The new football season as a whole, kicks off with Sheffield United against Notts County on Friday night and here’s my look at the markets, movers and shakers for promotion and relegation in League One…
Favourites for the title are Wolverhampton Wanderers, 7/2 across the board. Kenny Jackett took over from Dean Saunders and has the unenviable task of fulfilling high expectation. Six players have moved on, including Steve Mouyokolo and Karl Henry, while Sam Ricketts is currently the only player brought in.
With a squad that contains players that featured in the Premier League for them, they should show some bouncebackability. The likes of Wayne Hennessy, Roger Johnson, Elokobi, Sako and Kevin Doyle, should prove the difference and I’d be very surprised if Wolves don’t break the 100 point barrier this year. Nailed on in my opinion.
Brentford, last year’s play-off losers are 9/1 for the title. The perennial challengers have lost their goalkeeper Simon Moore to Cardiff City and Harry Forrester to Doncaster Rovers, but have been busy in the transfer market bringing in some extra firepower and amazingly, Javi Venta, the former Villareal star. They could finally grab promotion this year, but I can’t see them overhauling Wolves for the title.
Peterborough United are also 9/1 with Coral for the title. After some impressive feats in the Championship, the Posh finally succumbed to their smaller budget and fell out of the division. After selling Dwight Gayle to Crystal Palace and George Boyd to Hull City, there’s a question over where goals will come from, I think at best they will reach the play-offs.
With the rest 11/1 bar, It’s hard to look at anyone else other than Wolves for the title.
Ignoring the three above who are 3/1 or shorter, there are four others with a valid enough chance at promotion according to bookies.
First up is Bristol City at 7/2 with Coral for promotion. City were relegated last season, finishing ten points adrift at the bottom. This season they’ve been busy in the market shipping seven out and replacing them with another seven. Having managed to bring in the likes of Jay Emanuel-Thomas, Scott Wagstaff and ‘keeper Frank Fielding, they will certainly be there or thereabouts. It’s difficult to say whether last season’s poor showing will have a lasting effect on the rest of the side, that in itself could be a major stumbling block.
Sheffield United are also 7/2 but this time with Totesport. The Blades have been languishing in League One for too long and unfortunately, I feel that it’s likely to continue. With Dave Kitson and Richard Cresswell moving on, it’s new striker Fabian Brandy who will have to provide the goals. A decent squad needs to be supplemented with a bit more quality to challenge for promotion but if they can bring in a couple of good loan signings, they will have a great opportunity.
Milton Keynes Dons are 4/1 for promotion with Bet365. The MK Dons have consolidated their position as a strong League One side but who unfortunately tend to tail off when the crunch comes. So far it’s been pretty quiet on the transfer front with youngster Jason Banton signed from Crystal Palace being the highlight. Unless a few signings come in I cannot see the Dons reaching a play-off spot, let alone winning promotion.
Preston North End are 9/2 with Totesport to get back into the SkyBet Championship after several seasons away. Having finished 14th last year, they have been dabbling in the transfer market and have picked up Chris Humphrey from Motherwell, goalkeeper Declan Rudd from Norwich City and legendary striker, Kevin Davies from Bolton Wanderers. The Davies influence could prove a big factor and help PNE reach their potential this season. If they can reach the play-offs, then they’ll have a big say in things.
The favourites to go down to League 2 are Shrewsbury Town, currently 15/8 with SkyBet. The Shrews did well to survive last season finishing an impressive 16th overall. They’ve brought in four defenders, including former Millwall player, Mkandawire and Tavernier, on loan from Newcastle United. With the defensive reinforcements they’ll have a chance, but they will have to rely on youth to bring them through to safety and as money is scarce, it could be a task too far.
Second favourites to go down are Colchester United, 2/1 with BetVictor. The former Championship side have been on a steady decline since the heady days of a forty plus Teddy Sheringham wearing the Essex sides shirt. Nowadays, the side have to be content with surviving last season by just three points. With next to no money it’s a battle to sign players of quality.
They have brought in two Arsenal youngsters in Sanchez Watt and Craig Eastmond, and two Chelsea youngsters in Sam Walker and Daniel Pappoe, but to rely on these players to survive is a tall order, especially when the going gets tough. I feel they will be found wanting and look good for the drop, and at 2/1 I may bite a hand off.
Oldham Athletic are 9/4 for the trap door with PaddyPower. Last season The Latics finished a place above Colchester Utd on the same points, and this season they will be hard pushed to do better. With the better players of last season moving on they have had to pick from the free transfer market.
Charlie MacDonald from Leyton Orient is the star attraction to have come in to the squad, while Sidney Schmeltz epitomises their plight, with the Dutch attacker scoring just nine goals in ninety appearances! With the loss of Jean M’Voto to Barnsley I see a leaky defence and not much going forward.
Stevenage Borough are next at 9/4 with Bet365. Boro’ finished six points above the drop zone last season, after an initially promising start. Unfortunately the small club syndrome hit hard, as the squad was stretched and injuries took their toll. This season not much will change, survival will be paramount and then anything else is a bonus. They’ve signed midfielder Jimmy Smith after five years at Leyton Orient, and also Oumane Tounkara from Bristol Rovers. The big Frenchman will add some much needed strength up front, and may well thrive on getting more games. The spirit of this side has never been in question, but the loss of Agyemang and Grant will weaken them. I fear they will struggle this year.
Finally Carlisle United, 12/5 with Ladbrokes, are the last of the favourites for the dreaded drop. Carlisle’s biggest problem last season was their defence, which was the worst in the division. That without doubt is priority number one, this time around. They have brought in United youngster Reece James, a defender who has no first team football under his belt, and two attackers, while goalkeeper Adam Collin has left. So they will rely on veteran ‘keeper Tony Caig at 39 to stop the rot. It’s looking like a recipe for disaster. I’m liking The Cumbrians for League Two next season.