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Championship Betting Preview: 2011/12

August 3, 2011

The football season brings many different challenges and thrills and finding a winning bet from the start of the season is one of them.

The Championship is often regarded by betting traders as one of the hardest football league’s in the world to study because of the unpredictability that goes on a week to week basis, and here at the Tilehurst End we will try to provide you with some of the best value ante-post football bets.

Looking at the betting market from a Reading perspective, the Royals are best priced at 16/1 to win the Championship, with bet365, Paddy Power, Stan James, Coral and William Hill happy to lay that price. While it is true that Brian McDermott improved the side dramatically over a period of 18 months, until the transfer window is shut at least until January, only then can we judge the squad as a whole, with uncertainty remaining over the futures of Shane Long and Adam Federici. For promotion, the Royals are available to back at 5/1 which could prove some decent value over the course of the season.

Recently relegated West Ham have been made joint favourites alongside Sven Goran Erickson’s Leicester City at a best price of 9/2. The Irons best signing may prove to be Sam Allardyce who has proved himself in recent years and although he hasn’t managed at this level since 2001, his sides in the Premiership were tough to beat and it is hard to argue against the odds compilers assessment. The shrewd capture of Kevin Nolan may just prove to be a masterstroke after his performances at this level two seasons ago when he inspired Newcastle to winning the league.

For the Foxes, Sven Goran Erickson’s side have drifted in price significantly throughout the summer, earning themselves plenty of admirers after a heavy summer spending spree which included the capture of former Royals captain Matt Mills. With Kasper Schmichael, Paul Konchesky and David Nugent also on board, expectations are high in East Midlands ahead of the new campaign.

Nottingham Forest, Birmingham City and Middlesbrough retain respect from the bookmakers who have each side best priced at 16/1 alongside the Royals. Chris Houghton’s Birmingham have issues of their own to deal with financial difficulties being the main cause for concern after relegation, with the likes of Craig Gardner, Ben Foster and Roger Johnson leaving St Andrews. Tony Mowbray has a tough job on his hands at Boro after inheriting an overpaid squad left by his predecessor Gordon Strachan. The 16/1 on offer respectively seems more than generous, while Steve McClaren will feel he has a point to prove with his return to English football since his disastrous reign as England manager.

Brighton’s Gus Poyet and Southampton’s Nigel Adkins won plenty of admirers on the south coast after an exciting tussle for the League One title, and Brighton have a brand new stadium with the Amex Stadium finally built. With both clubs aided by wealthy investors, and the history of promoted teams suggests teams back-to-back promotions shouldn’t be ruled out as Norwich proved last season and the 20/1 & 18/1 respectively looks some shrewd value.

Cardiff City have been talked up for many years as a side capable of reaching the Premiership, but another expensive failed promotion bid has seen Malky Mackay’s side start the season as high as 20/1 after losing the likes of Michael Chopra, Craig Bellamy and Adam Matthews. Ipswich have again been active in the summer transfer market, and despite the sale of Connor Wickham to Sunderland, Paul Jewell mustn’t be written off at this level having guided Bradford City and Wigan Athletic to the Premiership.

One side who seem overpriced are Hull City at 25/1. Nigel Pearson’s side improved throughout the season and were extremely difficult to breakdown, culminating in some excellent form on the road. Assuming Pearson’s side can draw fewer games and pick up more wins, they should be respected. The 3-0 demolition of Liverpool in a friendly may have raised alarm bells about Liverpool’s chances, but equally Hull should be treated with respect.

Leeds need to improve defensively if they are to have a chance of promotion while Burnley must replace the creativity of Chris Eagles who has linked up with his former manager Owen Coyle at Burnley.

Relegation sees Barnsley, Peterborough listed as favourites. Barnsley must get off to a good start under Keith Hill’s managerial reign after Mark Robins acrimonious departure from Oakwell while the Posh must learn the lessons of last season. Arguably, they have a weaker squad this time round with Aaron Mclean and Craig Mackail-Smith moved on.

Doncaster’s loss in-form in the second-half of the season coincided with a growing injury list and if they don’t improve that, they could find themselves in trouble.

Dougie Freedman rescued Crystal Palace last season, but a new season brings new challenges and history in recent years suggests the Eagles could find themselves in another relegation battle.

Coventry have had a difficult summer in the transfer market, losing Marlon King and Kieran Westwood, and with the club’s finances a worry, administration cannot be ruled out which comes with a ten point deduction. The 9/4 on offer with Victor Chandler is the best price on the market.

Despite being among the more active of the Championship clubs in the summer, Derby County are hit and miss with the team either in a good run of form or struggling to win games. Having undergone a similar financial transition to ourselves, the Rams haven’t enjoyed the success and can be backed at 6/1 for relegation.

Watford now have a new manager at the helm in Sean Dyche and the departure of star striker Danny Graham will be tough for a side that relied on his goals last season. Despite proving everyone wrong last season with an excellent campaign, Dyche has a tough job in replacing Malky Mackay and Sporting Bet are best priced at 11/4 on Watford to be relegated.

As an outside bet, Middlesbrough have been on the decline for a number of seasons now and despite the appointment of local legend Tony Mowbray, attendances have slipped at the Riverside with the club struggling to cut their wage bill. Paddy Power are best on the market at 25/1 and at that price it is worth a gamble.

Finding the top goalscorer in the league is often an intriguing challenge, especially as E/W punters will get a ¼ of the odds on the first four or five players placed in the market. Reading striker Shane Long and West Ham forward Carlton Cole both lead the market at 12/1 although neither should be considered as value bets at this moment in time given that both players have been linked away with respective moves from their clubs. Only when the transfer window closes should the pair be given serious consideration.

Of the players who interest, Bristol City forward Nicky Maynard is rumoured to be interesting Leicester and the 16/1 could be value should he move to the midlands. Equally, Marlon King may have made himself unpopular with his decision to leave Coventry for neighbours Birmingham City, but the former Watford man is proven at this level and impressed on his return season last year ater a spell in prison.

Craig Mackail-Smith, a former Reading target found the net 34 times for Peterborough last season and begins the new season at the Amex Stadium for League 1 champions Brighton and Hove Albion. If the striker can replicate the form he showed last season then the 18/1 should be seriously considered.

Kevin Nolan reinvigorated his career after a season in the Championship, and if the West Ham midfielder can pick up where he left off last time round the 33/1 provides excellent value with the player likely to be on penalty duty for the Irons.

This season, bookmakers Victor Chandler are offering a managerial market for the first manager to depart, and the current favourite is Coventry City manager Andy Thorn. With the former scout unproven at this level and the financial position at the club under deep scrutiny, the 11/2 price seems a fair assessment.

As an outsider bet, Chris Houghton shouldn’t be discounted at 12/1 having seen the best of his players depart and the future of the club unclear. The possibility of Houghton walking out after the first couple of weeks wouldn’t be that much of a surprise and for that reason the 12’s should be respected.

Handicap betting in the Championship gives each team a head start in terms of points, and is one of the most popular bets pre-season with all teams valued at 18/1. This is a bet for the punters who can spot a team’s potential before the season starts.

League favourites West Ham and Leicester are starting from scratch/+1 and can’t be considered the value. Millwall at +22 at 18/1 seems a decent head start, with Kenny Jackett’s team tough to beat and should the Lions finish the campaign around the 70 point mark then they will have a good chance of having the handicap title wrapped up.

Otherwise, Portsmouth maybe worth a small flutter having slowly improved under Steve Cotterill last season. In Dave Kitson and Liam Lawrence they have established Championship players while the capture of David Norris on a free was a shrewd moved by the South Coast club.

Finally, bookmakers Ladbrokes are offering individual match-bets between teams, and two teams who could provide a nice double are Hull to finish higher than Leeds at EVS while Birmingham to beat Middlesbrough at 11/10 could make for a nice double.