Former West Brom defender Paul Robinson: Empty stadiums will mix things up
Former Albion defender Paul Robinson believes empty stadiums would shake up the play-off picture should the Championship season resume, writes Bradley Rice.
The new ‘normal’ would result in games being held behind closed doors and Robinson warns a lack of home advantage could derail certain teams’ play-off hopes.
Sides have won 13 per cent more games at home than away this season, with home support vital, and Robinson feels play-off candidates will suffer from an absent fanbase.
“I think there is more pressure because the fans aren’t there driving you on,” he said. “It’s down to the players to generate their own tempo.
“There is no 12th man spurring you on, willing you to win. Teams will have to generate their own atmosphere.
“Crowds play a big part, especially in the final moments of the game – give you that final boost, that extra push towards the 90th minute.
“It will now be up to a group of players to dig deep and find that little bit more, without the fans.”
Robinson is aware supporters often provide that extra 10 per cent needed to help push a team over the line and a closer look at this season’s stats illustrates his point.
As it stands, Preston North End occupy sixth – but they are only five points above Derby in 12th, meaning half a dozen teams are still in with a fighting chance of the play-offs.
The two teams who top and tail the fight for the coveted final play-off position, Preston and Derby, have relied heavily on their home form this season.
Preston have won 58 per cent of their games at home, but on the road that percentage is more than halved with the Lilywhites only winning 28 per cent of their matches.
It is a similar story for Derby, who boast a home win percentage of more than half, picking up 37 of their 51 points at Pride Park but have only won 3 out of 18 on their travels.
In a further blow to Preston, Alex Neil’s men were due to host three of their closest rivals – Cardiff, Derby and Nottingham Forest – in three of their remaining four games at home.
Those games, which would usually be thriving with intensity, may now feel like pre-season friendlies and Robinson believes the matches will suffer as a result.
“I think the quality of the games will suffer, the standard will go downhill,” he said. “With no atmosphere, no fans, games will feel like testimonials.
“The issue you are going to have is players being able to find the right approach. Having no fans in the stadium will be a mental block for them.
“But they are professionals, they are paid to do a job and if the season does start again, there are still points at stake.
“I think there will be unexpected results, some teams will underperform and others will take advantage, may even sneak into the play-offs.”
Such teams could be the likes of Bristol City, who sit just one place and one point behind Preston, but perhaps more importantly are undeterred by playing away from home.
In fact, the Robins have a marginally better record when tasked with going on the road, and could well capitalise on Preston’s away-day blues.
As for the other play-off challengers, both Cardiff and Millwall fare better at home.
The two sides share identical records, winning 42 per cent of their home games but only 26 per cent away.
However, Robinson thinks the stats belie the truth and is still backing Millwall to be one of the teams to come out fighting if the season gets under way again.
“When you look at a team like Millwall, yes they have strong home support, but they also have a team that drive themselves,” said Robinson.
“There is a real togetherness in the group and leaders in the dressing room. Those sort of players are going to be massive for those teams in and around the play-offs.
“That’s why I am backing them, they have a fantastic manager in Gary Rowett and are mentally very strong. They are my dark horses to make a late bid.”