It is part and parcel of the cruelty of English football’s tiered system, but unfortunately come May next year a number of teams will be experiencing the ecstasy of promotion and the agony of relegation.
With the season approximately a third old, now is the perfect time to turn our attention to the promotion and relegation markets. We have some idea how things look set to pan out, yet the bookmakers are hedging their bets somewhat with their prices.
So who are the contenders for football’s most prominent emotional rollercoaster?
Premier League – Relegation
The most vulnerable side in the mix currently are Aston Villa, who have employed a manager who is little known at this level and who will miss one of their most talented players, Jordan Amavi, after he ruptured a cruciate ligament.
The Villains were in a similar position last term, and it took ten goals in ten games from Christian Benteke to maintain their Premier League status. He has departed now, and at first glance doesn’t appear to have been replaced adequately. The Belgian’s goals will be sorely missed and could be terminal to Villa’s hopes of survival. At 1/2, they look the best value.
There was a feeling that Sam Allardyce’s appointment might kickstart Sunderland’s campaign, and yet so far he has overseen three defeats in four games. The Black Cats are going to need a serious overhaul to survive, and priced at 1/5 for relegation even the bookies have recognised the extent of the situation.
On the flip side to all this is the ‘To Stay Up’ market, and Bournemouth (5/4) could be a contender here. Sure, they are in dire straits at the moment after suffering four consecutive defeats, but with five-goal Callum Wilson set to return sometime next spring he could well have the ‘Benteke effect’. As the January transfer window creaks open, billionaire owner Maxime Demin will also surely make his mark too.
Championship – Promotion
One of the best priced contenders in the pack at the moment appears to be Burnley (12/5). They have bounced back well from last season’s relegation disappointment under irrepressible manager Sean Dyche, and the addition of ten-goal Andre Gray has proven a masterstroke. With bags of top flight experience, expect the Clarets to be thereabouts come May.
Middlesbrough suffered play-off heartache last season but look a weaker outfit this time around, whilst Brighton, impressively unbeaten thus far, have drawn six of their last ten games and there must be a fear that one defeat could prick their bubble. So perhaps Hull (5/6), who have been here before under Steve Bruce, are the smart option to join Burnley. The core of their team – Curtis Davies, Michael Dawson, Jake Livermore, Tom Huddlestone and Abel Hernandez – looks unstoppable at this level.
Championship – Relegation
Rotherham did fantastically well to survive relegation last season after having three points deducted, and they already look up against it this term. Charlton meanwhile will be hoping that new manager Karel Fraeye can oversee a sea change in their fortunes; after losing eight games in nine, Fraeye led the Addicks to a priceless in his first game in charge.
It is Bolton’s immediate future that looks in most danger. They’ve won just once in 16 outings this term, and notched a meagre ten goals – less than any other Championship side. Those fears aren’t helped by a rather one-dimensional forward line of Emile Heskey and Shola Ameobi, and it would take a small miracle to preserve their status. Their even money price of relegation is worth a flutter.
League One – Promotion
Coventry City have really caught the eye this term, although much of their success has been built around a number of loan signings including League One top scorer Adam Armstrong, Ryan Kent and former England international Joe Cole. However, if Armstrong is recalled by Newcastle – which could be a reality should they get sucked deeper into the relegation mire – then the Sky Blues will suffer as a result.
A lot of money in this market has gone on Wigan (5/4), and it’s perhaps not that surprising. They are unbeaten in ten under boss Gary Caldwell and boast a squad of players of whom many could play at a higher level. Their higher league experience could prove invaluable during the shake-up.
League One – Relegation
Perennial strugglers Crewe Alexandra look up against it once again and prop up the division, whilst Blackpool – working wonders with the minimal resources at their disposal – will be expected to struggle with a paper-thin squad particularly over the Christmas period.
But it is Barnsley who leap out at a price of 13/8. They have lost EIGHT games in a row, sit 23rd in the table and have recently been knocked out of the FA Cup by a team from two divisions below them. Why their price is so long is anybody’s guess, but as a clued-up punter you shouldn’t be complaining!