As punters fond of a long-term flutter will be acutely aware, the Championship tends to be the toughest division of all to call. Before last season started for example, there will certainly have been cash for Leicester to clinch the title but just how many people would have been confidently placing their cash on Burnley to achieve automatic promotion to the Premier League?
It will also have surprised many that the teams that had dropped into the division from the Premier League all failed to launch a credible automatic promotion bid; QPR, Wigan and Reading finishing 4th, 5th and 7th respectively (although Rangers snuck up through the play-offs).
Nevertheless, this season’s relegated teams all still figure prominently in the second tier title betting this term, a combination of parachute payments aiding their transfer budgets and the retention of at least a few of their Premier League players making bookies wary of the possibility of them challenging for an immediate return to the top flight.
Also amongst that well-fancied group are beaten play-off finalists Derby County (8/1, Betfred) and BetVictor’s 10/1 chances Wigan, who finished the last campaign strongly following the appointment of Uwe Rosler as manager. Indeed it’s the latter that get the nod as our main outright pick.
Bedded in after a season in the Championship and with no Europa League distraction, the Latics are ideally placed to push for top spot especially as question marks surround the ability of the likes of Bluebirds boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Fulham manager Felix Magath – who has had a big rebuilding job on his hands – to acclimatise to life in such a competitive division.
All the teams mentioned so far have genuine promotion claims and their odds reflect as much but further down the market, at 6/1 courtesy of Boylesports, Middlesbrough might be a team to look out for.
They steadily improved last term following the arrival of Aitor Karanka, the Spaniard taking his time to get Boro playing like he wanted them to but he’s had time now to fashion his own side and they have the quality at the Riverside to surprise a few people and at least make a bid for the play-offs.
At the bottom, Blackpool’s troubles have been well documented and it’s only recently they’ve actually managed to accrue enough players to field a full team on the opening day of the season. Little wonder then that they’re just 7/10 with betway to go down, a price that’s really not worth taking at this juncture.
Leeds are another club that has faced a summer of upheaval yet despite an unknown manager taking charge and potential instability at boardroom level, they’re a chunkier 4/1 (bwin) to end up in the bottom three. A sticky start for the Whites and those odds will quickly evaporate.
Finally, there are a wealth of players in with a shout of heading the goalscoring charts and it’s no surprise to see Blackburn’s prolific front man Jordan Rhodes installed as favourite by BetVictor at 8/1.
The expensive acquisition of Ross McCormack (10/1, Ladbrokes) is expected to reap rewards for Fulham but an each-way flutter (4 places, 1/4 odds) on Norwich’s Gary Hooper at 20/1 via Skybet isn’t without appeal and at 14/1 (William Hill), Derby’s Chris Martin is also set to enjoy a fruitful campaign in front of goal.
Wigan to win the Championship – 10/1 (BetVictor)
Middlesbrough to gain promotion – 6/1 (Boylesports)
Leeds to be relegated – 4/1 (bwin)
Chris Martin to be top scorer – 14/1 (William Hill)