SPL Supersubs 2011/12

Image courtesy of The Scotsman.


Substitutes were introduced to Scottish football in the 1966/67 season – Archie Gemmell was the first sub to come on in a first class Scottish game when he came on for St Mirren in a League Cup game against Clyde.  Since then, the role of the substitute has become an important one – bringing a fresh pair of legs to the team, or allowing a manager to make tactical adjustments.

SPL clubs can now name 7 subs in a matchday squad, thus giving the managers a variety of options on the bench.  Some managers use their subs more often than others – Hearts have used all 3 subs in every single SPL game so far this season, while Motherwell have only used 58% of their available subs (1.74 per game).

The biggest impact a sub can make is to score a goal after being introduced from the bench.  The table on the right shows which clubs have been most successful in this respect.  We can see that Dundee United’s substitutes have scored more goals than those from any other club, with 8 goals coming from 6 different players.

Dunfermline have seen the largest percentage of their goals scored by substitutes – over a fifth of their goals have been scored by men brought off the bench.  Does this suggest that Jim McIntyre was good at reading the game and deciding who to bring on, or does it mean that he got the team selections wrong in the first place?  His sacking suggests that the board felt it was the latter.

At the other end of the scale, Inverness, St Johnstone and St Mirren have only managed 1 goal each from a substitute this season.  St Johnstone’s record works out as the poorest as a percentage because they have scored more goals than either Inverness or St Mirren.  These three clubs are all in the bottom 4 in terms of total players used in the SPL this season (along with Dundee United, bizarrely), so the low figures could be down to them having a fairly settled team for most of the season.

In terms of individual players, Dunfermline’s Liam Buchanan leads the way with 3 goals from the bench.  There are a further five players who have scored 2 goals as substitutes – James Forrest, Gary Mackay-Steven, Johnny Russell, Rudi Skacel and Suso Santana.  Johnny Russell is the only player who has scored twice in the same match after coming on as a sub – he replaced Willo Flood away to Inverness in December with Dundee United 2-0 down, and netted a double as they came back to win 3-2.

The players who have scored as substitutes for each team are listed below:

Aberdeen – Chalali, Fallon
Celtic – Forrest (2), Hooper, Ki, McGeouch
Dundee Utd – Mackay-Steven (2), Russell (2), Dalla Valle, Daly, Lacny, Swanson
Dunfermline – Buchanan (3), Burns, Cardle, Kirk, R. Thomson.
Hearts – Skacel (2), Suso (2)
Hibs – Griffiths, O’Connor
Inverness – A. Shinnie
Kilmarnock – Dayton, Racchi
Motherwell – Humphrey, McHugh
Rangers – Aluko, Jelavic, Kerkar, Little, Lafferty
St Johnstone – Haber
St Mirren – Hasselbaink

Info courtesy of Statbunker and Soccerbase.

Major Trophy Wins (Domestic)

Not much in the way of explanation needed for these – both graphs show the number of major domestic honours won by each club. The only trophies included are the League Championship, the Scottish Cup and the League Cup. Aberdeen have two European trophies and Rangers and Celtic have one apiece, but those haven’t been included. Dumbarton and Rangers shared the first ever league title, so I have included the title in both teams’ totals.

I’ve included Rangers and Celtic separately from the rest to avoid their wins stretching the scale and making it difficult to read for all the other clubs. The SPL trophy is different from the old SFL trophy, which explains the two stacked red and purple areas on the Old Firm graph.

Only 9 sides have won all three trophies – with Kilmarnock being the latest addition to that elite club.

The trophy images are courtesy of Martin Le Roy (@MLeRoy on Twitter) – there’s no way I could have done anything nearly as good myself. He also designs football strips, and has done some great renderings of stadia on Google Maps which are well worth a look.

PS: Sorry to Ross County, Hamilton Inverness, Queen of the South, Airdrie United, St Johnstone, Alloa, Stranraer and Stenhousemuir for leaving out the Challenge Cup!

SFL Promotion and Relegation – How many points?


In a couple of my earlier blogs, I investigated the points tallies required to stay in the SPL, and to gain promotion from the 1st Division.  This post will be a quick summary of what is needed for promotion/relegation between the SFL divisions, as well as entry into the SFL play-offs.

The promotion analysis will cover the seasons since 2005/06, when the SFL play-offs were introduced, and the number of automatic promotion spot reduced from two to one.  The number of “unsafe” positions at the bottom of the league didn’t change when the play-offs came in, but the dynamic of the relegation battle did – previously if two teams were cut adrift they would have nothing to play for, but now they have the incentive of at least making the play-off place and giving themselves a chance.  For this reason, the relegation analysis will also be limited to the period starting 05/06.

Again, we are faced with the question of which points total to use, and have applied the same methods as in the previous blogs, plotting a solid block between the “suceeding” and “failing” team.  The gallery above shows the graphs for each of the divisions of the SFL, and clicking on it allows you to scroll through them all.

These graphs are discussed below.  Remember that any of the  targets are purely a guide based on previous seasons, and should not be taken too seriously, particularly given the small sample size of 6 seasons.


SFL1 Relegation

Over the period in question, no team has ever finished bottom with 40 or more points.  This would appear to be a reasonable tally to aim for to ensure a place in the play-offs at the very least.  Only once has a team earning less than 30 points avoided automatic relegation (Stranraer in  05/06), so this should be the absolute minimum target for a team in the SFL1.

The highest points tally which has seen a team still have to face a play-0ff was 42, set by Airdrie United in 2008/09.  Exceeding this total would appear to be a good target in avoiding a play-off spot.  A team earning less than 37 points has only avoided the play-offs once (Queen of the South in 05/06),  so again this should perhaps be considered the minimum target to give yourself a chance of avoiding the play-offs.


SFL2 Promotion

The highest points total which has seen a team miss out on top spot was the 74 achieved by Ayr in 2008/09.  This suggests a target of 75 points would be a reasonable target to aim for to secure promotion.  Over this period, no team has been promoted from SFL2 with a points tally under 65.  Stirling Albion were promoted with exactly 65 points in 09/10, and on that occasion the runners-up, Alloa, finished level on points with them.  It would appear that 65 points should be the absolute minimum target to give your team a chance.


SFL2 Play-offs

55 appears to be the magic points total which team should target to give themselves a very good chance of the play-offs.  Only once has a team earning less than 55 points reached the play-offs – Brechin in 09/10.  Conversely, only once has a team who earned 55 points failed to make the play-offs – Peterhead in 07/08.


SFL2 Relegation

The target for avoiding relegation from SFL2 seems to be a lot lower than that in SFL1, perhaps indicating a drop-off in standards towards the middle and bottom of the 3rd tier.  Only once has a team who earned over 30 points finished bottom – Clyde in 09/10.  That season also represented the only time that a team who earned 40 points (Arbroath) finished in the play-off spot.  No team who earned under 30 points has ever avoided bottom spot, and Stenhousemuir last season were the first side to avoid the play-offs with under 40 points.

This season’s table, however, acts as a reminder that points totals previous seasons should only be considered as guides.  Bottom side Albion Rovers sit on 26 points with 7 matches still to play, so it seems very unlikely that the 10th placed side will have under 30 points this season.


SFL3 Promotion

No side with 65 points or fewer has won the title in this period.  That could be considered as a minimum target.  In 2005/06, Berwick Rangers missed out on the title on goal difference despite picking up 76 points.  In every other season, clubs earning over 70 points have been promoted.


SFL3 Play-offs

The lack of relegation at the bottom of the 3rd Division can often lead to the table being quite strung out, particularly in seasons with obvious “whipping boys”.  As a result, the points totals of teams reaching the play-offs are more volatile than those in the 2nd Division.  No team with over 60 points has ever missed out on the play-offs, and no team with under 50 has ever reached them.

How Killie won the League Cup

A dramatic 1-0 victory over Celtic in Sunday’s final secured Kilmarnock’s first ever League Cup trophy.  Their hero was Belgian striker Dieter van Tornhout, who scored his first goal for the club after coming on as a substitute.  The success came at the sixth time of asking – the Rugby Park side had finished as runners-up in the League Cup on 5 occasions, losing out to Dundee (52/53), Rangers (60/61), Hearts (62/63), Celtic (00/01) and Hibs (06/07).  Full-back turned midfielder Garry Hay played in the two most recent of those defeats, and his appearance on Saturday made him the first player to appear in 3 League Cup finals for Killie.

Killie are only the 9th club to have won all three major trophies (League, Scottish Cup and League Cup), joining Aberdeen, Celtic, Dundee, Dundee United, Hearts, Hibs, Motherwell and Rangers.  They are only the second non-city club to achieve this feat, after Motherwell.  Kenny Shiels’ side achieved their success without conceding a single goal, following in the footsteps of Aberdeen (85/86) and Celtic (97/98 & 99/00).

Killie used 25 players in their four matches, and Paul Heffernan and Dean Shiels were the only ones to play the full 390 minutes of the campaign. In addition to that duo, James Fowler, Gary Harkins and Liam Kelly started all 4 matches.  Garry Hay was the only other player to appear in every game – he was a half-time sub in the first two matches, but started the semi-final and final.

Players from 13 different nations made appearances for Killie during the campaign, with Scotland, Northern Ireland, England, Ireland, Italy, France, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Finland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain and Belgium represented at some point.

Sunday’s matchwinner Dieter van Tornhout actually spent less time on the pitch than any other player during the cup run, but he used his 18 minutes to great effect.  In fact, the next lowest player in terms of minutes played, Ben Hutchinson, also managed to score, netting against Queen of the South in Round 3.  That would prove to be his only goal for the club – he left for Mansfield in January.

The image at the top of the post gives a graphical summary of each game on the route to the final.  The white lines indicate the time which a player spent on the pitch, with yellow cards and goals identified with relevant images.  The number of minutes played by each player is shown in the table on the right.

Promotion from the 1st Division – How many points?

With only one promotion place up for grabs, the 1st Division is notoriously competitive.  If a team has aspirations of promotion, what points target should they be aiming for?

It would be possible to get promoted with 36 points if every single game in the season was drawn, but obviously this is not a likely prospect!  The best indicator is to look at what has happened in previous seasons.  This is not a foolproof method  – there is always the chance of a freak season – but it allows us to see what usually happens.  The current situation of a 12 team SPL with a 10 team SFL below it has been in place since 2000/01, so this is the period which will be analysed.

Which points total to use?

Like in the scenario with SPL relegation, we are faced with the question of which points total to use.  Last season, Dunfermline were promoted with 70 points, while 2nd placed Raith Rovers finished with 60 points.  Even if Dunfermline had finished up with 61 points, they would still have been promoted.  Alternatively, Raith could have finished with 69 points and still not have earned promotion.  To get around this problem, each season is plotted with a solid block between the totals for 1st and 2nd, rather than with a single value.

How many points?

The graph shows each season since 2000/01, with the points totals for the 1st and 2nd placed clubs labelled.  Dundee were deducted 25 points for entering administration last season, and without this deduction would have finished 2nd, so their “true” total (69) has been included along with Raith’s 60.

We can see that the lowest total for a promoted side was 65 (St Johnstone in 2008/09) while the highest total for a 2nd placed side was 72 (Clyde in 2002/03).  Curiously, these are the same seasons as the highest SPL relegation total and lowest SPL safety total respectively.  The mean total for the 1st placed side was 72.1 points, while the mean for the 2nd placed side was 63.8 (or 64.6 without Dundee’s deduction).


No team who has earned more than 72 points has ever missed out on promotion to the SPL, which matches up very nicely to the average points tally of 72.1 for the title winners.  It would appear that a team should set themselves a target of 73 points to secure promotion.  Conversely, no team who has earned less than 65 points has ever been promoted, so this should be the absolute minimum target to give yourselves at least some chance of making it to the promised land.

SPL Relegation – How many points?

The English media often make reference to the “40 points” total which should see a team avoid relegation from the English Premier League (though try telling that to West Ham, who went down with 42 points in 2002/03).  But what about up here?  How many points does a team need to stay in the SPL?

Theoretically a team could be relegated with 57 points, but in practice the total will never be anywhere near as high.  The best indicator is to look at what has happened in previous seasons.  This is not a foolproof method  – there is always the chance of a freak season – but it allows us to see what usually happens.  The SPL has been in its current 12 team format with a single relegation place since 2000/01, so this is the period which will be examined.


Which points total to use?

We are instantly faced with the question of which points total to use.  Last season, Hamilton were relegated with 26 points, while 11th placed St Mirren finished with 33 points.  Even if Hamilton had earned 32 points, they would still have been relegated.  Alternatively, St Mirren could have finished with 27 points and still stayed in the league.  To get around this problem, each season is plotted with a solid block between the totals for 11th and 12th, rather than with a single value.


How many points?

The graph shows each season since 2000/01, with the points totals for the 11th and 12th placed clubs labelled.  Gretna were deducted 10 points for entering administration in 2007/08, so their total with and without the deduction has been included.

We can see that the highest total for a relegated side was 37 (Inverness in 2008/09) while the lowest total for an 11th placed side was 32 (Dundee United in 2002/03).  The mean total for the 11th placed side was 35.1 points, while the mean for the 12th placed side was 26.8 (or 27.7 without Gretna’s deduction).



No team who has picked up 38 points has ever been relegated from the SPL, so perhaps this could be considered the magic number for survival.  It is very easy to convince yourself that this seems satisfactory, because it equates to picking up exactly a point per game.Any team who has finished on a total less than 32 points has finished bottom of the SPL.

This would suggest that a team who wants to remain in the league should set themselves a target of 38 points to ensure their safety, but should also have an absolute minimum target of 32 points to at least give themselves a fighting chance.  There would, of course, still be the possibility of “doing a West Ham”, but with only one relegation place instead of three, that situation would be less likely to occur in Scotland.

Europa League 2012/13 – Entry Points



Which Round?

There are three Scottish entrants to the Europa League, and each will enter at a different round.  The order of entry depends on who wins the Scottish Cup, and is best explained by the list of priority below.

  • Scottish Cup Winner (if not already qualified for Champions League)
  • 4th in SPL
  • 5th in SPL
  • Scottish Cup Runner-up (if Champions League qualifiers win Cup)
  • 6th in SPL

The top ranked team from that list will enter at the Play-off Round.
The 2nd ranked team from that list will enter at the 3rd Qualifying Round.
The 3rd ranked team from that list will enter at the 2nd Qualifying Round.



The lowest ranked entrant will play their first European match on 19th July, two and a half weeks before the start of the SPL season.

2nd Qualifying Round – 19th July & 26th July

3rd Qualifying Round – 2nd August & 9th August

Play-off Round – 23rd August & 30th August

Group Stage – 20th September, 4th October, 25th October, 8th November, 22nd November, 6th/13th December


I’ve tried my best to make that as clear as possible, but feel free to leave any questions in the comments if there’s anything you’d still like cleared up