FOOTBALL LEAGUE boff Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) shares his thoughts on the Relegation markets ahead of the 2019/20 Championship season.
WLB Season Preview 2019/20 | Championship: Relegation
Rotherham became only the ninth (16%) League One club to suffer immediate relegation since 2000 last term and with all three promoted clubs surviving in 11 (58%) of 19 Championship campaigns this century, there’s enough evidence to suggest the newcomers – Luton, Barnsley and Charlton – are being underrated in the Relegation market.
Charlton (9/4 Bet365) head the market and understandably so after losing key personnel. Lee Bowyer pulled off a minor miracle by guiding the Addicks back to the second-tier and will have to make-do without Joe Aribo, Josh Cullen, Patrick Bauer and Krystian Bielik this time around. Nightmare owner Roland Duchatelet remains in stitu and the budget is tight.
Barnsley (5/2 Bet365) produced plenty of thrilling football en-route to a second-placed finish. Daniel Stendel’s side were strong in both boxes but have lost goalkeeper Adam Davies and centre-half pair Liam Lindsay and Ethan Pinnock from the backline that boasted the EFL’s best defence. Unheralded reinforcements have been sought to plug the gaps.
Luton (9/2 Blacktype) have also seen leading lights leave. Star full-backs James Justin and Jack Stacey have been pilfered by Premier League clubs, and the Hatters are also under new management with Graeme Jones taking on his first senior coaching role. Nevertheless, I’m inclined to believe all three have the necessary tools and togetherness to out-perform their odds.
Consolidation will be the major aim for the trio of promoted clubs and they’ll be encouraged by historical trends pointing to an average 14th-placed finish for upcoming arrivals since 2000. In fact, only 34 (60%) concluded their campaign in the bottom-half, suggesting the gap between the two divisions isn’t quite as large as the bookmakers would lead us to believe.
QPR (7/2 Coral)
It pains me to point to QPR as a serious relegation concern. Rangers defied pre-season predictions of doom under Ian Holloway and Steve McClaren in the past two campaigns but the cost-cutting exercise due to financial mismanagement, FFP sanctions and the expiration of parachute payments has left the Loftus Road outfit in serious peril coming into 2019/20.
Star playmaker Luke Freeman has been expectedly sold and the recent departure of young defender Darnell Furlong, as well as the imminent exit of Mass Luongo highlights the sorry plight Rangers are under. No Championship club has overseen a higher turnover of playing minutes from last term and with paucity of attacking options, prospects are puny.
Jan Mlakar – a 20-year-old Slovenian signed on-loan from Brighton – joins youngster Amaride Oteh as the R’s only available strikers and so hopes are pinned on starlets lias Chair, Bright Osayi-Samuel and Eberechi Eze all stepping up to solve QPR’s offensive issues. Meanwhile, the third-worst Championship defence last season has made only slight improvements this summer.
Mark Warburton was the leading candidate from an uninspiring collection of potential new coaches in the summer. His penchant for working with youngsters is a clear positive, but the former Brentford boss is facing a big test of his credentials to keep Rangers afloat.
Hull (5/1 BetVictor)
Having earmarked Hull as a recommended relegation play 12 months ago, I’m back for another bite at the Tigers. All appeared to be going as plan as City sat joint-bottom of the Championship after 14 fixtures before Nigel Adkins presided over a remarkable revival that saw the Humbersiders return W15-D8-L9 from their final 32 encounters to flirt with the top-six.
Adkins’ renowned positive mentality worked wonders and he crucially managed to persuade Polish ace Kamil Grosicky to re-join the first-team with devastating effect. The wantaway winger combined wonderfully with academy starlet Jarrod Bowen after October to safely navigate choppy waters. However, the future of the pair at Hull appears bleak.
KCOM Stadium insiders suggest the duo are likely to leave this summer and their absence, along with already departed striker Frazier Campbell robs the squad of 43 (66%) of last season’s goals, as well as 22 assists. Just as damaging could be the loss of Adkins, who opted against extending his contract despite being keen to stay.
Owners Assem and Ehab Allam have been trying to sell the Tigers since 2014 and continue to strip the side of their key components. The appointment of Grant McCann has to be considered a gamble, and should Grosicky and Bowen move on as expected, the 5/1 (BetVictor) available on relegation could prove to be fantastic value come May.
Wigan (5/1 Sport Nation)
Reading (16/5 Paddy Power) were towards the top of my thinking for this piece but ultimately, I’m swayed by price and the standout 5/1 (Sport Nation) on Wigan dropping down a division is too good to ignore. The Latics have suffered three relegations in six seasons and come into the current campaign with plenty of questions requiring answers.
Athletic enjoyed a fruitful start to last season but completely lost their way for six months as injuries and identity was lost. Paul Cook became increasingly incensed by his side’s profligacy in the penalty box and infuriated by his team’s elementary defensive errors during the rotten run, and has made enforced sweeping changes to his squad this summer.
Thirteen players have departed the DW Stadium – 40% of their total playing minutes – including on-loan Player of the Year Reece James and attacking lynchpin Nick Powell. Thus far, Cook has only been able to bring in three players and is still searching for strikers to fill a serious void; Joe Garner is the only available senior forward on the books.
Considering goals and converting chances was one of Wigan’s major flaws last term, it’s hard to see where the invention or consistency is coming from in the final-third. Without reinforcements in defence and attack, a relegation dogfight could be in store for the Latics.