Do you believe in luck?
For me, it’s just a term that gets used to rationalise improbable outcomes.
A suggestion that mysterious forces are somehow bending the rules of probability, when in reality, it’s just a matter of statistics.
Or to put it another way… ‘Luck is probability taken personally’ (Chip Denman)
According to pre-season bookmaker’s odds, City’s rise to the top of the Championship table was improbable.
According to my mate Jack (who supports Leeds), City have been ‘dead lucky’.
(Even after Reading snatched two points from us in the seventh minute of injury time.)
I’d go along with the bookies’ assessment, as back in August, I expected, and would have gladly taken, a mid-table finish.
But, as for Jack, he’s just a bitter Yorkshireman who can’t fathom why his team haven’t already been crowned champions and who has definitely taken it personally.
Have City upset the odds?
Have City been lucky?
There’s no such thing.
I will concede, however, that a number of seemingly unlikely things have occurred which have brought City to the brink of an improbable promotion and one that would be all the sweeter as a result.
But it’s nothing to do with the planets aligning or ‘Lady Luck’ smiling on us, and more to do with the following…
Teemu Pukki baby
The year is 4 B.C. (Before City)
Teemu Pukki leaves Celtic for Brøndby having failed to fill the void left by Gary Hooper’s transfer to Norwich. During his time in Glasgow (and previously at Schalke), he has managed 17 goals in 84 appearances, a ratio of 1 in 4.94.
In Denmark, his scoring record improved significantly to 69 goals over 161 games (1 in 2.33). When the Danes failed to negotiate a new contract, Norwich stepped in to snap him up on a Bosman, with other potential suitors seemingly put off by his apparent failure to adapt to the pace and physicality of the Scottish Premier League.
Initially deployed as one of the attacking options in support of Jordan Rhodes, it was when the Finn replaced the Yorkshireman up top, with Marco SUPERmann in the 10 role, that Teemu hit the turbos and everything he touched ‘turned to goals’.
The newly crowned Championship Player of the Season currently has 26 goals in 38 league games for City (1 in 1.46), including a ‘purple patch’ of nine from eight at the turn of the year.
He may never hit that form again, but this year, he’s been red-hot and everything has clicked. He’s scored tap-ins and worldies. He’s scored with his thigh and his chest.
Clubs pay big money for the elusive 20+ goal a season striker and Norwich got one for free.
Not by luck, but through a scouting network that extends across Europe’s ‘lesser’ leagues, and one that took a chance on a player who was written off in Glasgow but recognised how he would fit in to the system.
Better late than never
In nine matches this season, City have scored decisive goals after the 80th minute (six of them coming in added time) and collected 21 points from those games.
Putting that down to luck would be to ignore the underlying factors… and the facts.
Statistical studies have shown that scoring rates actually increase significantly during added time, with tactical changes and substitutions effecting the dynamic and course of the game, as teams either chase a result or look to hold on.
What is striking about City’s approach however, is the commitment to ‘Plan A’. The unwavering belief that Farkeball will prevail in the end, no matter what the situation.
The hard graft at Colney has created a squad of well-drilled players who understand the system but also have the fitness to keep going until the end.
No Hail Mary’s launched desperately into the opposition box, City stick to their principles, and it’s worked.
Crucially, that success serves to strengthen belief and resolve, not just from the players but also from the fans. As the song goes;
Confidence is a preference for the habitual voyeur of what is known as…
The confidence that this team instils, means that the fans stick with them to the end. No mass exodus in the 85th minute to beat the traffic, but a crowd willing them on to the final whistle.
It builds pressure.
It forces mistakes.
It leads to late goals.
‘Daniel Farke has a fully-fit squad to choose from and has named an unchanged side’
Injuries are an occupational hazard for any footballer, and contrary to belief (Jack’s belief), City have picked up their fair share.
Not that you’d notice, because the players who have been called in to replace a stricken colleague have, almost without exception, seized their opportunity.
That’s down to desire.
But it’s also a reflection of where we find ourselves. Who wouldn’t want to be part of a team that’s strutting its stuff at the top of the league, in front of a buzzing Carrow Road?
Through careful recruitment, we have a squad of players who are desperate to be involved, rather than just pick up a pay cheque.
We have genuine competition for places, which drives individual performance and may also lead to fewer injuries.
Never underestimate the ‘medicinal qualities’ of success.
The aches and strains, don’t seem to ache and strain as much, when you risk losing your place in a winning team.
But the key pillars of City’s ‘unlikely’ promotion push, are hard work and diligence, both on the pitch and off it.
From the overhaul at Colney, through to the engagement with fan groups to improve the matchday atmosphere, to a pink dressing room, the club has gone searching for the marginal gains that might tip the odds in our favour.
Things that are designed to make the improbable, a bit more probable, whilst those on the outside of it, will simply label it as ‘luck’.
“I am a great believer in Luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have” (Coleman Cox)
Great read, Mr Cook. Talking of your Leeds supporting friend, I read he other day that City had been lucky with injuries too, not having had that many to the squad, I was going to email a reply listing the players and times etc. But on reflection I decided not too, it was Leeds based site. They believe what they want to believe despite of the facts.
Will Pukki ever reach those heights again, who the heck could know, no-one can guess if any player can make any step up in performence or a league, Husband couldn’t, Wildscut another who failed everywhere except Wigan. Whether Pukki does or does not, matter little, the fact he has is enough for me and I am looking forward to seeing him try a different level. As a striker especially there is the need for a little slice of luck, but that slice you make; by as you rightly says hard work, reading the game etc.
We are where we are, because it has been earned, and if blinkered watchers on the wall from the North or elsewhere want to bleat about that fact- well I enjoy that. Jealousy takes many forms, their Grapes seem a tad sour.
The act or an instance of disparaging something desirable, simply because one does not have it or cannot do it
John Speck says
Great article. Obviously we are “lucky” our talisman Pukki (and Buendia?) have not picked up any season-changing injuries mid-season.
And Zimmerman & Godfrey as centre back pairing just kind of worked – hard to foresee but a season-changing alignment of 2 bright stars!
This team – with its amazing effort and intelligent management – deserved every bit of luck it received from the footballing gods this season.
Buendia was kicked out of the Blackburn game on December 22nd and did not re-appear until West Brom on January 12th.
OK, one of the games was the FA Cup against Portsmouth, but he also missed 3 league games -2 draws and a defeat. Plus of course, he didn’t actually start in the
O T B C
Stewart Lewis says
A perfect summation, Steve.
Sticking to our beliefs, even under pressure, brought us the three points at home to Millwall, Rotherham, Bristol City and others; the recovery to 3-3 with Forest; and much of our remarkable haul of away points.
The tough yards on the training pitch are clearly paying dividends. The “harder I work, luckier I get” quote has been attributed to all kinds of people; Gary Player has a good claim (and he certainly exemplified it), but perhaps he wasn’t the first.
Great analysis! The whole ‘front line’ has been great this year – have to spare a thought for Rhodes, who’s been reduced to a bit-part player through Pukki’s amazing run.
There cannot be many teams throughout the world of football who can boast three separate midfield duo’s who can be called upon any match to come up with the goods, it is really our safest zone of play.
Defence is quite strong too, although they can be caught off-guard occasionally, as can Krul the Conquerer.
Farke and his backroom team have got the whole engine running really sweetly, lets hope the lads can go up as the champions they deserve to be thanks to a great season of potent consistency!
Alex B says
This has been a good read.
We make our own luck so they say by hard work so city are proving that right.
Late this afternoon I was listening to Status Quo and a favourite track came on as the footy results came in and it was very apt it was called Down Down when I heard the Ipshite new a club that really has no luck