The football season is within touching distance and, due to a lack of Euros or World Cup this summer, I don’t think I’m alone in saying I’ve been having serious withdrawal symptoms over the past few months.
We start off, as always, with the Football League returning a week before the Premier League. As The 12,000/1 Tipster, I’m here to give you some hints and tips ahead of the coming campaign.
I didn’t get the nickname for simply betting on favourites so I’ve tried to pick out some value for you all, and hopefully we can continue to beat the bookies!
I’ve always thought the Championship is the toughest Football League division to pick a winner, until last year when everyone lumped on Newcastle and we had to wait painfully until five minutes before the end of the season for Aston Villa to deny Brighton and boost our coffers.
This season seems particularly tough to predict what’s going to happen at the top of the table with so many of the big clubs changing managers over pre-season, including the likes of Middlesbrough, Hull, Sunderland, Norwich, Wolves, and Leeds.
But I don’t like making excuses for myself, especially before the season has even started – there’s a lot of tipping to get through – so that’s quite enough of that.
Middlesbrough are one of the teams with a new gaffer but the way Garry Monk inspired Leeds last season fills me with confidence. I think they’re going to bounce straight back after their boring season in the Premier League and 7/1 looks a decent price for them to top the table.
Boro have a fantastic squad for this division and have added two experienced Championship experts in Cyrus Christie and Jonny Howson, plus they’ve snapped up Martin Braithwaite who hit 11 goals in France’s Ligue 1 for Toulouse last season.
My only concern was their lack of a serious goalscorer – I’ve seen Rudy Gestede play week-in week-out for a season and a half at Aston Villa and he’s certainly not one – but they’ve now got their man in Britt Assombalonga. He’s come in for a reported club-record £14 million and if Britt can stay fit he’ll do the business for Boro.
My team Villa are also around 7/1 for the title and, while I could easily be biased, I’m not going to be. Villa have added some impressive experience in the shape of John Terry, Glenn Whelan, Chris Samba, and Ahmed Elmohamady over the summer so on paper the squad justifies the price.
But I’ve watched my beloved Claret and Blues lose 2-1 at Shrewsbury, draw 0-0 at Walsall and 0-0 at home to Watford in pre-season, and with just four away wins in the Championship last season I’m concerned.
We’ve shelled out the best part of £50 million on strikers in the last two summers but if Jonathan Kodjia doesn’t get back to full fitness soon we can kiss promotion goodbye – so I cannot take 7/1 for the title.
There are several other contenders who should be right up there come May, including Sheffield Wednesday and Fulham, who finished fourth and sixth last season.
The Owls have a fantastic squad for this division and at 11/1 represent a bit of value for the title, while Fulham (9/1) finished so well they were favourites to win the play-offs despite ending the season sixth.
Arguably, their best signings have been players they already had after they managed to tie both Tom Cairney and Ryan Sessegnon to new deals, so I expect them to push Boro all the way.
Norwich (11/1) have let a lot of players go, but they are clearly looking to go down the Huddersfield route after appointing David Wagner’s Borussia Dortmund II successor Daniel Farke as their new boss. He’s untested over here so I’m leaving them alone.
Derby only lost two in nine under Gary Rowett after he took over in March, and they’ve made great signings in bringing back Tom Huddlestone and adding Curtis Davies.
They also boast experience in the likes of Bradley Johnson and welcome Chris Martin back from a bizarre season-long loan to Fulham – so their 14/1 for the title looks a big price.
Wolves have splashed some serious cash this summer, including one of the biggest Championship signings of the season in Football Manager favourite Ruben Neves – a player who has captained Porto. Madness! If he’s half as good as he is in FM then they have signed a gem.
They Midlanders have also added some untested players in English football, as is their new gaffer Nuno Espírito Santo, but Helder Costa was in the same bracket last season and he lit up the league. I think the title might be too much for them but like the 9/2 on offer for them to be promoted.
Two of the promoted teams, Bolton and Millwall, are right down there in the betting for relegation at 13/5 and 5/2 respectively, alongside Burton (6/4) and Barnsley (7/4) but none of which represent a great deal of value for me.
I think QPR are a big price at 4/1 considering the way they ended last season with some terrible form. It would be a big surprise to see Sunderland suffer back-to-back relegations, but at 14s, and dropping all the time, they could be worth a poke as an outside bet. If not, 5/4 for them to finish in the bottom half looks decent.
Chris Wood fired Leeds close to the playoffs with 27 goals last season earning him the top goalscorer title, and he is 10/1 to do so again which is an OK price for someone who seems to hit the back of the net every time he draws breath.
Boro’s Assombalonga heads the market at 9s and you can see why. If he stays fit he should get plenty of service, but in terms of a bit more value I think Abel Hernandez is worth a go at 25/1.
As long as he doesn’t leave in the transfer windows and can overcome last season’s injury issues, Hernandez is a huge price considering he was a 20-goal striker when Hull were in the Championship two seasons ago.
Promotion – Wolves 9/2 (Bwin – bet HERE)
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