Comparing Bournemouth to past early-season surprises
1 weeks ago, 19:12
If you’d woken up bleary-eyed from a five-month coma on Saturday lunchtime and Bournemouth v Manchester United was on the telly, you would definitely have ignored it. To have found yourself in that state, something must have been fairly severely wrong, and you would likely either be hallucinating from your morphine or intensely preoccupied with how you came to be here. Loved ones may well be crying at your bedside. You would certainly be in no position to judge the ebb and flow of a football match, even without such myriad more pressing matters to attend to. You need to be more realistic about these things and to be honest, I think much less of you after this staggering display of naivety.
Thankfully, you don’t need to have been in a coma to remember that a few months ago, Bournemouth were not very good, and thus express some surprise at the fact that they now are, in fact, pretty good. In fact, they are currently sixth, level on points with United and just four points off the Champions League places. Another surprise package, Watford, sit just one measly point behind the Cherries in eighth.
The most surprising thing about surprise packages is how surprisingly often they’ll surprisingly surprise you yet remain surprising. That is to say: there is quite often a team doing much better than expected at this stage of the season; more often than not, in fact, even in this era of supposed Big Six dominance.
Last year it was Burnley; two years before, it was Leicester and West Ham, one of whom actually went on to win the league (I forget which). The year before that it was Southampton and West Ham again.
Unless you are a West Ham fan – or close friends with a West Ham fan whose misery gives you endless delight – I would wager that you had completely forgotten there were two years in a row where they started the season looking like they might actually be quite good. Around this time eight years ago, Bolton were fifth. That’s Owen Coyle’s Bolton. In the Barclays Premier League. Level on points with them were Sunderland. Steve Bruce’s Sunderland. The following year, Alan Pardew’s Newcastle were 3rd at one stage. It’s funny that we all think the world only stopped making sense around 2016 when, looking back, it’s clear that nothing ever really did. What poor, deluded fools we have been all these years.
Thankfully for our collective sanity, but sadly for the state of the league, the likes of Steve Clarke’s West Brom don’t tend to keep the chase up for very long. Most sides in such a position around this time of year revert to their mean by the end of the season, a mathematical term so-called because if you start out good and then go back to being rubbish, people will be especially nasty about you. If you do it the other way round, they’re quite nice.
So can we expect Bournemouth and Watford to follow ...
Category: sports football