It may only have been away for a little under three months, but with no World Cup or European Championship to keep us going through the summer, withdrawal from football was taken cold turkey and made it seem a lot longer since last season ended.
This weekend is the first with a full programme across all of the leagues and we can now return focus to finding some profit on the weekend action.
I am always a little wary at this stage of the season as form can be very unpredictable whilst fitness levels are at different stages and some teams take a little longer to fully get up to speed. There is no way of telling if a result or performance is a true reflection of form and ability or if it is a complete anomaly.
With that in mind, we’ll keep picks and staking relatively simple for now.
Leeds to Win at Home to Preston (11/10 Stan James)
Leeds have started the season strongly, opening with a 3-2 win away to Bolton in the league and a 4-1 win at home to Port Vale in the League Cup.
As we said, it’s hard to be too confident on the true form of results but Leeds have opened the season looking very strong and, perhaps most importantly, scoring goals. Reports of both games have noted pace, frenzy and energy in the approach of Leeds, which must bode as a positive sign at this stage of the season, as they can take advantage of opposition who might not be fully up to speed and still adapting to the methods of a new manager.
In our season preview we pointed towards a potential season of struggle for Preston, given the change of manager and comparative resources available. It is way too early to see if that prediction will come true and results so far have given little away, with a good home win against Sheffield Wednesday in the league followed up by a loss to Accrington in the League Cup. However, after a summer of change, I feel Preston are vulnerable as they will still need time to adapt to Alex Neil, the Wednesday result is a bit of a red herring with them playing poorly and the pace of Leeds is likely to cause problems.
The 11/10 on offer for Leeds at home just seems a bit too big and they offer some value for a home win.
Bradford to Win Away to Gillingham (21/20 Stan James)
In our preview of the League Two season Gillingham were tipped as an ante-post selection for relegation and little has changed in the short time since to put me off that view. The Gills only just avoided relegation last season and the squad looks considerably weaker now; with the quality of Bradley Jack and goals of Cody McDonald not replaced. They look desperately short of match winners for this level, with summer signings largely consisting of players who failed to inspire at a lower level, and with a novice manager in charge the signs do not look good.
Bradford opened with a home win to Blackpool, but that is a game they should be winning if they are to have any chance of pushing for automatic promotion. As well as too many home draws, Bradford were let down by their away form in their bid for promotion last season, and it is games like this they need to be more ruthless in to stand any chance of going up.
Bradford strengthened in the summer, to add to the quality they already had in the squad, and providing they can avoid any kind of mental block or hoodoo when playing away from home, they should have too much quality for Gillingham. Charlie Wyke will continue to be missed for Bradford, as he looks prolific, but they have others who should be more than able of scoring at this level.
Leeds & Bradford – 1pt Double @ 4.3 (Stan James)