The three leagues of the English Football League (EFL) got underway last Friday, and prior to kick-off the Racing Post’s Sport team shared their views on winners, losers and goalscorers, among other key betting markets.
Commenting on the eagerly awaited return of fans to stadiums, Racing Post Sport journalist Mark Langdon observed that lower league teams had been hard hit by the absence of spectators, stating that the impact on this had been felt much heavier among lower league clubs than those in the top flight.
“It’s such a community-base, particularly the lower you go down,” he said. “I think in the Premier League you can get away with it, there’s almost a soullessness to the Premier League, whilst with the EFL it feels like there is that connection with supporters, so to have them back on that weekend – I can’t wait.”
Beginning the team’s breakdown of the EFL Championship – which kicked off on Friday night with a clash between AFC Bournemouth and West Bromwich Albion – Langdon’s fellow Racing Post Sport journalist, Joseph Casey, shared his view that the league could be as competitive as ever.
He detailed: “I think this is quite a weak Championship this year, and it’s there for the taking. I think that will be wide open and more competitive than the other divisions.”
Fulham are the bookies favourite to win the Championship at 11/2, whilst fellow Premier League relegation victims West Bromwich Albion and Sheffield United stand as second and third favourites at 13/2 and 15/2.
However, Langdon believed that Luton Town ‘could surprise a lot of people,’ having started the season with odds of 50/1 to lift the second tier trophy.
“Nathan Jones twice took Luton up, had an absolute nightmare at Stoke and went back to Luton, kept them up with a team that was in desperate relegation trouble, then they finished 12th last season. He has done nothing but improve them year on year, and they are very smart recruiters.”
He added: “It’s not going to take that much for somebody to get in and around those each-way places. I think Luton, with a steady manager, have kept most of their best players, and to me they look like a 50/1 worth a few quid.”
Noting that Fulham seem ‘a little too obvious’ of a choice, Casey identified 10/1 Bournemouth as being ‘set up quite well’ as Championship contenders.
“They made £80 million last year, and obviously they haven’t reinvested that yet,” he observed. “They were probably correcting some of their mistakes in the Premier League with that money. They have a good squad and Parker is a good manager at this level.”
Meanwhile, moving onto League One, both Langdon and Casey expressed doubt at Sunderland’s status as joint outright favourite at 7/1.
“The problem with Sunderland is that we have seen time and time again – they can’t be trusted to kick on,” Casey argued. “We’ve talked about ‘Streaky’ Lee Johnson, – that’s exactly the manager you don’t want at Sunderland, as they go on this runs where they look great, and then it falls off.”
The duo agreed that Portsmouth, coming in at 4/1, was a good choice for a prospective League One champion, with Landgon arguing that the team’s front three ‘is still good’, adding: “I’m betting on the Cowley brothers more than anything else. They’re record speaks for itself.
“It won’t take much for a team like Portsmouth to get on a roll again. They were one that maybe missed out from the fans with their home advantage. Fratton Park is a horrendous place for opposition teams to go and play when the Fratton faithful are fully behind the team.”
Source – Racing Post YouTube Channel