League One Odds, 2009/10
The bookies have wasted no time offering odds on League One for next season.
The following are the latest from William Hill: Leeds 10/3, Norwich 7/1, Charlton 7/1, Huddersfield 11/1, MK Dons 12/1, Southampton 16/1, Millwall 16/1, Brighton 16/1, Tranmere 20/1, Southend 20/1, Colchester 20/1, Brentford 25/1, Oldham 33/1, Bristol Rovers 33/1, Wycombe 40/1, Swindon 40/1, Gillingham 40/1, Exeter 40/1, Walsall 50/1, Hartlepool 50/1, Carlisle 50/1, Yeovil 66/1, Leyton Orient 66/1, Stockport 80/1 (E/W 1/4 odds, 1,2,3)
With fully a 25% profit margin built into the odds, any sensible gambler would just laugh at their audacity and put the money back in their pocket.
However I'm more curious about their perception of the league's likely hierarchy, rather than finding 'value' of which there's surely none.
Leeds' home form generated 53 points last season, and it is presumably on that basis that they are installed as hot favourites. After a slow start under Simon Grayson, they rallied to fourth position before losing in the play-offs.
However expectations will be high and one suspects their fans will be quick to get on his back. Their failure to tie down 34-goal Jermaine Beckford to a new contract meanwhile, suggests they do not have the finances even at this lowly level that their big-name status implies.
Charlton and Norwich are the 'default' selections for joint second favourites, with Southampton in the most severe state of financial distress, and thus shunted out to 16/1.
If rumours of an imminent takeover at The Valley are to be believed, then 7/1 would likely offer considerable value since surely the first priority of any backer will be promotion at virtually any reasonable cost.
But if instead the current set-up is maintained, then it is hard to build a sensible case for a realistic promotion push. The squad overhaul will be too wide-ranging, and the financial constraints too restricting. And of course, the manager is very far from convincing.
On a more optimistic note, the immediate bounce-back promotion of both Leicester and Scunthorpe suggests that there may be a gulf in quality between the divisions, that even some grinding cost-cutting cannot fully close.
Colchester's comfortable mid-table finish on a budget that was extra tight even in the Championship, probably tends to back up this view, rather than run counter to it.
It's not clear to me why Huddersfield (9th last season) should be at narrower odds than MK Dons, steered superbly to 3rd place by Roberto di Matteo, or indeed Millwall as much as we might hate to admit it. Surely both must be worthy of an each-way punt.
Looking further down the list, it's hard to make a strong case for others at longer odds, although this may in part reflect typical relegated arrogance (Newcastle have already been swiftly installed as 5/1 favourites for the Championship).
If there's one obvious lesson to be gleaned from the 2008/9 success of the likes of Burnley, Peterborough, and Scunthorpe (largely 'unfancied' pre-season), then it's the tendency to overlook some of the game's promising young managers.
For example Paul Trollope is only 36 years old, yet amazingly is the 9th longest serving manager amongst the top four divisions. With our own Lennie Lawrence overseeing affairs, and an 11th place position (with a +18 goal difference) behind them, Bristol Rovers may surprise.
Similarly there's another ex-Charlton connection at Tranmere, a club always seemingly in the promotion shake-up, and led by Ronnie Moore (who I helped the club to buy in 1983). However at 56-years old, perhaps he lacks the dynamism and openness to new ideas, that characterise some of his younger compatriots.
Following the success of Peterborough and MK Dons last season, one should not overlook the four promoted sides from League Two. The ability for successful sides to retain momentum is not surprising given the stability and confidence that regular victories engender.
Peter Taylor in particular at Wycombe will relish the challenge, particularly one away from the media spotlight where he spectacularly failed at Leicester.
Exeter boss Paul Tisdale meanwhile is also only 36-years old, and has won the chance to test his wits in League One the hard way.
A decidedly unglamorous career saw him make only 39 League appearances at various clubs, whilst his only coaching role prior to being appointed Exeter manager was as manager of Team Bath, the Conference South side affiliated to Bath University.
It is easy to be cynical of course, and certainly one imagines the likes of Alan Shearer would be, but Scunthorpe's ebullient boss Nigel Adkins was previously their physio, yet now he's one of the most respected managers outside the Premiership.