Football League Preview

The English football season gets underway this weekend with the Football League taking centre stage ahead of the new season.

We take a look at each division, and garnering the expert opinion of our own Football Insider Graeme Bailey and former Football League ace Dale Tempest, now head of PR at title sponsors SkyBet – so who better to get an opinion from…


Predicted table based on Sky Bet odds, followed by Graeme’s opinion on each side:

1st – Stoke City – 9/2
Stoke have made some great signings, and coupled with the squad they came down with – then it is hard not to see them winning this.
2nd – Middlesbrough – 8/1
Boro are a good solid team, as it stands they look like play-offs to me, but a couple more signings and they will be real top-two candidates,
3rd – West Bromwich Albion – 8/1
The Baggies have stuck with Darren Moore, after he finished the season is good style. They look in good shape to at least secure a play-off spot.
4th –  Nottingham Forest – 9/1

I really don’t agree with the Bookmakers on this one, I don’t see how Forest are so high in the betting for me – top-half, maybe.
5th – Leeds United – 11/1
A strange team to judge with new boss Marcelo Bielsa – they could be top three or bottom three this season, I think they have a chance of making the play-offs.
6th – Swansea  City – 11/1
Interesting appointment with Graham Potter coming in, and I think he could do a decent job – indeed it would not surprise me to see them pushing right up at the top end.
7th – Aston Villa – 12/1
I think they have done the wise thing in sticking with Steve Bruce and nobody can rule out them making another promotion push, but I can’t see them making it.
8th – Brentford – 14/1
A lot of upheavel at Brentford this summer, and I worry they have let too many good players leave – I think they will be happy with a top-half finish.
9th – Derby County – 14/1
I really like what Frank Lampard has done in the transfer market, and as it stands they would be my pick to take second place.
10th – Norwich City – 20/1
I am not convinced by what Norwich are doing, they seem happy with being mid-table fodder, and that is what they will be again, and if not they could get dragged into trouble.
11th – Preston North End – 25/1
Alex Neil has done a wonderful job at Preston and I hope it continues, and I really think it will – I can see them pushing for the play-offs again.
12th – Sheffield United – 25/1
The Blades are more than solid back in the Championship, but not sure they will be pushing for promotion again, but they will have their moments.
13th – Sheffield Wednesday – 25/1
I don’t see what the Owls have to offer to be honest, I don’t see them top-half let alone anything better.
14th – Bristol City – 28/1
Lee Johnson’s side are very hard to predict, but I can see them doing some damage – but not sure they will have enough for a play-off berth.
15th – Birmingham City – 33/1

You have to feel for Garry Monk, he has had it hard at Birmingham this summer and he could be doing well to keep them up this season.
16th – Wigan Athletic – 33/1
Paul Cook has done a great job with Wigan and I believe he could surprise a few this season, don’t rule out top-half if not better for the Latics.
17th – Blackburn Rovers – 40/1
Like Wigan, who also come up last season, I think Blackburn could do more than OK next season and I think they could even push for play-offs.
18th – Hull City – 50/1
I don’t think Hull are as bad as some say, I believe Nigel Adkins is a good manager and will keep them away from the bottom.
19th – Millwall – 50/1
The pressure will be on Neil Harris to reproduce last season’s miracles, and whilst I don’t see that – I don’t see them being in trouble like the odds might suggest.
20th – Queens Park Rangers – 50/1
Tough job for Steve McClaren, and I am not sure they have the squad in place to stay up, I think they could go.
21st – Reading – 50/1
I really don’t agree with the odds here, I don’t see Reading going down or being in that much trouble to be honest – although by the same token I am not saying they are going to get promoted.
22nd – Ipswich Town – 80/1
Paul Hurst is an interesting appointment, I think he could do well and I believe he will keep Ipswich up…just about.
23rd – Bolton Wanderers – 200/1
Tough season coming at the Macron and there will be no last ditch escape bids here, I think they are going down and will finish bottom.
24th – Rotherham United – 250/1
I think that Rotherham will go down, I just don’t see how they can stay up but I think they will put up a decent fight

Dale’s view:
I really like the look of West Brom, I really do. Darren Moore had them playing some excellent stuff at the end of last season and I think they will win it, I think for me they are the most impressive. I like Stoke too, hard not too and I think Derby could surprise a few at a good price. Middlesbrough will do ok, but last season when I saw them they were one-track bullies beating team underneath them but not above so I wasn’t that impressed. I don’t see how Nottingham Forest be contenders and I don’t get their price under Aitor Karanka – who can be very negative. At the bottom and I think our compilers have it pretty spot on and hard to disagree with anything, with Rotherham, Bolton and Ipswich all with tough tasks on their hands although I think Reading will be fine.


Predicted table based on Sky Bet odds, followed by Graeme’s opinion on each side:

1st – Sunderland – 3/1
I don’t see Sunderland as favourites in any way shape or form, I think they will be doing well to finish top-half if I am being honest – but Jack Ross may turn this around quickly, I just can’t see it.
2nd – Barnsley – 8/1
A tough one to call with new boss Daniel Stendel – would be a major ask for him to get a team out of League One, but you have to think they will be top-half and probably in the play-odds.
3rd – Charlton Athletic – 10/1
Lee Bowyer seems a very solid appointment and has already looked assure – The Addicks could very well be a dark horse to win this league.
4th – Portsmouth – 12/1
I like Kenny Jackett at this level, and I go as far as to making them my pick for top-spot here – they could be the ones to watch.
5th – Scunthorpe United –  12/1
Scunny will be there or thereabouts for sure, they are a good bet for the play-offs but not sure I see them going up,
6th – Luton Town – 14/1
I am a big fan of Nathan Jones and Luton are one of the big clubs at this level, I can see them pushing top-two despite only just coming up.
7th – Peterborough United –  16/1
I am not convinced by The Posh – Steve Evans will have them up their challenging, it won’t be pretty and I just don’t see them top-two but maybe play-offs.
8th – Coventry City – 20/1
Coventry did a very good job in going up, but not sure I agree with their odds here – I don’t think they are strong enough to challenge for the play-off spots.
9th – Bristol Rovers – 22/1
Rovers are an interesting side and they are my dark horses to snatch a play-off place, I think Darrell Clarke is building something here.
10th – Oxford United – 22/1
Looks like being mid-table for Karl Robinson and his men, not sure they have it in them to do anything better than top-half
11th – Plymouth Argyle – 22/1
A lot of potential here and I would not rule them out being dark horses for promotion but only via the play-offs.
12th – Bradford City – 28/1
Hard to call The Bantams – they could be top-four or even bottom four – hard to call but I think Michael Collins has a tough challenge on his hands here.
13th – Burton Albion – 28/1
I don’t see Burton floundering in mid-season like the Bookmakers think, they are going to be promotion challengers for me.
14th – Southend United – 28/1
Chris Powell has done a very good job at Southend, they will be top-half and challenging for top-six for sure.
15th – Blackpool – 33/1
A big ask for Blackpool to make the top-half – mid-table but they will have enough to stay clear of trouble.
16th – Doncaster Rovers – 33/1
I must admit I can see Doncaster getting dragged into danger here, not convinced by them at all.
17th – Fleetwood Town – 33/1
So the great Joey Barton experiment – it is interesting, easy dislike and full of self importance, I hope he shows that he does indeed have a good footballing brain. I think he might surprise a few.
18th – Rochdale – 33/1
No better manager at this level than Keith Hill – barring a major injury list I don’t see Dale being dragged into too much trouble.
19th – Shrewsbury  Town – 33/1
Not sure about the wisdom of appointing a non-league boss, albeit a good one, to take charge in League One – last season’s surprise package could be heading down here.
20th – AFC Wimbledon – 50/1
I don’t fancy the Dons this year, they will do very well not to head back to League Two here.
21st – Gillingham – 100/1
The Gills have flirted with relegation the last few seasons and I don’t see how they don’t drop this time.
22nd – Walsall – 100/1
Walsall are battlers, yes they will be bottom half, I don’t doubt that but I believe they stay up.
23rd – Wycombe Wanderers – 100/1
Gareth Ainsworth is a very good manager and I don’t see it being a certainty that they go down here, they will be at that end of the table all season but they could survive.
24th – Accrington Stanley – 150/1
Accrington are rated as the outsiders in this division and they should be on that budget, but I have a feeling they are going to do just fine here and could even finish top-half.

Dale’s view:
A really tough call here, I don’t think there is a tougher league to win than this one. I don’t think Sunderland are worth looking at considering the price and Barnsley for a similar reasons, but if I had to pick someone out I think I would look at Charlton – Lee Bowyer looks like he knows what he is doing and has taken a measured approach. I think Scunthorpe and Plymouth could do well, but it is a close league. Looking at the other end it is also very close, but I think that Shrewsbury could be a false price, they should be bigger and closer to the bottom end. They are considered only the price they are not on the form from last year and I think they might be lucky to survive.


Predicted table based on Sky Bet odds, followed by Graeme’s opinion on each side:

1st – Notts County – 11/2
At times, County were very impressive last season and it is not a major shock to see them considered favourites, I am not sure they win it but certainly they will be in the mix.
2nd – Milton Keynes Dons – 13/2
Paul Tisdale is an interesting appointment. MK are too big to bat this level and Tisdale could be the man to transform their fortunes for sure. I can see them going ell.
3rd – Lincoln City – 8/1
I love the Cowley Bros and what they have done, can they win the title? Why not? I think they are going to be going up here.
4th – Mansfield Town – 9/1
David Flitcroft is a very good manager at this level and he will make sure Mansfield are in the promotion picture, that is for sure.
5th – Bury – 12/1
A big gamble with a new and inexperienced boss in Ryan Lowe and I think it is asking too much for him to mount a promotion challenge – I don’t see it happening.
6th – Northampton Town – 12/1
Another team who should be at the right end, they should have enough quality to push for a play-off place but whether they will, not so sure.
7th  – Swindon Town – 14/1
Swindon are a big club at this level, and Phil Brown is an excellent appointment – I see The Robins as pushing for an automatic place.
8th – Tranmere Rovers – 20/1
Tranmere will be looking to bounce through League Two at the first time of asking, and I fully expect them to be challenging at the top end throughout, indeed I have them down for a play-off berth.
9th – Colchester United – 22/1
The Us were hugely disappointing last season, they have to improve and they should be pushing for a play-off spot.
10th – Oldham Athletic – 22/1
I must admit I fear for Oldham a little, I don’t think they are going to go down but not sure they have it in them to bounce straight back into League One.
11th – Cambridge United – 25/1
Could Cambridge make the leap up and make a push for promotion? Not for me, indeed I think they could be in for a long tough season at The Abbey
12th – Carlisle United – 25/1
I can see the Cumbrians being one of the surprise packages in League Two, I like John Sheridan a lot and think he could work his magic.
13th – Exeter City – 25/1
A huge year for Exeter after parting ways with Paul Tisdale – they needed to freshen up and they have, and I see them being top-half for sure, possibly play-off contenders.
14th – Grimsby Town – 33/1
I worry for Grimsby, I don’t really rate them as a squad – I think they could be battling for the drop here.
15th – Newport County – 33/1
Micky Flynn did a great job last season and see that continuing this term, I think they have a good squad and will progress, play-off team for me.
16th – Port Vale 33/1
Another team I worry about to be honest, but Neil Aspin is a good manager for Vale and will work hard and I think he will just about keep them up.
17th –  Cheltenham – 40/1
I am a huge fan of Gary Johnson, he will keep Cheltenham up this season, I have no doubt – yes, they have lost Mo Eisa but The Robins will not be going down.
18th  – Crewe – 40/1
Alex are in decent shape but we are not seeing a promotion team in my opinion – indeed for from it, they will be closer to the bottom than the top, but they should avoid the drop.
19th – Forest Green – 40/1
Rovers were poor last season at the start but came good and I think they will enjoy a better season and I see them being comfortable at least in mid-table.
20th – Stevenage – 40/1
I quite like Dino Maamria at Stevenage, I think he will do well and I don’t think they are going down here.
21st – Crawley – 50/1
Harry Kewell is working hard at Crawley and for me they are better than the odds suggest and hope he gets more success this term.
22nd – Macclesfield – 100/1
A tough call here, Macclesfield did so well to get promoted but then they lost their manager. I don’t think they could very well make a good go at this and stay up.
23rd – Yeovil – 100/1
I like the way Darren Way plays, it could be a long hard season but I see them staying up – but it may be a close one.
24th – Morecambe – 150/1
Morecambe have a small budget and push hard and above their weight, but this season could be that time that they drop out of the league.

Dale’s view:
If we thought League One was close, then I don’t see League Two being any easier. Looking down and I really like Mansfield, and they are a good price. David Flitcroft plays some great football and at this level I can see them going really well, they have a good squad. Notts County and MK Dons go close, but not sure I would have them as favourites at this stage and I quite like the look of Northampton and Colchester, who could make a real push. At the bottom and I think the odds might have it right, especially with Morecambe who have a real fight on their hands.

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