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Stat Analysis: The various outcomes for Swindon Town in League One

An exciting season of football, ended in the most unconventional of circumstances as Swindon Town were crowned League Two champions with the Robins climbing up the English Football pyramid into League One next season.

But amid the glamour and hype around the club, and the excitement created by the possibility of new players arriving through the doors at SN1, what exactly is needed on the pitch to succeed in the third tier of the EFL? Total Sport Swindon’s Ryan Walker crunched the numbers to find out the various permutations facing Swindon Town next season.

Relegation, Promotion, and Mid-Table Mediocrity

Three seasons of languishing in the doldrums of League Two football are finally over for Swindon Town fans after Richie Wellens led the Wiltshire outfit to a first league title since 2012. But now the hard work truly begins as Wellens looks to transform his team into Championship hopefuls.

Heading into the new season, Swindon faces four different possible outcomes - automatic promotion, play-offs, mid-table safety, or relegation. So to help clear the waters and separate facts from opinions, we’ve taken an in-depth look into the last decade of League One football to determine the points totals needed for each possible scenario. 

The aim for any team following promotion is to stay in the new league and then look to build from there. Richie Wellens has highlighted he wants Swindon challenging for promotion to the Championship within three seasons, so by his own account, he is well ahead of schedule.

However, if Swindon were hoping of challenging for back-to-back automatic promotions then they will need to drastically exceed expectations and amass a minimum of 87.3 points - a fate they have only achieved once over the last ten years during their 2012/13 League Two title-winning season. 

To achieve such an impressive points tally, Swindon would need to obtain a minimum of 1.89 points-per-game over the 46 game season, meaning that they would have to virtually match their performances of last season in which they averaged 1.91 points-per-game.

Should playoffs be the target for Wellens & Co then his side will have to consistently win games in the 24-team division as they strive to achieve a minimum of 71.2 points that should guarantee themselves the final playoff spot, with a minimum of 1.54 points-per-game required. 

The more realistic aim for Swindon, however, is avoiding relegation. After years of underperforming, Swindon Town will be desperate to stay in League One next season and to do so they will have to achieve a minimum of 48.7 points, with a 1.05 points-per-game ratio required. 

In reality, however, any club wishing to avoid the drop should aim for a minimum of 50 points, with this being the minimum points needed to guarantee safety over five of the past ten seasons. 

How do newcomers fare in League One? 

Whether your team has earned promotion from League Two or been relegated from the Championship, being a newcomer in the third tier of English football is a difficult scenario to adjust to. 

Teetering on the edge of the riches that the Championship promises and the final destination between non-league football that League Two is, means that the difference between success and failure in this division is colossal. 

After earning promotion from League Two, Swindon and their fellow newcomers will undoubtedly be tipped as favourites for relegation next season. However, it isn’t all doom and gloom, because the statistics tell a different story.

Over the past ten years of League One football, only four of the 40 teams promoted have been relegated in their first season, with Tranmere in the season just finished the first team to do so since Wycombe and Chesterfield in 2012. 

In fact, more teams that have been promoted from League Two have made the playoffs in their first season than have been relegated, with Chesterfield, Rotherham, Swindon, Stevenage, and Bournemouth all achieving the fate at the first time of asking, with Rotherham in the 2013/14 the only outfit to go on and win the playoffs.

If Swindon fans were dreaming of winning the League One title or automatic promotion next season with Richie Wellens at the helm, however, then the statistics make for glum reading with only one team winning the division after being promoted from the fourth division, Luton in the 2018/19 season, and Burton in 2016 the only other side to earn back-to-back automatic promotions over the past decade. 

The more realistic and likely outcome for Swindon Town next season is mid-table safety, with 28 out of the 40 teams promoted from League Two since 2010 finishing somewhere between lower mid-table and just outside the playoffs during their first season in the third tier. 

Whilst this may not wildly excite fans, anything other than relegation during your first post-promotion season should be viewed as a success and Swindon will certainly have done well if they manage to avoid the drop. 

What about goals? 

Swindon’s crowning as League Two champions was largely down to their dominance in front of goal with the now-departed frontmen of Eoin Doyle and Jerry Yates bagging 39 of the clubs 62 league goals. But as the Robins attempt to thrive in the third division next season, they will need to reinforce their striking options as the statistics below outline. 

When analysing the goal records over the past ten seasons in League One, any team wishing to earn automatic promotion will need to score an average of 78.9 goals over the duration of the season. 

If Swindon wishes to challenge for the playoffs then they will need to score an average of 70.8 goals in the division, and if they wish to sit in the mid-table positions and guarantee themselves safety, then Richie Wellens will need his team to score an average of 56.1 goals in the 20/21 season.

Of course, teams have qualified for the various league positions including playoffs and automatic promotion places by scoring fewer times than this but taken over a ten-year comparison, this is the amount of goals teams will need if they wish to challenge in the league. 

Having lost their top three scorers from last season, Swindon are left with a gaping hole in front of goal as we edge ever closer to the start of the League One season, so it will be interesting to see which new faces arrive at the County Ground that are capable of filling the void left by Doyle & Co. 

Statistics however only tell half the story and if this year has shown anything, it is that football is a rollercoaster ride full of twists, turns, and unexpectedness around every corner. But as Swindon try to build on recent success, this will hopefully give fans a glimpse of what they could be in store for when the new season gets underway. 

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Swindon Town FC

Swindon Town Football Club

STFC are Swindon's top football team, based at The County Ground Stadium.

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