Mid-table is the name given to the part of a division where nothing happens to clubs for finishing there. For many teams, this means that unless they can string together a decent cup run, all excitement can be gone from their season by February.
The recent phenomenon of sides playing weakened teams in the FA Cup and hiring no-nonsense dullard Sam Allardyce as manager suggests that some chairmen dream of never ending mid-table mediocrity for their side.
Escaping Mid-table Mediocrity
Mid-table teams that go on a good run in the Premier League are inevitably described as "challenging for a European place." Mediocre teams that do especially well in the first five games of the season are inevitably described as looking to "break into the Big Four." This is despite pundits knowing full well that:
- The Premier League season is 38 games long (not 5) and that form is by definition temporary.
- Nobody ever breaks into the Big Four
The notable exception to the second rule occurred when Everton finished fourth in 2005 instead of Liverpool. Predictably they were thrashed mercilessly by Villareal in the qualifying rounds and ended up where they belong playing the likes of Panathanikos and Spartak Moscow in the UEFA Cup. Liverpool were still allowed to enter the competition anyway, due to careful invocation of the Spirit of Istanbul.
After that scare, it was unanimously agreed by the FA, the BBC and Sky Sports that Arsenal, Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea would always finish in the top four. When it looked like Tottenham might steal Arsenal's place in 2006, it was Jeff Stelling who personally poisoned the food supply at White Hart Lane. Trevor Brooking has since taken the more extreme measure of kidnapping Mark Hughes' entire family as leverage incase the new owners at City get any ideas above their station.
Mid-table teams that go on a bad run of games are inevitably described as being "in danger of being drawn into a relegation dogfight." This conjures up images of a mini-league of strugglers, pitted against one another repeatedly in tedious, cagey matches with the losers being mercifully put down after each contest. In reality the season continues as normal for these teams, except in Scotland where the league actually does divide to make these teams play each other more often. Admittedly, the losers aren't actually killed, but compared to the alternative miserable existence of playing second-tier Scottish football every week, it's hard to tell which would be more humane.