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Rupert Wyman 4th Aug 2009 - 11:15

You would be as mad as a Hatter not to back Luton

Luton Town finally look like having some good news after a troublesome few years as they find themselves as 11/4 favourites to win the Blue Square Premier title.

The Hatters would not have been relegated last term from League 2 if it were not for their mammoth 30-point deduction and Mick Harford has added to his squad wisely as they seek to make an immediate return to the Football League.

Harford has brought in Shane Blackett, Andy Burgess, Liam Hatch, Adam Newton, Mark Tyler and Alan White. All are experienced professionals with Football League experience and add a great deal of quality to Luton as they ready themselves for life in the fifth tier.

Tyler is an experienced goalkeeper and great shot-stopper who should not have too much to do this season with a strong back four likely to include Blackett, Newton and White. Newton has won back-to-back promotions from League 2 with Peterborough and then Brentford so he should bring a much-needed winning mentality to Kenilworth Road.

Luton have held on to their main players from last season including midfielder Keith Keane and striker Tom Craddock. Lewis Emanuel looked like he was going to leave before his move to Oldham never materialised and as a result he has re-signed.

Luton's main challengers, according to the betting, will be Oxford, who are second favourites at 4/1. The two favourites are the only two sides in this year's Blue Square Premier who have played in the top flight and won a major trophy.

Since their relegation in 2007 Oxford have started every season among the favourites for the title, yet have so far failed to deliver the goods.

The U's will fancy their chances of finally returning to the Football League after a seventh-place finish saw them miss out on the play-offs by just four points, but for a five-point deduction for fielding an ineligible player they would have entered the lottery.

James Constable should provide the goals for Oxford but it remains to be seen if they have enough quality through the rest of the team.

Cambridge United (10/1) have lost in the play-off final the last two years but they don't look like improving on that this term. Manager Gary Brabin has left the club after an alleged falling out with chairman George Rolls.

Ex-Leyton Orient boss Martin Ling had been appointed as his replacement after both Alan Lewer and Liam Daish were told by Rolls they had the job as well, but Ling resigned nine days after being appointed. If that is anything to go by it must be chaos behind the scenes at the Abbey Stadium.

On the pitch United will miss the goals of Scott Rendell whose loan spell back at the club ended, but it is things off the pitch that will be more worrying for Cambridge fans.

Graham Westley's Stevenage are priced at 9/1. Borough were beaten by Cambridge in the semi-finals of the play-offs but they have been hit by the departure of top scorer Steve Morison to Millwall and will find his 31 goals in all competitions hard to replace.

Part-timers Histon (20/1) continued their meteoric rise last season as they finished third, before losing to play-off winners Torquay in the semi-finals.

The Stutes' budget has been hit rather badly by the demise of Setanta and as a result they will go into the season with a smaller squad and one that looks lighter on quality as well.

Mansfield (10/1) and Wrexham (14/1) were both relegated in 2008 and both expect to do better in their second campaign at this level.

Dean Saunders' start to life in the Racecourse hot seat looked promising before the Dragons tailed off badly at the end of last season. A good start to the season and the crowds will come to support the side and this could be key to their chances.

Troubled Chester City (33/1) could only start their pre-season friendlies on 2nd August as they awaited ratification from the FA. Point deductions could follow and with the unpopular Stephen Vaughan still at the helm fans could still stay away and controversy will never be far away.

All neutrals will be cheering on AFC Wimbledon (14/1) as the fans' club have achieved four promotions in just seven seasons.

The dream for many is for the Dons to beat and then overtake the Milton Keynes Dons, but this season could be one too soon to reach the Football League and get one step closer to MK.

York City at 16/1 could be the value pick as Martin Foyle has added to his squad including buying striker Michael Gash from Ebbsfleet.

For me these teams seem to be the contenders for the title but I fully expect Luton to bounce back to the Football League and become the first favourites since Chester in 2004 to win the title.

Setanta's demise has sadly ruined the great spectacle that watching Blue Square Premier football was, with a more interactive broadcast. While the effect on non-league was hardly reported with news agencies preferring to focus on the Premier League it is the non-league clubs that find themselves out of pocket and some struggling to survive.

Nevertheless there may be no non-league football on television this season, but the league will still be as competitive as ever with the added spice of AFC Wimbledon taking part.

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