Alas, the World Cup is over. But we don’t need to say auf wiedersehen (see what I did there?) to our beloved betting apps, as the new Championship season is just 24 days away! Here I present for your reading pleasure a collection of tips for the upcoming season. Please feel free to berate me on Twitter about my choices.
Top Goal Scorer
Ross McCormack 8/1
McCormack hammered in a league-leading 28 goals last season playing for a club struggling in mid table. With Premier League level midfielders playing behind him at Fulham, expect him to at least replicate the form he had throughout the entirety of last year’s campaign.
Lewis Grabban 14/1
Grabban was a revelation for Bournemouth last season, spearheading their surprising push towards the top six with 22 league goals. A move to relegated Norwich could prove extremely fruitful. Norwich lacked pace going forward last season, something which Grabban can provide in spades. If he gets into a rhythm with players like Wes Hoolahan and Robert Snodgrass look for Grabban to be high up in the goalscoring charts at the end of the season.
Jordan Rhodes 8/1
Rhodes is now a proven goal machine at Championship level. 51 league goals in 89 games over the last two seasons is an impressive return, and having just signed a new 5 year deal with Blackburn I see no reason why he won’t grab another shed load of goals this season.
Outsider: Rudy Gestede 33/1
No one finished the 13/14 season hotter than Blackburn’s Gestede. 7 goals in 8 appearances in April made him the obvious choice for Championship player of the month. While this may have been a flash in the pan, if Gestede has figured out the formula for Championship goalscoring, 33/1 could be well worth a punt.
Treble: Fulham, Wigan and Derby 52/1
It has become a genuine rarity for a team to return to the Premier League the season after relegation. In fact in the last 4 years, only two teams out of 12 have managed it (West Ham and QPR, since you asked). I can only see Fulham having the strength to do it this year. They have a grizzled, experienced coach, have kept the core of their team and have signed themselves one of the league’s most prolific scorers. Despite the enormous price that they paid for Ross McCormack, I can see him being their “Charlie Austin” and propelling them straight back to the Premier League. Wigan struggled under boss Owen Coyle last year, but the appointment of Uwe Rosler proved masterful as they made their way to a second successive FA Cup semi final and we’re narrowly knocked out of the playoffs by eventual winners QPR. I can see them learning from last year’s experiences and grabbing an automatic promotion spot this time around. Derby were last season’s playoff final losers, and so the expectation is that they will be in the hunt for promotion again this time around. The way in which Chief Executive Sam Rush has acted decisively to sign key players (Hughes, Buxton, Hendrick and player of the season Bryson) to new contracts leaves me optimistic about Derby’s ambitions, and with the signing of George Thorne imminent, they have a great chance to makes amends for the heartache of last season.
Outsiders: Blackburn Rovers 6/1, Nottingham Forest 11/2
Rovers had a shaky start last year, but finished the season with one of the most impressive records in the league (undefeated in their last 12 games, a period in which they scored more goals than anyone in the Championship). Having narrowly missed out on a playoff spot, look for them to push more decisively into the top 6 this season. Forest’s season was the polar opposite. High flying under Billy Davies in the early going, they became hampered by an incredible injury list along with some questionable goings on inside the club. The arrival of local hero Stuart Pearce could help stabilise the internal issues, and there’s no doubt that Fawaz Al-Hasawi is willing to spend big to try and take the club back to the Premier League for the first time since 1999
Treble: Blackpool, Brentford, Huddersfield 45/1
At this stage of the pre season if Blackpool aren’t on your relegation betslip you’ve not been paying attention. They had a horrible second half of the 13/14 season, winning just two of their last 10 games while losing 6. Many of their fans are directing ire at a board who seem unwilling to attempt to take the club forward, and as of today they are reported to only have 8 players on their books. Grim times for the Seasiders. While Brentford did fantastically well to gain promotion after losing manager Uwe Rosler to Wigan, I worry about the experience in their squad. A place in the second league of English football is a wonderful over-achievement for a town with a population of under 30,000. I can see them doing a Yeovil this year. Every year has its surprises, and I think Huddersfield may be poised to for the drop. Few teams finished last season with a record as poor as Huddersfield. Two wins in their last 3 went some way to disguise the fact that prior to that they had gone 10 games without a win, and were very much in the relegation conversation. They look particularly devoid of leadership at the back, highlighted by the fact that only 4 teams conceded more at home last season.
Outsiders: Millwall 7/4, Birmingham City 4/1
Whike I’ve called these two “outsiders”, they will be many people’s favourites for the drop this year. Both teams clinged on to Championship life with a late season rally, Birmingham in particular coming as close as anyone has to being relegated without…actually being relegated. Attendances at St Andrews have been in huge decline and turmoil at the highest level of the club has meant that the fans that do turn up have had little to cheer for. Personally I’d like to see them save themselves with another late rally, just to see Lee Clarke kick seven bells out of another advertising board.
And finally, a cheeky double: Fulham to win the league outright and Blackpool to be relegated: 22/1
Fairly self explanatory that one. Great odds when you consider the respective situations at both clubs. Thanks for reading and may the odds be ever in your favour! Or something. I’ll work on that closing line.