Back in the mid-80s the kind of statistics and football coverage available to us today were nothing but a dream. I would fill my teenage hours (well, some of them) recording West Ham’s results and trying to predict the outcomes of future matches.
In those days, for example, I was still of the somewhat simplistic view that if we had won away at Everton, then we were nailed-on to beat them at home. Similarly, If we beat Everton, and Everton beat Tottenham, we must therefore beat Tottenham. I kept a record of every result and compared it against the result against the same team the previous year.
Allowing for swapping promoted teams for relegated ones, I could chart our progress, or lack of, and produce a realistic points target for the end of the season. I thought I was the only person who did this, but it seems not. When I started guesting on the West Ham podcast “Stop! Hammertimeâ€ I met Benji Lanyado.
Benji has an Uncle Jeff who does exactly the same thing. This technique is therefore officially known as the Uncle Jeff Formula (UJF). I have added some bells and whistles to the formula since then, to include points won from behind and points dropped from in front to calculate a resilience factor.
For example, last season we had a UJF score of -9. This was always likely due to the fantastic league campaign the year before. The UJF says we were two points worse off at home and seven points worse off away. Losing at Brighton on the last day not only cost us a place in the Europa League, it put a big dent in our resilience factor too — we ended up losing a total of 16 points from winning positions while winning just 13.
Ten of those 13 points came away from home which suggested we were more resilient on the road than at the London Stadium. Those 13 points came at Newcastle where we twice came from behind to win 4-2, Leeds (2-1), Watford (4-1) and Leicester, where the 2-2 draw meant that we lost two points from a winning position, but also gained one from a losing position.
So far this campaign, the UJF is making somewhat depressing reading. We currently sit at -11 which means a projected points total of just 43. Also bear in mind that we have yet to play Liverpool and Chelsea at home, games we may not be expected to win this year and the promoted teams (Forest taking the place of Norwich, Fulham replace Burnley and Bournemouth switch with Watford) all look like trickier propositions — Forest have already contributed to our minus total.
In fact, so far this season we have failed to beat any team that we lost to last year, the only positive being the win over Fulham (Burnley was 1-1 last year). Resilience is also not looking so good with six points gained from losing positions (Fulham and Tottenham at home and Southampton and Leeds away) but 11 lost from winning positions (Palace at home, Chelsea, Arsenal and Leeds away).
The good news is we have 12 opportunities out of the remaining 20 games to improve on the UJF for this season, ergo 8 opportunities to trip up. Depending on how things go, the UJF is either an amazing tool for tracking progress, or maybe it’s just a load of old twaddle.
After all, opposition teams strengthen in the summer as well as we have, it may be a crude marker of progress but a marker it is nonetheless.
The John Lyall Years
I decided that modern football is rubbish. I also decided that I wouldn’t write another book. So I had to come up with a new West Ham related project.
I stumbled on a series on YouTube called “Leeds United: The Wilderness Yearsâ€ and loved the way that it imitated the BBC series “Match of the 70sâ€ by combining football footage with news stories, music and other popular culture of the era. I was also very aware that whilst there were videos claiming to be about West Ham’s history, there was nothing comprehensive, covering every game, every player etc.
Combine that with the thought that our greatest manager (In my opinion) is seriously under-represented I set about charting West Ham’s progress though “The John Lyall Yearsâ€. I have done between four and six episodes per season starting in August 1974 when John Lyall took over from Ron Greenwood, each episode a digestible 15-20 minutes in length.
Feedback has been great so far so please check these out by searching “The John Lyall Yearsâ€ on YouTube, and let me know what you think.