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Rupert Wyman 1st Aug 2009 - 11:49

County have the money, Chesterfield have the value

Over the summer all the talk in League 2 has been about Notts County's takeover and more specifically the appointment of Sven Goran Eriksson as director of football.

The takeover and expected spending spree has resulted in the Magpies' odds being slashed from a first show of 33/1 from all the way back in late May to their status as current 4/1 favourites to return to League 1 for the first time since 2004.

Money most certainly does not guarantee success but it definitely helps. County have already recruited very well in adding veteran striker Lee Hughes, goalscoring midfielder Ben Davies, centre midfielder Ricky Ravenhill and defender Graeme Lee among others.

Hughes was a target for both Doncaster and Sheffield Wednesday thus showing his talent. The controversial front man is far too good for League 2 and odds of 7/1 for him to be top goalscorer look good.

If Ian McParland's side click and there is no unrest between Sven and the manager and the board aren't too impatient then there will probably be little stopping County winning the title.

However, there are too many ifs to warrant backing them at the 4/1 for the title. McParland has underachieved at Meadow Lane in my opinion since his appointment in October 2007. Therefore I can see a situation where he gets sacked before Christmas and then County improve in the second half of the season before getting promoted.

As a result I would much sooner be on the 6/4 about them being promoted than the 4/1 to win the title.

It is worth noting that the pre-season favourites have not won the League2 title since Brentford's success in 1998/99 season. Plus in the last six seasons the favourites have only twice failed to get automatic promotion.

Rotherham are the second favourites at 7/1. This is based on the fact that Mark Robins' side would have finished fifth last season had it not been for their 17-point deduction.

The Millers did remarkably well considering the psychological impact the points deduction must have had but I can't see them doing as well or at least justifying the 7/1 price this season.

Last season's top goalscorer Reuben Reid has departed for West Brom and as a consequence I struggle to see where the goals are to come from.

Last season's play-off losing finalists Shrewsbury are rated as third favourites at 10/1 but they are another side that probably won't be as good as last term. Salop have lost arguably their two best players in Grant Holt who has gone to Norwich and the aforementioned Ben Davies who has joined the Notts County revolution.

Next come Bradford at 11/1, for the past two seasons the Bantams have been among the pre-season favourites but I believe it is case of them being over-rated due to where they have come from rather than the talent at Stuart McCall's disposal.

Bournemouth are also 11/1 shots. Eddie Howe galvanised the Cherries in the last campaign to save them from the drop. But as big an achievement as that was I am not convinced that they have the players to lift the title.

My choice for the title, particularly at the 12/1 price, would be Chesterfield. The Spireites have appointed John Sheridan to the Saltergate hot seat. He did a good job at Oldham before something went wrong within the camp after a social night out at the greyhounds.

Crucially Chesterfield have managed to hold on to experienced frontman Jack Lester after advances from Notts County. The ex-Forest and Sheffield United man notched 20 league goals last season, having scored 25 the season before and he has the talent to fire them to League 1. He can also be backed at 10/1 to be top scorer in the league, like he was last term.

His likely strike-partner will be Drew Talbot who has signed from relegated Luton to give Sheridan more options up front. In addition Mark Allott has returned, just eight weeks after moving to Tranmere, and Ian Breckin has signed from Nottingham Forest.

The two losing play-off semi-finalists, Bury and Rochdale, are both at 14/1 in the betting. Of the two I would prefer to be on Rochdale as they seek yet again to end their mammoth stay in the basement division.

Bury will be without star striker Andy Bishop for the first month of the season through injury. Although Alan Knill does have ex-Chester man Ryan Lowe in his squad as a ready-made replacement. The pair are available at 25/1 and 40/1 respectively to win the League 2 golden boot.

Northampton, at 12/1, are the most fancied of the four relegated teams. Stuart Gray on paper has made some half decent signings in John Curtis, Steve Guinan, Billy McKay and Paul Rodgers. The key for the Cobblers will be to keep Adebayo Akinfenwa (18/1 to be top scorer) fit, which is a lot easier said than done.

The other relegated sides unusually feature quite far down the title betting - Crewe (18/1), Cheltenham (28/1) and Hereford (33/1).

Unless Martin Allen can work some magic at Whaddon Road then Cheltenham will certainly struggle to return to the third tier. 'Mad Dog' has made some promising signings in David Hutton and Barry Hayles (25/1 to be top scorer) but he will need more if the Robins are to compete at the top end of the table.

Likewise Hereford will need another miracle similar to that of two seasons ago if they are to be promoted. John Trewick has been promoted to manager as Graham Turner steps upstairs, but I think it looks to be a season of struggle for the Bulls.

Crewe are interesting at 18/1. If they were a tad bigger around the 25/1 mark then I would consider backing them, as a value selection, to be promoted which would work out about 6/1.

Gudjon Thordarson has managerial pedigree and with Crewe's talented youngsters they could surprise a few people, especially after the additions of both Patrick Ada and Mat Mitchel-King from Histon. If Alex are to compete they will need both Clayton Donaldson and Calvin Zola to be on form. The pair are priced at 28/1 and 33/1 respectively to top the scoring charts.

Burton Albion begin their first ever Football League campaign as 33/1 shots. The appointment of Paul Peschisolido as manager is certainly an interesting one. The Canadian has signed some half decent players in Guy Branston, Russ Penn, Robin Shroot and Richard Walker (28/1 to be top scorer), although I expect them to stay up comfortably the best they can hope for is a late push for the play-offs.

My expectations of the Blue Square Premier play-off winners, Torquay (25/1), are the same as they are for the Brewers. The Gulls return to this level after their relegation in 2007. Paul Buckle's side could even do better than Burton if new loan signing Scott Rendell (33/1 to be top goalscorer) finally fires in the Football League.  The Peterborough man has shown he can score goals for fun in non-league but has struggled to do it at League 2 level.

Of the remaining 10 bigger priced teams I think Barnet (40/1) might surprise a few people. The Bees have an inexperienced boss in Ian Hendon, who starts his first full campaign in charge. Hendon has John O'Flynn who should score the goals. The Irishman notched 17 goals in 32 league matches last term and at 25/1 is well worth a bet to be top goalscorer.

Barnet have made a couple of quality additions to their squad with the experienced Micah Hyde coming in as club captain. Hyde should instil a passing game from the centre of the park. Then on the wings the north Londoners will have Albert Jarrett, who has joined on a short-term deal; Yannick Bolasie who is on-loan from Plymouth again; plus the sought-after Albert Adomah.

In the relegation betting it is hard to look past favourites Accrington Stanley at 7/4. Macclesfield with the experienced Keith Alexander in charge should have enough to survive despite being 3/1 second favourites for the drop.

Aldershot at 6/1 and even Hereford at 12/1 will probably struggle and at the prices look good value to drop out of the Football League.

The League 2 season promises to be better than ever and here at William Hill we will have all the action covered with our pre-season markets plus all season long we will have more betting markets than ever on every match.

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