The SkyBet Football League Championship kicks-off on Saturday, with 24 sides looking to ride the gravy train to the promised land of the Premier League or just simply survive another season.
Here, I will take a quick look at some of the betting available in the promotion and relegation markets.
Queens Park Rangers are inevitably the bookies favourite to win the Championship and regain their Premier League status at the first attempt. Harry Redknapp is on a personal mission to repair his reputation, after the appalling performance of the side in 2012/13.
Having cleared the dead and rather expensive wood, ‘Arry has brought in players he feels will add the much needed fight, to return to the big stage. With the likes of Richard Dunn and Karl Henry brought in 6/1 with many firms, including SkyBet and Ladbrokes looks fair value, especially if Remy stays.
Second favourites are Bolton Wanderers currently available at 9/1 with Sporting Bet. Despite the loss of Nolan, Alonso and Ricketts, Dougie Freedman has managed to grab a few players in the window, including experienced defender Alex Baptiste and misfiring striker Jermaine Beckford. The nucleus of the side that missed out on the play-offs by goal-difference is pretty much intact, and will be stronger for the experience of last season. If Beckford can find the form of a few years ago, Bolton will be among the challengers for the title.
Also available at 9/1 William Hill are Reading with Nigel Adkins able to start his first full season at the helm. Adkins has had a massive clear-out to get the wage bill down, but has brought in quality. Wayne Bridge and Royston Drenthe have come in on the left side and American, Daniel Williams has joined from German side Hoffenheim. Having removed so many players, you have to wonder if the depth is there, when injuries hit. If the squad stay fit they will no doubt be a force this season.
Nottingham Forest are 11/1 for the title with SkyBet. Forest have been building slowly over the last year or so having finished just outside the play-offs last year, thanks to a miraculous run of form. They have bolstered the squad with Lichaj and Jara of Villa and West Brom respectively, plus Abdoun from Olympiakos and Jamie Mackie from QPR and have the look of a very well prepared side.
Jeff and the boys are back!
Despite teams title aspirations the ultimate goal is promotion, whether via automatic places or the play-offs. Outside the above four sides who come in at 7/2 or shorter to go up, other sides worth a mention include:
Watford are 4/1 with Boylesports. Gianfranco Zola’s side came so close last season and will be looking to take the step they need to go all the way. The deal with Udinese and Granada has meant some eight payers have been signed back on loan or permanently in the Summer, which means the return of the likes of Abdi and Cassetti. However with no Vydra or Chalobah likely to return, a large void will need to be filled to ignite promotion hopes again.
Wigan Athletic are 4/1 with Betfred for promotion and although they’ve been losing some of their best players I’m surprised the odds are that short despite the replacements. They could have a squeak, if they keep hold of McArthur and McManaman, especially with Grant Holt, Marc Fortune and James Perch in the side too. The one concern for Wigan is they will be the big scalp, and dealing with that may take a while.
Leicester City have had a lot of money pumped into the club over the last five years, yet they always seem to fall short of the finishing line. A strong squad and a good footballing side that has severely underachieved. On top of that, this summer has so far been very quiet with three players moving in or out of the team. Unless they bring a top player or two in, I fear they will miss out, but despite this, the 9/2 with Bet Victor can’t be taken lightly, especially if they wake up in the transfer window.
With some sides expecting to be playing at Old Trafford next season, there are those who will be happy to attend St.Andrews or Elland Road, here we look at those who bookmakers feel will drop down to League One next season.
Favourites are unsurprisingly Yeovil Town at 11/10 with Ladbrokes for the drop. Yeovil have done superbly since promotion to the League nine years ago, Last season’s play-off victory was the stuff of dreams as they reached the top half of the league for the first time. This year is going to be gruelling for their small squad but it has been supplemented with youth from the Premier League.
Without the funds attracting players to the south west is going to be more difficult as the wage bill increases. Expect a desperate fight to the end but don’t count them out of somehow surviving, they could well continue the miracle.
Next up is Barnsley at 5/2 with Paddy Power to be relegated. Barnsley survived on the last day with a draw against Huddersfield Town. Another side who really could do with a budget boost, but until then it’s all about free transfers, although they have brought in Nyantanga and Mvoto, whilst impressively bringing youngster Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich for £300k. I cannot see them repeating their feat and I’d back these as a banker for relegation.
Doncaster Rovers are also 5/2 with Bet Victor top return to League One. Donny sealed promotion with that amazing goal coming from the opponents penalty miss. They’ve brought in a couple of players including former United youngster McCullough, but this may well not be enough. The attacking talents are there for all to see but defensively they will struggle especially with two young keepers between the sticks. They may have a promising start on the back of the promotion euphoria but they will be in freefall by November.
Surprisingly the next candidate for the dreaded drop is Blackpool, 4/1 with Come On. Paul Ince has a tough job on his hands with little money. He has brought in Steve Davis for £580k and Michael Chopra on a free but with little money left over for other players, eggs and one basket come to mind. The sale of Thomas Ince fell through and you have to feel any money raised from that would have given more of a chance to bring players in as they battle to survive, but as it stands Ince junior is going to have to work some magic to help his Dad’s club stay up.