in their ineptitude. Now, what happens next? This is all I’ve been trying to establish. For all the teams with similar experiences the next season was not a good one. For teams that were in better shape going down improvements were generally not great.

        And to put the cherry on top, the two teams that absolutely destroyed the championship (Newcastle and WBA) did very little to their squads after being relegated. So that’s not going to be us either.

        I can see how looking at previously relegated teams is not going to predict our season because yes, everyone is different, but I do think it shows the scale of the task ahead. And as b+w_geezer suggests, what’s so special about Fulham 2014/15 that we think the trend might be bucked? McCormack’s a good thing for sure and the fact that we have money and a manager with some history of winning helps too, but you can’t get away from how bad we were last year either. The overhaul is fine but as noted, other teams will have overhauled too and generally it doesn’t do them that much good.

        1. The youngsters factor is the only one with potential to make us a completely different case from all those others. Very tall order — for multiple rookies (to all intents and purposes) to be Championship team-of-the-season contenders by next May. Would be extraordinary. Teenagers Earle, Conway and Barrett didn’t prove to be back in 68-9 for example, even though they already had quite a few games under their belt and each went on to play hundreds at Championship (+) level. By analogy…Woodrow, David, Roberts? All three are equipped to do at least as well eventually as their forebears, but asking a huge amount for that to kick in right now, over a full season, not just in glimpses. Fine to pipedream it, just not to expect it.

          1. We can all choose how full or empty we think the glass is but the deciding factor will be Magath’s ability to organise and motivate a new team.

            He may be a washed up, out of his depth has been or the top quality manager he clearly was. If the former we know now that we have an owner who will try to do and spend what’s necessary to make us successful. I’m not sure that’s true of too many relegated clubs.

  9. Nice work, Rich. This is a sound way of looking at it. I’d add the following points. Firstly, Daniel Kahneman would remind us not to ignore the “base data”, which in this case amounts to the fact that of the twelve clubs relegated over the past four seasons, only two made an immediate return to the Premier League i.e. 16.7%. That’s a pretty good starting point in estimating the probability that we do likewise, and that “base rate” is something that the human mind is prone to neglect, Kahneman would argue. We can move away from the base rate, but we have to have a powerful reason for doing so to any great extent.

    Secondly, in considering the likely impact of McCormack, shouldn’t we apply a probability weighting to his typical goals-scored figure? Seems to me that only about half of any club’s new signings perform as hoped. “Half” is no more than a rough guess; it isn’t based on any proper analysis. But even the best managers seem to have as many misses as hits – for every Cantona there’s a Djemba-Djemba. Perhaps it’s because fitting into a new team is a fraught with uncertainty; perhaps it’s because players attract buyers when they’ve had a good run of form, and then tend to suffer from mean reversion. At any rate, I’d suggest that at this stage we should expect McCormack to contribute, say, 25 goals x 50%.

    1. So not rubbish then. Thanks, this is an interesting take and I agree: you’d want a good reason to assume that Fulham 2014/15 is notably superior to other teams who have come down before being optimistic of a quick return.

      We start from a lower base than almost all relegated teams but perhaps have more reasons to be optimistic, too. (Youth, money, coach(?)). So playoffs seems like an optimistic take at present.

    2. McCormack is interesting too. For all we know he will wilt under the pressure of being money signing. He might not but hw might.

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