Football League Season 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 the odds, and Graeme’s opinion on each side:
1 – Middlesbrough 6/1 – New manager in Garry Monk, some great signings – they should be winning this
2 – Aston Villa 13/2 – Steve Bruce should have Villa in contention, but will he – can’t see them being top-two
3 – Fulham 8/1 – Great footballing team but not invested enough, but should make play-offs
4 – Sheffield Wednesday 9/1 – Interest side, they could push for automatic places this year
5 – Wolves 9/1 – If their new signings come off, they will be in top-two with Boro – but a big if…
6 – Norwich 10/1 – If anything they are over-priced, struggle to make top-half
7 – Derby 12/1 – Real dark horses Derby, Rowett could easily get them going – real contenders
8 – Leeds 14/1 – Tough call with new boss under new regime, but should be top-half
9 – Hull 16/1 – Slutsky seems to have been written off but I think they could do quite well and make play-offs
10 – Sunderland 18/1 – Grayson knows the league but has his work cut out to make promotion picture
11 – Brentford 22/1 – Brentford I think could shock a few people again, if they keep Jota – could be play-offs
12 – Cardiff 25/1 – Who knows with Neil Warnock – could be bottom six or top six!
13 – Reading 25/1 – Big odds and challenge is on for Jaap Stam but should be in the mix
14 – Birmingham 28/1 – I don’t see big improvement in Birmingham and think they will struggle
15 – Sheffield Utd 33/1 –  I think the Blades will be looking to stay up, and they should do that
16 – Bristol City 40/1 – I think City disappointed last year and they could be dragged into real trouble
17 – Nottingham Forest 40/1 – Mark Warburton needs a good start otherwise they could be scrapping
18 – Preston 66/1 – I think Preston could be in real danger of going down, Simon Grayson was a good fit
19 – QPR 100/1 – Ian Holloway will get QPR into mid-table at best, but nothing more
20 – Ipswich 100/1 – Town just don’t give Mick McCarthy the money – they will be bottom-half
21 – Millwall 150/1 – I think Millwall might just go straight back down, can’t see them staying up
22 – Barnsley 200/1 – Heckingbottom is a great young manager, will keep The Tykes up
23 – Bolton 250/1 – Strange one, odds suggest relegation but I think they will do OK
24 – Burton 250/1 – I can’t see them coming bottom, indeed could push for mid-table in my eyes

Dale says: Middlesbrough are now clear favourites and I do fancy them and the price is still OK – they probably showed too much loyalty to Aitor Karanka last season they could see it coming, but they have backed Garry Monk now, there is a lot of stability there now and the Britt Assombalonga signing is the one that has really shown the intent of the club and they look a very good pick. Boro would be one of our worst results, along with Leeds actually who have come in from 20/1. We have seen some money for Aston Villa too but nowhere near the Boro money but they spent so much in the January window people can’t see them not being involved. Sheffield Wednesday under-performed for sure, but they have a very good squad indeed and they will have Jordan Rhodes from the off too, but I would probably pass on them too – and one of our biggest loses would very much be Wolves, who have come in recently from 12/1 and a lot of people think they will do well. Fulham failed in the play-offs last year after playing some good football but my dark horse from the pack would be Derby, as long as their owner sticks with Gary Rowett. It is strange we go through this and we still haven’t mentioned the two relegated teams in Hull and Sunderland, which probably sums up where they are at the moment and Reading – who lost in the play-off final – are not in even in the top-half of betting as people clearly don’t think Jaap Stam can repeat his feat again. At the bottom for me, I would be looking at Millwall to struggle, I think Bolton are a false price as they are settled now and Burton, I backed them to go down last year and they proved me wrong so they could easily do that again.


Predicted table based on the odds, and Graeme’s opinion on each side:
1 – Blackburn 4/1 – I love the signings they have made like Dack and Whittingham – will go up
2 – Wigan 7/1 – I don’t see Wigan being top-two at all, will struggle to make play-offs
3- Portsmouth 9/1 – Pompey finally out of League Two, could they go straight up again? Quite possibly
4 – Bradford 10/1 – They do not look as strong as last year to me, lucky to make top-half
5 – Oxford 12/1 – Interesting new manager in Pep Clotet, if he gets them going could be real dark horses
6 – MK Dons 14/1 – Good solid squad to me and should very much be in the play-off picture
7 – Charlton 14/1 – Karl Robinson is working hard, and they should be challenging for a play-off berth
8 – Bristol Rovers 18/1 – Not short of money and they could very well challenge and shock a few people
9 – Scunthorpe 20/1 – More than capable of making the play-offs and they will be in the mix
10 –Southend 20/1 – Look mid-table all day long – need some luck to push for play-offs
11 – Fleetwood 20/1 – A good squad, could be a surprise package
12 – Peterborough 22/1 – Could struggle this year and may even get dragged into relegation battle
13 – Rotherham 22/1 – Should be in for automatic and they will be pushing come the end of the year
14 – Doncaster 25/1 – Will be a big ask to go for play-offs, should settle for mid-table this year
15 – Bury 25/1 – Have made some good signings and should be top-half
16 – Northampton 25/1 – Could be contenders for relegation, will need to work hard to avoid drop
17 – Rochdale 28/1 – Real contenders for the play-offs in my eyes – Keith Hill is a great boss
18 – Plymouth 33/1 – Thought they would have spent more but should be aiming top-half
19 – Wimbledon 40/1 – Think they will struggle this year, might be in for a relegation scrap
20 – Walsall 50/1 – The Saddlers have stagnated a bit for me, and they will have to battle to stay up
21 – Blackpool 66/1 – They could shock a few people – hard to predict but mid-table
22 – Gillingham 100/1 – Will be a tough season again in Kent for the Gills, can see them going down
23 – Oldham 100/1 – They battled last year, long campaign again but they might just survive
24 – Shrewsbury 150/1 – The Shrews are perhaps missing some quality – tough season coming for them

Dale says: Blackburn are very short, and Sheffiled United last year for the first time in many years became the first favourite to win that division – but they look a bit short to me, people think Tony Mowbray might have kept them up if he can in earlier and that might be the case but at such a low price I am not sure that appeals too much. The team I fancy, is Portsmouth – who would be one of our worst outcomes in the book but I think Kenny Jackett is a very good appointment for Pompey. If they get their home form right I do think they will come good. Another team who have seen quite a bit of money is Charlton, so we are hearing good vibes about them. I also believe that Scunthorpe could be ones to watch, I think Graham Alexander did a good job last year and could be threats. Again the relegation battle looks a difficult call, you normally get one team highly fancied but it is a tough call but Shrewsbury are the ones fancied for that at the moment, but teams like Oldham and Blackpool are not much better off at the moment.


Predicted table based on the odds, and Graeme’s opinion on each side:
1 – Mansfield 9/2 – Look too short at this price, but should make play-offs
2 – Luton 6/1 – A big club at this level, will surely be in the top three after coming close
3 – Coventry 9/1 – Mark Robins knows the club well, they need to come back up first time and should
4 – Lincoln 10/1 – Cowley bros have something to prove, but good shout of top-three
5 – Notts County 12/1 – Again not sure here, think they could be too short – bottom half for us
6 – Swindon 14/1 – Good new manager in Dave Flitcroft, could win it
7 – Chesterfield 16/1 – Interesting side who should be in play-off contention
8 – Exeter 16/1 – Improved last season and made play-offs but be tough to repeat
9  – Cambridge 18/1 – Can’t see a play-off push, mid-table mediocrity on its way
10 – Carlisle 18/1 – Keith Curle did great last year, play-offs very much in their mind
11 – Colchester 18/1 – Fancied by some, could be dark horses to do well
12 – Accrington 22/1 – Have over-performed so often, might have to settle for mid-table
13 – Stevenage 25/1 – Will do well not be dragged into trouble
14 – Forest Green 25/1 – Could be pushing for play-offs with a good run
15 – Port Vale 28/1 – A big club at this level, I think could surprise a few
16 – Wycombe 28/1 – Just don’t look up to it, could be dragged into trouble
17 – Crewe 40/1 – Should have too much to be in trouble, top-half finish
18 – Grimsby 40/1 – Be lucky not to avoid going straight back down
19 – Cheltenham 40/1 – I think they could really push on this season, perhaps play-offs
20 – Barnet 66/1 – Some interesting additions – could be top-six or bottom-six
21 – Newport 66/1 – Will be relegated in my eyes
22 – Yeovil 66/1 – Should be mid-table, but struggle to be involved in promotion picture
23 – Crawley 150/1 – Heard some good things about their signings – top-half for me
24 – Morecambe 250/1 – Have made some interesting signs, I don’t think they will be bottom

Dale says: The price in this league sees Mansfield very short because of deals that have been done. Luton have been expected to go up last few seasons and if anything have under-performed and they feel like a team who should be going places, but Mansfield’s price is too short, likewise Coventry looks like one to avoid for me. Luton are the biggest movers for us, being now 6/1 from 9/1. Lincoln look very positive but the fact the promoted side are fourth in the betting suggest the league is not great quality. We have seen a bit of money for Swindon and so they could be a possibility, whilst Forest Green for a newly promoted team are quote long but I would not expect anything more than mid-table but the one team I think that appeal and who look in good shape are Colchester, who are currently 18/1 for the title. At the bottom, it is really guess work to a certain extent but we think Morecambe could be the ones to finish bottom but it is so hard to call.

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