And now, dear reader, for something completely different, as the old Python’s used to say. This Saturday sees the start of the football season for ‘real’ fans, i.e. those whose team does not play in the Premier League, and I have a thought or three on the subject. So here goes…
There is one team in the three divisions that stands out as a very short price. That is the 12/5 best price on Southampton. To be truthful, in a division with 24 teams, that is a joke price. They might win. So what? 12/5 is a joke price. They’ve got fierce derby matches against Bournemouth and Brighton to contend with, as well as road trips to the likes of Carlisle at the other end of the cosmos (or England at least). 12/5… joke price.
Also bear in mind that a favourite hasn’t won this division in the last eleven seasons, and that includes Leeds twice (at 3/1 and 4/1), Nottingham Forest three times (at 7/2 and 5/1 twice), and Cardiff at 13/5. Joke price.
Every team in the division wants to beat the moneybags side, and Southampton are not going to be gifted too many games this year. Sure, they have a strong squad with a lot of striking firepower in the likes of Rickie Lambert, but defensively, they might need shoring up.
There’s also strong rumours of dissension between wealthy chairman and manager. Never a good sign. Saints have a chequered recent past and this looks a fairly combustible powder-keg of a situation. If Pardew doesn’t start well, he might not be there by October.
Give the Saints the swerve. Lay them if you don’t mind tying up capital for nine months, but I just can’t have them at 12/5. As I may have mentioned, it’s a joke price.
So who’s going to beat them then? Well, my man who knows about low league football gave me two teams ages ago, and the price has gone on both of them to some degree. Nevertheless, I still think one of them offers cracking each-way value.
The two are Sheffield Wednesday and Huddersfield, and the team I like are Huddersfield. They scored bundles of goals last year, but were a bit shaky defensively. Manager Lee Clark has addressed that in the close season, with the eye-catching acquisition of middle of the park kicker (a man after my own heart!), Joey Gudjonsson, and octogenarian Gary Naysmith (actually, much to my surprise, he’s only 31 – seems to have been around forever).
They’ve also added some goals and width in midfield with the loans of Joe Garner from Forest and Lee Croft from Derby. They are rock solid at the Galpharm Stadium (I preferred stadia before they were sponsored), but do need to improve on their away form.
8/1 looks decent value indeed, and they must have a great shout of troubling the judge at more than three times the price of Southampton.
Sheffield Wednesday have made some headline signings, like Neil Mellor and Clinton Morrison, but it’ll take more than a fat journeyman and a thin journeyman to turn the tide in the blue half of the city of steel. Add to this the fact that there are some fairly serious financial problems at Wednesday, and they look opposable at odds as short as 9/2 (6/1 available).
Peterborough, relegated horribly last season, will be much stronger this time with excellent manager Gary Johnson in the hot seat, and League One penalty box executioners, CMS (that’s Craig Mackail-Smith to you) and Aaron McLean, set to fill their boots. But they were awful last year, and I just wonder about their temperament. Wouldn’t surprise me to see them up there.
Finally, I have to give a mention to my own team, the Super Cherries of Bournemouth. Last season, Eddie Howe did exceptionally well to get us promoted in second place, with a transfer embargo in situ for pretty much the entire season. Cherries were playing with as few as three of the allowed seven subs, and including the 33 year old assistant manager Jason Tindall, last year due to the burden of the fiscal misdeeds of the previous administration.
My own reservations regarding the new chairman, Eddie Mitchell (ostensibly a property developing wide boy), have all but dissipated and he deserves immense credit for turning a Â£1.4 million debt into about Â£300k, which should be paid off by October, without dipping in and bailing out.
In other words, he’s introduced some sound (and hard nosed, I might add) business acumen to a football club. Of that, we Bournemouth fans can be justly proud.
The two Eddies have worked hard to instill a fierce sense of club loyalty, and that has been borne out by manager Howe’s refusal to consider – let’s face it – better offers higher up the league ladder.
Having retained the entire squad from last season, and bolstered it with some canny additions – including Howe’s half-brother, the reasonably prolific SPL striker, Steve Lovell; Marc Pugh, a well regarded midfielder who scored 13 goals for a relegated side from midfield last season; Michael Symes, another goalscorer; and previous club defenders, Stephen Purches – returning from Orient after three seasons away, and Rhoys Wiggins – finally signed on a full-time contract after two seasons on loan.
I’m not saying Bournemouth will win the division but they are a buy on the spreads for total points at 55 (50 would likely see them relegated!), and are definitely worth a look in season match bets too.
My two against the field are: Huddersfield Town and Peterborough
Heading back up to the Championship, it’s a much harder league to call – on the face of it at least.
With much discussion in recent years about Rangers and Celtic coming to play in the Championship south of the border, that will virtually happen this season as former Celtic manager, Gordon Strachan, has brought four SPL players, three of them from the Auld Firm.
Boro were truly awful last year, and the ever-patient chairman Steve Gibson was right to get shot of insipid Gareth Southgate. The only frustration about that is that we’re now obliged to listen to his guffing on ITV sport football. (Seriously, has there ever been a worse studio pundit squad than ITV’s at the World Cup. With the notable exception of Marcel Desailly’s passion, they were just horrible. Watching Adrian Chiles is like watching Murun Buchstansangur!)
Sorry, where was I? Ah yes, Middlesbrough and Championship. Maybe, but not for me at the price.
It’s another division where the favourite hasn’t won for a long time – in this case, Manchester City back in 2001-2 at 7/2. So look for value…
Relegated clubs have an excellent record of ‘bouncebackability’ from this section, so Burnley and Hull are interesting on that score. Forget Pompey, who look to have a long, hard road just to stay in business.
Burnley are much preferred and, having retained most of their players, look primed for a decent charge. They’ll miss Steven Fletcher and Robbie Blake mind you, so 10/1 looks only fair.
Reading finished last season very well: the forty points they secured in the second half of the season was only bettered by promoted sides, Newcastle and West Brom. They’ve not done much business in the window, but they’re a capable outfit and, if a charge begins to manifest itself, the chairman will likely cough up for signings. Again, 12/1 looks fair rather than generous.
A side worth looking out for here are Sheffield United. They weren’t far away last season, finishing eighth, and they were ninth and third in the two previous seasons. Granted a decent run, they should be looking at a play-off spot, and automatic promotion is not beyond them. Bet 365 are standout at 20/1, but there’s plenty of 18’s available.
My four against the field are: Middlesbrough, Burnley, Reading and Sheffield United
Down in the basement division, League Two, it’s very tough. This one looks wide open this year, and is a brave punter who piles in here.
Of the relegated sides, I think Wycombe will do well, and so does my football man. Funnily enough, so did the Racing Post footy pullout yesterday, so the price may have contracted by now. Wanderers have had a very good pre-season, and are a goalscoring team.
Rotherham look best of the League Two sides who try again this year and, in Adam Le Fondre, have a dead-eye striker at this level. They still have talismanic manager, Ronnie Moore, in the hot seat and – after a serious summer of wheeler dealing – they ought to do better than last term’s 5th place.
Teams who come up from the Conference (or Blue Square Bet Premier to give it the current title) have done well in League Two. Dagenham and Redbridge are the latest to jump up to League One, and a number of sides – including Carlisle, Exeter and Doncaster (now nicely embedded in the Championship under former Cherries boss, Sean O’Driscoll).
So Stevenage are worth more than a cursory glance at 16’s. They’ve strengthened the squad which hacked up in the Conference last season, and will smash a fair few of the ‘dead wood’ sides in League Two.
My three against the field are: Wycombe, Rotherham, and Stevenage.
I’m looking at a perm trixie, which is 50 bets for two, three and four teams as above. Be careful with e/w bets though, as it comes to a LOT more lines!
Now you’ll know that the new Geegeez Racing Club horse, Khajaaly, had his first run for us yesterday at Newcastle. You may also know that he finished fourth in the end, of the seven runners, and beaten a fair way.
Given that he was sent off the 11/4 favourite, it is probably OK to say that this was a disappointing run, for which there may have been a number of reasons.
I’ll not go into those here, as I have already discussed with members by email. Suffice it to say, we look forward to another day with Khajaaly.
Today, Julia is at Haydock with a 2yo newcomer, Generous Genella. I know that she works very well at home, beating the stable’s Albany Stakes 5th, Emma’s Gift, always. But… Emma’s is not much of a home worker, so it’s hard to know what to expect.
All I can say is that stable are extremely hopeful. They’ve another five runners across Brighton and Yarmouth, and all are entered with hope rather than expectation, though most are in the right grade so have a chance.
That’s all for today.