The Leicester Bug: Five more English clubs overachieving this year
Leicester City have rightly taken the plaudits for their incredible Premier League record this season, with the Foxes seven points clear of nearest challengers Tottenham and closing in on the unlikeliest of title wins.
However, the East Midlands club are not the only side in English football to be punching above their weight. Here are five more underdogs who are making waves in their respective leagues.
Accrington Stanley – League Two
They boast (if that is the right word?) the smallest average crowd in the Football League, are one of the lowest spenders and remain best known to many as the club referenced in a 1980s advert for milk.
But the likeable club from a small Lancashire town are defying the odds in another season where many tipped them to return to non-league football after 10 years mostly spent hovering near the League Two trapdoor.
Currently sitting in fifth place, outside of the automatic promotion spots on goal-difference only, Stanley manager John Coleman has built a side of exciting attacking talents like Josh Windass, Piero Mingoia, and Billy Kee.
This high-scoring, entertaining Accy team are 5/6 to find themselves in the unchartered territory of League One next season.
Burton Albion – League One
As recently as 2009, Burton Albion were competing in the Conference National, but now look set to clinch promotion to the Championship and it would mark another new frontier for the former non-league stalwarts.
Jimmy Floyd-Hasselbaink’s departure as manager and replacement by Nigel Clough (in his second stint with the Brewers) has done little to halt the Staffordshire club’s momentum.
Clough’s counter-attacking charges have been especially impressive on the road this season, notching up away wins against fellow promotion candidates Wigan Athletic and Gillingham, on the way to 11 league triumphs on their travels so far.
With average crowds of just under 4,000 and spending their first ever season at this level, Burton have been the division’s surprise package and find themselves looking down the League One table at illustrious clubs like Sheffield United and Bradford City.
The second-placed Brewers are just a point behind Wigan and we’ve priced them at 9/4 to finish as champions.
AFC Bournemouth – Premier League
The men from the Vitality Stadium have produced vital results throughout their inaugural Premier League season, to virtually guarantee another year at this level.
The way in which many of Bournemouth’s squad have adapted to the step up has been truly impressive. The likes of Steve Cook, Marc Pugh, and Simon Francis have all been with the Cherries since the club’s League One days, and each has impressed against some of the country’s most prestigious clubs.
The south coast club have won away at champions Chelsea, beaten Manchester United, and netted four goals at Upton Park – the first away side to manage that feat since Reading in March 2012.
Bournemouth head to beleaguered Aston Villa this weekend, and are 23/20 for victory, and another away win would be the cherry on top of the cake.
West Ham United – Premier League
Rock band member, Hammers boss and one-man crusade to bring back the beanie hat, Slaven Bilic has entertained and impressed this season.
The Croatian has together a successful squad which has mixed experienced campaigners like Mark Noble and James Collins with the attacking flair of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini, to great effect.
With the Irons just three points from that coveted fourth-place spot, Champions League football at the Olympic Stadium next season remains a distinct possibility. Having never previously finished a Premier League season with a positive goal difference before, they boast +12 this campaign.
Bilic’s boys are back in action this weekend against Arsenal. The Hammers beat the Gunners 2-0 in the reverse fixture back in August and are 20/1 to repeat that feat.
Dover Athletic – National League
The part-timers from Kent may not be on the radar of too many football fans, but that could all be about to change. Having reached the third round of the FA Cup last season, one of the National League’s smallest clubs are now looking to gain promotion to the Football League for the first time in their history.
The club from the Crabble Athletic Ground are currently in fourth place and on current form, look set to secure their play-off spot sooner rather than later.
Having beaten Lincoln City 4-1 and Torquay United 5-0 in March, with goalscoring sensation Ricky Miller at the centre of both triumphs, they are in scintillating form. With an average crowd of just 955 in this league campaign, their faithful followers could be seeing League Two football next term.
We’ve priced the Whites at 5/1 to win promotion this season and reach the promised land of the Football League.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.