The 2012/13 Championship title race looks poised to be a thriller as some sleeping giants awake from their slumber in a bid to deny three teams an immediate return to the Premier League.
Some 18 of the 24 teams that will make up next year’s Championship have experience in the Premier League, and every one of them will harbour a belief that they are capable of securing a return in the near future.
But some are closer than others, and it is Leicester City, who last graced the top level of English football in 2004, that are fancied as the favourites to earn promotion back to the Premier League, priced at 2/1 with Betfred
The Foxes have assembled a strong squad during the close season and look easily capable of overcoming the disappointment of missing out on the play-offs last term.
Expect former Everton man Jermaine Beckford to be at the forefront of City’s attacking threat, although they do appear short of other strike options at this relatively early stage of transfer window period.
Of the three teams relegated at the end of last season, it’s Bolton Wanderers who many believe have the best chance of bouncing back at the first attempt.
In Owen Coyle, the Trotters have a manager who already has a Premier League promotion on his CV, and that experience at the top of the club should not be underestimated, to the extent that their 9/4 price seems rather generous.
Wolves endured a torrid time in the Premier League last season and their relegation back to the league they climbed out of three years ago appeared nailed on from an early stage of the campaign.
The club disposed of interim manager Terry Connor at the end of the 2011/12 campaign in favour of recruiting a relative unknown to oversee first team affairs, and what they hope will be a successful campaign in the Championship.
Stalle Solbakken is the man who’s been tasked with leading Wolves’ march back to the Premier League and, at odds of 11/4, they are fancied to be in the mix at the end of the season.
Solbakken made six appearances for Wimbledon in the 1997/98 season, but his lack of experience of the English game beyond that brief spell could hinder the Molineux outfit’s hopes of bouncing back at the first attempt.
Blackburn, meanwhile, have kept their faith in Steve Kean, who will be under great pressure from the club’s Indian owners to bring Premier League football back to Ewood Park.
But at 7/2 they are not fancied to be in the box seat for one of the three promotion places up for grabs, and it is difficult to see the 1994/95 Premier League Champions coasting to success next year.
Outside of those four, Nottingham Forest and Leeds United will head into the new season with renewed hope of sealing what their supporters believe is a long overdue return to one of Europe’s elite competitions.
The two clubs have proud histories at the summit of English football, but those memories of success in major competitions are becoming more and more distant.
Both teams head into the campaign under new managers, and it is Neil Warnock’s Leeds who have a particularly strong chance of defying their 4/1 price and earning promotion.
Warnock has masterminded countless promotions during his managerial career and knows exactly what it takes to turn also-rans into genuine promotion contenders.
Forest, on the other hand, opted to appoint a less well-known name following the departure of Steve Cotterill.
Former Doncaster Rovers supremo Sean O’Driscoll has been plucked from relative obscurity at Crawley and given the opportunity to earn a place in City Ground folklore by leading the team back to the Premier League.
At 7/2, they are expected to at least make the play-offs, but O’Driscoll’s lack of experience at the top end of English football’s second tier could prevent Forest from taking that final step and earning promotion.