Nottingham Forest and West Bromwich Albion might be in different divisions as we come to the start of the 2012/13 season, but will that be the case in twelve months’ time?
If the markets are to be believed, there is a chance that one, if not both, of these clubs could be plying their trade in a different league come next August.
West Brom are 7/2 to go down and Forest are 9/2 to achieve promotion and the reason for those odds is that the coming year represents a step into the unknown for both of these Midlands rivals.
This is particularly so for West Brom, who have perhaps taken the managerial gamble of the summer by appointing the previously untried Steve Clarke to take over from the vastly experienced Roy Hodgson.
O’Driscoll spoke after throwing away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with neighbours Notts County of “the gaping holes in the squad” and how his “cobbled together back four” was “not yet strong enough”.
England manager Hodgson was hugely popular at the Hawthorns and his achievements in stopping the Baggies from boing-boinging between the Premier League and the Championship – their default setting over the last decade – is a tough one to follow for anyone, never mind someone who has never held the top job before.
Clarke enjoyed great success under Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, where his reputation was largely forged, but stints as assistant at West Ham United to Gianfranco Zola and with Kenny Dalglish at Liverpool were less fruitful and Clarke has much to prove: odds of 7/2 with bwin on a West Brom relegation show that the punters might not fancy his chances, even if Clarke has a settled and he has a reasonably talented squad at his disposal.
For Nottingham Forest, their supporters will be hoping that the only way is up after a summer in which the club was taken over by one of the richest families in the world. Kuwaiti businessman Fawaz Al-Hasawi has headed his family’s takeover at the City Ground following the sudden death of previous owner Nigel Doughty and after 12 years in the lower leagues, optimism is high that the club’s Premier League exile can be ended.
They have been backed, too, with bwin a best price of 9/2 on a Forest promotion (10/1 to win the Championship) but that may be in the expectation of money being spent rather than the squad available now, even if replacing Steve Cotterill with Sean O’Driscoll was a sensible move.
But O’Driscoll has work to do before Forest look like contenders and the additions so far are not the type to catapult a side that finished 21st last season into the promotion reckoning.
It seems like the former Doncaster boss knows it, too, and his comments ahead of West Brom’s visit seem designed to play down expectation. The Tricky Trees are 3/2 to win the game, with the draw at 21/10, but I like the 31/20 about West Brom here.
O’Driscoll spoke after throwing away a two goal lead to draw 2-2 with neighbours Notts County of “the gaping holes in the squad” and how his “cobbled together back four” was “not yet strong enough”. On top of that, he suggested that Forest were playing too many games and with a Capital One Cup tie against Fleetwood to negotiate on Monday evening, said that he “could have done without one of these games” over a long weekend. It sounds like he doesn’t fancy this one against West Brom, who boasted the sixth best away record in the top flight last year, and I think Albion are good prospects to win this one.
The Baggies, who look set to secure Chelsea’s Romelu Lukaku on a season-long loan, are unbeaten in four pre-season outings, keeping a couple of clean sheets in the process, and look like they might have too much for Forest, whose activity over the next three weeks will decide if a play-off push will have to wait for another year.
Recommended bet: West Brom to beat Forest @ 31/20
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