West Ham have been installed as the most likely Football League club to win the Carling Cup at 80/1 after Thursday’s first round draw revealed that they would kick off their attempt at home to League Two side Aldershot.
Not since Sheffield Wednesday in 1990-91 have a team outside the top-flight gone all the way in the competition but there have been indications in recent years, partly due to the tendency of the elite to field weakened sides, that the tide is turning.
Three of last season’s four semi-finalists are competing in the Championship in 2011-12 – West Ham, Ipswich and holders Birmingham – and it is the price of the former that leaps out as the best value in the whole market, with the Blues 100/1 to retain.
Admittedly, it is an uncertain time for the second city side right now because of Alex McLeish’s resignation, however talented managers are being linked with the St Andrew’s vacancy, with Chris Hughton 6/4 to step in and Roberto Di Matteo 7/4.
The owners, who were criticised for not spending as much as they suggested they would following their 2009 takeover, have already started investing in the squad to try to ensure an immediate Premier League return, which they are 5/2 to achieve.
The primary reason to believe that they are underestimated in the Carling Cup betting though is that as a consequence of their success last term, they get a bye in the third round, a stage later than the likes of 66/1 shots Norwich and Swansea.
As far as the first round draw goes, several tasty ties were made despite the seeding system and regional divide. Nottingham Forest v Notts County is the pick but Sheffield Wednesday v Blackpool, Leeds v Bradford and Charlton v Reading also appeal.
Chelsea are the early 5/1 tournament favourites, ahead of Manchester United at 6/1 and Arsenal and Manchester City at 7/1.