Research from The Bolton News has found that since 1989, teams have had to average 49 points or above to survive the drop into English football’s bottom tier.
The EFL has already confirmed the Whites will be starting on minus 12 points – which based on the same average would leave them needing to collect 61 or above to stay up. That is 1.32 points per game.
There is also the high likelihood that Wanderers will suffer a further points penalty for failing to fulfil their fixtures next season. A three-point punishment would increase the survival target to 64, or 1.39 points per game.
Putting that into context with Wanderers’ previous seasons at this level, they have twice achieved exactly 64 points over 46 games to finish 10th in the table.
In 1983/84, John McGovern’s side dropped off after an encouraging start to languish in mid-table but folk at Burnden Park were at least cheered by strike partnership Tony Caldwell and Jeff Chandler, who shared 33 league goals between them.
Things went in the opposite direction for Phil Neal’s Wanderers in 1988/89, where a 20-game unbeaten run – including the Sherpa Van Trophy final victory against Torquay United – salvaged a poor start to the campaign.
For those optimists who believe Bolton could still gate-crash the play-offs next season, the average number of points needed to book a top-six spot in League One or its equivalent over the last 30 seasons has been 74, or 1.6 points per game.
Factoring in the punishment we already know about for Wanderers, the target would be 86, or a lofty 1.86 points per game.
That has only twice been achieved by the club at this level of football. Phil Parkinson’s side averaged 1.87 points per game finishing runners-up behind Sheffield United in 2016/17.
Bruce Rioch’s famous White Hot team which clinched promotion in 1992/93 managed 90 points, or 1.95 points per game – and that after an inconsistent first few months.
Anyone concerned that next season will be all about mid-table inconsistency, however, should know that the gap between the play-off picture and the bottom four can be wildly unpredictable.
In 1989, Southend United went down on 54 points but Preston North End made sixth with just 72 – leaving 14 clubs covered by the intervening 18 points.
The biggest chasm between top six and bottom four occurred in 2000 when Cardiff racked up 44 points to drop into League Two and Stoke scraped into the play-offs with 82, enough to guarantee automatic promotion in four of the seasons covered by our research.
The average gap between play-offs and relegation is just under 24 points.
And for those wondering whether automatic promotion is still possible, the reality is that it would take a record-breaking campaign.
The average number of points to finish second is a shade under 87, or 1.89 points per game. Factoring in the minimum 12-point penalty for going into administration, Wanderers would need 99, or 2.15 points per game, to get close to that figure.
Wolves managed a whopping 103 when they went up as champions in 2013-14. Kenny Jackett’s side lost just five of their 46 games, setting a new record for the modern League One.
Both Charlton (102) and Sheffield United (100) breaking into a century over the last seven years – and should Wanderers have to give opposing sides a 15-point head start, it is only that kind of form which could theoretically put them into the promotion picture.
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