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Michael Taylor 4th Aug 2009 - 13:23

Newcastle Championship charge is unlikely

William Hill is offering Championship fans the opportunity to bet on more markets than ever before this year so, as the BBC and Newcastle United join the Coca-Cola party, you can be sure you'll find your perfect bet throughout the season.

The big questions though, prior to this season starting are, who is most likely to challenge for the title and who will be looking over their shoulders come May?

Outright betting

All eyes are focused on 6/1 shots Newcastle United but nobody is quite sure how the fallen giants will cope on their return to the second tier. They certainly have the big names capable of challenging but with no money, no manager and no transfer activity I have to say I think they have no chance.

For me, a more likely option from the relegated trio is Gareth Southgate's 6/1 shots Middlesbrough - although the Teesiders haven't exactly enjoyed the most stable off-season in their history. Steve Gibson once again stood firm refusing to bow to fans' unrest with Gareth Southgate, while losing Stewart Downing was expected but nevertheless tough to take.

However, a solid backline including Wheater and Pogatetz should be able to dominate while the retention of Tuncay Sanli could prove critical as the talented Turk has the work ethic and class to be a real hit in the Championship.

As for the 5/1 favourites, West Brom, they're not without hope either although the appointment of Roberto Di Matteo does raise a big question mark. The stylish Italian had a decent first year in management at the MK Dons but ultimately failed at crunch time - it wouldn't surprise me if the same happened at the Hawthorns this year.

My pick for the title though has to be Kevin Blackwell's play-off final losing Sheffield United.

The 12/1 Blades will feel the loss of Kyle Naughton but at least they've invested the money gathered from Tottenham wisely, strengthening in departments they lacked in last year - most notably the acquisition of Ched Evans from Manchester City.

Mark Bunn should provide ample cover for the suspended Paddy Kenny and a lot can be expected of Kyle Walker in his last season at Bramall Lane.

Other teams I'll be looking forward to seeing are Roy Keane's Ipswich (10/1) and Brendan Rodgers' Reading (12/1). If the new management structure for each clicks instantly then big things can be expected.

Relegation betting

It was former Premier League teams Southampton, Norwich and Charlton who endured the worst of it last season as they failed to retain Championship status while the minnows of Doncaster, Plymouth and Blackpool lived to fight another day.

It just goes to show that nobody is safe, especially when money is tight at a number of clubs, but who seems to have most to worry about prior to the season starting?

Unfortunately I really fear for League 1 play-off winners Scunthorpe after a summer with little transfer activity of note and an alarmingly uninspiring pre-season fixture list, which included a 2-0 home loss to Brighton.

Nigel Adkins has undoubtedly performed a great job at Glanford Park on a limited budget but when you look through their squad it's hard to see where goals will come from. If reports of a Billy Sharp return are true then their chances could dramatically improve but, at the present time, 6/4 is too good to look away from.

Elsewhere, I feel Peterborough and Leicester should have little trouble making the transition to the higher standard so it may have to be two of the more of the established teams that are made to suffer.

Watford fans have already had a summer of suffering as Brendan Rodgers jumped ship to Reading, something that makes their 7/2 relegation price look very inviting.

The board look to have taken the cheap option with the appointment of Malky Mackay and, if star player Tommy Smith makes an expected exit, the tension towards the board at Vicarage Road may become palpable.

Other teams that must be worrying are Blackpool (7/4) and Plymouth (5/2) while I haven't ruled out the Newcastle slip continuing.

We've seen it before with Leeds, Sheffield Wednesday and Man City - big teams aren't immune to a big dose of reality and at 10/1 Newcastle aren't incapable of falling to the third tier of English football for the first time in their history.

On paper Newcastle may be the strongest team in the Championship but will they pull together and play as a team? It seems unlikely.

Make sure you get involved in the best Championship ante-post betting action around at Williamhill.com. It's not just outright and relegation markets on offer with a range of markets covering all aspects of the beautiful game. So if you want to punt on the Championship's top scorer or handicap outright betting then you'll find it all with us.

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