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League Two promotion trend suggests this could be Bradford City's season
Open your eyes, it’s okay to look now.
This is the point of the football season when it’s officially regarded as acceptable to study the league tables.
Ask any player or manager about the form in the first few weeks and the answer will tend to be the same. Something along the lines of “wait until we’ve all played ten games”.
There are one or two exceptions. James Hanson last week told me he cannot resist a glance at the table every time it scrolls up on TV to remind him that finally, at long last, City are at the right end of the division.
But the general rule of thumb is don’t peak in single figures. Unless you’ve won the lot – or lost them – there is little to be gained with fretting on league positions in September.
Now, though, feel free to dive in. The campaign is seven months old and we’ve hit the mystical double digits on the fixture list.
Like the verdict from the first parents evening of term, we can say that City’s class of 2012-13 have settled in fairly well. Attentive and eager to learn with occasional flashes of promise to come – keep up the good work.
The well-worn wisdom of the experts suggests that the table is starting to settle down now. The teams at the top will generally remain there or thereabouts, that other generic football term.
Is this actually true? Well if recent evidence is anything to go by, the answer is mainly yes.
Study the last five seasons in League Two and over half the occupants of the top seven at the start of October are still there at the bitter end.
Of course you get teams who start slowly before picking up. Last year’s champions Swindon were seven points off the summit in mid-table at this stage.
And Crewe came battering through with an amazing run in the second half before sneaking the last promotion ticket at Wembley.
But if you’re a hard-bitten Bantams fan daring to dream that this finally could be the season, the signs are positive overall.
Last season was below the norm – three of the seven this time last year hung on.
Two of those, Crawley and Shrewsbury, finished in the automatic spots to go up. Southend, top in October, were crushed by Crewe’s momentum in the play-offs.
But in each of the previous three seasons, five of the top bracket after ten games stayed the course. On every occasion the final top three were already installed in that group by this stage.
Nobody needs reminding that City have been here before. Four years ago, in the season when Stuart McCall was supposedly destined to lead them out of the mire, they sat third on 19 points.
We hadn’t factored in that nine-game nightmare in the spring when everything unravelled so brutally in the wake of losing Omar Daley.
The following season, City had 16 points after ten games – only one less than the current tally. But that was in the midst of the last decent unbeaten run of McCall’s reign and it was all downhill from there.
Fans should take heart from the comparisons with City’s position at this stage in the last two years. They were second from bottom on eight in 2010; third from bottom with seven 12 months ago.
As a barometer of the improvement in quality in Phil Parkinson’s squad now, that last paragraph says it all.
Nobody is suggesting this will be the year to end six years of dwelling in the basement. But the early ground has been covered.
Recent history suggests that the majority of those who come flying out of the traps tend to last the pace for the whole marathon.