Manager vacancy: Win ratios meaningless without context

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Jamie Smith October 17, 2012
I absolutely despise win ratios. They are useless. 3 years ago

Win ratios are becoming increasingly used in rows about managers. But what do they mean, asks Jamie Smith.

Go on any social networking site and even look in the comments on this blog and you’ll find fans debating the merits of potential replacements for Eddie Howe by citing win ratios.

Somehow, win ratios have become one of the main factors fans appear to consider when talking about the relative achievements of managers, even though as a statistic they are very flawed.

It was noted on Twitter today that many fans were unhappy Brian Laws got the Burnley job when Owen Coyle left after citing a Deloitte and Touche report that put him top of the Championship in terms of money spent and points gained.

How is arguing about win ratios any different from using the stats in that infamous report to prove your argument?

Win ratios mean absolutely nothing if you omit the circumstances in which they were achieved. A manager working with the biggest budget in the division and the most impressive set of players is obviously going to have a bigger win ratio than someone operating with next to no money and a bunch of journeymen hoofers and hackers at his disposal.

But what can we learn from looking at the five managers reportedly in the frame for the Burnley job and their win ratios? Let’s have a look.

Michael Appleton

The Portsmouth manager couldn’t save his side from relegation to League One last season, although they would not have finished in the bottom three if they had not been docked ten points for going into administration. Appleton seems to be the frontrunner and has led the betting of late, but he only has a 26.09% win ratio since taking over at Fratton Park. His points per game (PPG) score is 47 points from 46 games – 1.02 – relegation form. But when you consider that Appleton has lost almost all of his players, has been working in administration for months and has to sign players on a month-to-month basis in order to field a squad, the fact he has Pompey in mid-table in League One suddenly seems more impressive.

 Mick McCarthy

The most senior name on the reported shortlist of five, ex-Wolves, Sunderland and Ireland boss McCarthy is also in the running for the vacancy at the Reebok. Most recently seen propping up the Match of the Day sofa, McCarthy would be a solid, experienced pair of hands at Turf Moor. McCarthy was in charge at Sunderland from 2003 to 2006 and had a win ratio of 42.86%, while his record at Wolves was 38.52. At Wolves, his team scored 378 points from 270 games (1.4 PPG) and at Sunderland he earned 215 points from 147 games (1.46 PPG). While on the face of it, these achievements – including two promotions to the Premier League – dwarf those of Appleton. But Wolves and Sunderland were both among the biggest clubs in the Championship when he managed them and he always had money to spend. Would he be backed as well at Turf Moor and could he add a third Premier League promotion without major moves in the transfer market?

Sean Dyche

Dyche was unlucky to get the sack from Watford’s new Italian owners after leading the side to eighth in the Championship. His win ratio was 34.69%, a solid enough score, while he picked up 68 points from 49 games – 1.38 PPG – which is upper mid-table form. Dyche brought a lot of young players into the side at Vicarage Road and while he was at the club had very little room the move in the transfer market. It’s easy to see why he might be an appealing choice for the Turf Moor board, though he remains relatively inexperienced as a manager.

Nick Barmby

Barmby lost his job at Hull City after a row with the club’s board, though the former England midfielder had a 39.39% win ratio and collected 47 points from his 33 games in charge at a PPG of 1.42. Hull’s a bigger club than Watford and the team was relegated from the Premier League in the same season as we were, so are Barmby’s achievements any better than Dyche’s? It’s up for debate, but the pair are probably neck and neck.

Steve Davis (mk I)

The only ex-Claret of the five, Crewe manager Davis is the only one apart from McCarthy to have experienced promotion. He took his Crewe Alexandra side up at the first attempt and they are currently solidly mid-table in League One. His win ratio at the club is 44.68% and he has won 79 points from 47 games in charge for a PPG of 1.68. While these figures are the most impressive of the five matches, the vast majority of his career has been in League Two and Crewe’s natural position is probably around the lower end of League One. Do the stats show Davis could cut it at a higher level?

All figures were sourced from Wikipedia and Soccerbase and the working out is by my own rudimentary GCSE-level maths.

So what do we learn from win ratios and PPG? It’s an indication of how successful a manager has been, but no more. Without taking into account the context of their situation, including size of club, expectations, budgets, transfer spending and style of play, the figures on their own are pretty meaningless.

Do you agree or can we read more from the stats? Comment below.

  • Wilson97

    only want mccarthy and dyche any others and i WILL be dissapointed :L

  • Michael Connell

    I absolutely despise win ratios. They are useless.

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