This year’s Skybet Championship looks a markedly different betting proposition to last year’s 2017-2018 sees a market that is 7-1 the field, a far cry from 2016-17 where Newcastle went off 13/8 and won the division.
Last year Newcastle and Brighton finished with 94 and 93 points respectively and were well clear of third place. The division looks more competitive this time round.
Across the division there are big budgets, some new foreign owners and up to a dozen clubs with the benefit of Premier League parachute payments.
This is not necessarily a guarantee of success though. For example two of last season’s relegated sides, Sunderland and Hull, are outside the top eight in the outright betting for this season. Stability off the field is vital as big teams like Aston Villa and Leeds have shown before in failing to gain promotion, it is assumed Sunderland and Hull will struggle again until on an even keel in terms of board-room and squad composition.
It is also possible to get out of this division as an unfancied outsider, if the combination of circumstances comes right. Last season Huddersfield were 50-1 outright and 10-1 to be promoted, and won the play-offs.
The Shape of the top of the outright market is as follows
Aston Villa 7-1
Sheffield Wednesday 10-1
Each way terms are available at three places, one quarter the odds.
Whilst I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of the names above win the division, my eye was instead drawn to a short-list of relative outsiders who could provide value in a wide open division. All are available at 25-1 to 33-1 to win the division, but the attractiveness might be in the “to be promoted” market where a top six finish means the play-offs, usually 7-2 to 9-2 each of four.
They were (with the best available “to be promoted” prices)
Birmingham (8-1): Just survived relegation last year and Redknapp has stayed on as manager. Can he move them into a position to challenge with a transfer budget and some stability off the field?
Reading (8-1) Losing playoff finalist last year. Have lost a couple of important players but the price has moved out a long way for a side that won 85 points last season
Brentford (9-1) Have had a very good summer on the recruitment front following on from a tenth place finish last year and in Jota and Vibe have two of the best attacking players in the division
Cardiff (10-1) After an unstable few years might be positioning to challenge again under Neil Warnock who gets teams out of this division. Kenneth Zohore scored 12 goals from December to May providing the club with a spearhead it previously lacked. The squad is experienced and deep
Sheffield United (12-1) Promoted from League one, they receive sell on payments from the subsequent transfers of Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire. It might be a season e too early to challenge, but could be a team to follow as the squad is reshaped.
Of this shortlist of teams my selections are as follows, both prices are with BetVictor
Brentford 9-1 to be promoted
Cardiff 10-1 to be promoted