Predicting the seasonal outcome of League One is as tough as predicting the outcome of the Championship. However, at least the betting odds offer some sort of come May which teams may just be missing out.
According to bookmakers, there are six teams that will kick off the 2012/2013 season with clear hopes of winning the title and promotion to The Championship. The odds also suggest that it will be Sheffield United, so close to promotion last season and MK Dons that will be the two teams automatically promoted.
Here we look at the leading contenders according to the odds from bookmakers listed on Betting Directory’s League One preview.
Sheffield United 11/2
The Blades had to pay the ultimate price for finishing third last season and missing out in the Play Offs by having to reduce their unsustainable wage bill by unloading a number of what were regarded as key players. However, manager, Danny Wilson, views the departures as ‘blessings in disguise’ as it has allowed him, first of all, to persuade Kevin McDonald to renew his contract. He has also signed Middlesbrough’s highly rated right back, Tony McMahon and pulled off a ‘bit of a coup’ in bringing Manchester United’s young striker, John Cofie to the Bramall Lane.
It is hard to believe that the Blades will not be competing at the top of the table this season. They are a team on a mission and as always they will be one of the best supported teams in the league and a title bid looks on the cards.
MK Dons 13/2
Following two seasons finishing in the Play-Offs, the time could be right for MK Dons to win promotion automatically.
Manager, Karl Robinson, has the support of the fans and has brought in full back Jon Otsemobor from Sheffield Wednesday, central defender Antony Kay from Huddersfield and experienced striker Ryan Lowe also from Sheffield Wednesday.
The Dons will once again be a force to be reckoned with in League One but whether they can improve enough to make it in to the top two is another question and with Robinson linked to many managerial vacancies in the Championship, they may have a fight to keep hold of him if a bigger club comes knocking.
Swindon Town 8/1
It is little wonder that Swindon are regarded as one of the favourites to be promoted, despite having only come up from League Two this season. Manager, Paulo Di Canio worked miracles last season with and the fans expect him to do something similar again this term. However, the most important development that has happened at the club during the close season is securing Di Canio on a lucrative longish term contract.
Di Canio has insisted that his captain, the influential Paul Caddis, also be given a long term contract and now that is in place, the Italian can plot another successful campaign.
It is good to see that Di Canio has resisted the lure of one or two short term foreign players to help his promotion ambitions. Instead he has spent wisely on experienced football league players, bringing seven new faces in, including the experienced and sought after winger/midfielder, Gary Roberts from Huddersfield.
The price about Swindon winning back-to-back titles is short enough to avoid backing them but it would be no surprise to seem them contending deep in to the season for another promotion.
Preston North End 11/1
They say there are few better managers than Graham Westley when it comes to hyping up teams. If he can now persuade his almost completely new squad of players at Deepdale to follow his propaganda then there is little doubt that Preston North End will be making the trip back into the Championship at the end of this season.
Westley had signed 13 new players by the end of May and has now almost released the entire playing squad from last season. He insists that the players he has brought in are the players that can execute his campaign plans and to that end even the ‘Deepdale faithful’ must agree that the signs have been good in their opening pre-season warm up games.
John Mousinho, Jack King and Jeffrey Monakana all look good signings but most fans agree that it is essential for Westley to go flat out to sign a striker of substance if they are to really challenge for honours this term and without that, a top six finish is the best PNE fans can hope for.
Coventry City 12/1
Coventry City fans will be relying it seems on a mixed bag of players that manager Andy Thorn has brought to the Ricoh. In come the experienced Kevin Kilbane, Stephen Elliott while striker, John Fleck, plumped for Coventry in League One rather than stick with his first love, Glasgow Rangers in Scottish Division 3.
Thorn has also signed Reece Brown on loan from Manchester United who is said to be every bit as good as his older brother Wes, while young Derby striker, Callum Ball has agreed a loan deal that could prove a real tasty signing for the highly regarded youngster from Leicester.
Adding to the mixed bag are the two French signings, Kevin Malaga and William Edjenguele who are best described as unknown quantities, while Cody McDonald has impressed in the pre-season friendlies.
Many teams that have come down from the Championship have failed to bounce back at the first time of asking in recent years but the Sky Blues look to have a good chance of bucking that trend if they can hit the ground running.
Out with the old and in with the new appears to have been the policy adopted by new boss, Paul Groves, who has been given ample funding to bring in the quality it is felt that will be needed for automatic promotion.
With Matt Tubbs committing himself, Groves has been able to consolidate the squad by bringing in amongst others Lewis Grabban and Eunan O’Kane, highly regarded players from League 2. He has also signed Dutch striker, Frank Demouge, who could prove to be a revelation and has brought back Josh McQuiod from Millwall and signed the impressive Miles Addison on a full time basis. Joe Partington should also be ready this season to make his long overdue contribution.
Bournemouth have been backed to the hilt by their investors and it is up to Groves and the team to deliver – the smart money says they can!
Outside chances of promotion should apply to the likes of Brentford, Notts County and Doncaster. Brentford certainly play stylish football under coach, Uwe Rossler, but most pundits believe that he will need to sharpen the cutting edge if they are to play any significant role in the promotion race.
Notts County boss Keith Curle like so many managers this season has spent some of his time clearing out the deadwood. He has also brought in a couple of very decent players such Enoch Showunmi, Gary Liddle and Francois Zoko. The latter could prove a major influence in League One this season. A good start to proceedings might see them challenge but a top ten place is possible the best that they can hope for.
Relegated Doncaster are still tipped as outsiders to go back up but having seen 19 players depart the club then it is probably a safer bet to wait until their rebuilding is complete before backing them to return to the Championship.
Champions: Sheffield United
Runners Up: Coventry
Play-Offs: Preston, Bournemouth, Swindon and MK Dons