Diary of a Punter: Manchester City, Hull and Cheltenham to experience domestic success

After Simon Pilkington splashed the cash earlier this week, Jim Knight is placing his wagers for the season ahead and they include backing the Premier League champions
This summer has hardly been a quiet one for fans of the beautiful game, Spain coasted to another European trophy before their U-23 side imploded in spectacular style at the London Olympics.

It is fair to say that football was never far from the agenda, but Great Britain's athletes, away from the football field, helpfully provided a series of tear-jerking and inspiring tales of determination and overcoming adversity, to overshadow two predictable quarter-final exits on it.

Pre-season for a punter is a pretty exciting time. The slate is wiped clean and there is a whole season of action ahead to look forward and to make a profit from.

With so many ante-post markets on offer, the weeks approaching the start of the season can be spent furiously studying up on how teams from up and down the country have fared over the last three months.

As Simon mentioned in his piece, these bets can provide interest throughout the season and can often provide fantastic entertainment for your money. He very much went with an all-out approach, doubling and tripling his main selections but I have approached things slightly differently. Here are my picks for the season ahead.

£35: Manchester City to win the Premier League at 5/4 (2.25)

Despite the lack of spending over the summer I cannot see past Manchester City defending their Premier League crown.

If the Community Shield is anything to go by Roberto Mancini may feel like he can add a sprightly Carlos Tevez to the new arrivals column, having seemingly offloaded the lethargic, argumentative, holiday-loving version over the summer.

The spine of the squad is full of top class players who have played together week in, week out and despite their title rivals adding to their squads, it looks to be City's to lose. £35 goes on Mancini's men at 5/4 (2.25) and this is the 'banker' of my four selections.

£25: West Bromwich Albion to be relegated at 4/1 (5.00)

Steve Clarke could face a stern test at the Hawthorns this season as he looks to fill the shoes of Roy Hodgson, who worked wonders in his time at West Brom.

He has acquired Chelsea forward Romelu Lakaku on loan, but for me, his lack of experience in the managerial hot seat could spell trouble in what looks to be a very competitive Premier League this season.

Last season saw three clubs who had established themselves as Premier League regulars drop into the Championship and fans of Bolton, Wolves and Blackburn will tell you that the target of survival should not be underestimated.

The promoted teams all look like they could all realistically have a decent chance at staying in the division and all carry good momentum coming into the new season. West Brom could find themselves at the wrong end of the table come May if things don't go to plan for Clarke. At 4/1 (5.00) with Paddy Power, they look overpriced not to extend their stay in the top flight to me so £25 goes on them for the drop.

£12.50 each way: Hull to win the Championship at 28/1 (29.0)

Steve Bruce has added quality to a Hull side who finished just outside the Championship play-offs last season and despite taking the questionable step of signing his own son Alex, The Tigers look well placed to make a decent challenge in a notoriously tough division.

Nick Barmby left the KC under a cloud after falling out with the owners but the board have already backed Bruce in the transfer market and he has strengthened the squad in the right areas.

This league is littered with misty-eyed clubs dreaming of a return to the big time while others look to invest their parachute payments in an attempt to bounce back at the first attempt. The reality is it is a brutal 46-game battle and many clubs have tried and failed in their attempts to escape it.

Bruce adding Nick Proschwitz and Sone Aluko to the squad should give the Tigers the teeth they lacked in attack at times last season and they look overpriced at 28/1 (29.0) to win it. An each-way bet totalling £25 should pay dividends if Hull can make the step up to title contenders this time around.  

£15: Cheltenham to get promoted from League Two at 11/2 (6.50)

Mark Yates' side just missed out on promotion last season despite starting the campaign as 150/1 to win the division and he looks to have brought sensibly over the summer while keeping the bulk of his young and very talented squad together and away from prying eyes in the higher divisions.

Shaun Harrad and Chris Zebroski are both very capable forwards at League Two level while in Sam Deering they have a 21-year-old who impressed on loan at Barnet last season and will bolster the midfield. Cheltenham could well overachieve again this season and they're 25/1 (26.0) shots to win the league, which might be a step too far but they will be stronger after last season's play-off experience.

They have not got the biggest budget in the division but at 11/2 (6.50) to get promoted in a division with four spots up for grabs, they look a well-priced, speculative ante-post option.

Diary of a Punter: Jim's Ante-post picks
Manchester City to win the Premier League: £35 at 5/4 with Bet365
West Brom to be relegated: £25 at 4/1 with Paddy Power
Hull to win the Championship: £12.50 each way at 28/1 with Bet365
Cheltenham to get promoted: £15 at 11/2 with Paddy Power
Total staked: £100

Jim Knight is Betting Editor at Goal.com and has been tipping football games since he was old enough to place a bet. He is a Leicester City fan, writer and member of the We Are Going Up Podcast
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