Latics, Blades and Minstermen to shorten in close season

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Bookmakers have wasted no time in framing markets on the top four English football divisions even though the final fields for the competitions will not be known for a little while.

Every close season there are English football teams that are backed off the boards before a ball is kicked and there are sides in each of the three English Football League divisions that warrant support at their respective opening quotes.

The English Championship team that appeals is Wigan at odds of +1100  with Sky Bet. Last term was a disappointing one for Wigan, which made the wrong decision when it chose to hire Owen Coyle after Roberto Martinez joined Everton. The Coyle era got off to a winning start when Wigan won 4-0 away to Barnsley but it was downhill pretty much from there and the Latics parted company with the Scot in December. Wigan had lost three home matches in one week and enough was enough.

Wigan owner Dave Whelan headhunted Uwe Rosler and the former Brentford boss transformed the fortunes of the Latics. Wigan won four and drew two of its first six English Championship games under Rosler and, during that period, the Latics began what would be a proud defence of their English FA Cup title.

To cut a long story short, Wigan was positioned 14th on the English Championship ladder at the end of 2013. Wigan was the only English Championship side that finished the year below halfway on the ladder that ended the campaign in the top 12. Indeed, Wigan qualified for the English Championship play-offs by virtue of its fifth place and it was a penalty competition away from making back-to-back English FA Cup finals after beating three English Premier League teams – Cardiff, Crystal Palace and Manchester City – before losing to Arsenal in heart-breaking fashion in the semi-finals.

Cardiff, Fulham and Norwich are not the most fearsome three sides to enter the English Championship from the English Premier League. Wigan has every reason to fancy its chance of finishing above the three relegated teams and, while one is sure that the Latics enjoyed their UEFA Europa League adventure, there is no doubt that their task of gaining promotion back to the English top flight will be easier without the demands of midweek European assignments.

Bookmakers have installed Sheffield United as the English League One favourite but the Blades still appeal at odds of +600  with Sky Bet. Similarly to Wigan, Sheffield United had a miserable start to last season and changed managers in an effort to spark a turnaround. David Weir made way for Nigel Clough in October and Sheffield United got its act together. Seventeenth on the English League One ladder at the end of 2013, Sheffield United was seventh following 46 rounds and, like Wigan, it made the last four of the English FA Cup.

Barnsley, Doncaster and Yeovil are the three English League One newcomers that competed in the English Championship last term and none of them is going to frighten Sheffield United, which will probably have the highest average attendance in the division now that Wolverhampton has been promoted.

English League Two newcomer Luton is the English League Two favourite but surely York represents better value at double the odds of the Hatters. York is available at odds of +1600  with Sky Bet despite being the story of the second half of last season. York was 22nd on the English League Two ladder at the end of 2013, only outside the two-side relegation zone on goal difference, and yet it finished the term in seventh place. York was unbeaten in its last 17 English League Two matches before the play-offs, winning 11 and drawing six. York lost 0-1 to Fleetwood over two legs.

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