The Football League, newly sponsored by SkyBet, begins again this Weekend, with an exciting nine months ahead in theChampionship, Leagues One and Two. Here are some “value” selections across outsiders and the handicap markets over the three divisions for the long season ahead

Recommendations

Championship

Barnsley
to finish in the top half of the Championship 13/2 SkyBet

League One

Port Vale +25 points Handicap 20-1 Sky Bet

League Two

Burton Albion 25/1 ew SkyBet and/or  Burton Albion + 17 18/1 SkyBet

SkyBet have put in place a number of price boosts as part of their new sponsorship of the Football Leagues and gone top price across all markets. These can be accessed by clicking SkyBet

This is not a team by team preview merely a look at some value bets at decent prices for the season ahead. Away from the very efficiently priced Premiership, there tends to be value in the English Championship and lower leagues and that is enhanced at the moment by SkyBet’s promotion in conjunction with the new league sponsorship

In the Championship I alighted on Barnsley. Not a fashionable team or a team likely to be at the top but the bookmakers appear not to have given any credence to the  improvement seen subsequent to the appointment of David Flitcroft as manager mid last season and they are once again in their usual place of top 3 relegation favourites pre-season. This improvement saw them with top six form in the 22 games after Flitcroft was appointed, and led to them avoiding relegation on the last day in a dramatic game at Huddersfield.

The Championship is always hugely competitive and gaps between teams from as high as 8th to as low as 17th can be wafer thin. This year the introduction of FFP is affecting a number of teams in the division, capping spending and it is likely to concertina the teams even more than usual in terms of points potential.

Barsnely are unencumbered by FFP, not being heavy spenders on squad wages.  They have strengthened with the conversion of striker Chris O’Grady’s loan from Sheffield Wednesday into a permanent deal, while the capture of Dale Jennings from Bayern Munich is one of the division’s more intriguing pick-ups. Another former loanee, Lewin Nyatanga replaces mainstay Stephen Foster at the back. If you remove the exceptional impact of the relegation dogfight last year which Flitcroft inherited, then I think  Barnsley are a team capable of making the top 12 at least to the extent where 13/2 is clear value.

In League One, Port Vale who were promoted from League Two last season largely on the back of Tom Pope’s goals and a miserly defence should be much more competitive than their 50-1 odds imply. Managed by Micky Adams the defence from last season is retained and the recruitment of Gavin Tomlin from Southend, scorer of 16 goals last year gives Pope the strike partner he needs. Last season’s second top scorer was much travelled Jennison Myrie-Williams and Tomlin’s arrival should take some pressure off Pope. Goalscorers, tight defence, experienced manager is a combination that makes unherladed Port Vale an attractive option on handicaps.

In League Two, Burton Albion.

Burton Albion missed out in the League Two play-offs last year under talented manager Gary Rowett. This success led to the departure of  Calvin Zola and Jacques Maghoma joining Aberdeen and Sheffield Wednesday respectively, but manager Gary Rowett and his assistant Kevin Summerfield have recruited well bringing in Rene Howe and Adam Reed, players who have proven more than capable of performing at this level already. Howe chose Burton over a move to Hibs in the Scottish Premier League, which is interesting. I expect Burton to at least match last year’s top seven finish. In Howe and Billy Kee they will have goals for sure, prompted by Robbie Weir and the squad now has a strnegth in depth not seen before at Burton.

Behind the big guns in the league Portsmouth and Fleetwood, 25-1 is a very attractive each way price for a team, and a manager, going places

Recommendations

Championship

Barnsley
to finish in the top half of the Championship 13/2 SkyBet

League One

Port Vale +25 points Handicap 20-1 Sky Bet

League Two

Burton Albion 25/1 ew SkyBet and/or Burton Albion + 17 18/1 SkyBet