2016-17 Sky Bet League One Preview

It’s time to look ahead to the 2016-16 League One campaign, and despite having appointed their third manager in two years, Sheffield United are favourites for promotion along with relegated Charlton Athletic and all their ownership problems as well as last season’s defeated play-off finalists Millwall. At the bottom, off the pitch problems have made Oldham, Port Vale and Bury favourites to go down. My club-by-club guide assesses how the third tier campaign will pan out…

AFC Wimbledon

  • Last season: 7th in League Two
  • Manager: Neal Ardley

After achieving their sixth promotion in their 14 year history, AFC Wimbledon have reached the third tier of English football which is an incredible achievement. The games with MK Dons will be feisty, but Neal Ardley’s side could be facing a scrap throughout the season at the bottom of the table. They have one of the smallest budgets in the league, but have made their name defying the odds… 22nd

Bolton Wanderers

CREDIT: Getty Images/Alex Livesey
CREDIT: Getty Images/Alex Livesey
  • Last season: 24th in the Championship
  • Manager: Phil Parkinson

It’s a new dawn at Bolton Wanderers after last season’s horror show that saw them finish bottom of the Championship. Can the new owners sort out the financial mess and achieve stability? Football wise, they’ve appointed Phil Parkinson as manager who worked wonders at Bradford City and looks a good capture. Automatic promotion might be too much to ask, but the play-offs are a possubility. 5th

Bradford City

  • Last season: 5th
  • Manager: Stuart McCall

Bradford also have new owners, whilst Stuart McCall is back for his third spell as Bantams boss. Whether he can continue the good work of Parkinson remains to be seen, but he’s made some good signings already – bringing in Nicky Law from Rangers and the experienced Matt Kilgallon from Blackburn. They could well finish in the top half again if they can improve their striking options. 8th

Bristol Rovers

  • Last season: 3rd in League Two
  • Manager: Darrell Clarke

Despite not strengthening a great deal over the summer (just three new signings so far), Bristol Rovers still look well-equipped to survive in League following successive promotions. There’s no doubt that their best bit of business so far has been keeping hold of Matty Taylor, who netted 27 league goals last season. A third straight promotion would be incredible, but probably just beyond them. 11th

Bury

  • Last season: 16th
  • Manager: David Flitcroft

With the debts racking up at Gigg Lane and Bury making losses of £2.9 million, there have been some significant departures from the club this summer including last season’s top scorer Leon Clarke. They ended last season with just four wins from 15 games and I can see Bury really struggling this campaign, especially with no replacement as of yet for Clarke. 24th

Charlton Athletic

  • Last season: 22nd in the Championship
  • Manager: Russell Slade

The conflict between Charlton owner Roland Duchalet and the club’s fans will only continue, but on the pitch Charlton probably have the best shot at promotion out of the three relegated teams. Russell Slade is a decent manager, and has signed strikers Nicky Ajose and Lee Novak who scored 38 goals between them in this league last season. 2nd

Chesterfield

CREDIT: Getty Images/Nathan Stirk
CREDIT: Getty Images/Nathan Stirk
  • Last season: 18th
  • Manager: Danny Wilson

More likely to face a relegation battle than a fight for the play-offs, to be honest Chesterfield’s season could peter out to mid-table stability fairly early on. Manager Danny Wilson has barely left this league in his 22 year managerial career, so in truth it’s looking boring. That would be the case had the Spireites not signed Ched Evans, who will play professional football for the first time in four years, and the media spotlight is always likely to be on him. 17th

Coventry City

  • Last season: 8th
  • Manager: Tony Mowbray

Coventry looked to be a team ready for promotion last season before their post Christmas collapse, but it was a team containing 12 loanees including 20-goal Adam Armstrong who is now back Newcastle. Romain Vincelot has also been sold to Bradford, so Tony Mowbray might find it hard to mount a play-off push despite fans’ high expectations. 10th

Fleetwood Town

  • Last season: 19th
  • Manager: Uwe Rosler

Steven Pressley’s resignation last week left Fleetwood without a manager just 11 days before the start of the new campaign. The club were quick to replace him with Uwe Rosler though, who reached League One play-off final with Brentford in 2013. After a relegation battle last season, they’ve freshened things up with 10 new signings (albeit made by Pressley), but could struggle again. 19th

Gillingham

  • Last season: 9th
  • Manager: Justin Edinburgh

For the majority of 2015-16, Gillingham were sitting pretty in the League One play-off places before five defeats in their final six games saw them drop to ninth. How well they react to that could make or break their season. Centre-back John Egan has moved to Brentford, but the division’s player of the year Bradley Dack remains and could be key to any top six hopes they have again. 15th

Millwall

  • Last season: 4th
  • Manager: Neil Harris

Only Peterborough and champions Wigan scored more goals than Millwall’s free-flowing energetic side last season, and Neil Harris has made the Lions even harder to stop by signing wingers David Worrall and Gregg Wylde. They ended 2015-16 with 14 wins and just three defeats from 21 games, and if they carry that form into the new campaign, they could be on for promotion. 1st

MK Dons

CREDIT: Getty Images/Ben Hoskins
CREDIT: Getty Images/Ben Hoskins
  • Last season: 23rd in the Championship
  • Manager: Karl Robinson

When MK Dons went up two years ago, they had Dele Alli and Benik Afobe providing the firepower, but after an unsuccessful spell in the Championship it is hard to see Karl Robinson’s side challenging at the top of League One again. However, with exciting youngsters always coming through and veterans Dean Lewington and Darren Potter in the side, don’t rule out a play-off push. 7th

Northampton Town

  • Last season: 1st in League Two
  • Manager: Rob Page

Northampton stormed to the League Two title last season with 99 points, but manager Chris Wilder joined Sheffield United barely a week after lifting the trophy. New boss Rob Page has recruited well though, with five of their nine new signings coming from higher divisions. It will most likely be a season of consolidation with faint hopes of the play-offs. 12th

Oldham Athletic

  • Last season: 17th
  • Manager: Steve Robinson

From the outside, it looks like a bit of a mess at Oldham at the moment. John Sheridan quit as manager in May after the Latics only narrowly avoided relegation, with his replacement Steve Robinson (the club’s sixth boss in less than 18 months) inheriting a squad of just six senior players. He has acted quickly, but whether the team he has cobbled together will have enough to survive is questionable. 23rd

Oxford United

  • Last season: 2nd in League Two
  • Manager: Michael Appleton

Coming up from League Two, Oxford looked good bets to achieve back to back promotion before the sales of stars Kemar Roofe and Callum O’Dowda. The squad does remain more than good enough to survive, whilst the addition of Kane Hemmings, who scored 21 league goals for Dundee last season, could give them a shot at the play-offs. 9th

Peterborough

  • Last season: 13th
  • Manager: Grant McCann

Former midfielder Grant McCann was given the manger’s job at London Road in the summer after the team scored nine goals in the final two games of last season under his stewardship, so there is hope for this season amongst fans. If they can fix the leaky defence that cost them last season, Peterborough could make the play-offs. 6th

Port Vale

CREDIT: Getty Images/Catherine Ivill - AMA
CREDIT: Getty Images/Catherine Ivill – AMA
  • Last season: 12th
  • Manager: Bruno Ribeiro

After two progressive seasons under Rob Page, there was no need for change at Port Vale, but chairman Norman Smurthwaite thought otherwise, and has given the team a huge shake-up this summer. Portuguese boss Bruno Ribeiro gets his first job in English football and has signed 13 new players, nine of which are from outside the UK. This experiment could go either way, but for me this continental approach might sink in this division. 21st

Rochdale

  • Last season: 10th
  • Manager: Keith Hill

Working with League One’s lowest budget, last season’s 10th place finish (only the third time in 46 years they’ve finished in the top half of the third tier) was admirable from Rochdale. Not much has changed over the summer, so you would expect a similar sort of season at Spotland. 13th

Scunthorpe United

  • Last season: 7th
  • Manager: Graham Alexander

After ending last season with seven wins and a draw from their last nine games, Scunthorpe only missed out on the play-offs on goal difference. If momentum between seasons is such a thing, The Iron could have a real shot at promotion this season, especially if Paddy Madden continues to bang in the goals (23 in 2015-16). Boss Graham Alexander has impressed and made some good signings. 3rd

Sheffield United

  • Last season: 11th
  • Manager: Chris Wilder

Can boyhood fan Chris Wilder do what Nigels Clough and Adkins failed to do before him by living up to Sheffield United’s high expectations and getting promoted? He’s already had a clear out, and releasing 10 players and putting seven more up for sale being his first action in the job. Leon Clarke is the key signing to add more firepower upfront, and you’d expect the Blades to at least make the play-offs. 4th

Shrewsbury Town

  • Last season: 20th
  • Manager: Micky Mellon

After asking for a bigger budget, Micky Mellon has been able to improve upon a squad that finished just one place above the relegation zone in 2015-16. AJ Leitch-Smith, who scored 11 League One goals last season, and experienced centre-back Adam El-Abd are the key arrivals, and The Shrews should have enough to steer clear from danger this time around. 16th

Southend United

CREDIT: Getty Images/Catherine Ivill - AMA
CREDIT: Getty Images/Catherine Ivill – AMA
  • Last season: 14th
  • Manager: Phil Brown

Southend shouldn’t find themselves in any relegation trouble, but there are questions marks over the Shrimpers. Young goalkeeper Danuel Bentley has been signed by Brentford, whilst last season’s top scorer Jack Payne has joined Huddersfield. They struggled to hit the back of the net last season, and the only reinforcements so far this summer have been the controversial Nile Ranger and the mis-firing Simon Cox. 18th

Swindon Town

  • Last season: 15th
  • Manager: Luke Williams

Including chairman Lee Power appointing himself as caretaker manager, Swindon had four different managers last season in a difficult campaign that was a world away from their play-off final appearance in 2014-15. Nicky Ajose, who scored 25 goals last season, has been sold to Charlton this summer and is yet to be replaced, so it’s looking like an even tougher campaign ahead for the Robins. 20th

Walsall

  • Last season: 3rd
  • Manager: Jon Whitney

After Dean Smith moved to Brentford and his replacement Sean O’Driscoll last less than three months, Jon Whitney came in at the Walsall helm and helped reinvigorate a promising season, winning 25 points in the final 12 matches to miss out on automatic promotion by just a point. However, Romain Sawyers, Sam Mantom and 20-goal Tom Bradshaw have all left this summer, so it is hard to see the Saddlers challenging near the top again. 14th

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