It is one of the toughest leagues to predict, as evidenced by Burton Albion’s stunning ascent to the Championship last season, but that doesn’t mean that punters should shy away from taking on League One.
With Sheffield United once again installed as favourites for the title (they lost 16 matches last season, for reference, the same as 17th placed Oldham), we are more than happy to oppose them and offer some other League One betting tips to boot.
Winner – Millwall (11/1)
Stat fans can rejoice with this little gem: only a single League One bookmakers favourite has actually gone on to win the title in the last 21 years!
Bad news for Sheffield United fans in 2016/17 then, although their position at the head of the market is bizarre anyway. Yes, they have brought in a new manager in Chris Wilder who is fresh from his Northampton Town success, but they finished eleventh in the division last time around. This is a criminally underperforming squad, and it would take some effort from Wilder to transform this side into championship-winning material. Avoid at all costs.
There is some value in Bolton here, relegated from the Championship of course, but it is Millwall who really catch the eye. They were unlucky to run into the unstoppable force that was Barnsley in the play-offs, and under Neil Harris the Lions have found a winning formula. Having 20-goal Lee Gregory on side was key to that.
If Gregory decided to stay in The Den – rumours of a move to an unnamed Championship side persist – then there is no reason why Millwall cannot use last season’s momentum to good effect. This is a side, remember, who when they last tasted play-off defeat in 2009 went on to get promoted the following season.
Transfer dealings have been mainly positive from Harris, and despite the loss of popular centre back Mark Beevers he has been replaced by the promising Shaun Hutchinson. On the wings, Gregg Wylde and David Worrall will provide Gregory with all of the ammunition he needs – if he decides to stay, this could well be the Lions’ year.
Promotion – Bolton (9/2)
Of the three teams that got relegated from the Championship, it is the Trotters that look in the best shape for an immediate return. The turmoil off the pitch at Charlton will surely overshadow the signing of Nicky Ajose on it, and MK Dons have yet to really strengthen their ranks following immediate demotion from whence they came.
Bolton’s best signing of the summer has been their new manager, Phil Parkinson, who has a fine record at this level and is exactly the kind of presence the club needs at this juncture in its history: ‘Parky’ will not suffer fools gladly.
The wage bill has been trimmed and £2.5 million has been made on the sale of Rob Harding, and that sounder financial footing will help stabilise matters off and on the pitch. Chris Taylor and Mark Beevers have come in – very handy players at this level, but it is the faces that have stayed at the Reebok Stadium, thus far, that really catch the eye at League One level.
Options in midfield include Jay Spearing, Liam Trotter, Darren Pratley and Mark Davies – far too good for this level, while in attack the highly-rated Zach Clough and Gary Madine will have lots of fun. David Wheater, the commanding centre half, is also back training with the club, so Parkinson has inherited a squad that is ready to challenge for honours straight off the bat.
Relegation – Port Vale (7/4)
It was only the Valiants’ home form that stopped them from becoming embroiled in a relegation battle last term, and since the loss of Robert Page as manager quite a lot has happened at the club in a stark parallel to another former League One side, Notts County.
A foreign manager (Bruno Ribeiro) has come in, and brought with him some 13 new players – ten of whom come from international shores. How well a bunch of 21-year-olds from Benfica B, Monaco B and Roda JC will cope with the physical rigours of League One is anybody’s guess, but as Notts County themselves found out it is not always an experiment destined for success.
Vale lost just four matches of the 23 they played at home last season, and assuming that such a strong ratio will regress to the mean this time around suggests that they will struggle at the wrong end of the table this time around.
Top Goalscorer – Ched Evans (33/1 e/w)
Whatever you think about him as a person – and discretion is often the better part of valour – there can be no doubting that Ched Evans is an outstanding player and a massive coup for Chesterfield.
He has 13 caps for Wales to his name, and in his last full season bagged 35 goals in 42 games in all competitions for Sheffield United. This is a guy who, all things considered equal, is perhaps too good for League One.
Playing up front with the canny Sylvain Ebanks-Blake, Evans has reportedly looked good in pre-season and after scoring against Ilkeston had some four shots on target against a near full-strength Derby County.
Putting morality to one side for the moment, this looks a canny each way punt.