Can The Blades Cut It This Season? - Betting Preview
The new League 1 season starts this weekend with a host of teams in contention for the honours come May. Here we preview the runners and riders in what promises to be another fascinating 9 months.
A Premier League side just two short seasons ago, Wolves are understandably the favourites to take the League 1 title. Third tier football was last seen at Molineux 24 years ago but manager Kenny Jacket has all the experience needed to steer the Midlands club back to the Championship. We are offering 7/2 for them to just that and return at the first attempt.
Brentford are next in the betting at 15/2. Cruelly denied an automatic playoff place after missing a last minute penalty, just for promotion rivals Doncaster to go up the other end and score - they will be hoping to secure promotion a little earlier this season. The addition of Will Grigg and ex-Swindon skipper Alan McCormack will boost their personnel and give the B's the impitus for a renewed promotion push.
Peterborough, one of last year's relegated sides from the Championship, should start the new season confident of returning at the first attempt. Duncan Ferguson has told his team that they will need to be more "streetwise" this season if they are to cope with the more physical style of play in the lower echelons of the Football League. Peterborough are priced at 9/1.
Another 9/1 shot are Sheffield United. The Blades have not had the best of times since losing out to their cross city neighbours for automatic promotion the season before last, then missing out on another trip to Wembley following last season's play-off semi-final defeat to Yeovil Town. This will be David Weir's first full season as manager and it would take a brave soul to bet against them securing a top 6 finish again this season.
Next in the betting come Bristol City. Sean O'Driscoll's charges were another team relegated last season and another that will be expecting a return at the first attempt. They have made a number of key signings in the close season, most notably that of Doncaster striker Jay Emmanuel-Thomas. The 10/1 offered on the Robins may look like decent value if the young side click. City could be the ones to watch this season and are good each way value at ¼ odds for the first 3 places.
The MK Dons finished last season in 8th spot, with arguably the highlight of their season being the cup win over AFC Wimbledon. 14/1 is offered on them winning the title this season but with some of their biggest names rumoured to depart, it might be best to look elsewhere.
Simon Grayson seems to have got Preston firing since his appointment and has a cracking record in terms of getting teams out of the third tier, gaining promotion with three of his previous sides. The summer signing of the evergreen Kevin Davies should give The Lilywhites the impetus to challenge at the right end of the table. We offer 14/1 on PNE winning League 1.
Notts County kick the season off against Sheffield United at Bramall Lane and this first game could define their season. Alan Judge, Jeff Hughes and Neal Bishop have all departed for pastures new in the close season and we go 20/1 for them to end up with the winner trophy come May.
Wembley was almost a second home for Bradford City last season, appearing in the League Cup final as well as securing the League 2 play-off title to top off a spectacular season. If they can put in the same performances that beat the likes of Aston Villa during said cup run, the 25/1 on offer looks very exciting indeed!
We also go 25/1 on Rotherham United. There's a real feel good factor surrounding the New York Stadium at the moment and after last year's promotion, the Millers will be looking to make it two on the spin. They should be in the mix for the playoffs but the experience of manager Steve Evans could see them aiming for more towards the latter part of the season.
Gillingham are 33/1 to win the title, which could be value considering their title winning exploits in League 2 last season. The title was never in much doubt from April onwards and the signing of Romain Vincelot should stand them in good stead for the following campaign.
33/1 is also on offer for Swindon Town. Finishing 6th in the League in 2012/13 and reaching the play-off final, Swindon will want to go 1 better and secure promotion this time round. Trouble is, only 5 of the play-off final side remain at the club after a summer clear out and caretaker manager Mark Cooper is having to reduce the wage bill. It will take a mammoth effort to recreate the success of last season.
Coventry City, Tranmere Rovers and Leyton Orient are all priced at 40/1 to walk away with the spoils this season. With Coventry currently in administration, they will be starting the season with a transfer embargo in place, so their promotion hopes are looking slim before the season has even kicked off. This should ensure first team football however for the clutch of talented youngsters coming through their academy. Tranmere had a shocker towards the end of last season, failing to score in 9 of their final 11 matches, turning a seemingly guaranteed playoff spot into a mid-table finish.
Leyton Orient could be an outside shout for the league title. After just finishing outside the playoff places last term, they could be right up there with a decent start to the campaign. O's Manager Russell Slade is having to operate on a tight budget but has fostered a winning mentality in the Brisbane Road home dressing room.
Next in the betting are Crawley, Crewe and Oldham all at 50/1. Crawley Town were play-off contenders right up until the final knockings of the season, but limited activity in the transfer market during the summer has done little to improve the squad. Johnson's Paint Trophy winners Crewe had a more successful season than expected last time round and will do well to recreate that success again in 2013/14. Oldham Athletic have been stuck in the third tier for 17 seasons but the relatively small squad will need to stay pretty much injury free if they are to stand much chance of making the step up.
Last year's League 2 runners up Port Vale are offered at 66/1 and could have a sniff should they keep the services of PFA League 2 Player of the Year Tom Pope. With his help they were the highest scoring team in the football League. Stevenage managed the heady heights of second spot last season before a poor second half of the season saw them fall away and are priced at 66/1 to win the League next season.
Carlisle and Walsall are on offer at 80/1 if you fancy a punt. Carlisle manager Gary Abbott will be expecting his defence to improve I they are to even stay in the division after conceding 77 goals last season, which was the most in the division. If Walsall could start this campaign in the same vein in which the finished the last then we may see the 80/1 slashed before long. With out a win in the 3 months leading upto Christmas, they eventually finished 9th.
Our rank outsiders for the title are both Colchester and Shrewsbury. Both are priced at 100/1 and I think rightly so. Colchester are operating on an ever reducing budget and Shrewsbury have let a host of players go during the summer, including captain Matt Richards and striker Marvin Morgan.
As ever we will be offering prices on all the usual markets throughout the season and In-Play, so why bet anywhere else?