With the usual thrilling climax to the season, play-off battles and then the greatest World Cup in living memory, there’s been plenty of football to keep us occupied over the past few months. So much, in fact, that this new season has seemingly crept out of nowhere a little, hasn’t it?
But when Frank Lampard takes his Derby County side down to Reading on Friday, we’ll be back into another year of excitement. With well over a thousand matches from the top four leagues to look forward to… The Premier League is another week away from kicking off, but the EFL leagues are underway as of this weekend. How do you see the Championship shaping up this year? And how about Leagues One and Two…?
Well, we’ve had a think and come up with our predictions for the 2018/19 season. Let’s have a little look-see at ’em, shall we?
Last season saw a classy Wolves romp the league, heading up with surprise packages Cardiff City. Fulham made it past Villa in the play-offs and, to be honest, it was a fair result all round. This time out though, we see a couple of the relegated sides making their way straight back up…
Stoke City. Alright, alright… So relegated teams don’t always bounce back, but we fancy The Potters to do just that. They’ve lost a few decent players – the most notable being Xherdan Shaqiri to Liverpool, but they’ve invested. In Gary Rowett they have a brilliant young manager and in loan signing Benik Afobe, a potential league top scorer. James McClean was a shrewed pick-up too. If they can keep Jack Butland and settle in new boys Afobe, McClean and Tom Ince, they could run away with the Championship this year.
It seems a cop-out to plump for two relegated teams to get the much-coveted automatic promotion back to the Prem. But even given West Brom’s woeful 2017/18 season last year, we see good things under new boss Darren Moore. With impressive former Villa ‘keeper Sam Johnstone between the sticks and only some older, less interested squad members departing, The Baggies should keep pace with their former Premier League rivals Stoke.
Derby County are normal good for a bottling around the Play-Offs. Frank Lampard is a novice but he’s signed a couple of promising Chelsea youngsters to bolster his already decent squad. Joining them we could well see the likes of Middlesbrough and Nottingham Forest. We’ve a feeling this could be a big year for Brentford too. Ex-Nice winger Saïd Benrahma could prove a useful addition. As could Ezri Konsa, the versatile former Charlton youngster.
QPR have been hit with big sanctions by The FA and it looks gloomy for them. Birmingham City could face the drop, but we reckon they may well escape at the expense of Rotherham United and Bolton Wanderers. Former top flight boys Hull City, Ipswich Town and Reading can’t afford to slack off, though. Unless they want to drop another league.
Other than Brentford, we see an opportunity for a big season for Wigan. Paul Cook’s kept his main men at the DW Stadium and added old boy Callum McManaman to his coffers. The Latics can put out one of the strongest XI’s in the division. 14/1 for promotion is a decent bet.
Leeds United have made some interesting signings in the close season, the most obvious being the new head coach, a certain Marcelo Bielsa. The former Argentina and Marseille man comes with real pedigree. But Leeds don’t have a good track record with bosses and this looks like another false dawn for the mill-run fans of the Elland Road club.
League One’s a competitive league but even stuttering teams that go on terrible runs can find themselves on the brink of promotion. Look at Charlton and Plymouth last time out. Back-to-back relegations from the Prem to League One have happened a few times, but back-to-back-to-back relegations? Unheard of. So Sunderland fans can relax a little. It’s to be a season with dropping down a league. For a change.
Speaking of those weary Wearsiders, they’re big favourites to win League One and it’s understandable (though not at 11/4…). But the club have seemingly forgotten how to win. We’re going to go for a promoted club to take the title. The difference between Leagues One and Two isn’t that much and Nathan Jones’ Luton Town have the firepower to keep marching on.
Pompey have invested wisely, with Louis Dennis’ arrival from National League mob Bromley catching the eye (13 goals and 8 assists last season). Kenny Jackett can be relied on and if they can keep their foot on the gas, unlike last year, they could be heading back up. Finally.
Sunderland, Plymouth, Charlton, Oxford, Peterborough, Coventry, Scunthorpe, Barnsley and Bradford will all be aiming for a top six finish. We think the class of Barnsley’s squad will see them past the rest and back up to The Championship.
Erhun Oztumer has carried Walsall for years. But the little midfielder’s departure to Bolton will cost The Saddlers. They’re going down, we reckon. Gillingham and Rochdale could follow suit (we think it might be the Kent side), with Burton Albion looking in absolute freefall at the moment. A bet on them going down before a ball is kicked could net you a tidy profit.
If Luton Town do as well as we think they might, it has to be them.
At less than 3/1, Sunderland doing anything other than romping the league will be seen as a disappointment. And we think they’ll struggle to impress hugely.
League Two is usually a pretty darn difficult one to call. Back-to-back promotions are as common as back-to-back relegations. League big hitters often disappoint and no-hopers can quite easily go on to dominate. So we’re not backing ourselves hugely here, but here’s how we see things going over the next nine/ten months anyway…
Lincoln City’s rise up through the leagues has been impressive under Danny Cowley. They always have a cup run too, which helps swell the ol’ bank balance too. We fancy The Imps for glory here and with John Akinde in from Barnet – beating off League One competition from the likes of Charlton for his signature – we see them having a great run.
MK Dons are antepost favourites for the league and while they have a little money and a new boss that knows the league in the nattily-dressed Paul Tisdale, we’re not sure they justify the 6/1 odds to win the thing, let alone the 6/4 for promotion. Swindon Town, MK Dons and Carlisle United could also bag a top six finish… But to go up? We’ll plump for David Flitcroft’s Mansfield Town. He’s not exactly pulled up trees since replacing Steve Evans, but the man’s no mug and the signing of Otis Khan from Yeovil Town could be a big one for them.
Morecambe are among the favourites to plummet out of the league, but their recent takeover makes us doubt that a little. No offence to League Two, but there’s a fair amount of dross down there. Any number of teams could lose their league place. We’re going to say it’ll be Yeovil Town and Newport County.
You can get 33/1 on Carlisle United to win the league and 6s to go up. With John Sheridan at the helm, we see a potential shock on the cards with the Cumbrian outfit.
Mr. Tisdale. He’d been boss of Exeter City for centuries. Now he’s signed up with the unpopular Buckinghamshire boys of MK, he’s expected to produce. But the fedora-wearing manager may well prefer the ‘plucky outsider’ tag.
Don’t forget – any and all live televised games across the season will be screened down at your nearest Rileys. We’ll see you down there.