July 23rd, 2016 | Ian Carnaby's Sports News


At around this time last year I went for Sheffield united to win League One with Walsall optimistically suggested as each-way saver material at 40/1. They did us proud, just holding on for third despite changing managers in mid-term. From the way Brentford responded to Dean Smith, there must be a chance we’d have gone close to a major pay-out.

Still, it’s all in the past and I rather doubt that the Saddlers will do as well this time around. Sheffield United, on the other hand, look fair favourites (6/1 with Wilsons) and I shall go in quite strongly again.

For a while, Nigel Adkins seemed to be the ‘coming’ manager. We thought so at Southampton as the Saints came back up through two divisions in two seasons. But we probably underestimated the part played by Alan Pardew, who signed Rickie Lambert and Jose Fonte almost as soon as he arrived. Nicola Cortese, who ran Southampton with an iron fist, was never quite convinced by Adkins and brought in the then little-known Mauricio Pochettino as soon as Premier League survival became a topic of conversation.

Reading fans were inclined to go with Adkins because of a daunting injury list but he never actually took them anywhere and his record at Bramall lane means he will not find employment easy in future. Put simply, the Blades started as favourites and played like also-rans, hardly ever putting two results together. It was hardly a surprise when he went, though some were taken aback by Chris Wilder’s decision to move north after guiding Northampton to the Division Two title without the proverbial two bob to spend.

I said last year that it was the season United HAD to go up. Well, they didn’t but I’m saying it again, the Walsall hunch leaving me with a modicum of self-respect. Wilder has let eleven players go and in have come Mark Duffy, John Fleck, Chris Hussey and Jack O’Connell. Southampton came up because they suddenly had plenty of money and Pardew knew how to spend it; Sheffield may come up because Wilder knows the lower leagues from A to Z and has recruited accordingly. They are my next best, after Newcastle to win the Championship, and I expect Millwall to prove the biggest threat.

Incidentally, I apologise for writing last week that the Geordies (a bit of a laugh, I know, given the nationality of several players) were even money. There was some 2/1 here and there and I think they would be very good value at those odds.

Tottenham remain my main fancies for the Premier League with Liverpool going close, though there is so much going on at the other ‘big’ clubs that only a very rash man would sound confident. Making confident predictions at the other end can be foolhardy as well, given what happened with Leicester, though I believe it will be very hard for Watford to match last season’s achievements.

The two main bets will be NEWCASTLE in the Championship and SHEFFIELD UNITED in League One.