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Is promotion still a realistic goal for Fulham?

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Fulham are full of optimism since Kit took over, but Felix dug a big hole. He only managed one point in his seven matches. Is that simply too big to come back from?

To get promoted, Fulham will probably have to win at Wembley
To get promoted, Fulham will probably have to win at Wembley
Paul Gilham

To analyze this, I went back through every season since Fulham was last in the Championship. That's fourteen years worth of data. I found the point total for the team in sixth place, the point total of the playoff winner, and the point totals for the two automatically promoted sides. It's laid out in this table.

Year

Team

Position

Points

Promoted

2014

Leicester City

1

102

Y

2014

Burnley

2

93

Y

2014

Queens Park Rangers

4

80

Y

2014

Brighton & Hove Albion

6

72

N

2013

Cardiff City

1

87

Y

2013

Hull City

2

79

Y

2013

Crystal Palace

5

72

Y

2013

Leicester City

6

68

N

2012

Reading

1

89

Y

2012

Southampton

2

88

Y

2012

West Ham United

3

86

Y

2012

Cardiff City

6

75

N

2011

Queens Park Rangers

1

88

Y

2011

Norwich City

2

84

Y

2011

Swansea City

3

80

Y

2011

Nottingham Forest

6

75

N

2010

Newcastle United

1

102

Y

2010

West Bromwich Albion

2

91

Y

2010

Blackpool

6

70

Y

2009

Wolverhampton Wanderers

1

90

Y

2009

Birmingham City

2

83

Y

2009

Burnley

5

76

Y

2009

Preston North End

6

74

N

2008

West Bromwich Albion

1

81

Y

2008

Stoke City

2

79

Y

2008

Hull City

3

75

Y

2008

Watford

6

70

N

2007

Sunderland

1

88

Y

2007

Birmingham City

2

86

Y

2007

Derby County

3

84

Y

2007

Southampton

6

75

N

2006

Reading

1

106

Y

2006

Sheffield United

2

92

Y

2006

Watford

3

81

Y

2006

Crystal Palace

6

75

N

2005

Sunderland

1

94

Y

2005

Wigan Athletic

2

87

Y

2005

West Ham United

6

73

Y

2004

Norwich City

1

94

Y

2004

West Bromwich Albion

2

86

Y

2004

Crystal Palace

6

73

Y

2003

Portsmouth

1

98

Y

2003

Leicester City

2

92

Y

2003

Wolverhampton Wanderers

5

76

Y

2003

Nottingham Forest

6

74

N

2002

Manchester City

1

99

Y

2002

West Bromwich Albion

2

89

Y

2002

Birmingham City

5

76

Y

2002

Norwich City

6

75

N

2001

Fulham

1

101

Y

2001

Blackburn Rovers

2

91

Y

2001

Bolton Wanderers

3

87

Y

2001

West Bromwich Albion

6

74

N

Looking at the data, things are not as dire as one might expect. Fulham are currently sitting on only fourteen points. However, there are still 32 matches to play. More importantly, since Kit Symons has taken over, Fulham have earned 1.86 points per game. If Fulham were to continue that pace, you would expect a final season total of 73 points. How does that look historically?


Point for all promoted teams

Sixth place team points

Playoff winner points

Second Place team points

League position of final promoted team

Average

86

73

78

87

4

Median

87

74

76

88

5

Mode

87

75

76

79

3

What exactly does that all mean? The average team promoted from the Championship finished with 86 points. To avoid a few outliers throwing off the average, I also included the Median and Mode, but neither changes the analysis much. To get into that average group Fulham would need to average 2.25 points per game from here on out. That would be a tough ask. A team playing like that over 46 games would end up better than Fulham's 2000/01 season where they managed 101 points. Getting into second place is just as tall of an order. It takes on average 87 points to get into second. However, two times in fourteen years 79 points has been enough to secure second place. While it isn't impossible for Fulham to get into second, they're going to require the teams above them to falter. Right now, 85 points is the pace of the second place teams.

So achieving automatic promotion is a tall order. Does that mean all hope is lost? Not at all. The average point total for the sixth place team is only 73 points. If Fulham perform exactly as they have under Kit for the rest of the year, that's exactly the total they would hit. Right now the pace for sixth is 78 points, however in the last 14 years no team finishing sixth has ever had more than 75 points. The sixth place team has finished with as little as 68 points. Sixth place is a realistic goal for Fulham. If the team don't fall off Kit's pace, they will challenge for it. If they improve they could even finish in a higher playoff position.

You may be saying to yourself, so what if they finish sixth. That just means they make the playoffs and they'll have a hard time getting out. This is true to a certain extent. The playoffs are a bit of a crapshoot. But at worst you'd expect a 25% chance of getting promoted from them. Those aren't long odds. That's the same as flipping a coin twice and getting heads both times. I wouldn't bet my life on it happening, but I wouldn't bet my life against it happening either.

You can see that the median, mode, and average league position of the playoff winner is all over the place. The sixth place team has won three times, the fifth place four times, the fourth pace once, and the third place team six. It may look like the third place team has a huge advantage, but I don't think in this small of a sample we can make that judgement. I'd guess the odds for each team making it out are fairly similar.

So what does this all mean? As bad as the season started, there's still hope for premier league football next year. Just keeping the team on their pace over the last 7 games, might be enough to get them into the playoffs. Once there, you're two coin flips away from going back up. A win at home against Wigan improves things even more. Keep up the 1.86 PPG pace after that, and you're expected point total climbs to 74. Any time Fulham win at home or draw on the road they're improving their odds. So that means there's still a lot to root for.