2015-16 League One Preview

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This season there are eight teams in League One who have all previously played in the Premier League – that’s one third of the division. It shows that this league is full of sleeping giants and teams that have fallen from grace, making it very competitive and unpredictable as to who will get that one step closer to the promised land and who will fall further away. Millwall, Wigan Athletic and the mess of a football club that is Blackpool were relegated from the Championship last season, with the latter seeing boss Lee Clark resign in the process. He has been replaced by Neil McDonald, in one of five pre-season managerial changes. The others are Dean Saunders’ arrival at Chesterfield, Nigel Adkins at Sheffield United, Darren Kelly going to Oldham and Dave Robertson’s appointment by Peterborough. With four teams having to be relegated from League One, the battle to beat the drop is incredibly competitive and went down to a dramatic final day last season. Newly promoted clubs Burton Albion, Shrewsbury Town, Bury and Southend United will be hoping they are not involved in the dogfight.

My Prediction

1. Wigan Athletic

2. Sheffield United

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3. Barnsley

4. Bradford City

5. Peterborough United

6. Millwall

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7. Doncaster Rovers

8. Scunthorpe United

9. Swindon Town

10. Shrewsbury Town

11. Chesterfield

12. Rochdale

13. Fleetwood Town

14. Coventry City

15. Burton Albion

16. Bury

17. Walsall

18. Oldham Athletic

19. Southend United

20. Gillingham

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21. Port Vale

22. Colchester United

23. Blackpool

24. Crewe Alexandra


Betting Odds (courtesy of Paddy Power as of 29th July 2015)

To win division

  • Sheffield United – 5/1
  • Wigan Athletic – 13/2
  • Millwall – 9/1
  • Peterborough United – 11/1
  • Bradford City – 11/1

To gain promotion

  • Sheffield United – 5/1
  • Wigan Athletic – 23/10
  • Peterborough United – 11/4
  • Millwall – 3/1
  • Bradford City – 7/2

To get relegated

  • Crewe Alexandra – evens
  • Colchester United – evens
  • Port Vale – 6/5
  • Blackpool – 7/4
  • Walsall – 11/4

Top Scorer

  • Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic) – 15/2
  • Ian Henderson (Rochdale) – 14/1
  • Cody McDonald (Gillingham) – 14/1
  • Andy Williams (Doncaster Rovers) – 14/1
  • Sam Winnall (Barnsley) – 16/1

Club by Club Guide

Barnsley

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  • Last Season: 11th
  • Nickname: The Tykes
  • Stadium: Oakwell (23,009)
  • Manager: Lee Johnson
  • Star Man: Ben Pearson
  • One to Watch: James Bree
  • My Prediction: 3rd

Lee Johnson clearly had a big impact at Oakwell last season when he arrived in February but couldn’t quite make the play-offs. But after a summer where he has bought well, bringing in two loanees from Manchester United and the coveted young centre-back Alfie Mawson, Barnsley will be looking to be right up in the mix come the end of the season.


Blackpool

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  • Last Season: 24th (Championship)
  • Nickname: The Tangerines
  • Stadium: Bloomfield Road (17,338)
  • Manager: Neil McDonald
  • Star Man: Andrea Orlandi
  • One to Watch: Jose Miguel Cubero
  • My Prediction: 23rd

There’s sure to be protests and pitch invasions at Bloomfield Road this season, but certainly not promotion back to the Championship. Blackpool remain a club in absolute chaos and the chance of successive relegations is looking incredibly likely. Neil McDonald, one of very few who would have taken the job, is a largely unproven manager and is unlikely to be in charge for the entirety of another poor campaign.


Bradford City

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  • Last Season: 7th
  • Nickname: The Bantams
  • Stadium: Coral Windows Stadium (25, 136)
  • Manager: Phil Parkinson
  • Star Man: Tony McMahon
  • One to Watch: Dylan Mottley-Henry
  • My Prediction: 4th

Phil Parkinson’s side showed the quality that they have in their side by reaching the FA Cup Quarter-Finals last season, whilst at the same time they only missed out on the League One play-offs by one place and four points. If they can add a few more players to their currently thin squad and focus on the league more, there’s no reason why they can’t be top six contenders.


Burton Albion

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  • Last Season: 1st (League Two)
  • Nickname: The Brewers
  • Stadium: Pirelli Stadium (6,912)
  • Manager: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink
  • Star Man: Callum Reilly
  • One to Watch: Timothy Thiele
  • My Prediction: 15th

The Brewers played some attractive football under Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink last season and won the League Two title after the foundations had been made by Gary Rowett. The former Chelsea player has added experience from this league and above, meaning that relegation shouldn’t be a worry, but at the same time, successive promotions are unlikely.


Bury

General view of Gigg Lane

  • Last Season: 3rd (League Two)
  • Nickname: The Shakers
  • Stadium: Gigg Lane (12,500)
  • Manager: David Flitcroft
  • Star Man: Tom Pope
  • One to Watch: Joe Riley
  • My Prediction: 16th

Bury couldn’t have cut it any finer when it came to promotion last season, but after getting it on the final day, David Flitcroft wasted no time in strengthening his squad for League One, with Tom Pope the pick of the signings. Like Burton, Bury will end up somewhere in the middle and not trouble the fights at the top or bottom.


Chesterfield

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  • Last Season: 6th
  • Nickname: The Spireites
  • Stadium: Proact Stadium (10,504)
  • Manager: Dean Saunders
  • Star Man: Jay O’Shea
  • One to Watch: Gboly Ariyibi
  • My Prediction: 11th

In their first season back in League One in 2014-15, Chesterfield shocked many people to reach the play-offs, but were then perhaps disrupted by manager Paul Cook’s pending move to Portsmouth. He has now moved to the South Coast, and Dean Saunders, who likes to play a much more aggressive style, has replaced him. They might struggle to make the top six again, but relegation won’t be a worry.


Colchester United

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  • Last Season: 19th
  • Nickname: The U’s
  • Stadium: Weston Homes Community Stadium (10,105)
  • Manager: Tony Humes
  • Star Man: George Moncur
  • One to Watch: Joe Edwards
  • My Prediction: 22nd

Upon his arrival in September 2014, Tony Humes did a remarkable job of keeping Colchester United in League, but I think the U’s fans might have to go through another nail-biting season. They may have tightened up their defence, but further up the field Colchester have lost some key players and it’s hard to see them doing anything other than struggle.


Coventry City

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  • Last Season: 17th
  • Nickname: Sky Blues
  • Stadium: Ricoh Arena (32,609)
  • Manager: Tony Mowbray
  • Star Man: Conor Thomas
  • One to Watch: Jack Finch
  • My Prediction: 14th

Coventry haven’t ever finished in the top half of League One since their relegation from the Championship in 2011, and it’s likely to be a similar story this time around. Tony Mowbray, who was appointed in March, is an experienced manager and he has made a couple of good signings for this level, meaning that the Sky Blues shouldn’t be involved in a relegation scrap either.


Crewe Alexandra

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  • Last Season: 20th
  • Nickname: Alex
  • Stadium: Gresty Road (10,153)
  • Manager: Steve Davis
  • Star Man: Harry Davis
  • One to Watch: Lauri Dalla Valle
  • My Prediction: 24th

Crewe continue to put their faith in a very young squad, and Steve Davis has done a very good job over the past four years. However, they only narrowly survived last season and have lost some big names this summer, who were the more experienced members of the squad, and have so far failed to replace them. I think it’s unlikely that Alex can overcome another relegation battle.


Doncaster Rovers

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  • Last Season: 13th
  • Nickname: Rovers
  • Stadium: Keepmoat Stadium (15,231)
  • Manager: Paul Dickov
  • Star Man: Andy Williams
  • One to Watch: Mitchell Lund
  • My Prediction: 7th

Although Doncaster look better prepared than their first season back in League One in 2014-15, it’s difficult to see them making the step up this season when you look at the quality of the other teams and the teams that have come down from the Championship. They might flirt with the play-offs, and have signed the natural goalscorer they were missing in the shape of Andy Williams from Swindon.


Fleetwood Town

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  • Last Season: 10th
  • Nickname: The Cod Army
  • Stadium: Highbury Stadium (5,327)
  • Manager: Graham Alexander
  • Star Man: Stephen Jordan
  • One to Watch: Declan McManus
  • My Prediction: 13th

Like several others in the league, Fleetwood have endured a big turnaround in playing staff this summer (eight in, 17 out) and they’ve lost some key players from the back end of last season. One or two more faces may change their chances but play-offs look beyond them at this stage. A mid-table finish should be acceptable, with expectations not huge on the Lancashire coast.


Gillingham

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  • Last Season: 12th
  • Nickname: The Gills
  • Stadium: Priestfield Stadium (11,582)
  • Manager: Justin Edinburgh
  • Star Man: John Egan
  • One to Watch: Luke Norris
  • My Prediction: 20th

There’s plans for a new 24,000-seater stadium in Gillingham, which unless they go up in the next few years seems ridiculous. There is a sense of optimism in Kent after a summer of change in the ranks, whilst Justin Edinburgh boss eager to take the Gills to the next level. However, I think they could be left disappointed with expectations getting too much, and find themselves in a surprise relegation battle.


Millwall

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  • Last Season: 22nd (Championship)
  • Nickname: The Lions
  • Stadium: The Den (20,146)
  • Manager: Neil Harris
  • Star Man: Jimmy Abdou
  • One to Watch: Fred Onyedinma
  • My Prediction: 6th

After being unable to save Millwall from the drop, it was a surprise to see Neil Harris given the Millwall job on a permanent basis. The 38 year old is a club legend though, having scored 138 goals for the Lions during his playing career, and knows how important it is for them to get back to the Championship at the first time of asking. His ambition should result in a place in the play-offs, but I don’t think the squad is good enough to go up automatically.


Oldham Athletic

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  • Last Season: 15th
  • Nickname: The Latics
  • Stadium: SportsDirect.com Park (13,309)
  • Manager: Darren Kelly
  • Star Man: Carl Winchester
  • One to Watch: Rhys Murphy
  • My Prediction: 18th

2015-16 will be Oldham’s 19th successive season in League One, but they don’t look any closer to getting out of it. New boss Darren Kelly, who takes over from now assistant coach Dean Holden, is an unknown quantity in his first managerial role and he still needs one or two new faces, but the positive side is fans shouldn’t have to fear the drop too much.


Peterborough United

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  • Last Season: 9th
  • Nickname: The Posh
  • Stadium: The ABAX Stadium (15,315)
  • Manager: Dave Robertson
  • Star Man: Michael Bostwick
  • One to Watch: Souleymane Coulibaly
  • My Prediction: 5th

After a year of consolidation in 2014-15, Peterborough look ready to challenge for promotion from League One again, a feat they have achieved twice in the last seven years. Dave Robertson impressed as caretaker manager at the end of last season and has now been given the job full-time, quickly bringing in a new signings for a potentially successful campaign at The ABAX Stadium.


Port Vale

Pictured is Port Vale's Michael O'Connor Brief.  Sky Bet League 1 match Port Vale v Peterborourgh United  Reporter. Mike Baggeley Catagory. Spt Date. 17.01.15 Time. 3pm

  • Last Season: 18th
  • Nickname: The Valiants
  • Stadium: Vale Park (19,052)
  • Manager: Rob Page
  • Star Man: Michael O’Connor
  • One to Watch: Uche Ikpeazu
  • My Prediction: 21st

The loss of Tom Pope to Bury is a massive loss for Port Vale, who would no doubt have been relegated if it wasn’t for the striker’s goals last season. The signings have perhaps given the Valiants a stronger squad, but they are yet to find a replacement for Pope, which leaves them in real danger of the drop. Chairman Norman Smurthwaite has warned he is prepared to make “ruthless decisions” if the club is struggling by September, leaving Rob Page’s position as manager in jeopardy.


Rochdale

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  • Last Season: 8th
  • Nickname: Dale
  • Stadium: Spotland (10,249)
  • Manager: Keith Hill
  • Star Man: Peter Vincenti
  • One to Watch: Andy Cannon
  • My Prediction: 12th

Keith Hill is vastly experienced and had no issues bringing his time up a level last season as they missed out on the play-offs by just two places. With his key players still in place and a few new faces brought in, it could be another good season. They might need one or two more fresh faces to really challenge for the top six though.


Scunthorpe United

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  • Last Season: 16th
  • Nickname: The Iron
  • Stadium: Glanford Park (9,088)
  • Manager: Mark Robins
  • Star Man: Niall Canavan
  • One to Watch: Luke Williams
  • My Prediction: 8th

Scunthorpe United went from the Championship to League Two in just three years, and are aiming to make it back to the second tier just as quickly, making promotion the aim this campaign. Mark Robins, who was appointed last October, has moved fast to improve his squad, bringing in three players who were all part of Preston’s promoted side last season. The Iron could find themselves at the very least challenging around the play-offs this season if things click into place.


Sheffield United

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  • Last Season: 5th
  • Nickname: The Blades
  • Stadium: Bramall Lane (32,702)
  • Manager: Nigel Adkins
  • Star Man: Jose Baxter
  • One to Watch: Che Adams
  • My Prediction: 2nd

Despite multiple cup exploits in recent seasons, Sheffield United haven’t been able to escape League One since relegation from the Championship in 2011. Nigel Adkins is the latest manager to break the duck, and he has a good record – four promotions in seven seasons with Scunthorpe and Southampton in the past. The division is a lot weaker this season, meaning the Blades could be in with a real shout of automatic promotion.


Shrewsbury Town

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  • Last Season: 2nd (League Two)
  • Nickname: Salop
  • Stadium: Greenhous Meadow (9,875)
  • Manager: Micky Mellon
  • Star Man: James Collins
  • One to Watch: Abu Ogogo
  • My Prediction: 10th

Although Shrewsbury finished second in League Two last season, some say they played better than champions Burton, and are better equipped for the third tier. Micky Mellon has further strengthened his squad this summer, and relegation won’t be a worry. The Shropshire side should do the best out of the four promoted sides, but are unlikely to mount a serious play-off challenge.


Southend United

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  • Last Season: 5th (League Two)
  • Nickname: The Shrimpers
  • Stadium: Roots Hall (12,392)
  • Manager: Phil Brown
  • Star Man: Daniel Bentley
  • One to Watch: Jack Payne
  • My Prediction: 19th

A dramatic penalty shoot-out victory over Wycombe completed Phil Brown’s mission of getting Southend promoted from League Two, and now he has to keep them there. Only three signings have been made so far, one of which is Noel Hunt, who could either prove that he’s too good for this level or that it might be time to retire. They should stay up, but it won’t be easy.


Swindon Town

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  • Last Season: 4th
  • Nickname: The Robins
  • Stadium: The County Ground (15,728)
  • Manager: Mark Cooper
  • Star Man: Jonathan Obika
  • One to Watch: Anton Rodgers
  • My Prediction: 9th

After losing in the play-off final last season, Swindon felt the full force of not earning promotion as they lost big talents Ben Gladwin and Massimo Luongo to QPR, whilst top scorer Andy Williams has also been sold to Doncaster. But at times last season, the Robins played some of the best football as good as anything this division has witnessed, so they should still finish in the top-half.


Walsall

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  • Last Season: 14th
  • Nickname: The Saddlers
  • Stadium: Banks’s Stadium (11,300)
  • Manager: Dean Smith
  • Star Man: James O’Connor
  • One to Watch: Milan Lalkovic
  • My Prediction: 17th

We saw two sides of Walsall last season as they made the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final, but also lost 8-2 to Bristol City on the final day. It’s that inconsistency that is likely to appear again this season and result in another comfortable mid-table finish. Milan Lalkovic, who impressed on loan in 2013-14 has signed a permanent deal much to the delight of Saddlers fans.


Wigan Athletic

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  • Last Season: 23rd (Championship)
  • Nickname: The Latics
  • Stadium: The DW Stadium (25,138)
  • Manager: Gary Caldwell
  • Star Man: James Perch
  • One to Watch: Emyr Huws
  • My Prediction: 1st

With a young chairman and young manager, there could be a sense of naivety around the DW Stadium following last season’s relegation, but both David Sharpe and ex-player Gary Caldwell seem to have their feet firmly on the ground and are determined to go straight back up. Will Grigg is a very good signing after he scored 20 goals for MK Dons to help them get promoted last season. Last year I predicted the Lactics to win the Championship, but despite that not working out, I do think they’ll top League One in May.

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