Blades lead Yorkshire clubs’ charge on League One promotion
Yorkshire football could be on the rise once more with three teams from ‘God’s Own County’ – a place that Coral football experts recently celebrated during its special day – looking in brilliant shape of get out of League One this season.
The White Rose’s promotion charge is led by Sheffield United, who are firm favourites both to lift the third tier title at 9/2 and go up at 6/4. Both prices are fair considering the strength in depth of their squad, and the fact that new manager Nigel Adkins has three promotions from this level on his CV.
A seasoned defence needs nothing adding to it, but there is real quality and competition for places in attack now. Adkins has added target man Conor Sammon on loan and brought striker Billy Sharp back to Bramall Lane for a third spell, plus experienced winger Martyn Woolford on a free.
That latter pair excelled under Blades boss Adkins when they last worked with him at Scunthorpe United, often in League One, and they are part of an already rich roster of talent that should see Sheffield United push on.
Across the county in the West Riding, fellow cup specialists Bradford City are well worth a wager to be promoted too at 9/2. Phil Parkinson has inevitably lost some of those players who performed above themselves to knock Chelsea out at Stamford Bridge.
Names like that of Jon Stead will pass on into Bantams folklore, but there has been the good sense at Valley Parade to replace bodies. Fellow forward Steve Davies is one of two players poached from Blackpool, who are dropping like a stone.
Andrew Davies is gone from defence, but local lad Nathan Clarke, like Stead formerly of Huddersfield Town, is a more than sufficiently experienced replacement. Bradford have also added extra wide options in Mark Marshall from Port Vale and one-time Liverpool academy product Paul Anderson.
Doncaster Rovers are also worthy of consideration in the promotion race, again at 9/2, as Paul Dickov has pulled off some decent deals. Fellow Scottish duo Gary MacKenzie and Aaron Taylor-Sinclair strengthen the Keepmoat defence considerably, for example.
In attack, Rovers beat the Blades to Swindon Town top scorer Andy Williams, who virtually guarantees goals at this level. Winger Dany N’Guessan, meanwhile, has two third tier promotions to his name, and extensive experience of English football.
While the likes of relegated Millwall, Peterborough United, Rochdale and last term’s beaten play-off finalists Swindon Town will hope to feature in the promotion picture, the only side that looks likely to challenge a Yorkshire clean sweep is Wigan Athletic.
The Latics are admittedly going through some tough times after the glorious days of their Premier League stint, but the strikeforce at novice coach Gary Caldwell’s disposal should fire them right into contention.
At 2/1 for promotion and 6/1 to wrestle the League One title from Sheffield United’s grasp, Wigan have Craig Davies, Will Grigg and Billy McKay to pick from, not forgetting currently injured Grant Holt (who hit 30 goals at this level when he last played at it), and they all are better than the division. Michael Jacobs, a real wide threat for Wolves when they won this league in 2013/14, will be their chief supply line.
It’s a similar story with the defence, as two from Leon Barnett, Craig Morgan (two third tier promotions to his name) and Jason Pearce look to establish an impenetrable partnership at centre half. All that remains to be seen is how Caldwell takes to management at the DW Stadium.
Coral’s prediction: There’s a lot to like about the Latics, but we’re sticking with the Blades to be League One Champions at 9/2.