Having finished 12th in League Two last term, some will be surprised to see Mansfield Town priced as 5/1 favourites to lift the title in 2017-18. But a closer look at the Stags proves they absolutely warrant that status as market leaders.
First off, they’ve had a pretty incredible recruitment drive this summer, with Steve Evans bringing in no fewer than 13 players already. And the East Midlands outfit have added quality as well as quantity.
Among the new arrivals are players with vital experience of winning promotion from this level. Jimmy Spencer arrives from newly-promoted Plymouth Argyle, while fellow summer signing Zander Diamond won this division with Northampton Town in 2015-16.
Elsewhere, Evans – who began his managerial career with stints at Stamford Town and Boston United – has once again used his knowledge of Non-League to bring in some of the most exciting talents outside of the EFL.
St Kitts and Nevis international Amari Sterling-James arrives off the back of a stellar campaign in the National League with Solihull Moors, while Johnny Hunt (arriving from Chester) heads to the One Call Stadium with a glowing reputation.
However, the two most exciting additions of the summer are Will Atkinson – the creative heart of Southend United’s midfield last term – and tricky winger Paul Anderson, who has over 175 Championship games under his belt.
Evans’ promotion track record speaks for itself
The Scot has achieved the feat on seven occasions in management, including back-to-back promotions with Rotherham United from 2012-14, lifting the Millers from League Two to the Championship.
And while Mansfield may have finished last season in mid-table, their points average under the former Crawley Town boss would actually have garnered the club a play-off spot.
Having taken just 19 points from 16 games under Adam Murray in the opening three months of the 2016-17 season, the Nottinghamshire outfit managed 47 in 30 matches (or 1.57 points per game) under Evans – a record which, stretched over the season, would have seen them finish in fifth place.
In addition to that, there’s a strong argument that League Two is far more winnable in the coming season than it was last term.
Three well-funded clubs with big support went up last year in the shape of Portsmouth, Plymouth and Doncaster Rovers. And they’ve been replaced by a Coventry City side in disarray and a leaky Chesterfield, amongst others.
Evans’ side begin the campaign with an opening-day visit to Crewe Alexandra, with 6/5 on offer for the Stags to begin their title tilt by taking three points in Cheshire.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing