Wednesday, May 30, 2007

2007/08 Championship - Charlton 7/1 Favourites

With Monday's play-off final confirming that WBA will remain in the Championship, the odds for next season have been posted and perhaps unsurprisingly, Charlton have been installed as favourites to lift the title at odds ranging from 6/1 to 7/1.

Had WBA won of course, we would have witnessed the rare (perhaps unprecedented) spectacle of all three relegated teams bouncing straight back at the first attempt. Even so, Charlton can take great heart from the success of Birmingham and Sunderland, and it is worth noting that the Black Cats won the title with just 88 points, the same total we managed in 1997/98 (whilst only finishing fourth).

It may be a little premature to be assessing our prospects for next season given that there will be plenty of transfer activity in the months ahead. But then again, the fixtures are published in just two weeks time and that special day usually whets the appetite of any true football fan, temporarily masquerading as a cricket lover.

Whilst I've no wish to put unnecessary pressure on the team, our position as favourites is entirely justified in my view. Odds of 6/1 do not scream 'outstanding value', but then again they imply that if next season was played out 700 times, then we should expect to win the title just 100 times. If accurate, I would be disappointed but it is important to consider hundreds of possible paths of the season, because randomness and fortune play such key roles during individual matches, and across the course of the season. Declaring that anything other than lifting the title will be a disappointment, would thus be unhelpful (but I'll say it anyway).

I consider us to be rightful favourites for the following reasons:

  • Season Tickets: We may not have the best average attendances next season, but we are likely to have the most season-ticket holders, the upfront cashflow being vitally important for planning.
  • Parachute Payments: The parachute payments are meant to act merely as a cushion following relegation, as clubs adapt to the new financial realities. However used appropriately, they also offer clubs the option to gear up, and take some calculated risks during the first season back; I expect Charlton to utilise this option to a sensible degree.
  • Darren Bent: Assuming he is sold, the cash inflow his transfer will provide will give Pardew a valuable windfall, whilst our fellow relegated sides do not possess a saleable asset whose valuation comes close to Bent's. Indeed, he is comfortably the most valuable player in the Championship, exemplified by Southampton receiving just £5m upfront for Gareth Bale. Of course in the unlikely event he stays, an injury-free Bent would be expected to score 30+ goals.
  • Alan Pardew: Pards has plenty of experience of Championship football, and guided Reading (once) and West Ham (twice) to the play-off final.
  • Squad: There will be plenty of ins and outs, but even assuming its core includes most of Bougherra, Fortune, Thatcher, Holland, Reid, Hughes, Ambrose, Faye, Varney, and Iwelumo, that represents a reasonable foundation for Pards to build from, at least in comparison to those we will face (see below).
Scanning the list of the 23 teams we will face in the Championship, it is very difficult to make the case that it is (or should be) a difficult division to get out of. For example, the bookies have clearly highlighted six teams as the market-leaders, and we really should not fear any of the others (WBA, Wolves, Sheff United, Watford, Southampton). Whilst acknowledging that WBA and Southampton are well-run clubs who will compete, I believe we are better placed than both Watford (clearly) and Sheff United (probably), whilst the inclusion of Wolves seems mere speculation on the new investment likely to be forthcoming, because they punched above their weight last season in my view.

Looking down the remainder of the list, I might suggest a couple of surprise outsiders (eg. Norwich) who could mount a serious campaign, but otherwise it really is a poor division. If I had to group the teams into six categories, I would do so as follows:

TITLE CONTENDERS: Charlton, WBA, Sheffield United, Southampton.

PLAY-OFF HOPEFULS: Wolves, Crystal Palace, Preston, Norwich.

PLAY-OFF OUTSIDERS: Watford, Sheff Weds, Coventry, Ipswich.

SOLIDLY MID-TABLE: Stoke, Cardiff, Bristol City, Leicester.

FLIRTING WITH RELEGATION: Plymouth, QPR, Hull, Colchester.

RELEGATION FODDER: Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Blackpool, Burnley.

Not exactly a terrifying list. Roll on August 11th.


At 10:08 PM, Anonymous John said...

On paper mate I entirely agree with you, but this is Charlton we are talking about. Over the 55 years I have been addicted i have seen them slip up on a plantation of banana skins.
Must stop thinking like this yes we will bounce straight back as we did last time. come on August can just see it Charlton 8 Palace 0 great.

At 8:40 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

The problem is that it's a division where any team can win on its day, so you go away to Colchester and lose 3-0. I'm convinced we'll be in the mix for promotion, but I think there is a little too much confidence at the moment.

At 9:21 AM, Anonymous Oggy red said...

Confidence and self-belief are the key to success.

It's complacency that we need to beware of.


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