Teams remaining winless or undefeated
11 September ~ It was the last result to be read out on Sports Report. Saturday August 31, 2013 – Scottish League Two, Queen's Park v Stirling Albion. I knew it was 0-0 at half time, but what was the final score? I cheered when I heard it: "Queen's Park 0 Stirling Albion 2." An away win for my local team and yet another defeat for the Spiders. I have nothing against Queen's Park. They have a proud history, deserve respect for being the only amateur side in the senior game and they play in a nice big stadium.
It's just that their current record – played four, lost four – makes them the last League side in England and Scotland to have lost every match this season. There is something compelling about that.
One of the great things about the start of a new season is the thought that anything is possible. Every team – unless they're in administration and have been hit with a points deduction – starts out with a blank canvas, a row of zeroes in the alphabetically ordered pre-season league table. From there, anything can happen.
It's not just the idea that "this could be our year" – it's the ridiculous dream of winning every match, the faint hope of going through the entire campaign unbeaten, the prospect of scoring the most goals or conceding the fewest. It can even be the delicious possibility that one's hated rivals fail to win a single game and are quickly relegated with the lowest points total ever.
As they start to dwindle, I find that the zeroes in the columns of league tables become ever more fascinating. As I write this there are 12 teams still unbeaten in England's top four divisions and a further five in Scotland. Liverpool are yet to concede a goal, and while I don't have any strong feelings for Brendan Rodgers' team one way or the other, I'll be looking to see how long that zero in the "A" column lasts.
Meanwhile, their neighbours are also proving to be of particular interest this season: they're unbeaten but haven't won a match, either. The question is, which record is more interesting for the neutral? In this case, I'd prefer the unbeaten run to continue, as Roberto Martínez probably deserves a bit of good fortune in his first season at Goodison. But then, isn't there something inexplicably enjoyable about a big club struggling through a long run of games without a win?
There is a sort of ethical consideration to all this. As much as I'm intrigued by the statistical quirks of teams that go several weeks into the season without winning, there is the inevitable consequence that some poor sods are going to get the sack. Right now, 12 clubs in England and seven in Scotland have yet to pick up a league win.
Perusing the tables, there are some teams I can muster a bit of sympathy for, while there are others I'm quietly pleased about, simply because it keeps the whole soap opera running along nicely. These little storylines – Sunderland and Bolton still haven't won? – spark even more interest as I find myself looking for results of teams I don't usually pay that much attention to.
In most cases, the attraction fades as soon as the unbeaten record goes, or that long-awaited first win is finally recorded. I want to see if Hamilton Academical and Leyton Orient can keep winning, but I'll lose interest in them as soon as their 100 per cent records bite the dust. I listened out for Hartlepool's results only until they got that elusive first goal. I'm fickle like that.
But then again, I am still in awe of Arsenal's "Invincibles". Likewise Juventus, who remained unbeaten in Serie A throughout 2011-12. I even have a soft spot for Derby County thanks to their hapless efforts in 2007-08 (although they at least got rid of the zero in the win column with their solitary victory that season – comparatively early, in mid-September).
Of course, most of the zeroes will vanish soon. But every season there's a possibility – however remote – that a team will do something odd, yet unaccountably pleasurable, like go through the season without drawing a match, or something truly memorable, such as finishing with a record points total – high or low, I don't mind. Ronan Strand