FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on the Relegation market ahead of the 2018/19 League Two season.
WLB Season Preview 2018/19 | League Two: Relegation
Perennial relegation favourites Morecambe again top the betting at 5/2 (Ladbrokes) despite the Shrimps appearing in ruder health than 12 months ago following a change of ownership. Jim Bentley is a master at steering the outsiders to safety and with a solid foundation and intriguing additions, the jollies make no appeal at the prices.
No promoted non-league club has suffered immediate relegation since 1987 and so I’m unwilling to defy the trends and support Macclesfield for the drop at 4/1 (Marathon). The Silkmen may operate off a miniscule budget, and have lost boss John Askey this summer, but the National League champions are capable of consolidating under Mark Yates.
Yeovil (9/2 SkyBet) are the standout shout from the leading betting contenders to slide out of the Football League. The Glovers have tabled bottom-six finishes in each of their last five campaigns and have lost star man Otis Khan and on-loan Lewis Wing from their roster.
The Somerset side are apparently operating from a bigger budget following their FA Cup windfall but there have been few incomings to excite supporters with Darren Way’s wafer thin squad looking set for another season of struggle.
However, with only two relegation places up for grabs, I’m more interested in opposing a bigger-priced fish for 2018/19.
Why? Well, in each of the past six League Two seasons, at least one side has suffered relegation at odds of at least 10/1 or bigger with the favourite for demotion surviving all bar once since 2011/12 – Chesterfield (20/1), Leyton Orient (50/1), York (11/1), Tranmere (14/1), Bristol Rovers (28/1) and Aldershot (14/1), if you're wondering.
It's a timely reminder that shit can get very really for any clubs suffering from complacency or mismanagement.
Oldham (16/1 Unibet)
Oldham’s 20-year stay in the third-tier came to an abrupt end in May as the Latics suffered the ignominy of relegation to League Two. Back at this level for the first time since 1974, bookmakers have made the Lancashire outfit 10th favourites to bounce immediately back.
However, it’s hard to put any case together to suggest this side will be challenging for a play-off place, let alone top honours. It’s been a torrid time for Oldham supporters with HMRC investigations and a change in ownership seeing the controversial Abdallah Lemsagam seizing control of the club and implementing a foreign recruitment model that’s had snippets of success, to be kind.
With the Boundary Park side in the midst of financial difficulties, rookie boss Frankie Bunn has been given the gig as the team’s new manager. Last season’s loan stars Duckens Nazon and Eoin Doyle haven’t returned leaving the attack woefully understocked, while midfielder Ousmane Fane is out with a broken leg.
Allegedly, Jack Byrne was to blame for the injury in training and the former Manchester City youth – who excelled in patches in League One – has been suspended by the club. Elsewhere, Anthony Gerrard is rumoured to have been sacked by Athletic as ill-discipline has started to seep in behind the scenes.
Long-suffering supporters will be hoping for a semblance of stability in 2018/19 but with attacking hopes pinned upon Jose Baxter – a player who’s career has been blighted by failed drugs tests and club suspensions – and chaos and confusion reigning off the pitch, further regression is likely to ensue.
Half of the past 52 clubs to be demoted from League One have tabled a bottom-half finish with three (6%) suffering back-to-back relegations. The prospect of Oldham adding to that trend looks far more likely than their 16/1 (Unibet) quotes suggest this summer.
Carlisle (14/1 888)
Keith Curle’s four-year tenure as Carlisle manager came to an end in the off-season with the Cumbrians having tabled a third successive top-10 finish. Despite suffering only four defeats this calendar year, the Blues rarely clicked into gear and looked like threatening the play-off places.
John Sheridan has taken the top job at Brunton Park but the stout Lancastrian has already managed to piss off the locals by claiming he could have waited for a better opportunity after leaving Fleetwood. Nevertheless, the renowned relegation fire fighter suggested he’s ready for the major overhaul at the club.
A series of big name departures, including Clint Hill, Mark Ellis, Nicky Adams and Luke Joyce have hit the squad hard and the lack of depth at Sheridan’s disposal could easily see Carlisle nosedive. As yet, there’s no indication the Blues will be easing the creative workload from Jamie Devitt’s shoulders and with a defence lacking pace and a consistent goalscorer absent, problems are mounting.
Sheridan is an experienced, if marmite, boss and has talked about utilising the loan market; he’ll need to move fast as the Cumbrians squad looks shy of star quality and numbers and in their current guise, I make their prospects for survival far less gloomy than their current outright quotes that are short as 20/1.
With that in mind, have a wee wager on Carlisle dropping out of the division at handsome 14/1 odds with 888.
Exeter (16/1 BetVictor)
All good things come to an end and Exeter’s 12-year relationship with Paul Tisdale expired in the summer. The fashionista walked away from the club having been unable to agree a new contract and was quickly snapped up by MK Dons.
Former player and under-23 manager Matt Taylor stepped into the breach and immediately needed to build his own backroom team with Tisdale's assistant Matt Oakley also leaving the club, and director of football Steve Perryman retiring from the game.
Taylor has been key in developing some of the Grecians’ best young players and is well respected as a coach. With the board keen to appoint a boss who understands the unique demands that come with running the supporter-owned club, the 36-year-old rookie appeared to fit the mould.
However, his lack of experience in the hot-seat, plus his desire to bring about almost instant change to the playing style could have an adverse effect, particularly in the early weeks of the season. Exeter may play with more freedom but whether Tisdale’s tactical acumen will be missed remains to be seen.
At 16/1 (BetVictor), I’m happy to invest in City bottoming out.
Taylor’s only relevant experience came in a brief stint as a player-coach at Bath and his squad is noticeably weaker with Jordan Moore-Taylor, Jordan Storey, Lloyd James and Ryan Harley all heading for the exit. Aaron Martin and Nicky Law are solid additions but Jonathan Forte hardly sets the pulse racing.
As always with Exeter, a lack of depth to the squad leaves the side vulnerable to injury and suspensions and hopes for another sustained top-seven push might well be hindered by a lack of overall quality, experience and numbers. A transitional term looms but don’t be too surprised to see the Grecians struggle.