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Thursday, 4 August 2011

Hammer Time!

The second tier of the English football pyramid looks like it could be the best for years with well supported teams full of quality players plus a competitive fight to avoid relegation in store.

Lets get started with the team that we think have the potential to storm the league, it isn't original but we think that West Ham have retained enough quality and added to that with some fantastic signings that will enable them to outplay most teams.

'Big Sam' Allardyce may not be the most popular manager in the country but he has an undoubted quality and has improved every team he has been at, he is forward thinking and will get West Ham to play football to their strengths. Allardyce is clearly popular with players as evidenced by him being able to sign ex-players Kevin Nolan, Matt Taylor, Abdoulaye Faye & Joey O'Brien, all are capable of operating well at this level but Kevin Nolan is arguably the division's standout player and it shows the belief there is that the Hammers can come straight back up with him going down a division whilst in his prime. Carlton Cole looks like he'll stay & no one has moved for the excellent Scott Parker yet, Piquionne will get goals in this league and the loss of last year's captain Matthew Upson is little loss at all with him being one of the most immobile players in professional football, Faye is an improvement especially in this physical league. Leicester also have a top manager and have spent money but can't quite match the quality at West Ham's disposal, they have many new players & could take time to gel - it makes no sense why they are joint favourites and West Ham are crying out to be backed at 5/1 with William Hill, at that excellent price you can back each way (top 3) and still make a profit - it really is Like Buying Money!

We very much feel that West Ham have been underestimated by the bookies and have the potential to get over 100 points which would make them tough to beat in the handicap market, with some firms they get +1 and at 18/1 should certainly see us paid out with an each way bet. The other teams aren't getting enough of a headstart, we could have fancied Derby with another 10 points and if Peterbrough could have retained the dangerous Craig Mackail-Smith they could have challenged for the handicap win.

Its difficult to overestimate our confidence in West Ham and we fancy Kevin Nolan to put in a claim for the league's top scorer at 25/1. He managed more league goals than Wayne Rooney last year for a mediocre Newcastle side and 17 last time in the Championship, he's likely to be given penalty duties and will score from corners and set piece plays as well as 2-3 trademark blasts from ouside the box, he'll thrive as captain and should get up to support the strikers benefitting from Carlton Cole knockdowns and rebounds when he inevitably hits the woodwork! Our other sneaky pick is for the 80/1 Peter Whittingham who should get plenty of set piece opportunities for Cardiff, he was linked with a move away in the summer but manager Malky Mackay has stated he is central to his plans. Whittingham will need to put away plenty of penalties & freekicks but if he adds to those with a few from open play he might be pushing over 20 for the season which will give him a chance.

At the wrong end of the table Doncaster look as though they'll struggle to stay up. They conceded a league 2nd worst 81 goals last year & haven't done enough in the summer to suggest they'll stem that, they've performed creditably to stay in the league for 3 seasons but last year was a real battle & we think they'll go back to their natural home in League 1 - they can be backed at 9/4 with Victor Chandler whilst being 13/8 joint favs for relegation with William Hill.

Winner - West Ham at 5/1 with William Hill (big punters back each way for a virtually guaranteed payday!)
Handicap winner - West Ham with +1 each way at 18/1
Top goalscorer - Kevin Nolan each way at 25/1 & Peter Whittingham (Cardiff) each way at 80/1
Relegation - Doncaster Rovers at 9/4 with Victor Chandler

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