You can almost smell the freshly cut grass and the aroma of wet paint as the new football season beckons to us like a buxom young harlot asking for a hot chip out of your bag on a cold night.
Saturday is the day of destiny for the FL72, and while supporters’ pre-season predictions of success will be shattered or strengthened in the space of 90 minutes, for canny punters it is the long game that holds the most appeal.
In the first of our previews of the Football League, here are the best of the League Two betting tips for 2016/17.
League Winner – Doncaster (9/1)
The infrastructure is in place at Donny to secure an immediate return to League One, and while boss Darren Ferguson will have to reverse the losing psychology at the Keepmoat Stadium the son of Sir Alex proved at Peterborough what a good job he can do if supported by those upstairs.
They have been savvy in the transfer market, bringing in Tommy Rowe, Gary McSheffrey, John Marquis and Matty Blair, amongst others, and those new faces added to the likes of James Coppinger and Dany N’Guessan should prove to be a fruitful cocktail.
Northampton’s title-win last season was outstanding, and typically any side that has hopes of repeating that feat will need to be strong at home. If Donny can persuade 10,000+ into the Keepmoat this term, they should have a chance of doing just that.
Promotion – Plymouth (7/2)
The Pilgrims will be hoping to go one better than in 2015/16, where they suffered play-off final heartbreak.
In truth, they were thought to be a prolific striker short of automatic promotion, and manager Derek Adams may have just pulled off a masterstroke after bringing in his Scottish counterpart David Goodwillie on a free transfer.
If Adams can get the notoriously ‘free spirited’ Goodwillie to knuckle down and concentrate on his football, then Plymouth tick all of the boxes for promotion from a division in which four ascend to the glamorous heights of League One.
Top Seven Finish – Carlisle (15/8)
Keith Curle has done a sterling job at the Cumbrians, and after a season of consolidation last time around this could be the year they mount an assault on the upper reaches of the league table.
He has been canny in the transfer market too, bringing in Morecambe’s Shaun Miller, who bagged 15 goals last season in League Two, Nicky Adams – who played a role in Northampton’s title win, commanding centre half Shaun Brisley and tricky winger Reggie Lambe.
If the U’s avoid injuries to a talented but thin squad, there is no reason why they can’t finish in the upper reaches of the division.
Relegation – Morecambe (3/1)
The loss of Shaun Miller – a player who scored 22% of their league goals last season – will take some getting over for Morecambe, who aren’t blessed with the financial muscle to go out and find a 15 goal striker willy-nilly.
In truth, it was Miller’s goals that kept the seasider’s in the division in 2015/16; they finished just 12 points above the drop zone, having failed to win any of their last six matches.
Only two get relegated from League Two remember, so the margins are slim here. But without a goal threat of note and having conceded more goals than any other side in the division last season, Morecambe appear to be on borrowed time.
Top Goalscorer – James Collins (33/1 e/w)
This looks a huge price for a striker that boasts a career goal record of one goal every three games in League Two.
Collins started last season at Shrewsbury in League One prior to being shipped out to Northampton Town on loan. His eight goals in the second half of the campaign helped the Cobblers to secure their famous title honours, and so it is clear that the 25-year-old has the firepower to take this division by storm.
Crawley Town, his new employer, aren’t the best side in the division by any means, but they have brought in Jason Banton, the lively winger, and his crosses should yield results for Collins, who is extremely powerful in the air.