Championship Betting Upsets 16/17: Favourites foiled left, right and centre


Sports betting writer Bradley Gibbs takes a look back at what was an up and down Championship season and highlights some of the campaigns’ biggest betting upsets. 

The Championship is often dubbed as one of the most unpredictable leagues in world football and England’s second tier certainly didn’t disappoint this season. Over the course of the campaign, punters were left scratching their heads at regular intervals as odds-on shots were foiled by teams who, according to the betting, had little chance.

At the start of the season, Newcastle, having dropped out of the top flight a few months previously, were the favourites to finish top of the Championship pile. They did of course manage to reclaim Premier League status by winning the division; however, it wasn’t all plain sailing, and it was in fact the champions who were the first team of the season to let favourite-backers down. Newcastle were as short as even-money when they opened the show against Fulham all the way back in August of last year, but, try as they might, Rafa Benitez’s men came up short – giving those punters who got behind the hosts a nice 3/1 winner.

Funnily enough, the would-be-champions were the subjects of the Championship’s second upset of the season also. On match-day two, Newcastle entertained Huddersfield at St James’s Park and were the red-hot favourites at 7/10. However, the Toon Army slipped up once again and were beaten 2-1 by the Yorkshire outfit who could’ve been backed at a juicy 9/2.

During the early weeks of the 46-game marathon, the likes of Sheffield Wednesday, a team who made the play-offs, were also beaten when odds-on – at home to Leeds who were available to punters at 4/1 – although it was Brighton’s loss at home to Brentford that was perhaps the most unexpected result of that particular period. The eventual runners-up were priced around the 13/20 mark and were fully expected to get the job done with minimal fuss. But, as we all know, things don’t always go to plan and they certainly didn’t for the Seagulls on that day, as the visitors walked away with a 2-0 win, meaning that fav backers got their fingers burnt, while those on The Bees bagged themselves a 5/1 winner.

Champions foiled at short prices more times than any other side

Surprisingly, it was Newcastle who failed to win when odds-on more than any other Championship team this season. On their way to the title, Rafa Benitez’s side failed to win on 17 occasions, 12 of which saw the Toon Army sent off at odds lower than even-money. Naturally, as both the ante-post favourites to claim the title and arguably the biggest club in the division, Newcastle were odds-on more often than not. In fact, the Magpies were available at odds greater than 1.99 (or 99/100) on just 15 occasions over the course of the season, meaning that they were sent off at odds-on in 67% (31 out of 46) of their matches. With this in mind, the fact that they failed to get the job done in 12 of those 31 (39%) is quite remarkable.

St James’s Park not a happy hunting ground 

What is also something of surprise is how the champions fared on their own patch over the course of the campaign, especially since they were priced shorter than even-money in all but two of their 23 matches at St James’s Park. Although it wasn’t overly poor, Newcastle’s home form wasn’t exactly what you’d expect from a team who eventually finished 1st. In fact, Newcastle finished the season with just the fifth-best home record in the entire division. Obviously, the fifth-best record isn’t to be sneezed at, and is very respectable, although you might expect something slightly better from a team who went up as champions. All told, the Magpies failed to win eight of their 23 games on home soil, five of which saw them walk away empty handed. Something that wasn’t surprising was the fact that the hosts were heavily backed ahead of all eight of those disappointments. Failing to win at odds such as 17/20, 1/2, 2/5 and 1/3, the champions made a name for themselves as one of the more prolific ‘accumulator busters’ in the division.

Canaries struggled under the weight of favourtism

It wasn’t just Newcastle who often found it tough to get the job done when considered red-hot favourites, fellow Premier League dropouts Norwich also made a habit of under-performing when the betting suggested that securing three points was nothing more than a formality. The Canaries drew their first home match of the season when odds-on, and it wasn’t long before they were being stopped in their tracks when favourites on the road. Match-day four saw Norwich draw 1-1 away at Ipswich, while on match-day five they were thumped 3-0 away at Birmingham. Although they were odds-against on both of these occasions, they were very much the favourites at 11/10. Later on in the campaign, on match-days 14 and 16 to be exact, such problems were exposed again as The Canaries lost back-to-back home games at odds of just 13/20 and 17/20. In addition, Norwich failed to win on a further four occasions when priced at 17/20 or shorter.

Relegated Rovers proved to be a thorn in champions’ side

As mentioned above, losing (or drawing) when expected to win became something of a familiarity for Newcastle; however, even the most pessimistic of punters/fans didn’t expect them to get done at 1/3 when, on match-day 18, they hosted a Blackburn team who were eventually relegated. However, despite their long odds-on price-tag, the hosts were unable to deliver and lost 1-0 thanks to a 75th minute volley from Rovers’ midfielder Charlie Mulgrew. Other than maybe a handful of optimistic travelling fans, there can’t have been too many people who stuck their money on the visitors, but anyone who did pocketed a handsome 10/1 winner.


In the return fixture, Newcastle were strongly fancied to make amends for that unexpected defeat at St James’s Park and could be backed to do so at just 13/20. On their own patch, considering they’d beaten the would be champions once already, Blackburn weren’t presented to backers at anywhere near 10/1 but, at 19/4, punters who fancied a similar outcome could still secure a 475% profit on their outlay. As we now know, it was those punters that chanced the outsider who were able to collect on this occasion, as lightning did in fact strike twice, meaning that Newcastle found themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 score-line against Blackburn for the second time in little more than a month. And once again, it was midfielder Charlie Mulgrew who proved to be the difference as his 74th minute free-kick, which turned out to be Blackburn’s only shot on target, found the bottom corner, leaving many an accumulator punter with nothing else to do but tear up their slip.

A habit of upsetting the big boys

Blackburn may well have eventually made the drop down to England’s third tier – sad times for a club who spent many years in the top flight and remain one of just five teams to lift the Premier League trophy – but they certainly didn’t go down without a fight, especially against the big teams. Over the course of the campaign, it wasn’t just Newcastle who were unexpectedly overturned by Rovers. Aside from winning both home and away against the champions, Blackburn managed to win away at Derby when given little chance at 5/1. On top of this, by securing a point away against Norwich, Fulham and Huddersfield, Rovers prevented the bookmakers from paying out on three well-backed odds-on favourites.

Match-day 31 and 32 saw numerous upsets

Both match-day 31 and 32 proved to be tricky for favourites, particularly those who were expected to get the job done in front of their own fans. The former saw Aston Villa, Derby, Leeds and Reading all fail to win at odds of 5/6, 17/20, 19/20 and 10/11 respectively. Villa were beaten by a visiting Ipswich side at 4/1, Cardiff, who were available at an appetising 7/2, went and got the better of Leeds at Elland Road, while both Reading and Derby could only manage draws – outcomes that paid 11/4 and 7/2 respectively. On match-day 32, both Villa and Derby were at it again. This time, Barnsley (15/4) and Cardiff (3/1) were the culprits. However, the most shocking result of this particular game-week was Brighton’s 1-1 draw at home to Ipswich. The hosts were a very short 8/15 to secure all three points, but, try as they might, couldn’t find a winner. Punters who got behind the draw on that occasion were rewarded with a 3/1 winner.

Rams failed to cope with expectations

Before the season commenced, Derby were touted as one of the chief candidates for promotion; however, it was clear from the start that they were going to struggle to make the grade. Right from the off, scoring goals was a problem for The Rams, and it was in fact their woes in front of goal that caused them to disappoint favourite-backers on numerous occasions. Derby failed to win any of their first five home matches, four of which saw them go off as favourites. From a betting point of view, the worst result of this early spell was when they were beaten at 4/6 by a travelling Blackburn side who could be backed at 5/1. The Rams also lost their first match on the road; a 2-0 defeat away to Barnsley when 11/10 favourites. Overall, during the 16/17 campaign, Derby, who eventually finished 9th, failed to win no less than 18 times when favourites in the betting, most notably when drawing 0-0 at home to Wigan at 4/7.

How did favourites fare overall?

As you would expect, overall, the favourites did come out on top more often than not; however, the percentages might make for slightly surprising reading. Of the 552 matches that were played in the Championship this season, 306 were won by the favourite, that’s just over half (55%). This means that the team shortest in the betting prior to kick-off failed to win 45% of the time (or in 246 out of 552 matches). What about odds-on favourites? Well, the so called ‘bankers’ did oblige more often, although, again, perhaps not as much as you might think. During the course of the season, there were 179 odds-on favs. 115 of (or 64%) of those won, whereas 64 (or 36%) were unable to secure all three points.

Notable upsets

Having established that the favourites certainly didn’t get the smoothest run, some of the most notable upsets from the 16/17 season have been detailed below.

Sheffield Wednesday (4/5) 0 – 2 Leeds (4/1)

During the early weeks of the season, one of the many Yorkshire derbies saw Sheffield Wednesday welcome Leeds to Hillsborough. The hosts were very much fancied to get the job done but were unable to get the better of a Leeds side who managed to score with each of their two shots on target.

Brighton (13/20) 0 – 2 Brentford (5/1)

On match-day six, Brighton were considered hot favourites when they welcomed a Brentford side who’d lost both of their first two away matches to the Amex. However, the visitors were able to get on the score-sheet in both halves without reply, providing backers of the away team with a very nice 5/1 winner. Undoubtedly, the hosts were the scourge of Championship punters that day.

Derby (4/6) 1 – 2 Blackburn (5/1)

When Derby played host to Blackburn on match-day seven, both teams were inside the bottom five with Derby continuing to disappoint in particular. Despite their troubles, the home side were considered 4/6 favourites and when Matěj Vydra opened the scoring on 69 minutes it looked as though fav backers would collect. As we all know though, football is never simple and, through goals from Marvin Emnes and Danny Graham, the visitors were in front just four minutes later. Despite having less than half the number of shots, as well as just two shots on target, Rovers secured the win at 5/1.

Newcastle (8/13) 0 – 2 Wolves (11/2)

Despite already having slipped up on a few occasions, Newcastle were heavily supported into 8/13 favouritism for their home fixture against Wolves on match-day eight. The eventual champions huffed and puffed, with 17 shots, but their efforts proved to be fruitless. At that particular time, Wolves’ victory at St James’s Park was the biggest betting upset of the championship season; punters who’d got behind the visiting side had pocketed themselves a very nice 11/2 winner.

Brighton (3/5) 2 – 2 Preston (11/2)

Match-day 12 saw Brighton draw at home with Preston despite being one of the shortest favourites of the season so far. Although they didn’t lose the game, the draw, which was priced at 3/1, was still very much a turn up for the books with the hosts so short in the betting.

Norwich (8/13) 0 – 1 Preston (11/2)

Having taken a point away from their trip to Brighton just two weeks previous, Preston continued to build form on the road when they traveled to take on Norwich on match-day 14. The visitors were thought of as big outsiders at 11/2, but this didn’t stop them from leaving Carrow Road with all three points in the bag. The Canaries were probably responsible for the demise of a few accumulators over the course of the campaign and it’s a good bet that they caused a number of punters to tear their slips up on October 22nd 2016.

Newcastle (1/3) 0 – 1 Blackburn (10/1)

Blackburn’s visit to Newcastle on match-day 18 proved to be the biggest upset of the entire Championship campaign as they ground out a 1-0 victory, pocketing any away-team-backers an incredibly profitable 10/1 winner.

Nottingham Forest (19/4) 2 – 1 Newcastle (5/6)

Despite losing when long odds-on the week before, Newcastle were still considered heavy favourites when they paid Nottingham Forest a visit on match-day 19. Such favouritism was unjustified as the visitors lost for a second week in a row. Forest’s win that day was, from a betting point of view, one of the biggest home winners of the season.

Newcastle (4/7) 0 – 1 Sheffield Wednesday (9/2)

On Boxing Day, Newcastle continued to wreck accumulators up and down the country as they were beaten at home by Sheffield Wednesday. The visitors did of course make the play-offs and are no mugs, although, at 9/2, they were given little chance in the betting ahead of their trip to St James’s Park.

Derby (4/7) 0 – 0 Wigan (6/1)

One of Derby’s worst results of the season was their 0-0 draw at home to Wigan. The hosts were as short as 4/7 and, although they’d disappointed on several occasions by match-day 31, the hosts were expected to get the better of a struggling Wigan side with relative ease. However, despite having 69% possession, 17 shots and 10 corners, the Rams couldn’t find a way through. Punters who expected the hosts to falter may well have backed the draw at a decent 3/1.

Rotherham (4/1) 2 – 1 Norwich (3/4)

It’s no lie that the entire campaign was nothing more than washout for Rotherham but, as the saying goes, every dog has it’s day and Rotherham’s day came against Norwich at home. The hosts were as big as 4/1 to get the better of the odds-on visitors and they duly did, once again foiling those favourite backers who got behind the disappointing canaries.

Huddersfield (8/13) 0 – 1 Burton (11/2)

Both Huddersfield and Burton had successful campaigns – the former made the play-offs while the latter stayed in the division – but it was the visitors who caused an upset when the pair met back on match-day 39. At 8/13, Huddersfield, who’d lost just one of their previous 11 at home, were thought to be something of a sure thing. However, the determined visitors stuck to their task before scoring a dramatic winner in the 96th minute. Odds-on backers had done their money once again, while anybody who got behind the visiting team bagged an 11/2 winner.

There was of course a large number upsets in the Championship between August 2016 and May 2017, those mentioned above are just a handful that stand out. Other notable results include Newcastle drawing 2-2 at home to QPR when priced at 2/5, QPR beating Wolves at 4/1, Ipswich winning at Villa when 4/1 in the betting, Ipswich beating Newcastle at 19/4 and Bristol City, at 9/2, taking all three points away at Brighton.

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