FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on the Relegation market ahead of the 2018/19 League One season.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | League One: Relegation
With four clubs suffering League One demotion, finding a side to take the drop should in theory be easier than elsewhere in the Football League. However, that one extra relegation place is reflected in the ante-post markets with pre-season prices suffering.
Accrington (13/10 188BET) and Wycombe (6/4 BetVictor) head the market having upset the odds to gain promotion to the third-tier. Both are expected to struggle with miniscule budgets dwarfed by their third-tier rivals.
But with no promoted sides having suffering immediate relegation over the past six seasons, I’m happy to look elsewhere. Indeed, the League One relegation market has always been one that intrigues me and I’m always keen to be a little more adventurous where possible.
Shrewsbury (7/1 Unibet)
Last season’s 150/1 outsiders Shrewsbury stunned Football League fans across the country as they pushed both Wigan and Blackburn hard for automatic promotion. Salop were eventually undone in heartbreaking fashion, losing out to Rotherham in extra-time of the play-off final at Wembley.
Having overperformed so significantly, it wasn’t a great surprise to see key personnel pilfered during the summer. Head coach Paul Hurst was eventually snaffled by Ipswich and leading lights Alex Rodman, Dean Henderson, Craig McGillivray, Abu Ogogo, Junior Brown, Carlton Morris and Ben Godfrey are no longer about.
Omar Beckle, Toto Nsiala and Jon Nolan are the only key players from last season to have been retained although Hurst is of course the club’s major loss. His organisational skills and mind-set, coupled with a tremendous work ethic, helped inspire previous League One strugglers to major promotion challengers.
Can the incoming John Askey seamlessly pick up those reigns and continue the overachievement? It’s doubtful.
Askey arrives having led Macclesfield to the National League title but this is a whole new era for Salop’s latest leader too. Having been involved with the Silkmen for over 25 years, it’s a difficult gig to adjust to, as well as maintaining last season’s performance levels.
Shrewsbury were regularly underrated last term due to their poor shot data and replicating their 2017/18 efforts looks pie in the sky. For me, the Shrews are weaker than the team that went to post 12 months ago – back then they were just 13/8 for relegation, so I’m happy to have a stab at the 7/1 (Unibet) now.
Charlton (18/1 Paddy Power)
Admittedly, this is a small short in the dark but hear me out, eh…
Charlton sneaked into the League Two play-offs last season having claimed six wins from their final 10 fixtures under the tutelage of Lee Bowyer. The Addicks were the form team heading into the end-of-season lottery but were seen off at the semi-final stage by a shrewd Shrewsbury outfit.
It was an outstanding achievement by Bowyer, who remains in charge as the club look to finalise a takeover. New owners were expected to arrive in February and six months later anxious supporters are still awaiting positive news; it’s been bleak and chaotic for some time now down The Valley.
Heading into July, Charlton were without a permanent chairman, chief executive, head of finance or board of directors. So bad was the financial position at the club that news stories emerged that staff at the South London side were instructed not to turn the lights on in offices to save money on the electric bill.
The Addicks have been able to bring in Lyle Taylor to a squad that’s in theory rich enough to justify pre-season prices as promotion challengers. Nevertheless, four of last year's key cogs are no longer around and depth could easily become an issue.
The ingredients are most definitely there for a crisis to emerge should off-field distractions continue to plague progress, making 18/1 (Paddy Power) too good to ignore, if only for an interest.
Walsall (2/1 Unibet)
I can already feel staunch Saddler supporter Matt Vale shudder on seeing this selection. It feels like I’m perennially backing Walsall for League One relegation ever since Dean Smith departed the Bescot in November 2015 – it’s not personal Matt, honest!
At 2/1 (Unibet), the Black Country boys are the team I’m most concerned about and, whilst they won’t make you especially rich at the odds on offer, I make them a shorter price to suffer relegation to the bottom-tier for the first time since 2007.
Walsall completed 2017/18 with a whimper, finishing only two points above the drop-zone and winning a meagre 13 games across the campaign. Legendary midfielder Dean Keates came in to oversee the final furlong – pleasing supporters following the monotonous spell under Jon Whitney – but results and performances only barely improved.
It would be unfair to label the Saddlers a one-man team but Erhun Oztumer’s influence contributed significantly to their survival. But the diminutive playmaker has since moved on having scored 32 goals over the past two seasons, delivering 14 assists – for a side that’s far from fluent in front of goal, his ability will be sorely missed.
Keates is looking to play with wingers this season – hence the arrivals of Zeli Ismail and Josh Ginnelly – and much has been made of Andy Cook’s signing from Tranmere. The 28-year-old striker scored 28 goals in the National League but this will be his first taste of the Football League, ensuring no guarantee of success.
Walsall fans may be enamoured by the man in the managerial hot-seat but it might be another difficult season down at the Bescot and at 2/1 (Unibet), I’m happy to oppose the Saddlers in their battle against the drop.
2018/19 League One – Shrewsbury to be relegated (7/1 Unibet)
2018/19 League One – Charlton to be relegated (18/1 Paddy Power)
2018/19 League One – Walsall to be relegated (2/1 Unibet)