Football League Value – The Championship

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It’s finally here… English football has charged it’s engines over the past two months and is ready to go full throttle again as of this weekend when the (newly crowned) SkyBet Championship and the rest of the football league gets under way. And, after spending the last few weeks feeding my insatiable appetite watching Andy Murray clinch Wimbledon, Justin Rose take down the US Open and Lee Westwood blowing up on the last day of The Open Championship **sigh**, it’s finally time for me to get back to enjoying what I love most… Foos-ball!

Now, granted, the Premier League is where I’ll be doing most of my digging over the course of this season but until that starts I thought I’d have a little look at any potential value that might be floating around in the lower leagues. Here’s my two penneth’s worth starting with the Championship:

The SkyBet Championship

It’s arguably the hardest league in Europe to get out of, so picking a winner here is going to be nothing short of stupidly difficult. I could take to throwing darts at a board or closing my eyes and picking names out of a hat – but in a vein attempt at being more constructive I’m going to try and find some sort of solid foundation to base my opinion on.

QPR

Immediately looking through the list of teams and my eyes are drawn to the ‘bigger’ names. QPR sit at the top of the tree as favourites to soar back up to the Premiership next season. At best odds of 13/2 (Betfair) to go up I just can’t see any value though. The league takes no prisoners, the teams that notoriously do well have a strong core and notoriously a great team ethic. QPR for me possess neither. Overpaid and underworked was where most of the players left last season, and I can’t see how things are going to drastically change this term. Missing out on Gary Hooper from Celtic was also a massive blow. I felt he was made for the Championship and had a real chance of tearing the league apart, so his last minute swerve to Norwich is a bitter blow to the Super Hoops. Lastly, for me, I question Harry Redknapp’s desire at the club. Great manager (t’riffic in fact) don’t get me wrong. But this latest venture of his doesn’t seem as sincere as some of the rest to me. Overall I just don’t see how the team can come together enough to instill the fight they’ll need to go straight back up.

Bolton, Forest, Leicester & Watford

Next on my hitlist are these four ‘sleeping giants’. Each have tasted the dizzy heights of the Premiership and each are desperate to get back there. Bolton finished last season like a train and missed out on a playoff spot on the last day of the season. I fancy them to continue where they left off, the key area they suffered last season was an out and out goalscorer. David Ngog and Marvin Sordell bagged 8 a piece last term (12 league goals in total) and their top goalscorer was midfielder Chris Eagles with 12 league strikes. So collaring the services of Jermaine Beckford from Leicester seems like a smart piece of business in my opinion. He’s a proven scorer in the league (Leeds, Leicester & Huddersfield) and I think he’ll add the extra firepower they need to challenge this year. The 9/1 on offer with Betfair seems perhaps a tad tight for a team who’ve struggled to find consistency since going down however.

Bolton lost their playoff spot after the crazy events on the last day of the season saw Leicester pip them to 6th spot. Nigel Pearson’s side have a good core running through the team in Kasper Schmeichel, captain Wes Morgan and two proven goalscorers David ‘Love him or hate him’ Nugent and Chris Wood. They struggled early on in the campaign but it seemed as though a good team with a good work ethic had formed by the end of the season. If they can keep a level of consistency throughout the season they’ll go close. 14/1 (Betfair) seems like a fair price here.

Nottingham Forest have made a number of new signings in the close season and the pick of the bunch has to be Jamie Mackie from QPR. This guy is a serious player and one I feel got the rough end of the stick last season after coming back from injury. I think he fell foul to the high priced prima donnas and this move is the best thing that could have happened for him. He’s Premiership quality playing Championship football and he’ll relish getting back where he belongs. This great piece of business only cements Billy Davies’ place as one of the best managers in the league more for me. He’s determined to succeed with Forest and this season might just be his time. 11/1 (Betfair) is tight, but maybe worth a punt.

Troy Deeney is still going to be the key for Watford this year. Keep him out of trouble (on and off pitch) and they’ll have a chance. Couple that with Zola managing to actually sign some players this year (14 so far!) rather than relying on a squad of loanees and they should be in the mix again. Ikecha Anya looked a solid player last term and keeping him was a big plus. 12/1 with BetVictor seems about right.

My Pick

It’s thin, very thin… But for me the value stands with last years Premiership flops Reading. Nigel Adkins has managed to keep the vast majority of the squad that went down and also added a couple of worthy appointments at the same time. Wayne Bridge and Danny Williams add experience and strength respectively to a squad already capable of handling the league’s hussle and bussle. Royston Drenthe’s acquisition is also an exciting prospect, I don’t see any middle ground with him, he’ll either be brilliant or utter toss. If he’s brilliant then adding him to the likes of Robson-Kanu and Adam Le Fondre, both who’ve proven they are Premiership standard, will only strengthen the team even more. The team looks strong, but the manager looks stronger for me. Adkins worked nothing short of miracles at Southampton and the way he parted company with the Saints still leaves a sour taste for me! He knows how to win in this league and I firmly believe he’s at the perfect club to do it all over again. The best odds of 8/1 at Betfair are, as mentioned, thinner than Paris Hilton during lent. But for me the squad is head and shoulders more equipped than the rest to succeed. I’ll be having a few quid to keep me interested.

Outsiders

It’s a tough one this, even tougher than picking a winner. But I’m drawn towards Derby County at 33/1 with Betfair. Nigel Clough’s youngsters have potential and last season they showed signs they could mix it with the best in the league. If they can string any kind of form together, coupled with some youthful fearlessness you never know what might happen.