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Staying Out Of The Bottom 4 Is The Priority For 2019-20

Slow and steady wins the race

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Posted: 30/07/19

By | Matthew Evans | @M_R_Evans1



Hello and welcome to Deadly Submarine's 2019-20 League One countdown. Twelve months ago, we launched our inaugural countdown feature in preparation for Tranmere's return to the EFL. The response was incredible, and so we are delighted to be able to bring the feature back as we look ahead to Rovers' third-tier return.

With just four days until Rochdale visit Prenton Park for the opening fixture of the League One calendar, we will bring you a new piece every day until 2nd August, with each related to the number of days remaining in some manner.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter (@DSubmarine17), Facebook (@DeadlySubmarine) and our new Instagram account (@deadlysubmarineofficial) to ensure you keep abreast of the latest releases. Each new entry will be released at 6am on the appropriate date, so you should have plenty of time to digest each.

And if you do miss an instalment, you will find links at the bottom of each day's entry to take you back to any that may have escaped your attention.

Please find below our content for day seven in the 2019-20 countdown.

As we enter the final straight on the road to the 2019-20 League One campaign, we've reached the juncture at which it seems appropriate to attempt to define what a 'successful' season would look like for Tranmere Rovers.

Last year, many members of the SWA were grappling with the same question, with some suggesting (including here at Deadly Submarine) that a season of midtable stability would have represented a healthy return to the EFL. Others were more optimistic, harbouring ambitions of a second consecutive promotion that were ultimately met in dramatic circumstances at Wembley in May.

With the squad confounding most predictions last term, moulding a definition of 'success' for the upcoming season may seem like a fool's errand, however building perspective of the campaign seems like it could be a helpful idea.

The Statistics

League One Season Promoted From League Two Immediately Relegated*
2009-10 Brentford, Exeter City, Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham (PO) Wycombe Wanderers, Gillingham
2010-11 Notts County, Bournemouth, Rochdale, Dagenham & Redbridge (PO) Dagenham & Redbridge
2011-12 Chesterfield, Bury, Wycombe Wanderers, Stevenage (PO) Chesterfield, Wycombe Wanderers
2012-13 Swindon Town, Shrewsbury Town, Crawley Town, Crewe Alexandra (PO) None
2013-14 Gillingham, Rotherham United, Port Vale, Bradford City (PO) None
2014-15 Chesterfield, Scunthorpe United, Rochdale, Fleetwood Town (PO) None
2015-16 Burton Albion, Shrewsbury Town, Bury, Southend United (PO) None
2016-17 Northampton Town, Oxford United, Bristol Rovers, AFC Wimbledon (PO) None
2017-18 Portsmouth, Plymouth Argyle, Doncaster Rovers, Blackpool (PO) None
2018-19 Accrington Stanley, Luton Town, Wycombe Wanderers, Coventry City (PO) None
*Promoted clubs only | (PO) = Play-off winners
Fig.1: Table showing all teams promoted from League Two in the past decade and those who were immediately relegated the following season.
League One Season Promoted From League Two (League One Placing) Average Position*
2009-10 Brentford(9th), Exeter City(18th), Wycombe Wanderers(22nd), Gillingham (PO)(21st) 18th
2010-11 Notts County(19th), Bournemouth(6th), Rochdale(9th), Dagenham & Redbridge (PO)(21st) 14th
2011-12 Chesterfield(22nd), Bury(14th), Wycombe Wanderers(21st), Stevenage (PO)(6th) 16th
2012-13 Swindon Town(6th), Shrewsbury Town(16th), Crawley Town(10th), Crewe Alexandra (PO)(13th) 11th
2013-14 Gillingham(17th), Rotherham United(4th), Port Vale(9th), Bradford City (PO)(11th) 10th
2014-15 Chesterfield(6th), Scunthorpe United(16th), Rochdale(8th), Fleetwood Town (PO)(10th) 10th
2015-16 Burton Albion(2nd), Shrewsbury Town(20th), Bury(16th), Southend United (PO)(14th) 13th
2016-17 Northampton Town(16th), Oxford United(8th), Bristol Rovers(10th), AFC Wimbledon (PO)(15th) 12th
2017-18 Portsmouth(8th), Plymouth Argyle(7th), Doncaster Rovers(15th), Blackpool (PO)(12th) 11th
2018-19 Accrington Stanley(14th), Luton Town(1st), Wycombe Wanderers(17th), Coventry City (PO)(8th) 10th
*Promoted clubs only | (PO) = Play-off winners
Fig.2: Table showing the League One placings of all teams promoted from League Two and the average placing for a promoted club by season.

To aid us in coming to a conclusion, let's take another look at the performance of teams promoted from League Two over the previous decade. With day five of our countdown focusing on the prospects of a further promotion, we can now assess the chances of an immediate return to League Two.

As highlighted in Fig.1, over the past ten seasons, 40 clubs have earned promotion to League One. Of those 40 clubs, only 5 have been immediately relegated (12.5%). Said relegations were shared by 4 clubs; Wycombe Wanderers (2009-10 & 2011-12), Gillingham (2009-10), Dagenham & Redbridge (2010-11) and Chesterfield (2011-12).

Crucially, no club has been immediately relegated in the seven seasons since 2011-12. Using the experiences of their counterparts from the ten most recent League One campaigns, it could be argued that Tranmere have a 70% chance of avoiding relegation.

But by how much?

Fig.2 Highlights the finishing positions of promoted teams. Clearly, they have improved over time, with the promoted sides — Accrington Stanley, Luton Town, Wycombe Wanderers and Coventry City — having an average position of 10th in 2018-19.

As play-off winners, Tranmere have had less time to prepare for 2019-20 than their contemporaries and the data suggests this does have an impact on the final placings. Whilst the average position for all promoted sides over the past decade is 12th, the ten play-off winners have an average placing of 14th — similar, yet lower than those promoted automatically. Of course, there will be exceptions, for example 2017-18 League Two play-off winners Coventry City finishing 8th in 2018-19.

Overall, 18 of the 40 clubs placed in the top 10 the following season (45%). Therefore, the statistics appear to suggest that, with the correct preparation, a club promoted from the fourth tier can more than hold their own in the third.


Looking specifically at Tranmere, there is a lot to process before determining a definition of 'success'. It should be remembered they have made a jump of two divisions in a little over twelve months.

They have lost their main striker and, recovering from a three-year stay in non-League football, are seemingly struggling to be financially competitive. Thankfully, there appear to have been no attempts to spend beyond their means seeking a replacement, but one suspects the comparative constraints within which they are operating could have an adverse effect on league performance.

Notwithstanding any frustrations, having worked so hard for so long in overcoming the heartache of losing the 2017 National League play-off final, the most important outcome for 2019-20 is that Rovers remain in League One for 2020-21. Anything above and beyond that is a welcome bonus.

It is imperative that the SWA are realistic, as the atmosphere built over the past few years could be dented if expectations are set too high and then Rovers fail to meet them.

At worst, a 20th-place finish would still represent a progression of eleven league positions from 2018-19, whilst recent history suggests a midtable finish is entirely feasible if fans remain patient. It's surely better for the Club to grow at a slow and steady pace than to gamble on a third successive promotion, something that we've already established is incredibly unlikely?

And in Micky Mellon, Rovers have a manager who brought Shrewsbury Town up in 2014-15 and kept them in League One at the end of 2015-16, so the perfect man to oversee this process.


Setting an expectation of avoiding relegation does not equate to limiting the vision of what the Club could achieve. In the first season back, Tranmere will have to adapt to a new league and new teammates and as such, should be afforded time to continue their development both on and off the field.

Recent history suggests that, backed by the SWA, the Super Whites have an excellent chance of consolidating their place in the third tier at the end of 2019-20. As nice as any additional success would be, perspective will play a huge part in how the season is viewed.

Think back to those painful defeats to the likes of Woking and Welling United. Remember the agony of losing to Forest Green at Wembley. The joy of battling for 90 minutes with a numerical disadvantage versus Boreham Wood and succeeding. In your mind, replay the image of Connor Jennings wheeling away in jubilation having scored a 119th-minute winner against Newport County just sixty-seven days ago.

Every single second of every high and every low was for this; to return to League One.

Staying there has to be the priority.


Remember: Check back tomorrow for day eight of our ten-day countdown to the 2019-20 season.