League One Betting Tips

League One is the second tier of the English Football League and the third tier overall in England. It’s been about since 2004, but it’s roots date back as far as 1920, where it was and often still is, referred to as the old Division 3.

The league is another that is vastly competitive and over the years has been the scene to some of the best matches in the English Football League. It’s been able to host some massive teams, including former Premier League winners, former FA Cup and League cup winners, as well as former European Champions.

Who Will Win League One?

The new League 1 season is back and for a relatively small selection of sides, the championship title is the main target. In truth, fans, players, managers and owners would be more than happy just to be promoted, be that as champions or otherwise. It is, perhaps, chiefly punters for whom the outright League 1 winner crown matters most. So, whether you’re looking to land that big winner by naming the champions across a number of leagues or are just specifically interested in the third tier, here are the top two contenders. Obviously there is a fair possibility that neither Sunderland nor Barnsley will ultimately prevail. However, with the field 12/1 bar, we’re sticking to our two single-digit-odds favourites.

Sunderland – 3/1

The Black Cats must be feeling like they’ve run over 13 black cats, having dropped like a stone from the Premier League to League One. It isn’t unheard of for sides to suffer back to back relegations but Sunderland have been especially woeful. 10 years in the top flight ended in 2017 as they finished rock bottom, losing on 26 occasions. 12 months on they fared scarcely better, conceding 80 goals to finish bottom of the second tier.

So much went wrong at the Stadium of Light that it’s hard to know where to start but the good news is that, at least as far as the bookies see it, the only way is up. At 3/1 to win the League One title they are big favourites and with a positive young manager, Jack Ross, at the helm, they should certainly give it a really good go. There has already been a big change in their squad but in the third tier their budget is huge and we expect more transfers both in and out. 3/1 is a relatively short price in what is always a competitive league but we can’t advise against backing Sunderland to bounce back in style.

Barnsley – 8/1

Barnsley, like Sunderland, were playing in the Championship last season. They did marginally better than their more illustrious rivals, but finishing 22nd still saw them relegated. They were two points from safety but like the Black Cats, whom they finished four points above, they lost exactly half of their 46 league matches. However one looks at it, it was a poor, poor campaign for the South Yorkshire outfit, who were in the Premier League back in the late 1990s.

The Tykes made a bold move in June when they appointed young German Daniel Stendel as their new manager. The 44 year old has limited managerial experience, having only briefly taken charge of Hannover 96 in his native Germany. His overall record was good, with 17 wins from 34 games but he was sacked as their promotion push appeared to be faltering. He clearly faces several big issues in a new country and given the Tykes have been largely inactive in the transfer market we don’t think 8/1 offers any real value.

Who Will Be Promoted To The Championship?

Barnsley obviously have a better chance in the promotion stakes than the League One winner market and are priced at odds of 11/4 for an instant return to the second tier. Title favourites Sunderland are available at evens for promotion but beyond these top two it really is anyone’s game. Charlton and Pompey are 9/2 and there are a total of 17 clubs priced at between those odds (9/2) and 10/1. As is the case in the Championship, only a small number of the relegation candidates are not considered to be promotion hopefuls. Here we bring you the six teams we feel have the best chance of promotion.

Charlton – 9/2

Charlton made the play-offs back in May after finishing sixth but their bid for promotion came undone when they lost both legs of their semi final against Shrewsbury. The Shropshire side had finished third, some 16 points ahead of Charlton, with the London club a further nine points shy of an automatic promotion place. That shows how much work they have to do this term to go up and there are doubts off the pitch, with a takeover mooted and the role of current caretaker manager Lee Bowyer dependent on whether that goes ahead. With the Addicks having sold their best centre back and having been hit by injuries at the start of the season, now does not seem the time to back them for promotion.

Portsmouth – 9/2

We would argue that it is Pompey who are the better value bet for promotion at the same odds of 9/2. The south coast club are certainly no stranger to off-pitch woes and their fall from Premier League and FA Cup final grace was as dramatic as it was rapid. Things are looking more stable of late though, both on and off the pitch and in Kenny Jackett they have an experienced manager. They look to have made some positive free transfers and we would certainly expect them to improve on their eighth placed finish of last season.

Luton – 5/1

The Hatters are another side who have experienced more than their fair share of turbulence over the past 20 years. Nathan Jones has been in charge of Luton since January 2016, first leading them away from relegation before guiding them into the League 2 play-offs the following season. They missed out then but the following term they scored goals for fun on their way to finishing second and earning their place in League 1. At their best they were unstoppable last term and their goal difference was 16 better than Accrington, who finished five points above them. A second consecutive promotion certainly isn’t beyond them and a price of 5/1 looks fair.

Peterborough – 5/1

Posh finished ninth last term but there is cautious optimism around the club and a belief from both fans and bookies that they can mount a more serious promotion push this term. Steve Evans is a manager with plenty of experience at this level and higher and he has brought a raft of players in. The issue his side have is that they have sold some of their best players to Championship sides. The loss of striker Jack Marriott, who moved to Derby for more than £3m, will be a big problem and without his goals we think promotion is beyond them.

Burton – 7/1

The promotion picture is highly complex in League 1, as said, with so many sides clustered between 5/1 and 10/1. Burton are not the next shortest in the promotion odds but we think they could offer plenty of value. The Brewers finished 23rd in the Championship with a woeful goal difference but 7/1 represents good value for them to bounce back. They have won a number of promotions over the years and Nigel Clough has a long and successful history with the club. They are well run and we fancy the board’s decision to stick with Clough despite relegation may well pay off.

Bradford – 7/1

Bradford are another side priced at 7/1 to go up to the Championship and again, that price might actually be just a shade bigger than it should be. The Bantams are yet another club to have seen plenty of changes on and off the pitch in recent times but they finished 11th last term and look ready to push for the play-offs at least this term. They have been bold in making 32 year old Yorkshireman Michael Collins their coach and whilst that is a big gamble, he had impressed as coach of their under 18 side. Bradford are the quintessential sleeping giant and their pricing policy has brought them huge crowds for this level, support that might just help them ease into the second tier.

Relegation Betting

As alluded to above, very little is certain in the third tier of English football. 19 of the 24 sides in the division are priced at odds of 10/1 or shorter for the drop. Bradford are 7/1 to go up and the very same odds to go down, with Burton also 7/1 for promotion and a shade longer at 8/1 to go the other way. There may be the temptation to just stick a pin in a sheet of paper but you’ll be glad to hear we’re taking a more thoughtful approach than that!

Accrington – 5/4

Accrington are the side the bookies predict will struggle most and they are League One relegation favourites. Odds of 5/4 equate to a 44% probability and perhaps around 40% when we factor in the overround (bookmaker profit) and given Accrington are the favourites that’s actually quite low. This is further proof of just how open this battle is expected to be but we have to say we feel the Lancashire side will struggle. Promoted as League 2 champions it may seem strange they are deemed less likely to survive than Luton and Wycombe but on balance 5/4 looks good to us.

Wycombe – 11/8

As alluded to above, Wycombe finished third in the fourth tier to earn their League 1 spot but the oddsmakers expect they could be in for an immediate return to League 2. Gareth Ainsworth knows the club inside out as a player, coach, caretaker manager and has been the permanent boss for five years now. His record has been steady and the continuity he offers should help Wanderers overcome their weaknesses and survive.

Gillingham – 15/8

Gillingham finished last season in 17th place, 56 points seeing them end six clear of the drop. Welsh boss Steve Lovell is a bona fide lower league journeyman and his career as both a player and a manager has largely been spent at places your average fan would struggle to locate on a map. For the record, Sittingbourne is in Kent and the Rogues play in Memphis, Tennessee! This is his second spell in charge (or co-control) at the Gills and whilst his side played some neat stuff at times last term they are almost certain to be in and around the bottom six once again.

Walsall – 2/1

Walsall finished two places and four points worse off than Gillingham in 2017-18 and at solid odds of 2/1 they may well be the value bet in terms of League 1 relegation. They lost 20 times last term and had a poor goal difference and lost some of their better players whilst, at the time of writing, failing to replace them adequately. Erhun Oztumer is a big loss and he could do well in the Championship but without his creativity Walsall will struggle for goals and we fancy they could well go down.

AFC Wimbledon – 5/2

AFC Wimbledon are another club we fancy may be dropping into League Two in nine months or so having finished in between Walsall and the Gills back in May. They finished 15th in 2016-17, there first campaign in the top flight but their resources may mean they will drop back once again. A price of 5/2 looks more than fair to us.

Blackpool – 5/2

Blackpool, like the Dons, can be backed at 5/2 for the drop but we actually fancy they could be set for a decent campaign, with mid-table a real possibility. The Tangerines ended last term in a very respectable 12th and their goal difference was better than four of the sides that finished above them. Once again they have been very active in the transfer market but if Gary Bowler can get his players to gel, a top 10 finish could be on the cards as Blackpool continue to rebuild following some turbulent years.

League One Top Goalscorer

The League One golden boot battle is, as with just about every other battle in the third tier, set to be close and hard fought. We have a little while before the transfer window shuts and so we could well see some changes to the market but right now there are no real standout contenders based on the odds alone. Here are the four shortest priced players who we feel may well do the business, though beyond this quartet there are three forwards also all available at 16/1.

Brett Pitman (Portsmouth) - 8/1

Pompey’s 30 year old forward heads the way in the League One top scorer betting and his 24 goals from 38 league games last term was indeed a fine return. He didn’t quite do the business in the Championship during his peak years, spending two years first with Bournemouth, then with Ipswich, in the second tier. Last season was his most productive since 2009-10 and if Pompey are to have any chance of going up, Pitman must deliver again. He was second behind Jack Marriott last term and with the former Posh man now at Derby, the Portsmouth striker will have his backers at 8/1.

Charlie Wyke (Bradford) - 10/1

Wyke notched 15 league goals for his West Yorkshire employer last season and will hope to improve on that. At 25 years old many believe the Middlesbrough man can play at a higher level and there are rumours that both Bolton and Sunderland are interested in signing him. Obviously a move to Bolton would ruin a bet on him right now but if he headed to the Black Cats it could actually enhance his chances. We think the former Carlisle man is a top player and set to go from strength to strength so, transfers aside, at 10/1 he looks good value.

Lyle Taylor (Charlton) - 14/1

Lyle Taylor was previously a Sunderland target but rejected the North East side to stay in London, moving from AFC Wimbledon to Charlton this summer. He scored 14 times in a struggling side last term and tall Montserrat international will certainly hope to improve on that this term in a side that are well fancied to mount a promotion push. Our main concern with Lyle is that at 28 he has had his chances to really prove himself and whenever tested at a higher level hasn’t quite been able to deliver. At 14/1 we feel there are better options.

Kieffer Moore (Barnsley) - 16/1

Of the four strikers available at 16/1, it is Barnsley’s Kieffer Moore who offers the best value: indeed, we think he is the best bet in the whole market. The strapping 25 year old is six foot five inches tall and really showed he can do the business at this level when notching 13 goals in 22 games on loan at Rotherham. He only managed four goals in the Championship last term for the Tykes but will be better for the experience a year on. Back in League One we think he can fire and 16/1 is a cracking price for an each way bet.

It’s probably fair to say that the league is still pretty young, given that it’s only been around since 2004. Whilst the origins do date back to that of 1920, it’s now has a very different feel to it than it once did, with more money being involved and bigger teams representing the league as they work down the pyramid scheme of English football.

League One is often thought of as being a strong platform for young players to apply their trade. It’s included the likes of Jamie Vardy and Dele Alli in more recent years, with it offering up a great base for clubs to nurture this sort of talent through their ranks.

The league also gets a number of Premier League players, mainly younger players, within the loan system. Whilst clubs look to get these players to as high a standard as possible, it’s a credit to the league that they are happy for them to play for League One clubs in order to find experience to develop their career.

As the league is owned and run by the English Football League (EFL), it’s incorporated into the deal that was sing with Sky Bet in terms of sponsorship, making the official name that of Sky Bet League One.

Format

The league is made up of 24 teams in total and over the course of the season they play each other twice, both home and away. The format is pretty straight forward in that teams are awarded 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and no points if they lose.

Rankings are based on the total number of points each team has. If they are tied then it goes to goal difference, goals scored and then head to head record with that other team, if needed.

There are three teams that can get promoted each season. First place will be crowned the League One Champions, and they will gain automatic promotion along with second place. The final place is made up of the League One play-offs. This includes teams ranked from 3rd to 6th in the league.

The play-offs take place at the end of the season and for many involved, are the highlight of the season. The format includes two semi-finals, where 3rd plays 6th and 4th plays 5th. These games are over two legs, playing one at home, then the other away. The aggregate scores over the two legs will determine who goes through. Extra time and penalties can be used after the second leg should the scores be tied.

The final then takes place at Wembley stadium. It’s a winner-take-all game and if the scores are tied after 90 minutes, extra time and penalties will be used if needed.

Whilst the promotion and play off structure is very similar of that of the Championship and League 2, it works a little differently at the other end of the table. Whereas other leagues will offer up three relegation spots, League One offer up four relegation spots, with 4 teams being promoted from League 2.

TV Coverage

The league gets the majority of its exposure from Sky Sports, who are associated with the main sponsor, Sky Bet. There are a number of games that are shown throughout the course of a season live and also the highlights package on programs such as Sky Sports News.

The previous winners of the highlights package for terrestrial TV was that of Channel 5. But, in 2018 they withdrew their offer to renew their contract, with Quest TV picking it up instead in a bold move for the new channel. Internationally, the league is tied with the likes of TV4 Sport in Sweden, Setanta Sports Australia and beIN Sports, who have a massive global following.

Prize Money

As you can imagine, the gulf between prize money between League 1 and the Championship is highly significant. In total, each team in League One is paid £732,000 as a basic award and a solidarity payment of £675,000, making a grand total of £1,407,000. In the grand scheme of football, not a huge amount of money by any means.

If teams were to be promoted, they would see their overall numbers grow to that of £6,700,000 per season, almost 5 times as much money.

On top of this basic package, League One teams can earn up to £30,000 for hosting a game live on Sky Sports, with the away team for that match getting £10,000. But, live games are very few and far between, so these numbers barely come into consideration for most teams.

The History of League One

Whilst the league has been around since 2004 in its current form, the old Division 3 dates as far back as 1920. In that time, it’s become an integral part of the English Football Leagues heritage and has included some of the best teams to have played in the country, even though it’s the third tier.

The league has been referred to as the “graveyard” of English football, often with teams who land in, struggle to get out. Walsall are a great example of this and have been in the league since 2006/07 season. Other former Premier League clubs to have played in the league include Barnsley, Blackpool, Bradford city, Charlton Athletic, Co entry City, Portsmouth and most recently, Sunderland.