Trotters set to take title
Craig Chisnall looks ahead to the 2013/14 Sky Bet Championship season and predicts title glory for Bolton.
- Related Content
Bolton were strongly fancied to make an immediate return to the Premier League 12 months ago - but they look in better shape to go up this term.
Last year they still seemed shell-shocked by their sudden drop down under Owen Coyle and their slow start to life in the second tier saw the former Wanderers striker lose his job.
Dougie Freedman was the man handed the task of the rebuild at the Reebok and despite a tricky start a fine run in the last few months somehow got them to the brink of the play-offs.
- 3pts Bolton to win the Sky Bet Championship at 9/1 (General) - Dougie Freedman has now got the squad he wants at the Reebok
- 2.5pts Ipswich to gain promotion at 7/1 (General) - Mick McCarthy worked wonders after taking over last term
- 1pt e.w. Adam Le Fondre to be top goalscorer at 14/1 (Ladbrokes 1/4 1,2,3,4) - fine record at this level and looks the man to beat
- 2.75pts Yeovil to stay up at 10/11 (Sky Bet, BetVictor) - goals in them and could surprise a few
And with the additions Freedman has made they looked a better side across the board.
Jermaine Beckford will always get goals at this level and joins a strike force that already includes Craig Davies and Marvin Sordell.
Experienced defenders Alex Baptiste and Marc Tierney have pedigree in the Championship after helping Blackpool and Norwich win promotion.
And in midfield Chris Eagles has also stayed put while USA international Stuart Holden will be like a new signing following his long battle with injury.
At 9/1 they are much better value than the skinny 6/1 offered on QPR.
The Championship has had at least one surprise package in recent years, Blackpool, Swansea and Crystal Palace challenging at the top end, and this year I believe that could well be Ipswich.
The Tractor Boys have been perennial underachievers in recent times but I like the look of the squad Mick McCarthy is busy putting together.
He guided them away from the drop zone after picking up the pieces of Paul Jewell's disastrous reign and their squad looks stronger than the one that finished last term.
The experienced Cole Skuse and Jay Tabb have arrived to bolster their midfield while the permanent addition of David McGoldrick will surely add goals.
They really tightened up at the back in the second half of last term with Christophe Berra, a player McCarthy knows well, arriving from Wolves to bolster the backline further. At 7/1 they are well worth a punt in the promotion market.
Another price well worth considering is the 14/1 offered on Adam Le Fondre to finish as the Championship's top scorer.
The 26-year-old former Rotherham forward managed 14 Premier League goals last term despite spending large parts of the season on the bench of the relegated Royals.
He's got a fantastic record in the Football League, is a penalty taker and Nigel Adkins' side will get more chances than they did last term. Le Fondre looks the value in this market.
Yeovil have been well and truly written off by many pundits already but I've got some faith in the Glovers.
They were dismissed as relegation fodder before they started League One last year and made a mockery of that. They've assembled a young, hungry squad, desperate to prove people wrong and I believe they will.
Boss Gary Johnson, already a legend at the club after leading them out of the Conference in his first spell in charge, loves it at their tight Huish Park home and they will be difficult to beat on their own patch.
They've got a goalscorer in Paddy Madden - he notched 24 times last term - and could well upset a few big clubs. They are 10/11 to stay up and that's worth investing in.