League One 2021-2022 Season Preview: Rotherham can be gods of the third tier

Rotherham boss Paul Warne
Paul Warne has god-like status at Rotherham

Alan Dudman returns once again for his annual look at the antepost markets for League One, and he's on Rotherham trail for the new season...

"However, Rotherham at a bigger 15.014/1 look well worth a punt considering manager Paul Warne's success at this level. He's already gained two promotions from League One and (cliche time), are a horrible side to play against at the New York with their physical style."

League One Winner Market


I've been doing this column for a number of years now, so long in fact, I used to go to work at Betfair by horse. We've had countless near-misses to win the title - Bournemouth and Burton were particularly crushing at some big prices. They still haunt to this day. My go-to Peterborough guys also came up two points short on last term's ante-post title tip, but they managed to bag the top scorers in the division bet at 5/1.

With no Posh, life seems strange, but these are weird times. But as with striking regularity, Sunderland are once again the pre-season favourites. A writer once described the "missed tackle" on Ference Puskas at Wembley as a "fire engine going to wrong fire" (I hope it wasn't George Robb the Spurs full-back - who played for my football club and was a teacher at my old school Christ's College), which is what Sunderland have been in this division for many a season.

I am not into laying 7.613/2 chances, but I can't see them winning the league, again. Lee Johnson was under a lot of pressure last season and was rounded on by the Mackem faithful at the end of the playoffs. Johnson just doesn't seem the right fit, and it's a hard fit to get at the Stadium Of Light.

The division looks ultra-strong, especially with the two relegated Yorkshire sides Sheffield Wednesday and Rotherham. Manager Darren Moore will know the third tier well from his time at Doncaster and they don't look a bad bet at 10.09/1.

However, Rotherham at a bigger 15.014/1 look well worth a punt considering manager Paul Warne's success at this level. He's already gained two promotions from League One and (cliche time), are a horrible side to play against at the New York with their physical style.

They were mighty unlucky to crash out of the Championship with virtually the last kick of the game against Cardiff, with Warne saying his players would have been gods had they avoided relegation.

Markets tend to overreact to the sheer amount of transfers in at this stage, so it's impossible to judge how the Millers are doing with just one incoming at the time of writing (Shane Ferguson from Millwall), plus the knock-ons from the Euros means that transfers from "top down" are taking a little longer.

Losing standout player Matt Crooks was a blow but I am confident in the likeable Warne to oversee a decent recruitment drive.

Promotion Market

Portsmouth waved goodbye to the Kenny Jackett era last term, a little too late in my opinion as the football and tactics had become stale. Danny Cowley replaced Jackett for a final push at the play-offs - which came up a little short following their final day home defeat to Accrington.

Cowley kept the job and while the football is quite methodical with the high press and less emphasis on possession, he's a good coach who done a decent job on a smaller budget with Lincoln two seasons' ago and they got off to a flying start.

Pompey's recruitment will be interesting as 16 players left Fratton last term and as we speak, only eight have come in the front door. However, Marcus Harness and Ronan Curtis have stayed and Curtis on the wing is one of the finer sights in League One. He was a little quiet last term with 12 goals and I expect Cowley to get the best out of his star man. Forward John Marquis scored 18 in total last season, but is another who underperformed given his exploits for Doncaster.

Danny Cowley 1280 .jpg

The incomings range from experienced to young talent, with Norwich U23 Gassan Ahadme a rising star who has impressed. But it's important not to go overboard on Premier League loan players at this stage. Although I failed to spot Jack Grealish early when he was at Notts County. What a judge I am.

Cowley's style is more counter-attacking, and that worked well with Lincoln City last term who made the play-off final.

My second bet would have been MK Dons at 4.216/5 too, but on planning this article at the weekend, I was somewhat miffed that Russell Martin had left to become the Swansea manager - or was at least rumoured to be on his way.

Martin's exit has left a bitter taste at Stadium MK, although not as bitter as the harsh Bauhaus architecture in the train station. I can see the fit for Swansea as the Dons played the best possession football in the division last term and were big improvers.

They still could be worth a bet but I cannot tip and back myself at this stage not knowing who is in charge.

A complete long-shot could be Gillingham at 12.5. They missed out on the play-offs by seven points and finished a creditable tenth last season and the combatable Steve Evans over-achieved given the budget at Priestfield. However, a transfer embargo has made life tricky, and forward John Akinde could be leaving.

Relegation Market

Sometimes I try to be clever with the relegation market, although clearly not clever enough!

Shrewsbury are a possible candidate and I can't see Wycombe producing the shock of their Wembley triumph two seasons' ago.

I will play it safe and focus on the League Two promoted teams and the old haunt of Shrews' boss Steve Cotterill in Cheltenham. Traditionally they have been high scorers at home and perform well on the xG (thanks to Ian Lamont), but they have only made three signings and one was from Alvechurch which puts into context the teams with huge budgets in this division with Sheffield Wednesday and Wigan prime examples.

It's not a sexy price at 2.26/5, but it's all about price here. Crewe and Fleetwood are both a touch over 3.02/1, and I would suggest Crewe could be an outsider for the play-offs.

Alan's P and L

2017/18 to 2020/21: +34.85pts

*League One bets to a 0.5pt stake

English League 1: English League 1 (Winner 2021/22)

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Saturday 7 August, 3.00pm

Market rules

Back Lay
Sunderland
Wigan
Rotherham
MK Dons
Wycombe
Sheff Wed
Ipswich
Portsmouth
Plymouth
Oxford Utd
Bolton
Lincoln
Cheltenham
Burton Albion
Accrington
AFC Wimbledon
Cambridge United
Charlton
Fleetwood Town
Gillingham
Morecambe
Shrewsbury
Doncaster
Crewe
Up
Down

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English League 1: English League 1 (Relegation 2021/22)

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Saturday 7 August, 3.00pm

Market rules

Back Lay
Fleetwood Town
Plymouth
Cambridge United
Doncaster
Morecambe
Crewe
Shrewsbury
Gillingham
Burton Albion
Lincoln
Sheff Wed
Oxford Utd
MK Dons
Wycombe
Rotherham
Portsmouth
Sunderland
AFC Wimbledon
Cheltenham
Accrington
Charlton
Ipswich
Bolton
Wigan
Up
Down

Bet slip

Close

English League 1: English League 1 (Promotion 2021/22)

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Monday 16 August, 3.00pm

Market rules

Back Lay
Sunderland
Wigan
Rotherham
Sheff Wed
MK Dons
Wycombe
Ipswich
Bolton
Portsmouth
Oxford Utd
Charlton
Cambridge United
Crewe
Lincoln
Plymouth
Gillingham
Doncaster
Shrewsbury
Morecambe
Fleetwood Town
Cheltenham
AFC Wimbledon
Accrington
Burton Albion
Up
Down

Bet slip

Close

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