Grays Athletic 2 Yellows 0

One website is claiming that, following Saturday’s defeat to Grays, Darren Patterson’s job is hanging by a thread. Again.

Yes, the defeat is frustrating – it shouldn’t be happening given that we’ve dominated promotion contenders like Burton and Cambridge. But should we be questioning Patterson’s position?

Most will agree that success and stability go hand in hand. But equally, how do you know when you’re simply backing the wrong guy? Intuitively a manager probably needs 2 years minimum, simply to let the contracts set by previous managers run out. Patterson, for example, is still burdened with the likes of Hutchinson, Day and even Willmott. None of which are justifying their wages in performances at the moment.

He should definitely be judged, not on a handful of games, but whole seasons. But you can’t always wait until May to make changes. Also, short term trends are misleading – should Phil Brown at Hull feel under pressure because he’s taken 1 point in the last 4, even though three of the games were against some of the richest teams in the world?

Which got me thinking, the last game of the season is simply the end of a 46 game sequence. It isn’t difficult to calculate the moving annual total of points scored, so, not just Saturday’s game, but the 45 games that preceded it. If you do that over a long period of time (say five years), then you can see whether you’re progressing or not because you lose all the seasonality, short term injury crises, tricky sequences of fixtures etc.

In the last 5 years we’ve peaked as high as 79 points in a 46 game sequence, and dropped as low as 44, we’re currently running at 68. When Patterson took over, we were on 65. Not a remarkable improvement, but we’ve only peaked above 68 points for one sustained period – our first year in the Conference. The rest of the time, we’ve been in the doldrums. In fact, apart from that season, we’ve only bettered 68 points twice – one game, five years ago and in the early days of Patterson’s reign. In short Patterson is amongst our most successful managers over the last five years. Not difficult, you might argue, but true.

So, it’s not difficult to see why people are putting Patterson under pressure, but he’s working off a low base. He is digging us out of a hole (several deep holes, in fact), so to lose faith now would appear a bit premature.

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Oxblogger is a blog about Oxford United.

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