Smoothly-does-it Reading can take Championship laurels
When it comes to assessing the front-runners in the Championship title betting, one side stand out at the prices. There are a dearth of negatives surrounding 10/1 Reading as they cement their status as the latest members of the gang of clubs who spend their time yo-yoing between the two divisions.
Discord-riven QPR are the 5/1 favourites to top the table for their second successive championship campaign, but the gang of overpaid, under-motivated journeymen and the effect they’ve had on the R’s team spirit that is the legacy of their year in the top flight will doubtless take more than a summer to sort out.
Leicester, for the third successive campaign, find themselves towards the summit of the pre-season title betting at 8/1, but they were plagued by inconsistency last term and despite possessing a reasonable set of financial muscles for the division, they have often failed to get value for their moolah, £5m failure Matt Mills being a prime example.
At 9/1 Bolton Wanderers look the silver medal bet among the leading contenders.
In a league based on the last 12 games of the season they would have been champions and they only missed the play-offs due to a build-up of injuries to key men. Manager Dougie Freedman is clearly a man going places – the Crystal Palace team promoted in 2012/13 were built on his blueprints – and there are still plenty of Premier League quality operators at the Reebok.
Billy Davies’ Nottingham Forest are perhaps priced at 10/1 on the late-season surge they mustered when the Scot arrived for his second spell in charge rather than the doldrums that preceded it and at the same price – and a point longer than Bolton – Reading look a far surer bet.
The Royals match Forest and QPR for a manager who has previously tasted promotion, except Nigel Adkins has now earned three elevations compared to one each for Messrs Redknapp and Davies.
Unlike QPR Adkins has a settled squad, with a group that has only been if anything mildly improved since they won the Championship two seasons ago – their second second tier title in six years – so they won’t be caught in adaptation mode at the genesis of the new campaign.
Additionally they have the financial clout to burnish their first team with some match-winning talent thanks to their parachute payments and the deep pockets of owner Anton Zingarevich.
The Russian has suggested Reading will look to bring in up to seven new faces this summer and ex-Real Madrid and Everton star Royston Drenthe looks set to join Wayne Bridge on their books in the coming days.
A solid, unified squad, a Championship-winning pedigree, a promotion-savvy and tactically enlightened manager and more than a fistful of dollars make Reading the logical choice from amongst the front runners for the second tier title.