Mid-table magnets Blackburn, Bolton, Stoke could go either way
Finishing in mid-table mediocrity is a Mount Everest-type achievement for some Premier League clubs who, justifiably, see surviving relegation as the end goal of each and every campaign.
But always on offer for such teams is the possibility of reaching a summit slightly higher.
For Bolton Wanderers, Blackburn Rovers and Stoke City the spectre of the drop is real but the prospect of leapfrogging top-flight giants is, too, not an impossible dream.
The direction of the arc that these three sides are on seems to be generally positive, though, each having a talented British manager in charge of a solid looking squad.
Bolton are the only one of the trio to have brought a fresh face in so far, nabbing the talented Martin Petrov on a free as well as Robbie Blake for nothing.
Owen Coyle has an ability to get the most out of his players and could motivate the team to an improvement on last season’s 14th place.
Of course, Bolton have made it to the top six before, as recently as 2004/05, and ended up seventh in 2006/07.
Their manager then was Sam Allardyce, now in charge of Lancashire rivals Blackburn. Allardyce guided Rovers to 10th last term, with tactics designed around playing the percentages.
Should he repeat his Bolton success it would not be too great a shock – the 1995-champions finished sixth in 2003 and 2006, coming seventh in 2008.
Last year, Stoke confounded their detractors with an 11th place finish, up from 12th the season after winning promotion. Tony Pulis is a man not to be crossed – a fact Carlton Cole, the subject of an £8million inquiry, should remember.
Yet his uncompromising manner is reflected in a committed team that has beaten the best sides in the division and could still reach even more unchartered waters.
Admittedly, the odds are stacked against these clubs, with more money and bigger crowds at other teams. But bettors looking for value in Premier League betting would do well not to overlook such surprise packages.