Last year’s Premier League win by Leicester City is the greatest upset since Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest won the league in 1978 after scraping promotion to the old First Division the season previously.
At the beginning of last season, some bookmakers were offering 5,000-1 on Leicester winning the league. Once bitten, twice shy is the attitude of the bookmakers going into this season with the longest odds on rank outsiders like West Bromwich Albion, Hull City, Burnley and Bournemouth not surpassing 1,500-1. In fact, Leicester themselves are only being offered at 28-1 at Coral, even though few believe they will be able to retain their trophy.
With the top teams like Manchester City, Manchester United and Chelsea changing managers and spending on strengthening their already high profile squads, few believe lighting will strike twice.
However, there are definitely a few dark horses to watch ahead of the season.
Last season, Alan Pardew’s men started the season in strong fashion, ending the year in a top six position with the likes of James McArthur, Yohan Cabaye and Yannick Bolasie the star performers. There was great excitement and optimism at Selhurst Park as the Eagles were beating many teams, like Chelsea, which were supposed to be a level above. However, the second half of the season was almost the opposite of the first and saw them finish 15th, only a few points and places above the relegation zone, one place lower than Leicester the season previous.
The similarities between The Foxes and The Eagles do not end there. Both teams are set out to frustrate their opponents by endlessly closing them down all over the pitch and breaking with considerable speed up front, dictated by a midfielder who can pick out the key passes. The additions of speedy winger Andros Townsend from Newcastle, defender James Tomkins from West Ham United and goalie Steve Mandanda from Marseille will only strengthen the already promising side from South London. ToteSport are offering 1,000-1 on an Eagles Championship, while William Hill are offering 7,500-1.
If one wants to look at a team to replicate Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest of winning the league as a promoted side, then Middlesbrough could be worth a flutter at 1,500-1 at BetFred and 1,000 at Coral.
While they only secured automatic promotion on the last day of the season, The Boro are a quintessential sleeping giant. Manager Aitor Karanka has brought a continental flair to the North East which will be bolstered by many players from his home country for the upcoming campaign, including Barcelona legend Victor Valdes, Bernardo Espinosa from Sporting Gijon and former Manchester City striker Alvaro Negredo from Valencia.
While few are predicting a repeat of last season, a glass ceiling has been broken and there will certainly be a greater belief from even the biggest outsiders to follow in Leicester’s footsteps.