Football is back! After what has been a summer of disappoint for England at the Euro’s, the football league returns this weekend. The long, arduous 46 game season kicks off on Friday night with Fulham and Newcastle locking horns at Craven Cottage. The Championship is sometimes touted as the hardest league in the world to get out of as games come thick and fast and only those with strength in depth come out on top and reach the coveted Premier League.
Newcastle have been installed as strong favourites to bounce straight back to the Premier League at the first attempt, and rightly so. They are currently best price 4/6 for promotion. Following relegation last year, Newcastle fans rolled out their prayer mats in the hope that Rafa Benitez would stay and help guide them back to where they belong. Those prayers were answered and he has attacked this transfer window with intent spending big money in assembling a squad that know what the Championship is about, with the likes of Grant Hanley and Matt Ritchie coming in. Dwight Gayle has also been brought in for £10m and has immediately been made favourite for the Championship’s Top Goalscorer award at 9/1.
As far as the title is concerned, Newcastle are as short as 7/4 to lift the trophy come May. There’s not much value here and backing Norwich each way (top 3 places) at 10/1 could be the way to go. Relegated alongside the Geordies, Norwich have managed to keep hold of the majority of their squad from last year with Nathan Redmond leaving for Southampton the only real departure of note so far. Rumours have surrounded Republic of Ireland star Robbie Brady with a move away from Carrow Road, but if the Canaries valuation of Brady is not met, then he will stay put alongside key men Timm Klose and Alex Tettey, and backing them to finish in the top 3 could be a shrewd bet.
With Ross McCormack set to join Aston Villa in the coming days, he could well fire Villa straight back up. Coral have him priced at 14/1 to be top goalscorer this campaign with Bet365 offering as short as 10’s. However Villa’s problems from last season may run deeper than their need for a goalscorer. Confidence must be at an all-time low in the camp and with most of the squad young and inexperienced at Championship level, it could be another tough year. If you don’t fancy Villa to take well to the strains of Championship football, there is value in backing Wolves to be the Top Midlands Club at 10/3. Under new owners and with money to spend, Wolves could be in with a shout of having a successful year as they bid to get back up to the Premier League.
Burton come into this season following back-to-back promotions. Nigel Clough continued where Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink left off in December and guided The Brewers into their first ever season in the second tier. Creating a fortress at the Pirelli Stadium could be the key in securing Burton’s status in the Championship for another season but the bookies can’t see it and have installed them as clear favourites for relegation at 11/10.
If you’re looking for more value in this market then look away Leeds fans. Garry Monk’s appointment in June as the club’s new head coach was met with surprise as maverick owner, Massimo Cellino, appeared to have made a sensible appointment. Monk has made no fewer than eight summer signings to date but most seem uninspiring. Having already sold the highly-rated Lewis Cook, Leeds look set to lose another established youth-product in Charlie Taylor, who handed in a transfer request on Tuesday. Unless Leeds get off to a good start, pressure will pile on Monk immediately due to Cellino’s bullish record of sacking managers. Leeds are best price 9/1 to be relegated with one bookie, (as short as 4/1) and it may just be worth a few quid.