The Championship: Star Sports Graduate Intern Cameron Brown looks at the start of the Championship season, with some recommended bets based on the evidence seen so far.
The Championship. An incredible entity in the English Football League that is so incredibly enthralling that many footballing fans believe it to be the most entertaining league in the world. You see things in the Championship that no other league in the world could possibly comprehend. On top of the regular season, the playoffs bring some of the most memorable moments to the Championship’s campaign.
Moments such as the 2013 playoff semi-final where Anthony Knockaert had the chance to win the game for Leicester, in injury time, with a last-minute penalty which was subsequently saved. Then, in a blink of an eye, Troy Deeny’s wheeling away in celebration after scoring the winner for Watford. Also, the 2008 playoff final where Dean Windass rocketed Hull into the Premier League rifling a first-time volley into the top corner. Who can forget the Leeds United drama last season? First their ‘spygate’ episode and then in a later fixture going on to let Aston Villa score. It’s moments like these which make the Championship so magical.
So how is it shaping up this season? Going into the first international break we have many talking points, many surprises and with this comes many questions.
Leeds United have been the favourites since the start of the season and currently sit at 5/4, recently drifting from evens, to take the top spot. Having seemed to have brushed of the bitter disappointment of last season’s playoffs, Marco Bielsa’s men have had a solid start to the campaign. Having won 4 of their first 6 fixtures, drawing and losing 1, Leeds have backed up why they’re favourites.
Swansea, who currently sit at the highest peak of the Championship, have had an incredible start. Currently with 16 points, they have amassed a total of six points – only dropping points to Derby in a 0-0 draw. Not bad for a manager has no prior experience in such a role. Steve Cooper and Swansea’s form can’t be overlooked as shown when beating Leeds away from home. If this form were to continue, 10/1 for the Swans to win the league would be great value for the punter. Their away tie against Bristol City on the 21st September will be a pivotal game for them and a win will solidify their already strong challenge for the title.
Now for one of the biggest surprises of the season. Newly promoted Charlton have gone into the first international break undefeated with 4 wins and 2 draws. Sitting second in the league is an outstanding start and one to be admired. With each win they are distancing themselves from the bottom 3 as they look to be a mainstay in the higher divisions. Seeing Charlton face off against title contenders will give us more of an idea of where they currently lie. Priced at 8/1 to get relegated, I think it’s only a matter of time before we start to see that drift. If form is to be believed and Charlton come away with points against teams such as Brentford and Cardiff, then whose to say they can’t get promoted through the playoffs? At 16/1 for promotion, I reckon it could see some backing.
Solid starts from Fulham and West Brom were to be expected as they look to pave their way back into England’s Elite and they’ll be looking to keep the pressure on the likes of Leeds and Swansea for automatic promotion.
At the other end of the table it’s a dismal start for Stoke City as they have only accumulated 1 point in the first 6 fixtures. Stoke looked to boost their chances of promotion with the summer signings of Lee Gregory (from Millwall), Cameron Carter-Vickers (from Tottenham) and Scott Hogan (from Aston Villa) to name a few. Something just hasn’t clicked for Nathan Jones’s side and currently see themselves 5/1 to get relegated. Losses to relegation rivals Wigan (11/8), Birmingham (9/2) and Queens Park Rangers (5/1) have set the tone and tough fixtures against Bristol City (H) and Brentford (A) may see relegation prices shorten.
Also stuck in a slump is recently relegated Huddersfield. Having been in the Premier League for the past two seasons, the Terrier’s wouldn’t have thought they’d be winless in 6. But here they are, looking uninspiring and 11/4 to go down. It’s been a torrid start and an opening day defeat to promoted Luton Town should have gave us a glimpse of what was to come. There is value at 11/4 as the performances have lacked so much with very little looking likely to change soon.
Last year’s playoff contender’s Middlesbrough and Derby have had tough starts sitting in 18th and 19th place. The former is currently adjusting to a new style of football during new life under Gareth Woodgate. As one of my close friends is an avid Boro fans, I have been dragged to many a game in pubs and must say that it would be a tough ask to instantaneously get out of the Pulis way of defending then counter. To get a true insight into what the first 6 fixtures have shown for Boro, I asked him (@dazzabesst) what he thought about them. While agreeing it’s been a sluggish start to the campaign, he said that he was “content” with it. He then went on to say it will take “time and patience” as “Woodgate is completely changing the style from Pulis’ old fashioned football”. From a neutral standpoint this is obvious and although many won’t expect much from Boro a top half finish is entirely possible.
Predictions on the final placement of the league based on current form and the past 6 fixtures.
The Championship is known for being one of the most unpredictable leagues in the world and we could quite literally see the league shuffle every week. As I can only go on what we’ve seen so far this is how I predict the top 6 will look:
2. Leeds United
3. West Bromwich Albion
4. Bristol City
If the Swan’s can keep up their current form, then I can see them going all the way. Their victory against Leeds was massive and at a shortening 10/1 have great value. I also believe usual suspects West Brom and Fulham will make it into the playoffs along with consistent Bristol City, but the surprise package of Charlton are too impressive to overlook. They will go onto lose some games, but recent form suggests they may have what it takes to make it into the playoffs. From there it really is a different world, so 16/1 promotion can’t be ruled out.
The bottom 3:
22. Stoke City
23. Huddersfield Town
24. Wigan Athletic
Relegation favourites Wigan are bottom, despite picking up an opening day victory against Cardiff. Wigan look unenthused and based on what we’ve already seen I can’t see them securing another stay in the Championship. The other two places are very hard to decide but as we can only go on what we’ve already seen, it would have to be filled by Stoke and Huddersfield. Not picking up a win in 6 games is something you just can’t do in a league like the Championship. Falling off the pace quickly is a sure-fire way to fall down the table and that’s exactly what’s happened here. Big changes will be needed for any of these three teams to continue to play at the second step of English football. Cameron Brown
RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK SWANSEA CITY TO BE OUTRIGHT WINNERS 2pts at 10/1 with starsports.bet
BACK CHARLTON ATHLETIC TO BE PROMOTED 2pts at 16/1 with starsports.bet
BACK HUDDERSFIELD TOWN TO BE RELEGATED 4pts at 11/4 withstarsports.bet
PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 223.76 points
(excluding Ryan Sidebottom Ashes bet (c/f double, Ashes preview outright, 4th Test), Political Bets posted 8 August, Premier League ante-post, Cameron Brown football bets)