It’s difficult to look at the League One table and view it as anything other than a sad indicator of the pitfalls of reaching the promised land of the Premier League, only to overextend yourself. No fewer than six sides – Blackpool, Bolton, Coventry, Ipswich Town, Portsmouth and Sunderland – have featured in the Premier League. Throw MK Dons in there under their former guise as Wimbledon (we’re not trying to start any arguments, just roll with it!) and that makes it seven.
Excluding MK Dons, of the six sides who have played in the Premier League, Blackpool were the only side to have just one shot at survival, the rest having multiple seasons in the top flight of English football. It’s astonishing when you think about it, that so many teams could fall so far. Look past the mismanagement and downfall of these sides though – more on Bolton and also Bury below – and it should certainly make for the most interesting League One season for quite some time.
SUNDERLAND – Last season, Sunderland missed out on promotion in possibly the most heartbreaking fashion: defeat in the Play-Off final to Charlton. Following such heartache – which comes hot on the heels of years of financial mismanagement of the club – you’d be forgiven for thinking that hopes were not high for Sunderland this season. But hopes are indeed high. Title favourites high. With the club now on an even keel financially, they’ll hope to put their budget – which is the biggest in the league – to good use and secure promotion in their second season with the new owners, and manager Jack Ross, at the helm.
IPSWICH TOWN – The Tractor Boys will look for an immediate bounce back to the Championship following the relegation that concluded a season in which they were the worst team in their division. In manager Paul Lambert, Ipswich have an experienced coach who has operated in the top tier of English football. They will be hoping his experience can get the best out of what is currently an injury hit squad. New signing James Norwood – who bagged 29 goals in League Two for Tranmere last season – will need to hit the ground running if a title challenge is to be sustained.
BURY/BOLTON – It feels cruel to mention these two clubs, such is the ruin they face. While Bolton will be better known to fans of top-flight football, both clubs are former FA Cup winners, and both clubs start the season with 12-point deductions due to financial problems. Bolton are facing consecutive relegations – having dropped down from the Championship – possible further points deductions and currently have a squad containing just seven senior players. Yet somehow, the future looks bleaker for Bury whose first game of the season against MK Dons has been suspended after they failed to satisfy the EFL that they have the necessary financial means in place.
WYCOMBE WANDERERS – The season outlook could have been even worse for The Chairboys had Gareth Ainsworth departed to QPR and taken the manager’s job at the club where he made over 150 appearances as a player. Instead, QPR opted for Mark Warburton and Wycombe got to keep the man that helped them successfully battle relegation last season. They’ll be hoping he can once again overcome budget cuts and guide an ageing squad to safety. With Bury and Bolton guaranteed to occupy the bottom two spots, it’s likely they’ll be fighting it out with Southend United to stay out of the one remaining spot.
Sunderland are favourites to win the title at 7/2 (4.50). Whilst the other main contenders to win the league are Ipswich and Portsmouth both at 13/2 (7.50), Rotherham are outsiders at 12/1 (13.00). Peterborough will have aspirations for the Top 6, and therefore the Play-Offs, and are 11/10 (2.10) to fulfil them. Lincoln City are 5/2 (3.50) and Burton Albion are at 11/4 (3.75) for Top 6 finishes.
At the other end of the table Bury are relegation favourites at 1/10 (1.10), followed by Bolton at 1.66 (2/3), Wycombe at 11/4 (3.75) and Southend at 33/10 (4.30). James Norwood of Ipswich is favourite to finish top scorer at 61/10 (7.10), closely followed by Mohamed Eisa of Peterborough and John Marquis of Doncaster both at 38/5 (8.60).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.