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Jul 11, 2003

Betting Special: Division Two

Pre-season ante-post football odds rely on a number of things - from the rather loose importance of each team's end of season form to activity in the transfer market.

When it comes to the Premiership the strength of the market (ie. How many people have put bets on) keeps the acquisition of even some of the biggest players in the world from sending prices soaring.

But the further down the leagues you go, the one thing that ranks as most important above all factors is financial solidity.

Last season's three promoted teams in Division Two were arguably the soundest financially. Both Wigan and Cardiff City have the benefit of benefactors and it showed in the squads they had.

Cardiff had depth Wigan had a big, talented first team. Even Crewe can consider themselves on a sound footing in comparison to those around them.

This year is likely to be no different. The teams with the biggest clout will walk away with a division.

Last year (Wigan aside) Division Two was the tightest run-in by far with six teams in contention for an automatic promotion slot right up to the last few weeks.

This year could prove similar - except the battle may include the top spot as well - because no-one team stands out as an obvious champion.

Favourites - almost predictably - are Sheffield Wednesday (6.00 at Bet 365) who find themselves capable of attracting 25,000 people regularly to home matches, but languishing close to the basement.

They have a useful squad, but have been awful for a number of seasons now and a relegation doesn't automatically make you the best team in a league.

So too Brighton (7.00 at Bet 365), who believe that they have an enormous support waiting to happen. But they had a good chance to build on promotion last season and showed that they were little more than a one-man team.

More justified is the joint favouritism that some bookies have bestowed on last season's losing play-off finalists QPR (6.00 at Bet 365). They would have been a Division One side, but for the lack of a 20-plus goal a season striker and an appalling run through November and December, which scuppered an automatic promotion spot.

In the second half of the season they were the form team, though - beating all their play-off rivals and have built on that success in the close season.

There is still some doubt about their potency up front and the transfer market could prove the best indicator of their chances of automatic promotion this term. Best watched for the moment.

Bristol City (8.00 at Bet 365) had a good season and will improve, as will Tranmere (10.00 at Bet 365) who came so close to the play-offs last term. New additions Grimsby (17.00 at Bet 365) and Rushden and Diamonds (17.00 at Bet 365) might take a season to bed down.

Don't touch Oldham (23.00 at Bet 365) who look like being a shadow of last season's play-off contenders and Blackpool (26.00 at Bet 365) and Barnsley (26.00 at Bet 365) could hope for a play-off place at best.

The in-fighting at Luton (26.00 at Bet 365) will surely prove too damaging, but Swindon (26.00 at Bet 365) who have come through a tough time financially have a useful little side in the making and could prove the biggest surprise.

Sean's long shot: £10 each-way ante-post

  • Swindon Town to win Division Two (26.00 at Bet 365)
    Total stake: £20.00
    Potential return (if they win): £335.00
    Potential return (if they finish 2nd or 3rd): £75.00

    Sean's selections: £20 ante-post

  • Tranmere Rovers to win Division Two (10.00 at Bet 365)
    Total stake: £20.00
    Potential return: £200.00