Great expectations: What your club's fans really think about the boss, squad & board
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We stand just over a quarter of the way through the 2014/15 season, with 11 games now played and the table taking a very definite, if slightly surreal, shape. So how has it been for you and your team so far? A season of quite spectacular overachievement, far exceeding your wildest expectations? Has it been exactly as you expected it would be, nothing more and nothing less? Or has it been so hopelessly incompetent that you’d really prefer not to talk about it? Yes, fans of Sunderland, Burnley and Liverpool, we’re referring to you.
You don’t need to answer that, because we already know how it’s been for you and your team. Having questioned more than 200,000 fans of all 20 Premier League teams on a weekly basis since the start of the season, working with the Forza Football app, we have a handle on how the fans are feeling about their manager, their squad and the man running their football club.
The results are intriguing, and we've brought you the results on a club-by-club basis (more on those later). First, however, let’s consider the most notable findings in each section.
The gaffer most trusted by his club’s fans before the season began was Leicester City’s Nigel Pearson – understandably so, given the success he delivered in taking the Foxes up last season. However, as the season wore on, and the club dropped into the relegation places, any credit he had built up inevitably ebbed away. Right now, his confidence rating among fans sits at 64%, down 27% since the season began.
Going in the opposite direction is Sam ‘Lazarus’ Allardyce. He began the season as the division's least trusted manager, with just 42% of West Ham fans confident in his abilities; now the club sit fourth in the table, goals flying in hither and yon, Allardyce’s popularity rating has grown to an impressive 84%, a miraculous doubling from the season's start.
The Premier League's highest recorded approval rating is Ronald Koeman (currently 93%, making one wonder exactly what the other 7% expect). Down the other end, Alan Pardew dipped as low as 22% in the aftermath of the 4-0 defeat at Southampton. His stock has risen since then – a run of results that have taken Newcastle up to eighth have seen confidence in him rise to 60%, one per cent lower than how he started the season, while Paul Lambert has tumbled to the bottom of the pile.
The big split here is between two types of fans who got it wrong: those who have been pleasantly surprised, and those whose dreams have turned to dust. In the latter camp, no fans have quite as dramatically lost faith in their squad as Burnley. One win in 11 has turned a season's-eve 78% confidence rating to just 27%.
Cheerier claret-clad hordes are found in the East End: West Ham fans’ cautious early 62% approval rating (notably above their trust in Allardyce) has leapt to a magnificent 89% now. Quite how this has happened, nobody really knows, but happen it has. Even so, the biggest leap of faith has unsurprisingly come at Southampton, where a pre-season of doom and gloom dropped confidence levels to 55%. Eight wins and a draw later, Southampton sit second and fan confidence in the squad has reached 91%, a record 36% jump. Again, quite how this has happened, nobody knows, but one theory is that victory cheers people up.
Across the board, the confidence in the chairman or owner of each Premier League club rose or fell in line with confidence in the manager and the squad. In other words, results ultimately dictated confidence at every club.
Pre-season, the most confidence-inspiring Premier League chairman was, by some distance, Leicester's Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha – the man who helped propel the Foxes up into the Premier League. Next most popular? The owners of Burnley, Chelsea and Liverpool, all of whom enjoyed an 81% confidence rating on the eve of the season. Fast-forward to right now and confidence in Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha has slumped 28% to an irritated 63% – confirming that recent history counts for nothing and goodwill runs out fast in the Premier League.
At the other end of the popularity spectrum sits Randy Lerner, the Aston Villa owner who’s desperately trying to flog the club to anyone who’ll buy. He began the season with a Premier League-low confidence rating of 24%, which rallied for a brief time to 41%, but has since slumped to just 22%. His nearest rival at the start of the season was loveable tradesman Mike Ashley, the corpulent, thick-skinned owner of Newcastle United. Only 34% of their fans had confidence in his ownership at the start of the season, a figure that dropped as low as 18% (the record low in the Premier League so far) before rallying back up to its present rating of… 34%.
Coincidentally, that’s the exact same percentage of fans who think the Burnley chairmen – Mike Garlick and John Banaszkiewicz – are doing a good job. They, however, began the season with a confidence rating of 81% – so their record drop of 47% in the space of 11 games illustrates the fickle nature of football’s followers.
Positives and negatives
As if to prove that football is a long slope toward inevitable disenchantment, only five clubs have fans who are happier now than they were at the beginning of the season. Southampton and West Ham fans are understandably happiest – Saints' confidence has risen 14% for their manager, 36% for the squad and 26% in their owner since the season began, while for West Ham it’s +42%, 27% and 16% respectively. The only other three teams happier now than when the season began are Chelsea, Everton and Swansea. The other 15 teams are radged off to varying degrees, with Burnley the most disappointed. That's promotion to the Premier for you...
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