WITH just two teams facing the dreaded drop out of the Football League, we asked Mark O’Haire (@MarkOHaire) for his two best bets in the League Two relegation race.
English League Two | Relegation
Picking one of the two teams to take the plunge from the Football League is never an easy feat. Last year I managed to snaffle a bit of the 10/1 on Cheltenham dropping out of the division and they were joined by 14/1 shots Tranmere, who suffered back-to-back relegations. It was a timely reminder that shit can get very really for any clubs suffering from complacency.
My first selection fits the Tranmere mould. I was surprised and disappointed to see Stevenage ditch Graham Westley after their failed attempts in the play-offs to win immediate promotion back to League One. The club, under Westley’s charge for eight of the last 12 years, wanted to take a fresh approach and new direction. They duly appointed ex-England international Teddy Sheringham.
But there’s a risk that the Hertfordshire club are attempting to change too much too soon. What Westley achieved last time out was quite remarkable considering the horrendous injury crisis at Broadhall Way and his tried-and-trusted methods are being ripped apart by a big-name boss without any previous experience of management, nor League Two football.
The lowest level Sheringham played at was the second tier and having flirted with a post-playing career in poker before joining West Ham as an attacking coach, I can’t help but feel a little sceptic about his arrival. Boro are looking for an immediate change in thinking, philosophy and output on the football field and the overhaul undertaken during the summer could have serious consequences.
Fifteen players have left the club in the off-season but only four have been signed up less than a fortnight before the season starts. New bodies are required immediately although the capture of Steven Schumacher should at least provide steel and panache to an already capable midfield that features the talented Dean Parrett and Charlie Lee.
Former Morecambe skipper Mark Hughes is a solid centre-half signing and Brett Wiliiams gives the attack an extra option but Stevenage are short on strikers and thin on numbers. An abundance of kids have been given game-time during pre-season as Sheringham searches for the next prospect but academy starlet Ben Kennedy remains sidelined for the majority of the season through injury.
Boro were marked up as unlikely 16/1 chances for the drop at the beginning of last season and produced a sterling effort in the face of adversity – hardly surprising knowing Westley’s demanding nature. Can Sheringham rally the troops in the same way? I can’t imagine so. Yet we’re able to back Stevenage at 12/1 (Bet365) to end their six-year stay in the Football League. I’m sold.
It’s a cramped betting heat, the relegation market. Twelve teams have been chalked up between 7/2 and 11/1 and I’m happy to run a mile from skinny odds on perennial drop zone favourites Accrington, Dagenham and Morecambe. All three will battle budget restrictions but have proven their ability to stay up with something to spare in recent years.
However, Newport County have joined their merry brigade towards the top of the relegation listings and the 9/2 from Bet365 does look of interest. EuroMillions winner Les Scadding pulled the plug on his investment during the summer leaving the Exiles reeling in the wake of a huge cut in funding.
Having ploughed a seven-figure sum into the County coffers during his reign as chairman, Scadding’s departure has seen Newport’s budget reduced to £850,000 from £1.4m last year and new boss Terry Butcher scrabbling around for bodies to fill a wafer thin squad. Only five senior players from last season remain following the departure of 15 and Butcher has made 10 new signings during the close season in an attempt to boost numbers.
It’s a world away from the optimism surrounding the Justin Edinburgh reign and the warning signs were there when the former Spurs defender jumped ship for Gillingham midway through last season. The Exiles went on to W5-D4-L9 with former assistant Jimmy Dack in temporary charge and working off a one point-per-game average with a stronger squad last season sets alarm bells ringing.
County are in their third year following promotion back into the Football League but it promises to be their hardest, both on and off the field. The majority of the betting industry has reacted to the ongoing toils at Rodney Parade so whilst the value may already be gone on Newport’s relegation, it’s hard to find too many positives in the Welsh club keeping their status intact. I’m having a decent-sized wager on the Exiles dropping down to National league level.
League Two – Stevenage to be relegated (12/1 Bet365)
League Two – Newport County to be relegated (9/2 Bet365)
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