IT HARDLY SEEMS SIX WEEKS since the end of last season’s football and that probably is due to the fact that it’s not been! And that’s not accounting for the Copa America and the qualifying rounds of Europe’s competitions. It does mean however that this issue contains my picks for the forthcoming domestic season as this year the 2015/16 season begins in early August. On that point if you turn to Point of Sale you will see that insureTAXI are once again sponsoring their Fantasy Football League, and with great cash prizes guaranteed it is a must for all you prospective managers. Bernie the Book will be entering once again so take me on and see how good you really are.
Onto the Premiership. I honestly can’t split, and therefore can’t recommend a bet, between the big five this year although personally if Manchester City don’t win it I’d love to see Wenger exorcise his personal demons. But there’s one thing for sure: my first big recommendation is on the winner of the Premiership without the big six (Chelsea, the two Manchester clubs, the two north London clubs and the scousers) and my tip is STOKE CITY at 8/1 to effectively come seventh. I think Mark Hughes is much maligned as a manager and he has certainly melded together an efficient, football savvy squad which will stand him in good stead over the season. Obviously Southampton are a decent side but the bookmakers have factored that price in and I just feel that 8/1 is a more than generous price.
Into the Championship. I think last year’s relegated sides will all struggle (QPR, Burnley and Hull) and I think that MIDDLESBROUGH at a best price 15/2 will provide title honours. A little bit of inexperience cost them last year against Norwich and they have certainly strengthened over the summer.
Conversely one of the sides that got relegated from the Championship last year in what was a dire season, I pick for an immediate return now that their demons have been exorcised from Division One. I am talking of course of WIGAN ATHLETIC. They are universally available at 7/1. I just feel now that Dave Whelan has handed over the reins to his grandson and accepted his punishment, and now that Malky Mackay has also departed, they have the opportunity for a fresh start. In Gary Caldwell they have a young manager who is linked to the club.
Lastly, Division Two honours might go to a team I tipped to win Division One last year! and then got relegated!! but I feel they have the financial clout to make an immediate return. That team, of course, is LEYTON ORIENT who are widely available at 12/1.
Finally in this football section a word must also be mentioned for two of my favourite markets at this time of the year, which appeal to my sadistic nature, and that is the sack race (that is first Premier League manager to be given his P45) and those teams that will be relegated from the Premier League. As to the second market, it is easy to pick last year’s promoted teams to go straight back down; for example last year two of the promoted teams simply yo-yo’d but this year at a fanciful price of 5/1 is WEST BROMWICH ALBION who I think will struggle. Remember that’s just to go down, not to finish bottom.
In the sack race I think the first manager who will lose his position is DICK ADVOCAAT who is a top priced 10/1 with the magic sign (Ladbrokes). The reason is simple, Sunderland will struggle and he has already resigned his position once before changing his mind and I feel that if they have a poor start to the season, the Board will look to change.
AND THEN THERE WERE FOUR…
Finally, nominations have just closed on the next Labour leader and I think for those of you with deep pockets that ANDY BURNHAM is an absolute shoe-in to take the gig. He is generally around tips (11/10) to see off Jeremy Corbyn (too far left even for the Unions), Liz Kendall (too much like a reincarnation of Tony Blair) and Yvette Cooper (too much associated with Ed Balls). Back him now.
Good luck with the footy! Come on you Blues (and Latics)!