False favourites in English League One and English League Two means there is no time to waste in backing some sides against fallen giants Wolverhampton and Portsmouth.
Bookmakers have installed crisis club Wolverhampton as the English League One title favourite at odds of around 5-1 even though Wolves have sacked Dean Saunders following their relegation and no-one is pulling in the same direction at Molineux. The Wanderers have lots of overpaid players on their books and one would not be surprised to see them languish in the third tier for more than one season.
Little more than a long goal kick from Wolverhampton is Walsall and it is the Saddlers that represent the early English League One value at odds of around 33-1 for the championship and, more interestingly, 16-1 for promotion. Walsall is the minnow of Black Country and West Midlands football but the Saddlers have been members of the English Championship in recent years and, if they reproduce next term the form that they showed during two-thirds of last season, they will be pushing for one of the top spots.
Remarkably for a team that ended up finishing three places and six points outside the English League One play-off zone, Walsall went 16 matches without a win in any competition between early October 2012 and late December 2012, including bowing out of cup tournaments to Port Vale and Lincoln. The Saddlers looked set to exit the division in a southerly direction but they sorted out themselves and lost only three of their next 24 games and one of them was a dead rubber.
Walsall boss Dean Smith is using his powers of persuasion to keep the largely young Saddlers squad together, at least for one more season, because one does not need to be a rocket scientist to see what could happen if they kick off the 2013-2014 campaign in the manner that they ended the last one. And there are other numbers to support Walsall also.
For example, only Sheffield United lost fewer English League One matches versus top-half sides last term than Walsall so the Saddlers were able to mix it with the best of them. And only Coventry lost more points from winning positions last season than Walsall. The Saddlers threw away 24 points, which was the difference between them finishing ninth and first. Every team experiences bad luck but Walsall had to suffer more than most of their rivals last time round.
Odds of around 16-1 that Walsall climbs back in English football’s second tier are an insult as it stands today after Bradford and Brentford completed next term’s 24-side line-up. The Saddlers should be around those odds to win the English League One championship, not just secure promotion.
Drop down to English League Two and bookmakers are taking no chances whatsoever with Portsmouth, the recent English FA Cup winner that has fallen on hard times. Even if Pompey had not been deducted 10 points they would have still finished 22nd in English League One last season and been relegated.
Portsmouth is trading at odds of around 6-1 to win English League Two, with some UK bookmakers quoting Pompey as short as 7-2. Give those offers a wide berth given the state of Portsmouth’s finances and the fact that its boss, Guy Whittingham, is a relative novice as a manager.
Chesterfield stands out as the early English League Two betting value at odds of around 11-1 for the title and 9-4 for promotion. The Spireites were the side that just missed out on last term’s play-offs when they finished the season in good form, including having the second defensive record.
Similar to Walsall, Chesterfield did well against the top teams – no English League Two side lost fewer games versus sides that finished on the top half of the ladder – so one can see how the Spireites could challenge next term easily.
Chesterfield’s defensive statistics – 45 goals conceded in 46 English League One matches – were at least six goals better than every team except the champion, Gillingham – while Paul Cook has served his managerial apprenticeship on both sides of the Irish Sea and looks ready to make the next big step and guide the Spireites out of the English fourth tier. Chesterfield appears like a club on the up and up.