Every season at about this time I lock away my emotions and turn to what statistics tell me about whether or not Ross County F.C. are going to be staying up or going down at the end of the season.
When I first started doing this in 2012 I made a study of all the Scottish “top flight” seasons between 1998-1999 and 2011-2012. I was surprised by how definitive the results were. Once anomalies were accounted for (clubs not being relegated/promoted for off-field reasons, or in a couple of instances, clubs have historically good/bad seasons.), three things stood out.
First, regardless of any statistical anomalies, no top flight club has ever been relegated with 41 or more points.
Second, only one club (Dundee United) has survived with as few as 32 points (County currently have 33), but that was because only one club (Motherwell with 28 points) was relegated- Falkirk’s stadium was not SPL compliant so they could not be promoted, saving Dundee United.
Finally, when statistical anomalies are accounted for 37 points has been enough to avoid relegation on all but two occasions.
Ah, but there have been several seasons played since I came up with these numbers, let’s see if they remain correct!
2012-2013: The last season of the SPL, Dundee F.C. were relegated with 30 point, St. Mirren F.C. survived with 41 points.
2013-2014: The first season of the Premiership and given the anomalies of the season (Celtic F.C. earning 99 points, Heart of Midlothian F.C. being docked 15 points for entering administration), the numbers work. Hearts were relegated with 23 points, Hibernian F.C. were relegated with 35, and Partick Thistle F.C. survived with 38 points– only one more than the minimum I’d calculated from earlier seasons.
2014-2015: St. Mirren were relegated with 30 points, Motherwell earned 36 points (one shy of the magic number) but survived via the playoffs, and Kilmarnock stayed out of the relegation battle with 41 points (there’s that number again…)
2015-2016: Dundee United were relegated with 28 points, Kilmarnock survived via the playoffs with 36 points, and Hamilton avoided the relegation battle with 43 points.
Thus, even adding in four more seasons (one of which, 2013-2014, was kind of wacky), nothing really changes. No club with 37 points was relegated, two with only 36 managed to survive via the playoffs, and no club with at least 41 points was even part of the relegation scenario.
So, since the 1998-1999 season 37 points has been enough to avoid relegation (or the relegation playoffs once they were instituted) for all but two seasons and we can throw one of those out because of the whole Gretna F.C. debacle.
37 remains the magic number.
Here is the current “post-split” table.
Here are the maximum point totals for these clubs:
Here are my “take-aways” from these two tables…
First, and most obviously, County would seem to need only four points from their final five matches (a win and a draw) to remain up. To give this some context, County took six points from their final four matches before the split, so, at least statistically speaking, things look good.
Second, the best Caley can hope for is to avoid automatic relegation and that’s only if Dundee continue their free-fall. Caley can’t get to 41 points and absolute safety, and if they lose even one match their “ceiling” is 37 points. Or, put another way, if County win the Highland Derby Caley are effectively done- I can’t see them “winning out” after that.
Third, Dundee, who took no points form their five matches before the split (and sacked their manager) at least have a chance to save themselves. Even middling results will likely keep them away from automatic relegation as they have a five point lead over Caley. Having said that, the match against Caley at Dens Park on May 16 could be for all of the proverbial marbles.
But, to get back to the main point, County are going to be fine.