FOUR teams will face the dreaded drop from League One come May so we asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) to highlight a few tasty-priced contenders for third tier relegation.
English League One | Relegation
With four clubs dropping out of League One, picking at least one team to take the plunge to the fourth tier tends to be an easier task than most leagues. With 17% of the division heading down, prices reflect the bigger relegation pie and it’s no surprise to see six teams quoted at 7/2 or shorter.
Crewe and Colchester are inevitable skinny but it was a similar tale in the past and both have managed to preserve their League One status. You’d have to be seriously confident (and made of money) to find just better than even-money quotes attractive enough to invest in such a long-term market.
Port Vale appear better than the prices on offer, Walsall will overcome budgetary restrictions to consolidate again whilst I’m confident Phil Brown can steer Southend into the lower reaches of mid-table following their promotion despite the small squad size. In fact, all four clubs arriving from League Two should have little problem cementing their place in what appears to be a weaker third tier than what we’ve seen in recent years.
Blackpool are bound to have backers at 2/1 (Bet365). Omens are reasonably good for those looking at the potential of back-to-back relegations for the Tangerines with four of the past eight seasons seeing a club drop straight into the fourth tier following Championship demotion. But 2/1 appears about the right price with Neil McDonald a steadying hand on a ship that’s blown well of course in the past 18 months.
So with the top six excluded from the market, it’s time to play ball. First up is Swindon, which may come as a surprise. Currently trading at 9/1 with Bet365, the Robins were 90 minutes away from Championship football back in May. But with a quarter of the past 12 losing play-off finalists suffering relegation the following year, I reckon they’re worth a poke to dip dramatically in 2015/16.
Sure, four of those 12 teams did win promotion the year thereafter but none will have seen their spine decimated in the same way Swindon have this summer. Eight of the players starting at Wembley have left and at the time of writing, the Robins have just 13 players on their books, just over a week before the action gets underway.
Boss Mark Cooper was linked with a move away from the County Ground in the summer and there’s a suggestion the gaffer is angling for a better deal elsewhere, which won’t help preparation. The club is financial stable but chairman Lee Power is again focussing his recruitment on loan deals for exciting youngsters and whilst last term worked wondrously well, it’s hardly an ideal recipe for success.
Midfield mystros Mass Luongo and Ben Gladwin have joined top-scorer Andy Williams and keeper Wes Foderingham on the outgoings list and the Robins are now scrabbling around in the hope of adding two defenders, two midfielders and a striker to the ranks. Leyton Orient, Swindon themselves and Hartlepool have all flopped following play-off final heartache and at 9/1 there’s plenty of appeal in backing a repeat.
On similar lines, it’s hard to ignore the claims of Chesterfield at the advertised 6/1 Bet365 quotes on relegation. The Spireites defied their 33/1 pre-season price last term to surge into League One’s play-offs following their title-winning season. But following their semi-final loss to eventual play-off winners Preston, the vultures have circled the Proact Stadium, dampening spirits and expectations.
Manager Paul Cook along with three of their top performing stars Gary Roberts, Jimmy Ryan and Sam Clucas have all left the building and reports suggest Sam Morsy and Tendayi Darikwa may also be heading for the exit. Dean Saunders is hoping to avoid a fourth relegation on his CV but much depends on how wisely he spends the cash from Clucas’ transfer.
Only a third of sides across the past 10 years that finished the previous season in the top-six have done so again 12 months later and I’m happy adding Chesterfield to the relegation portfolio along with Swindon.
Finally, no Football League side has played continuously in the same division as long as Oldham and starting their 18th straight season in the third tier brings about more challenges at Boundary Park. With a recent history of appointing fairly left-field and inexperienced managers, the arrival of Darren Kelly took most people by surprise, again.
Kelly’s an unknown quantity but will at least be assisted by Dean Holden, who did enough to guide Athletic to a mid-table finish towards the end of last season following Lee Johnson’s move to Barnsley. It should be noted that after Johnson jumped ship, Athletic’s form did drastically deteriorate – the Latics W3-D5-L7 under Holden’s watch – and so Kelly will hope to hit the ground running as the club undergo yet another rebuilding process.
Last season’s top scorer Jonathan Forte and skipper Liam Kelly remain at the club but there’s still plenty to concern Oldham fans. Failure to score in 10 of their final 27 outings highlighted a lack of final third quality and with little funds to spare, the search for a new centre-half remains ongoing. Operating on a shoestring under a rookie boss, Oldham are unlikely to be going anywhere fast and may just lose their League One status if they’re dragged into a scrap. They’re 4/1 with Bet365.
League One – Oldham to be relegated (4/1 Bet365)
League One – Chesterfield to be relegated (6/1 Bet365)
League One – Swindon to be relegated (9/1 Bet365)
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