The Sky Bet League 1 is a strange old division: it’s like a petrol station on a highway separating heaven from hell. It plays host to fallen giants (Blackburn Rovers, Portsmouth, Charlton), progressive outfits with lofty ambitions (Fleetwood, MK Dons, AFC Wimbledon) and sides who seem to have bene knocking around the lower reaches of English football for an eternity (Oldham, Gillingham, Walsall).
It remains devilishly difficult to predict, but at least that is reflected in the prices offered by the bookmakers, with plenty of value to be had.
So who make up the pick of the League 1 betting tips for the 2017/18 campaign?
League 1 Winner
Blackburn Rovers have been installed as the 9/2 favourites in this market, and that’s fair enough given that they were only relegated from the Championship on goal difference. They have so far hung on to Charlie Mulgrew, Corry Evans and Danny Graham, while the addition of promising youngsters Dominic Samuel, Ben Gladwin and Bradley Dack are smart.
The experience of new signings Peter Whittingham and Paul Caddis should make a difference to a young squad, while Tony Mowbray led the Lancashire side to a decent enough end to the last campaign (W5 D7 L3). There is no reason why Rovers can’t be there or thereabouts come May – assuming the Venkys Group don’t initiate another catalogue of disastrous decisions somewhere down the line.
Wigan (8/1) should prove competitive, with the core of the side that gave Championship survival a decent go still intact. An attacking trio of Will Grigg, Omar Bogle and Nick Powell should, if they all stay fit, provide plenty of goals to the Latics’ cause.
Of the outsiders, MK Dons are intriguing at 16/1. Manager Robbie Neilson oversaw an improvement on the Karl Robinson regime, and he’s been busy in the transfer window too. Aaron Tshibola and Ousseynou Cisse will add steel to the midfield and provide the platform from which Chuks Aneke, Ben Reeves and Kieran Agard can play.
The Dons finished 12 points off the play-offs last season despite only taking 27 points from their home games – they’ll be hoping for a whole heap more in 2017/18.
Top Six Finish
Those sides mentioned above duly occupy favouritism in this market without offering wholesale betting value. Instead, how about the bookies’ odd decision to price Fleetwood as long as 7/2 despite the fact they finished fourth last term just four points from automatic promotion!
Critics will focus on the loss of Jimmy Ryan and David Ball as factors for that, but in their place come talented youngsters Kyle Dempsey and Conor McAleny, who took to League 1 very nicely last term with 12 goals in 15 games in a loan spell at Oxford United.
In Uwe Rosler, the coastal outfit boast a manager with a proven track record of success at this level, and the German’s tactical nous should enable his side to pick up plenty of points against teams of all abilities.
This is a wide open market, with three of the four sides promoted from League 2 – Portsmouth, Plymouth and Doncaster – expected to make their presence felt in the top half of the table rather than the bottom.
So perennial strugglers Oldham head the market at 6/4, although their form last season under John Sheridan (W9 D7 L6), who took over in January, cannot be overlooked.
Gillingham catch the eye at 7/4. They conceded more goals than any other League 1 side in 2016/17, and have since lost key man Bradley Dack to Blackburn. The Gills will need to score goals to stay afloat, so can Liam Nash – signed from the eighth tier of English football – come up with the goods?
Bury have invested heavily this summer, and that has tempted some pundits to predict a season of relative comfort for the Shakers. But top goalscorer James Vaughan has gone, and remember this is a team that finished one point above the relegation zone last term.
If Chris Maguire, Nicky Ajose and Jermaine Beckford don’t catch light at Gigg Lane, the 6/1 on them to be relegated will look a huge price.
Danny Graham (12/1) notched 12 goals last term in that relegated Blackburn outfit, and with an array of attacking talent behind him we would expect the 31-year-old to improve on that output this term.
Each way punters will be taking a look at Bradford’s Charlie Wyke (16/1), who netted a goal roughly every two games after joining from Carlisle in January, while Will Grigg (14/1) – rarely on fire last season, despite the song lyrics – is a more natural goalscorer at League 1 level (77 goals in 217 appearances) and should improve upon his fallow 2016/17 campaign.