Wednesday, June 04, 2008

What Are The Chances?

A couple of weeks away from the keyboard has left me fully refreshed, and ready to begin to prepare for Charlton's promotion season.

In the meantime there's the small matter of Euro 2008 (NYA predicts Portugal, Germany, Russia, and Spain will comprise the semis), but what better way to begin the new season than to assess the odds for the 2008/9 Coca-Cola Championship?

Here are William Hill's latest odds:

QPR 6/1
Birmingham 15/2
Reading 8/1
Sheff Utd 10/1
Palace 11/1
Ipswich 12/1
Wolves 14/1
Derby 14/1
Charlton 14/1
Watford 16/1
Cardiff 20/1
Forest 25/1
Coventry 25/1
Bristol City 25/1
Swansea 33/1
Southampton 33/1
Preston 33/1
Norwich 33/1
Plymouth 40/1
Doncaster 40/1
Burnley 40/1
Sheff Wed 66/1
Blackpool 80/1
Barnsley 80/1

It is worth recalling that a diversified High Street bookmaker's job is not to quote odds that reflect his views on the likelihood of each outcome, but instead his views on the average punter's assessment of said likelihood. If done properly, this will ensure the balanced book that they seek (smaller independent bookies are more predisposed to 'taking a view' on the outcome). It is in this context that one should view the otherwise absurd selection of QPR as favourites.

After a disappointing start, QPR eventually recovered to finish in a respectable 14th place with 58 points. Their notoriously wealthy owners showed only limited inclination to splash the cash in the January 2008 window (spending £4.5m on Matthew Connolly, Hogan Ephraim, Patrick Agyemang, Fitz Hall and Rowan Vine), and have since notably added Radek Cerny and Peter Ramage, presumably on Premiership-type wages.

However it is worth remembering that these investments bolstered what had previously been perhaps the weakest squad in the division, restoring them only to the midtable parity that they ultimately reached. From the end of the January window, they picked up 25 points from 17 games, equivalent to 68 points over a full season. An improvement for sure, but not even play-off form (whilst Charlton fans hardly need reminding who has been entrusted with managing the new title favourites).

In my opinion, QPR's owners would need to lay out transfer fees in the region of £30-40m, and tolerate a wage bill of approx £25m pa to create a squad which merely had a 50/50 chance of promotion. Even that implies some aggressive assumptions about their ability to attract Premiership squad players (or foreigners who could genuinely make a difference), as well as Dowie's ability to mould it (interesting that he's back managing in London again!).

Not surprisingly, their owners have shown no inclination to go down this route, and nor do I expect them to. I recall similar sentiments when Wolves were taken over last summer, yet little investment transpired. If I could 'lay' those 6/1 odds, then I would gladly do so.

So where is the value? As soon as it became clear that Reading would be relegated, I was adamant that they would be the team to beat, so long as Steve Coppell remained in charge. The squad which accumulated 106 points and 99 goals in 2005/6 was dominated by the likes of Doyle, Hahnemann, Harper, Ingimarsson, Kitson, Lita, Little, Murty, Shorey and Sonko, virtually a mirror-image of the squad that has just been relegated, and will largely be retained. 8/1 looks like outstanding value.

Charlton at 14/1 does not 'scream' value, but if one is not tempted by those odds, then presumably one would be tempted by the alternative ie. 1/14 on Charlton not to win the title. Would you be prepared to lose £1400 to win £100 on this outcome? No, I didn't think so. So there, I guess we're reasonable value too.

Elsewhere Watford look a generous 16/1 (and particularly so each-way, a tasty 4/1 to finish in the top three). Their season tailed away of course, but they were never out of the top six, and led the way for half the season. Bookmakers and punters alike need longer memories.

Likewise I wouldn't rule out Paul 'shagger' Jewell's ability to turnaround the disastrous Derby side (which he partly created), and produce a genuine challenge. Again an each-way bet looks worth a nibble at 14/1.

Ipswich, Palace and Sheff Utd all look stupidly short-priced given their tight budgets; I wouldn't be tempted by any of them, nor Wolves at 14/1. Birmingham are such an unpleasant club that I have to resist my natural inclination to wish them only ill. At 15/2 I can do safely do neither as they are probably fairly priced, the steady guidance of Alex McLeish counterbalanced by boardroom instability.

If I was looking for a big-priced outsider, it's hard to look further than Bristol City at 25/1. I saw us outclassed by them at The Valley, and those odds look too wide for a side which after all was only two goals away from promotion. Beyond them, it's hard to make a case except to say that if the same hierarchy of odds is reflected in the total points spreads, then Barnsley and Norwich would both be solid 'buys'.

Likewise, I see little reason why Notts Forest should be considered a solid midtable prospect; further evidence perhaps that the bookie seeks to anticipate the opinion of the average punter, presumably tainted by memories of past European triumphs, rather than the reality of lower division financial struggle.

New York Addick tips:

5pts Reading - WIN at 8/1
1pt Watford - E/W at 16/1
1pt Derby - E/W at 14/1
1pt Bristol City - E/W at 25/1


At 8:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NYA - interesting and well reasoned post. I think these odds would be decent if we were talking about "getting promoted" but they look on the mean side for winning the "Championship." If Reading's shorter top flight stay means that opponents do not view playing them as "Cup Finals," then I'd agree with your tip of Reading.

At 8:38 AM, Blogger Wyn Grant said...

Not sure about Watford who really weren't very good last season. Good to see you back at the keyboard so soon.

At 1:36 PM, Blogger charlton north-downs said...

NY just looking at your listing of team odds the division looks a hell of lot stronger than last season.

At 4:11 PM, Blogger Chicago Addick said...

Good to see you back mate.


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