So – just a few days to go until the big kick off!
The Championship, League One and League Two get underway this weekend, with Fulham vs Newcastle starting it all off on Friday night. Usually. I’d do a team-by-team preview, but I find for most it’s a long read and maybe a little boring.
This season, I’m going to pick my best bets for a league winner, promotion, top 6 or 7 and relegation. Plenty of reasoning behind each, and when I have done all three, an overall accumulator that I feel is the best on offer this season. I’ll try and get the price to be a good one as if you are going to do an antepost bet that has to last a season, the winnings have to be worth the wait!
Winner – Leyton Orient @ 10/1
This is a toughie. Portsmouth are again the favourite @ 9/2, as they have been nearly every season so far. Last season was the closest they got, losing in the playoffs – but with Northampton, Oxford and Bristol Rovers dominating the league – they struggled to get near the top 3 spots. Apart from them, you have Doncaster, Leyton Orient and Luton that are all around the 10/1 mark.
Orient for me look the best bet. Yes, I did back them last season – but their experiment with a foreign coach and a lot of young players backfired. This time, they have Andy Hessenthaler in charge, who has a wealth of experience at this level – and have signed well! Gavin Massey has come in from Colchester – 20 goals in 140 games, while the signing of ex-Villa striker Jordan Bowery is an excellent one – he managed 7 in 17 for Oxford last season. Alan Dunne has come in – and made nearly 400 appearances for Millwall at a higher level. His experience, and that of Liam Kelly, Callum Kennedy, Tom Parkes and Dean Cox will be vital. All have made hundreds of apps for teams in and around this level, if not higher. Robbie Weir is a good signing, while they have plenty of goalscoring options in Jay Simpson (25 goals last season), Ollie Palmer, Bowery, Sammy Moore and a few others.
The problem with the likes of Portsmouth and Doncaster is that they have one or the other – excellent defence, or excellent attack. Orient have a great mix of both, and for that reason I fancy them to win the league!
Promotion – Doncaster @ 2/1 or Leyton Orient @ 2/1
I’m torn between the two – but with winning it being 10/1, Orient are value @ 2/1.
The other for me is Doncaster. Darren Ferguson is in charge, and he has contacts in the game to pick up some excellent young loanee’s if needed. They also have Andy Williams, who is a prolific scorer @ League One level, John Marquis – who is also well versed in playing in higher leagues. Gary McSheffrey is an ex-Premier League player who will do an excellent job and has terrific experience. They have also added Tommy Rowe to their squad, who has been with Wolves for a few years after scoring 23 in 175 for Peterborough in League One.
They have an experienced captain – James Coppinger, who has been there for 12 years now. Mathieu Baudry is another astute signing – he has experience in League Two having played over 100 games for Orient over the last 3 seasons. Matty Blair has also joined – he has played at League Two level for a couple of seasons and impressed in a poor York and Mansfield sides.
Defensively not as good as Leyton Orient, but they have a few youngsters who have made 70+ apps and are only in their early 20’s. A couple more signings and it might have been them that I backed for winning it!
Top 7 – Plymouth @ 11/8
Derek Adams’ side are always there or there about come the end of the season. In the last 3 seasons they have finished 9th, 7th and 5th – and despite losing Ruben Reid, who has done well for them over the last few years, they have added well to an already good squad.
David Goodwillie has arrived on a free, and although not a high scorer, he is a strong forward who brings others into the game. Then there is the likes of Jordan Slew, Jimmy Spencer (6 in 14 for Cambridge in 2016), Ryan Donaldson and Latvian international Nauris Bulvitis – all of whom have a good deal of experience in these sort of leagues. Donaldson is my pick of those – he impressed greatly for Cambridge over the last 3 seasons. David Fox, an ex-Man Utd youth player – is another decent signing who adds steel to the central midfield area – with over 200 apps at a similar level for the likes of Blackpool, Colchester, Crewe and Norwich.
A well balanced team – with multiple goal threats from midfield and attack. The only value choice in my eyes as the likes of Portsmouth, Luton, Doncaster etc are all under 1/1, which in this sort of bet adds very little
Relegation – Newport County @ 10/3
Newport finished the season in 22nd position, perilously close to actually going down. They have released or sold most of their squad – and brought in 11 including veteran forward Jon Parkin and Jack Compton. Jennison Myrie-Williams, Sean Rigg and Joss Labadie are three other notable signings, but I don’t see them doing so well. Too much change can often affect things quite badly.
There are a choice of a few – Morecambe are another that could go down, but with wholesale changes – I can’t see them surviving!
Top Scorer – Andy Williams @ 10/1
It’s a choice of two for me – Williams @ 10/1 or Jay Simpson @ 9/1.
Both proven goalscorers, but Williams has a higher calibre as he has been scoring 15/20 a season at times for the likes of Swindoon. He has hit double figures in four of the last 6 seasons, one of which he only made 9 appearances due to injury. Simpson did score over 20 last season, but with Doncaster likely to compete at the top – should he stay fit I’d think he will do well.
The best bet there for me is Doncaster promoted @ 2/1 or Leyton Orient promoted @ 2/1. Both have good squads and I’d fancy both to finish in the top 3, and failing that at least getting a playoff spot!
League One is coming up tomorrow, with the Championship Wednesday, followed by an overall tips piece for all three – outlining my best accumulator of the lot!