Underdogs to one of the favourites

COLCHESTER United have been the perennial underdogs, in the eyes of the bookmakers, ever since they first won promotion to the third tier of the Football League in 1998.

Carl Marston

by Carl Marston

COLCHESTER United have been the perennial underdogs, in the eyes of the bookmakers, ever since they first won promotion to the third tier of the Football League in 1998.

But that has all changed, because following last season's relegation back to that level from the Championship, Geraint Williams' men have suddenly been quoted as promotion candidates.

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More often than not, the U's have been earmarked for the drop by national bookmakers. That was even the case when Phil Parkinson guided the U's to promotion into the Championship, against the odds, two years ago.

Of course they were immediately condemned as relegation certainties, destined to finish bottom. But they proved their doubters wrong again in 2006-07, with an outstanding 10th position, before the generous odds of the bookmakers finally came home to roost with relegation last term.

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Now, if you believe the bookies, the U's are going to push for promotion in their first season at the new Community Stadium in 2008-09. Instead of being quoted at figures such as 150-1 and 200-1 against winning the title, the Essex club have been quoted as low as 12-1 by one bookmakers to lift the League One trophy.

Across the board, Leeds United are the out-and-out favourites for the championship, following their play-off final defeat at the hands of Doncaster Rovers last weekend. And most bookies agree that Leicester City are set to be their close challengers.

Interestingly, newly-promoted MK Dons and Peterborough are also in the frame for automatic promotion. But behind this fancied top four, the U's are rated as strong candidates for a play-off spot.

For example, Bet365 have the U's in joint fifth spot with Carlisle United (on 14-1 to win the title), while Coral have them in equal seventh with Scunthorpe (on 16-1) and William Hill place them joint sixth with four other clubs on 20-1. That is the best price to date.

Looking at the odds a year ago, most of the bookies had Nottingham Forest, Leeds, Doncaster and Swansea as the four most likely to win the League One title. And they were spot on, because the Swans did win the championship, with Nottingham Forest in second and Doncaster beating Leeds in the play-off final.

At the other end of the table, the likes of Cheltenham Town, Hereford United, Crewe and Stockport are predicted to struggle for the new season.

But as U's fans will confirm, the bookies have been wrong before!

A year ago, Charlton were most bookies favourites for the Championship crown. Yet Alan Pardew's side never even made the top six. Fellow fancied sides Watford, Wolves, Sheffield United and Southampton also flattered to deceive.

No one had Stoke City in the top two, while play-off victors Hull City were also outsiders a year ago.

You would have be a rich man by now, if you had put your money on the Potters (second) and the Tigers (third), each-way, for promotion!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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