After a pretty poor World Cup punting-wise, the new football season offers a great opportunity for profit. There are plenty of teams that have seemingly been underrated or overrated by the bookies, so hopefully this can be taken advantage of.
I’ve written a mini report on each side, pointing out what may be worthwhile and what may be best avoided.
The Blues really struggled last year and only managed to survive on the last day of the season thanks to an injury time goal form Paul Caddis. They’ve bought in a lot of players this summer, most of who are yet to prove themselves at Championship level. However, this could work well for the club as the new players will be hungry to prove themselves. Although I suspect they’ll finish near the bottom of the table, the 4/1 available for relegation isn’t very appealing.
Blackburn seem to have settled down since the initial circus when The Venky’s took over in 2010 and were only 2 points away from reaching the play-offs last season. Although they haven’t really strengthened their squad, their best bit of business could be tying striker Jordan Rhodes down to a long-term contract. The Scot scored 25 goals in 48 games for Rovers last season and will be key to their success this year. Gary Bowyer is a steady manager and finished the season unbeaten in their last 12 games. The 20/1 for Blackburn to win the league is a very fair price, although the top 6 finish at 11/4 may be the safer bet, whilst 13/5 to finish as top Northwest club (ahead of Wigan, Bolton and Blackpool) could also be worthwhile.
The farce surrounding Blackpool this summer, and their lack of transfer activity, will mean that they start the new season struggling to have a match day squad. Justifiably, The Tangerines are favourites for relegation. However, I don’t see how they can be backed for this at 7/10. Obviously their thin squad is a concern but the club have recently started to sign players and be linked with names such as Andrea Orlandi, so by the end of August there is every chance they will have a fairly competitive squad. Jose Riga did a good job in keeping Charlton up at the end of last season so although I expect them to struggle, they can’t be backed for relegation at such short prices.
The Trotters finished in mid-table last season and that is exactly what I see for them this campaign. Their squad is very bland, lacks any real quality and still have players in their squad on high wages. 10/11 for them to finish in the bottom half is probably a spot-on price but not worth backing.
Eddie Howe guided Bournemouth to 10th in the league last season, an outstanding achievement for the club. They have a competitive squad, despite the sale of Lewis Grabban to Norwich, and an outstanding manager. I’m confident that Bournemouth will be challenging for the play-offs throughout the season but not confident enough that they’ll make them. The 10/3 for them to finish in the top 6 is a reasonable price, although not one that I will be backing.
After their promotion from League 1, Brentford are aiming to hit the ground running and have spent some big money in strengthening their squad. Although they can be commended for this, their squad is lacking in Championship experience, as is their manager Mark Warburton. This may not be an issue but I feel the bookies have rated The Bees too highly and are overpriced at 19/4 to be relegated, whilst 16/1 to finish bottom is a huge price.
Another play-off heartache followed by another manager departing, compounded by the departures of key players Leo Ulloa and Matt Upson, means that this season could prove a real challenge for The Seagulls. It’s always difficult to predict how a new manager will do, especially when, like Sami Hyypia, they’ve never managed in England before. The squad is currently lacking 3 or 4 players, something I’m sure the club will address before the end of August, and are therefore difficult to back in any of the markets.
Although they’re amongst the favourites for promotion, I can’t be backing The Bluebirds at any of the prices they are currently and would rather back them at 6/1 to finish in the bottom half. Their squad is strong on paper but I’m not convinced that Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is the man to get them back up, whilst the ill-feeling towards Chairman Vincent Tan will not help.
It is difficult to gauge how Charlton will do this year with their new manager and most of their new players being newcomers to England. They look too skinny at 13/4 to be relegated but as an unknown quantity certainly can’t be backed to have a successful season.
Possibly unlucky not to be promoted last season, the bookies fancy Derby to go one better this year and clinch promotion. Joint favourites in some places to win the league and short priced to finish in the top 6, my money will not be going on Steve McClaren’s men. I’m always wary of teams who are seemingly successful due to the system they play rather than the quality of their squad and I place Derby into this category. I’m sure Derby will compete for promotion again this year but I don’t agree with the bookies in making them one of the favourites.
Most of the talking points about Fulham this summer have been about the £11 million capture of Ross McCormack, which is without doubt a ridiculous sum of money for a Championship player. However, McCormack is a proven goal scorer at this level, something that can only improve Fulham’s chances of an instant return to the top division. Their squad is probably the strongest in the division with lots of premier league quality and a good blend of exciting youngsters. Felix Magath is a very experienced manager and in my opinion Fulham look best placed out of the three relegated clubs to have a successful season. 11/1 for The Cottagers to win the league seems a reasonable price.
Huddersfield offer no value this season. Not likely to do well, not likely to do badly. The 4/1 available for them to get relegated does not appeal, even if they lose Adam Clayton as looks likely. Town’s attacking options should be enough to see them avoid relegation with Nahki Wells, James Vaughan and Joe Lolley all dangerous.
Never write off a Mick McCarthy team. Although Ipswich don’t have the strongest squad on paper, they have a manager who knows how to get results. The Tractor Boys nearly snuck into the play-offs last season and although not a team I’m looking to back this season, they’ll definitely be one to be wary of and look a tasty price at 7/4 to finish above rivals Norwich.
Another year brings another story at Leeds. New owner Massimo Cellino’s hiring of Dave Hockaday is baffling and the decision to bring in a lot of players from the Italian leagues could either be a masterstroke or a disaster. They might be of small interest to be relegated at 15/4 but although they could struggle to get goals, I think they’ll be ok.
Aitor Karanka has assembled what looks like a decent squad at The Riverside. Striker Kike scored 23 goals in the Spanish second division and could be worth a punt at 25/1 to be top scorer in the division, whilst defender Kenneth Omeruo returns on loan after a decent display at the World Cup. Karanka boasts a solid win percentage of nearly 42% and considering he took over in November, he did very well to take the team to within 8 points of the play-offs. The 13/8 for Middlesbrough to be the top Yorkshire team (finishing above Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday, Huddersfield and Rotherham) looks like a steal.
What The Lions lack in a talented squad they make up for with a talented manager. Ian Holloway knows the division inside out and this will stand Millwall in good stead for the season. I certainly think that 3/1 for relegation is far too short and a mid-table finish is on the cards with the 11/10 to finish above Leeds of slight interest.
I suspect Norwich will lose a few more players before the end of August but should still maintain a competitive squad. The main issue is their manager, Neil Adams, who lacks experience and conviction. They’re too short in any of the promotion markets for my liking and are to be avoided outright.
The Reds have made some decent signings so far this window, boosting an already large squad. Although I don’t rate Stuart Pearce as a manager, as a Forest legend he will get plenty of time to get things right. I won’t be backing them in any outright markets but both Matty Fryatt, a player who knows the division, and Lars Veldwijk, a striker in superb form in Holland, appeal at 40/1 to be top scorer in the division.
Although they were within a minute of reaching the play-offs last season, Reading are currently in an awkward situation as they wait to be taken over. This has meant that The Royals have seen players sold and not replaced, something that makes them a decent bet at 5/4 to finish in the bottom half, whilst the 10/11 for Blackburn and evens for Wolves to finish above them look tempting.
The Millers have made plenty of additions to their squad but still look likely to suffer relegation after back-to-back promotions. 3/1 seems a fair price to go straight back down but they have a canny manager in Steve Evans who will get 100% out of his squad.
Similarly to Reading, Wednesday are in limbo as they wait to be taken over. This has left their already lacking squad as one of the weakest in the division. Goals could be an issue, whilst Stuart Gray has to prove he is cut out for management at this level. The Owls look good value at 9/2 to be relegated.
Watford have signed a good mix of foreign and championship experienced players and will be hoping to return to the play-offs after a disappointing season last year. The main boost for The Hornets is the return of Matej Vydra, their hero in the 2012/2013 season. However, I am unconvinced that manager Giuseppe Sannino is the right man to get the best out of the squad and think that they’re best avoiding in any promotion markets.
The Latics should benefit from no Europa League this year and boast an impressive manager in Uwe Rosler. Nevertheless, Jordi Gomez will be a huge miss and goals could be an issue this season. They’re very likely to be in the promotion mix but not a tempting enough price for me to back.
Wolves will be aiming to match the success of Southampton and Norwich in previous seasons with back-to-back promotions but will probably be happy with consolidation. Although they haven’t done much transfer business as of yet they still have a squad capable of challenging in the top half of the table. Kenny Jackett is a shrewd manager and knows the division so the 10/3 available on a top 6 finish looks reasonable.
Blackburn top 6 finish-11/4
Brentford to be relegated- 19/4
Fulham to win the league-11/1
Middlesbrough top Yorkshire team-13/8
Reading to finish bottom half-5/4, Blackburn to finish above Reading-10/11, Wolves to Finish above Reading-evens
Sheffield Wednesday to be relegated-9/2
Good luck for the seasons betting!