99 and out: Wits PSL journey in stats

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How young is Wits Football Club?

Not young at all, we’re talking about the oldest football club in the country. They were formed in 1921 by the university’s SRC. They competed in many leagues and tournaments before they gained promotion to the National Football League in 1975 (the top-flight at the time).

Wits University was part of the inaugural PSL competition in 1996, and changed name to Bidvest Wits after promotion and a sponsorship agreement in 2006.

99 – Wits Football Club is 99 years old, the oldest surviving top-flight club in South Africa. AmaZulu (1932), Pirates (1937) and Bloem Celtic (1969) make up the Top 4. Veterans.

Did they win any trophies?

Yes, ten to be exact (if you include the 2006 first division championship). The ten trophies include one league title (2016/17), two FA Cups (currently Nedbank Cup – 1978 & 2010), three League Cups (currently Telkom KnockOut – 1985, 1995 and 2017) and three Top8 Cups (currently MTN8 – 1984, 1995 and 2016).

4 – In the PSL era, Wits won all four domestic trophies and were one of only five sides to lift all available trophies at least once. Collection.

Tell me something I don’t know.

We’ll try. Wits were the first PSL side to beat all three of Pirates, Chiefs and Sundowns in the same season (1996/97). Ok, so what?

Only ten sides have done that. Hmm ok, what else?

Exactly twenty years later, Wits beat all three of Pirates, Chiefs and Sundowns in their title winning season (2016/17), becoming the last PSL side to achieve the feat.

5 – In between the 20 years, Wits managed to beat all three of Chiefs, Pirates and Sundowns in the same season on five separate occasions, more than any other PSL side.

The first dance.

While we don’t have data for who scored Wits first ever goal in 1921 (one day we will), we can account for their scorers in the PSL era. In a starting XI featuring legends like Lovers Mohlala, Neil Winstanley and Bradley Carnell, it was Lucky Tlou who scored their first PSL-era goal against Orlando Pirates on 17 August 1996. Phathutshedzo Nange scored their last top-flight goal on 5 September 2020.

816 – Wits managed to score 816 goals in the PSL era, and are one of just five teams to score more than 800 goals in the league since 1996. The other four are Sundowns (1104), Pirates (1027), Chiefs (1022) and SuperSport (977).

An (almost) ever-present best side.

While the above four have been ever-present sides, Wits have also been a constant presence in the PSL top-flight. Indeed, aside from those four sides that have played 744 top division games, Wits come in 5th having played 714. They missed out on top-flight football for one season after their relegation in 2004/5.

1 – Wits finished in Position 16 in the 2004/5 league season, having finished 4th the season before, the biggest fall in position to automatic relegation for any PSL side. Humpty-Dumpty.

While that relegation was their lowest point, Wits’ highest achievement in the PSL has to be winning the 2016/17 title. Between 1996/97 and 2019/20 when their top flight status was bought, Wits would go up and down in league positions.

Their average league position of 7,5 is the fifth best for sides that have played at least five seasons in top-flight football, further cementing the claim that they were the best performing side outside the ever-present four clubs. No wonder their sale has left even many neutral fans feeling aggrieved. We’re losing a major player here.

5th most games played – Check. (714)

5th most goals scored – Check. (816)

5th most points won – Check. (1039)

5th best points per game ratio (minimum 5 seasons played) – Check. (1.46)

1.14 – Wits averaged 1.14 goals per game in the PSL era, placing them 18th on the goals per game table. Santos, Ajax, Black Leopards & Bush Bucks and newly re-promoted Moroka Swallows are some of the clubs that enjoyed a better gpg ratio than Wits.

So, they were never famous for their goalscoring. Their highest season total was 47 (when they won the title and in 2010/11), so they never breached the 50-goal mark in the PSL era. Then again only 11 squads have scored 50-goals in a single season in the 30-game era.

The perfect last dance.

They may still come up to the top-flight in the future, but for now Wits’ last game was the 3-1 win over Polokwane City on 5 September, which meant that Gavin Hunt won 105 of the 210 league games he has overseen for The Students, ending his career at the club with a perfect 50% win rate in league games.

On the other hand, the number of goals they conceded brought up something noteworthy. Had they kept a clean sheet in the last game (they won 3-1), Wits would have been one of only four clubs to have conceded on average less than a goal a game. Instead, they end up with this:

1 – Wits conceded 714 goals in 714 games in the PSL era, and are the only side to average exactly one goal conceded per game.

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Wits worst result in their PSL time were 4-0 defeats which happened on four different occasions. Twice against Bush Bucks in the same year (2000), once against Pirates in 2018, and once against Jomo Cosmos in 2006/7. Yes, that Jomo Cosmos.

The bad: Wits lost 4-0 on four different occasions in the PSL era.

The good: Wits won 5-0 on five different occasions in the PSL era.

The ugly: (for Vasco da Gama FC).

6 – Wits’ 6-0 win over Vasco da Gama in a league match in February 2011 was their biggest winning margin against any side in the PSL.

This defeat happened exactly 514 years after the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama arrived in South Africa. Ok, let’s stop here before we go off topic.

RELATED STORY: Bidvest Wits: The ‘white team’ that broke ranks

By Opta Jabu

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