Friday, August 19, 2011

Good Start

Three wins, seven goals, three solid performances, nine points, joyous fans returning home down the A12.....this is Charlton we're talking about isn't it? (pinches himself).

Ever the realist, one could point out that the above paragraph might just as easily have referred to the start of season 2009/10.

On that occasion we had followed up a slightly nervy home win over Wycombe, with two similarly impressive away performances at Hartlepool and Leyton Orient (2-0 and 2-1 too incidentally).

We were to go on to increase the run of consecutive wins to six, before draws against Southampton and Norwich (remember them?) brought us somewhat back to earth.

The season ebbed and flowed, before ending with 84 points and a play-off semi-final exit to Danny Wilson's Swindon ("..he's behind you!").

Despite early promising signs, I think one could have a healthy debate about which side (the 2009/10 vintage, or the current one) was 'optically' the stronger at this stage of the season.

I say 'optically' because two seasons ago it turned out that the team wasn't as strong as we thought after that terrific balmy August evening, although we didn't know it quite yet.

You will recall that the team that began that season was particularly strong through the midfield, just as the current one seems to be.

Fans' favourite Semedo patrolled the front of the defence, Racon and Shelvey roamed behind the lone striker (I very nearly wrote 'loan'), whilst Bailey and Sam provided considerable danger from the flanks, drifting inside and outside respectively.

We were playing some lovely football too, far removed from the long ball stuff that Parkinson's teams depressingly evolved into relying upon.

The point of all of that is to emphasise that there will be a time to begin getting carried away, but we are nowhere near that point yet.

I've circled the Hartlepool game on Oct 29th as the date to properly assess where we are, and where we might be going.

Sixteen games feels like a statistically significant enough number, it equates to 'one game per new signing', and the fact that we will have played exactly 24 hours of football somehow feels suitably robust.

It may not have been a coincidence that the aforementioned flowing football began to break down as summer turned to autumn, and lush pitches turned heavy and bobbly.

For now, let's just acknowledge however that the summer signings appear to have been as additive as we'd have hoped, and there may be more to come from them (Hamer, Green, Alonso, Evina anyone?).

Curiously despite those signings, a not insignificant core of the team remains intact from last season.

Elliot, Solly, Wagstaff, Jackson and Wright-Phillips were key last season as well, and provided nearly half of our goals in 2010/11.

If there has indeed been a revolution, it's been a rather bloodless one so far and explains part of my caution.

After all Morrison, Taylor, Wiggins, Hollands, Stephens and Hayes have all made promising starts, but could six new players (all from other League One clubs) really make that much difference?

Or more likely were we so death defyingly bad at the tail end of last season, that any rational comparison to that awful season is moot?

Going back again to 2009/10, whilst of course it's very early days, one senses that winning promotion this season may be a somewhat more straightforward task. All seasons and leagues are not created equally.

If payroll is the most important predictor of success (and assuming payroll is mainly a function of revenue), then in 2009/10 we found ourselves in competition with relatively rich Leeds, Norwich, Huddersfield and Southampton.

Each of this quartet achieved promotion or play-offs (adjusting for Southampton's points deduction), and a whopping average points total of 86.

I'm not suggesting that League One lacks similarly rich clubs this season (Sheffield United, Huddersfield, Preston and Sheffield Wednesday fit the bill), but aside from the Blades (on recent evidence only) there is a nagging sense that their respective average points total will be considerably worse than 86.

Indeed, whilst those six opening wins in 2009/10 didn't even catapult us to bookmaker favourite status (because Leeds matched us win-by-win), we have already been installed as favourites this time around after just three.

Whilst happy that my £50 at 14/1 is now looking like 'legalised theft', my rational mind kicked in and I've laid half of it away at 9/2 on Betfair.

It is dangerous however to extrapolate too much from recent form, and indeed I am working on a systematic betting strategy to exploit this very bias week-in, week-out.

I may report back on this in due course, although one suspects it will still lose money but in a systematic way, rather than a random one. Same financial outcome, but a good deal more intellectual satisfaction.

The danger of said extrapolation is best exemplified by the fact that last season's deserved champions Brighton took just four points from their opening three games, so the risk of the 'dark horse' is always prevalent.

Few fancied Brighton pre-season, and even fewer fancied them after three games. This time around, I'm keeping a keen and nervous eye on MK Dons.

However as I noted in comments to my post-Bournemouth post, based on the past five seasons' League One tables, a total between 82 and 92 points is enough to secure automatic promotion.

Given that we are on course for 138 points as things stand, I'm feeling quite relaxed. Lose tomorrow and it will be down to 103.5 or 2.25 points per game...time to reach for some Valium in full-on panic mode.

Up the Addicks!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


The only positive thing to come out of this week's shameful events, is that Charlton are still in the Carling Cup.

I read an interesting analogy this week which argued policing was akin to banking.

Essentially both are built on a fundamental lie. In the banking case, if all depositors asked for their money back at once, they could not have it.

In the policing case, if there is criminal activity taking place in an unusually high number of places, much of it will be committed undetected because there simply aren't enough police officers.

Despite this apparent 'lie', both essential services work so long as they maintain credibility.

In the banking case, that vital credibility was lost in 2007/8 when customers woke up to the fact their deposits had been loaned out to subprime borrowers.

This week the Met lost credibility when it became apparent to enough wrongdoers, that they were ill-equipped to deal with multiple technologically-driven riots, springing up seemingly at random across the capital.

To the astonishment of many, it appears only 12% of the Met's officers are on the beat at any given time. Is it any wonder they were overpowered?

Once the 'surge' of 16,000 officers had taken place on Tuesday night, credibility had been restored again. It was the policing equivalent of a bank recapitalisation.

Londoners have always been proud that unlike most American cities for example, the city is not neatly segregated between rich and poor areas, but is instead a true melting pot.

Assuming this is a desirable attribute, I had wondered how long this seemingly cosy state of affairs could continue as levels of inequality approach American levels.

Interestingly New York (a city I know as well as London) is arguably one of America's less segregated cities, but until the mid-1990s it represented a real daily battle for those right-minded citizens who loved the vibrancy, but feared for their safety.

The famous 'zero tolerance' approach to policing nibbled away at the petty criminals, and made it clear that even avoiding a subway fare would no longer be tolerated.

Reading between the lines, David Cameron has been preaching a form of 'zero tolerance' for the first time here too.

Of course within a decade New York had become the 'safest big city' in America, although it has not been achieved without a very visible (and armed) police presence, still very noticeable today.

As a result, New York has not experienced the same degree of 'white flight' to the suburbs, reminiscent of many newer cities like Atlanta or Los Angeles.

Londoners would be loathed to think that their city could ever resemble these rather soulless places, a rich commercial core surrounded by deprived areas that one only passes through on their way somewhere else.

The road infrastructure doesn't lend itself to this way of living here anyhow.

However I think many Londoners have been understandably shaken to learn exactly what some of their poorest neighbours are like.

After all despite living so close, their lives effectively co-exist in their own vacuums.

They don't drink in the same pubs, don't shop in the same supermarkets nor increasingly educate their kids in the same schools.

This was exemplified for me by comments such as, "You don't expect this type of thing near Primrose Hill", as if the rioters would respect an artificial estate agent's border between gritty Chalk Farm.

When we returned from New York, we chose not to live in London itself precisely because I sensed the apparent equilibrium was unsustainable.

I continue not to feel entirely safe there, and now seemingly not without reason.

I would never claim that living outside the city is vibrant, but my kids don't need to know about urban deprivation, at least not yet.

My own life has been one of boundless opportunity, so writing about these topics does not feel entirely comfortable.

I am the product however of a Dad who grew up without a father on a Hackney council estate, and as if this wasn't miserable enough he chose to support Charlton too. If he was a member of a gang, he's never spoken about it.

As a result of his hard work however, my own upbringing was extremely comfortable.

There were some desperate black men in the neighbourhood who were visibly losing hope of achieving even a modicum of success, but then again they did play for Arsenal.

The UK has tried to plough a middle furrow between what I would term the tough 'US model' and the gentler 'Nordic model' (no jokes please).

Even if we wished to move further towards the latter from here, the fiscal crisis ensures we can't afford it.

A conspiracy theorist might even argue the riots were orchestrated by George Osborne personally, such will be the hardening of public attitudes towards welfare reform.

There is a clearly an unacceptably high number of families who are well-versed in their rights, but know or care little about responsibility.

Many of the teenagers rioting this week would only have known a Labour government before 2010. Coincidence? You decide.

I believe there are two reasons why I wouldn't loot if I walked past a smashed shop window.

Firstly there's what I would call the 'moral angle' ie. that fuzzy sense of right and wrong, presumably instilled by my parents and other key influences.

Second there's the 'rational angle' ie. the part of my brain that reminds me that a criminal record would ensure I lost my job, and much of my ongoing ability to earn a good living.

The weight of these two influences differs from person to person, but I suspect that the 'rational angle' is relatively stronger than many of us would like to acknowledge.

In the case of these rioters, the 'moral angle' is clearly already lost, perhaps even irreparably so.

However the 'rational angle' can yet be introduced in either a positive or negative sense.

In a positive sense, better education and introduction to opportunities outside of gang membership may over time give them too 'something to lose'.

In the negative interpretation, ultimately they may have to lose their freedom, as the UK acknowledges its liberal justice system is not compatible with unavoidable US levels of crime and inequality.

On a positive note, despite the best efforts of the BNP and their ilk, the multicultural aspect of London living was brought to the fore, and only in the very best sense.

It was hard not to be moved by the sight of proud Turks or Sikhs 'protecting their manor', as proudly as Charlton and Millwall fans reportedly did in Eltham (although I wonder whether the truce will hold once Therry Racon has played a half dozen games).

Whilst these rioters may have been 'Premier League' scumbags, few that live in this country can deny that there is an unhealthily deep scumbag pyramid right below them.

There are levels of unpleasantness in this country (much of it alcohol-driven) that I simply don't observe in similarly rich countries, whether here in Europe or even in the US.

Indeed I'm not sure there is a massive moral chasm between the riots we observed this week, and the ongoing and typical scenes played out every Friday and Saturday night across the country.

The difference might be no more than a couple of hundred quid extra per week.

Worth bearing in mind as economic growth stalls and unemployment remains uncomfortably high.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Shakin' Stephens

When writing post-match blogs, I am consious that the vast majority of readers will have seen the game so I will keep this brief.

In short it was a very positive afternoon, but not necessarily in the way you might imagine.

The day began with a surprise with Elliot confirmed as keeper, and Hamer not even on the bench. It is hard to believe Powell wants three senior keepers, so something has to give.

We were actually pretty mediocre, playing a counter-attacking style (at home) and often resorting to long balls from defence.

Indeed if you played a neutral a video of the game, but removed the goals I suspect he would not believe it finished 3-0.

The game was won by that scoreline because two of those goals were terrific (even if the second was a 100/1 shot, quite literally), whilst we had better players than last season who had that extra gear when required because goals were needed. That gear change was almost tangible.

If the team can improve and bring better movement to Powell's apparent preference for a passing game, then we can be considerably better still. We will face tougher opposition than Bournemouth however.

Stephens in particular was a class act, with Hollands the ideal albeit less showy foil. Those who resented the exit of Semedo and Racon must have been shakin' their heads in acknowledgment of their mistake.

Credit to whoever uncovered Stephens and negotiated the deal, because he was comfortably the best player on the pitch. League One's answer to Frank Lampard, not least in the way he stroked home the opener.

I wasn't aware that Hollands had a long throw in his locker, and whilst it will no doubt create the odd goal, I doubt if this will offset the sheer number of times it simply gifts quality possession back to the opposition.

It works for Stoke because they have a massive physical presence (and a better throw).

The full backs looked solid though one worries about the degree to which their pace and intelligence can offset their tender physiques, especially away from home. Again Bournemouth were a small side who did not trouble either in this sense.

There were one or two communication problems in central defence, although Taylor and Morrison offer a real set-piece threat that should be good for a half-dozen goals at least.

The last of the new men (Hayes) had a couple of iffy first touches, but was pretty much as expected ie. rather lumbering, but offering a genuine escape ball option. Then again I thought that initially about Pawel Abbott.

The potential weak spot for me was the flanks, particularly Jackson offering little as an out-and-out wideman (almost by definition), yet not offering many passing options tucked inside either. It didn't help that Wiggins did not try to overlap.

So there we have it. Another opening day win, and the most emphatic home victory since Nov 2009.

I expect better however because we won't always get the roll of the dice; next week that fabulous Wagstaff effort will be in Row Z.

Powell has been given the resources and now he has to maximise their return. Notts County will seemingly already offer a tough(er) test.

If Parky can get 84 points with arguably a weaker squad, then we can afford to dream a little tonight.

Friday, August 05, 2011

Cherry Blossom

The summer break from football usually drags on (especially in a year with no international competition), but this time Charlton fans were happy for some respite after the humiliating end to last season.

However the general mood has rapidly evolved from pessimism to optimism (perhaps irrationally so), as fifteen new players agreed terms to wear the Addicks shirt.

As I tried to explain last week, I don’t believe there has actually been much significant net new investment, although no reasonable fan would argue that the squad is worse off having sold Jenkinson, but used the money to pay a half-dozen transfer fees.

Many of the signings (eg. Stephens, Wiggins, Evina, Morrison) seem extremely logical, their ability to compete in League One already proven, yet still with plenty of potential to improve further.

They supplement the rather more speculative signings of the likes of Bover and Pritchard.

Others as previously described offer less in the way of upside potential (eg. Taylor, Hayes), but hopefully little in the way of downside surprise either.

However it is worth noting that essentially none of them were playing at a level higher than League One last season.

Whilst I argued in my ‘CAFC: The Movie’ blog that the market for footballers was not completely efficient, it is also not completely inefficient either and thus these players are at this level for a reason.

It would be nice to believe some of the media rumours that we outbid some Championship (or even Premiership) clubs for their signatures, but I’m sceptical unless we overpaid and overcommitted (which in itself would not be a good thing given my concerns that the long-term interests of the club/fans and the new owners, are not fully aligned).

I’m also conscious that I’m probably not alone in being accused this summer of so-called ‘confirmation bias’, namely the tendency to interpret information in a way that confirms their preconceptions.

In this specific case, it concerns the tendency for us fans to look for information (on club message boards, YouTube etc.) which confirms a new player is an outstanding signing.

In the most recent instance, fans seem to have focused on the fact that Leeds fans loved Andy Hughes for his attitude, whilst glossing over the fact that numerous Norwich fans have described him as the worst player they ever saw in the yellow shirt.

As always tends to be the case in these matters, the truth will lie somewhere in between the two extremes.

An alternative but relevant bias is what I will term ‘un-confirmation bias’, which I would describe as the tendency to virtually ignore the summer transfer activity at other League One clubs, handily forgetting that they have not been spending the past few weeks merely admiring our squad-building, without attempting some of the same themselves.

Admittedly we have one of the largest playing budgets in League One (even if it’s arguably no larger than last season), but the likes of Phil Brown, Danny Wilson, Gary Megson and Martin Allen are canny operators, with considerably more experience than our Chris Powell.

Lee Clark meanwhile will take his win ratio to 50% if Huddersfield win tomorrow, an impressive statistic at any level.

I am confident of something though - we won’t miss Semedo and Racon one iota.

In the particular case of Semedo, whilst one cannot fail to admire the guy’s attitude, I firmly believe he was a key reason why we have gone backwards since he became a first-team regular.

I don’t know the likes of Hollands, Stephens and Alonso well enough to be sure, but I’m confident we will discover that expecting a midfielder to be both a tackler/blocker and playmaker, is not an unachievable goal at this level.

Powell has awarded Johnnie Jackson the captaincy which seemed a little strange at first sight.

His relatively quiet onfield personality seems similar to some previous captains (eg. Matt Holland, Christian Dailly), but unlike that pair, his position is not at the very heart of the side.

Moreover I would not consider his place in the side to be sacrosanct, particularly with lack of pace being at least one area of concern in the current squad.

His goals were vital last season of course, but given he has never been a goalscorer in the past (much football played at full-back admittedly), I’m not yet tempted to take that particular trait for granted. Matt Taylor seemed a more obvious choice.

Now I know that no-one reads my blog for the exuberant optimism, so here's another thing on my mind.

There appears to be a notable lack of height in the side, particularly at full-back if Wiggins and Solly start (which they might not with Hughes having arrived).

The two first-choice centre-backs are big strapping lads, but any opposition manager would be telling the inevitable big target man (or men) to peel off, and ensure they’re challenging for crosses against one of this pint-sized pair.

Throw in the fact that at set-pieces, the similarly vertically-challenged likes of Wright-Philips, Stephens and Wagstaff will be required to play a marking role, and it’s clear where our Achilles heel might lie defensively.

However before I allow my anxiety to get the better of me again, it’s interesting to note which side ran out this time last year to face the same Bournemouth side at The Valley:

Elliot, Solly, Jackson, Doherty, Dailly, Semedo, McCormack, Wagstaff, Reid, Abbott, Sodje

To be fair, we were somewhat buoyed back then about the signings of the likes of Reid and Abbott, but we soon learned some harsh truths.

Nonetheless, it is hard not to be at least moderately excited about the side that will likely run out tomorrow, especially with the likes of Alonso, Evina, and Green waiting in the wings:

Hamer, Hughes, Wiggins, Morrison, Taylor, Stephens, Hollands, Wagstaff, Jackson, Hayes, Wright-Philips

I suspect I won't get to see as many matches as I'd like this season, but I will be at this one. Up the Addicks!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Skew's Your Daddy?

Sporting Index have finally published their 2011/12 League One points total spreads.

Interestingly, whilst Charlton are typically 4th favourites to win the League One title with the traditional ‘fixed odds’ bookmakers (behind Huddersfield, Sheff Weds and Preston), they are firmly placed 2nd in the Sporting Index hierarchy with a spread offered of 75-77.

This may seem somewhat anomalous, although the reasoning may infact be rather more subtle and got me thinking about a different way of assessing ‘value’ in the spreads market.

Although bookmakers (of either type) will occasionally ‘take a view’ on the outcome of an event, the vast majority of the time they are solely focused on laying a balanced portfolio of bets.

In short, they must assess what the ‘average opinion’ of punters regarding a given market will be. To quote John Maynard Keynes’ famous quote about a beauty contest (in which the winner was the person who selected the faces that others considered the most beautiful):

“It is not a case of choosing those [faces] that, to the best of one’s judgment, are really the prettiest, nor even those that average opinion genuinely thinks the prettiest. We have reached the third degree where we devote our intelligences to anticipating what average opinion expects the average opinion to be. And there are some, I believe, who practice the fourth, fifth and higher degrees.”

Whilst the ‘actual’ probability of an outcome is highly correlated to what ‘average opinion’ thinks it is, ‘average opinion’ is often wrong.

By coming up with an accurate assessment of ‘average opinion’, no outcome (unexpected or otherwise) can hurt the bookies materially, and they can thus simply sit back and earn the inbuilt profit margin/spread.

If you fancied a fixed odds bet on Charlton to win League One (8/1 is generally available), then one of either two things is guaranteed to happen: either Charlton will win the title, or they won’t.

Whether Charlton win the title by 20 points, or finish in 13th place again is irrelevant to the payout received, or loss suffered.

Since the bookmakers are most concerned about ensuring a balanced book, the fact that we are ‘only’ 4th favourites simply reflects the weight of money.

In short, rightly or wrongly punters have been more inclined to fancy some of our Northern rivals over us.

Indeed I think they may be ‘right’ but not for reasons that are immediately obvious or necessarily concerning (to us as Charlton fans).

Unlike the fixed odds bookmakers, the spread bookmakers have a more complicated assessment to make before publishing the total season points spreads (or frankly any type of spread) which they hope too reflect ‘average opinion’ (thus ensuring the balanced book that they also crave).

Firstly they need to consider ‘skew’. To what extent will observations greater than the upper level of their spread (77 in our case), be more likely than observations less than the lower level of the spread (75)?

If ‘average opinion’ perceives there to be a skew (either way) then the spread bookmakers will receive unbalanced bets, which will force them to adjust their spreads (to attract punters to take the opposite view, achieving balance).

If enough bets were accepted and the actual outcome reflected the original perceived 'skew’, then they will likely generate a loss on the market.

Second, they need to consider ‘kurtosis’ or the degree to which the total number of points achieved is likely to be highly bunched around the average, or has scope to be very divergent (‘fat tailed’ or providing ‘optionality’ in statistical/finance speak).

By definition Charlton will achieve between zero and 138 points, but bookmakers and punters alike must operate within reasonable bounds of ‘confidence’ in order to be willing to make and lay bets alike.

Whether in the worlds of finance or bookmaking (a form of finance after all), it is fairly standard to manage risk within a confidence level of 95%.

In this context in other words, they will ask themselves what ‘average opinion’ considers the range of Charlton’s total points to be, in 19 out of 20 seasons.

I believe the spread bookmakers have placed us 2nd in their hierarchy because Charlton’s likely total points are very ‘fat-tailed’ to the upside.

In short, I believe Charlton are the only side in League One for whom I cannot make the following statement with at least 95% confidence: “They will not generate more than 100 points.”

Moreover, I believe that the spread bookmakers have correctly identified that the ‘average opinion’ of punters would conclude likewise based upon our considerable summer transfer activity, hence the spread has been set commensurately higher.

This activity however needs to be assessed in the context of considerable uncertainty about Chris Powell's ability to mould a winning team.

It is worth noting however that he may not be the manager for the entire season, an important consideration perhaps capping downside if things go awry.

This does not however suggest that the fixed odds bookmakers are wrong to consider Huddersfield, Sheff Weds’ or Preston’s chances of winning the title to be greater than ours. As mentioned, the two sets of bookmakers are looking out for different things.

In order to find League One betting opportunities which provide highly attractive risk/reward, I am seeking opportunities to buy or sell spreads where I’m on the ‘correct’ side of any skew (so that I’ll make money more often than not), and where the tails are ‘fat’ in my direction (providing the scope for disproportionate profits compared to losses).

Assessing skew is not easy, but as a proxy I’ve done the following. I simply sat back and used ‘gut feel’ to assess what I thought would be the average points generated by each team if the current season was played out thousands of times (some might refer to this as a ‘Monte Carlo Simulation’).

If this ‘average’ is materially more or less than the actual spread (say by more than 5 points), perhaps because the spread has been dragged higher or lower by the bookmakers concerns about ‘fat tails’, then I would be comfortable that I’m on the right side of any skew.

Looked at another way, it is simply my best guess for the way the table will actually look at the season’s end – obviously feel free to disagree for the purpose of your own analysis.

I’ve copied the Sporting Index spreads next to it, and marked those bets that would be attractive on this basis only (ie. not yet enough for me).

Huddersfield 85 75-77 BUY
Sheff Utd 77 69-71 BUY
Charlton 77 75-77
Preston 74 67.5-69.5
Sheff Weds 74 72-74
Scunthorpe 69 64-66
MK Dons 67 69-71
Notts County 66 56-58 BUY
Orient 64 66.5-68.5
Colchester 64 58.5-60.5
Exeter 59 62-64
Brentford 59 68-70 SELL
Carlisle 59 60-62
Chesterfield 58 57-59
Wycombe 58 53-55
Yeovil 57 54-56
Bury 56 51-53
Bournemouth 55 63.5-65.5 SELL
Hartlepool 55 58-60
Oldham 55 54-56
Rochdale 55 62-64 SELL
Walsall 52 52.5-54.5
Tranmere 54 54-56
Stevenage 50 51.5-53.5

In order to assess ‘kurtosis’ or the scope to find attractive ‘fat tails’, I’ve listed below my expectations for the range of total points each team would generate with the above mentioned 95% confidence.

Again I have put the Sporting Index spreads alongside – I believe a suitably attractive bet on this basis would be one where the reward/risk ratio is at least 2:1 ie. the gap between the upper/lower bands and the bet midpoint is at least 2:1, and I have again marked these accordingly.

Huddersfield 65-95 75-77
Sheff Utd 55-82 69-71
Charlton 62-100 75-77 BUY
Preston 55-82 67.5-69.5
Sheff Weds 58-88 72-74
Scunthorpe 55-77 64-66
MK Dons 52-80 69-71
Notts County 50-80 56-58 BUY
Orient 50-75 66.5-68.5 SELL
Colchester 48-70 58.5-60.5
Exeter 50-72 62-64
Brentford 50-75 68-70 SELL
Carlisle 52-74 60-62
Chesterfield 42-64 57-59 SELL
Wycombe 38-64 53-55
Yeovil 41-61 54-56 SELL
Bury 38-58 51-53 SELL
Bournemouth 48-75 63.5-65.5
Hartlepool 50-68 58-60
Oldham 40-60 54-56 SELL
Rochdale 38-65 62-64 SELL
Walsall 41-61 52.5-54.5
Tranmere 42-62 54-56
Stevenage 38-55 51.5-53.5 SELL

As you can see, the size of the ranges is not constant and in some cases (eg. Charlton, Notts County) considerable.

Some teams have considerably more ability to surprise (to the up or downside) based on factors such as the managerial turnover, playing budget, summer transfer activity, risk of administration etc..

To use an alternative analogy, if you took a sample of a hundred 40-year olds, 50 of which drank 35 units per week and 50 of which were tee-total, the average life expectancy of each group would only be different by a couple of years (too many other factors are relevant too).

However I would state with far greater than 95% confidence that none of the first group would live to 100 (the booze consumption isn’t high enough to kill them in the near-term, but would be near-guaranteed to do so in the end).

In short the range of life expectancies would be much narrower (although the former group would have more fun).

As can be seen above, some bets which were interesting in terms of skew (eg. SELL Bournemouth) are not attractive any longer because the realistic ‘optionality’ is not sufficiently attractive.

Similarly some bets which were not interesting in terms of skew (eg. SELL Orient) are attractive in terms of optionality.

Likewise in Charlton's case, there is scope to make a lot of money but the entry point is not appealing enough to offset the likelihood of small losses (the ‘skew’).

Most interestingly, three bets qualify as attractive on both metrics ie. SELL Rochdale, SELL Brentford, and BUY Notts County.

One bet in particular is extraordinarily attractive, namely SELL Rochdale.

Highly-rated manager Keith Hill has moved on (taking two key players with him), and thus rookie boss Steve Eyre must try to emulate last season’s extraordinary performances with one of the tiniest budgets in League One.

Nonetheless, their highly impressive exploits last season ‘only’ generated 68 points, so an entry point of 62 (just two wins fewer) seems more than justified.

Brentford finished last season strongly under ex-Addick Nicky Forster, and have also taken a punt on a leftfield managerial appointment, Uwe Rosler.

At 68 points, one can enter the bet at a level seven points greater than the total they managed last season, more than discounting any squad improvement that may have occurred.

Finally, Notts County have eccentric boss Martin Allen in charge and whilst he remains somewhat unpredictable, the Magpies (like Charlton) have undertaken a considerable summer rebuilding job which remains ongoing.

However I believe the capacity for surprise is firmly to the upside, and at an entry point of 58 points, I feel very comfortable.

For these three teams, it’s time to ”..back up the truck..” as they say in the US. I believe the spread bookies' expectation of average opinion is wrong - if the spreads begin to move in my favour before the season even starts, then I will know I'm onto something.

As for Charlton, I think there is potential for the season to be extraordinary (akin to 1999/2000) but this is not my average expectation, hence the apparent anomaly. It seems both types of bookies agree.